The Basics: Building Your Base with an Active Lifestyle, Good Nutrition, and Preventative Care Part III

July 24, 2012

Do you know about the 80/20 rule? Well, as far as nutrition goes, it is recommended that healthy eating occur a minimum of 80% of the time, leaving leeway 20% of the time. I have also heard that when it comes to changing your body, 80% of your weight management is determined by what you eat. The other 20% is your genetics and exercise. I am still on the lookout to find evidence to back up these statements, but I can talk from personal experience. When I am making a concentrated effort to maintain a healthy diet, even if I go out to dinner with the girls one night a week and get a little happy at happy hour, I am still able to maintain or lose weight. I have even monitored my body fat to see if it was impacted by having a meal or snack (or both) that was not very nutritious. To my surprise, there were no significant changes. It was a relief knowing that I didn’t have to be perfect. I also realized that even if I wasn’t working out, I could maintain or lose weight by being careful about what I ate. So what does all of this mean? Skip the workouts, and just eat right! No, I’m kidding. The workouts are vital for improving the health and strength of your muscles and bones (strength and stability), improving your cardiovascular health (heart and blood vessels), improving your respiratory health (lung function), and improving your performance of day to day activities (better balance, better endurance/stamina). Strengthening and endurance activities also improve your physical appearance, by providing fullness and firmness.  You don’t want to be thin and unhealthy (what they call skinny fat) any more than being heavy and unhealthy. The general idea is to be healthy no matter what size you are. A healthy body with strong healthy muscles burns more calories than an unhealthy body with less muscle. That means that you will be able to burn the calories from a treat faster than an unfit person. On top of that, the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest, when you are not even doing anything! That’s a no brainer. So now you have several more reasons to rock a healthy body, inside and out.

There are some basic components of nutrition that you need to know in order to make healthy food choices. Let’s get those basics figured out so that when we get to the tricky stuff, you’ll be prepared.

Your body utilizes food as a source of energy, and gathers this energy from 3 main sources. Those 3 sources are fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. You can place most, if not all, foods into these 3 basic categories. In general, you’ll want to make carbohydrates about 50-60% of your diet, proteins between 20-30%, and fats about 20-30% (preferably closer to the 20% for the fats). Let’s break them down.

Fats are just that, fat. Fats are generally classified as “bad” if they are the type of fat that negatively affect your cholesterol and overall health. Oils, lard, fat from most animals, and fat from products that come from animals, such as creams and butters, and are typically considered “bad” fats. These are the fats you want to minimize. There are also “good” or healthy fats, like the fat in avocadoes, olive oil, and salmon. “Good” fats actually improve your health, and decrease your risk of heart disease. These you will want to have occasionally. Fats provide the most energy, but tend to provide the least nutrition. For that reason, fat intake should be limited. I don’t recommend eliminating fat from the diet, as fat is essential for body function, but it is important not to take in too much fat.

Carbohydrates (carbs) are foods that break down into sugars when they are digested. This is the primary source of energy for the body, and is likely where most of your calories come from. The average person should get most of their calories from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, breads, pastas, cereals, and rice. Sugars are also considered carbohydrates. Pure sugar, such as in sweeteners, honey, sugar cane, and sugar, are not very nutritious (although I have heard some good things about honey, I am speaking in general about sugars). White rice, white bread, and white pasta are better than sugar, but you could still do better. Fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, and other high fiber carbohydrates are a much better choice. You get the fiber, and the foods contain natural sugars. Remember that 80/20 rule. You can still have sweets (health permitting as I know some folks are on sugar free diets), I know I do, but I make a consistent effort to keep the sweets to a minimum and opt for the natural sugars in fruit (and no I didn’t say fruit juice, which I will post about on another day).

Protein is used in the body for many functions, and it is important to get enough protein in the diet to maintain function. Proteins are necessary for building muscle tissue, and are used as a last resort energy source. You don’t want to have your body breaking down your muscle tissue to provide you with energy. Well, if you are not eating a balanced diet, or if you are eating too little, that is just what your body will do. This is more of an extreme cases thing, but it does happen. So where can you get protein to build your muscles? Protein can be obtained from meat (poultry/fowl, fish, and livestock), some plant sources (beans, nuts, and edamame/tofu), and animal products, such as cheese and milk. There are other sources as well, so if you are trying to avoid meats, do a search on the internet to locate protein sources.

Alright, enough of that seriousness! I just wanted to give you the basics, and I think that is pretty thorough. Enjoy.



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