Fueling the beast!

Over 64%  percent of Americans overweight or obese,so what kinds of foods put on the pounds? What is making us fat? Fat or carbs? This is always in debate. Do you lose weight by eliminating most of the fat? Or do you shed those pounds by eliminating the carbs and filling up on protein along with the saturated fat that comes with it? NEITHER!  If you want to lose weight and stay healthy, you have to eat fewer CALORIES and exercise more, not by cutting whole categories of foods from your diet. However,  certain kinds of fat are linked to higher long-term risk for cancer and other chronic diseases. Certain types of carbohydrates, FRUITS AND VEGGIES are linked to lowering that risk. Processed carbohydrates like white sugar, white rice and processed cereals raise insulin levels, which leads to overeating and storage of excess fat at the waist and hips.(Think “white death!)   On the bright side,  unrefined carbohydrates such as whole wheat, brown rice and bran cereals are digested more slowly and contain fiber that solid research evidence shows is linked to lower colon cancer risk!

Eliminating fruits and vegetables because they contain carbohydrates is hazardous to your health. You need to eat moderate portions of the types of carbohydrates and fats that are good for long-term health. You should compose your meals to be 2/3 plant-based foods and 1/3 animal protein, gradually reduce the size of portions. By reducing your portion sizes and adding more physical activity to your schedule, weight loss will result!  You NEED to fuel the beast! You would NOT go for a drive without putting gas in the car, nor would you plan a vacation with 1/4 of a tank of gas. Your body works the same way! The better the fuel the better the efficiency and “mileage”! Our fuel is food. We use two types of food for energy: Fats and carbs. Our body will only use protein if the other two sources are NOT available. Protein is used for muscle development and recovery. Our best fuel is carbs, which break down and store in the muscle cells and liver as glycogen if not used immediately. It is readily available energy (like a full tank of gas) and your body will use it’s stores of carbs during moderate to hard physical activity. Anything over about 2 hours of moderate exercise; such as a marathon, your body’s supplies will be depleting and weakness and fatigue ensues, requiring refueling. Fats are stored in the muscle as well and they are the main energy  source for light to moderate exercise. Regular aerobic exercise, like a walk or light jogging will make your body become efficient at using fat, so if you want to lose weight, this works very well!

All exercise uses a mix of both energy sources. It’s just the ratio of fats used is higher at LOWER intensity and carbs are used at the HIGHER intensity workouts. More calories are used during vigorous exercise and the harder you work, the more calories you use, the more fat you burn!  Your body will use body fat no matter what, but the longer, harder and more consistently you train, the more fat you will lose. Balance is the key; if you need to lose body fat, increase your level of exercise appropriate for your fitness level and reduce your food intake, especially processed carbohydrates and saturated fats!

Protein!  There is no doubt that protein ingestion helps athletes recover from exercise, but questions remain regarding the optimal amount, type and timing of protein needed in order to optimize training-induced adaptations in skeletal muscle. The current dietary reference intake (DRI) for protein for persons over 18 years of age, regardless of physical activity status, is 0.8 g per kilogram of body weight per day (i.e., 80 g of protein for a 220-pound person). However, many sports nutrition experts have concluded that protein requirements are higher for athletes.  (American College of Sports Medicine, American Dietetic Association, and Dietitians of Canada (2000). Joint Position Statement: Nutrition and athletic performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 32:2130-2145).

The additional protein is needed in order to promote muscle adaptation during recovery from exercise in several ways: repair of exercise induced damage to muscle fibers, promotes training induced adaptation of those muscle fibers, (where new proteins are involved in energy production and force generation), and replenishes depleted energy stores. Protein recommendations for endurance athletes will be higher than for resistance trained athletes. Athletes require 10 to 15 percent of their daily energy intake from protein. Athletes can meet their protein requirements through diet alone if their diet is rich in protein-containing foods. You should choose high quality protein foods  (e.g., meat, fish, eggs) and beverages (e.g., milk) that contain ample amounts of high-quality proteins.

So finally  healthy eating begins with knowing what foods are right and smart to eat to fuel the beast and understanding what they really mean. More frequent eating boosts your metabolism by providing an energy source at regular intervals during the day. Skipping a meal sends the body into a preservation mode that slows down burning the excess fat stores of the body. So, eating frequent small meals (say every couple of hours) requires the body to rev up  metabolism. Proteins require the most work to break down and fats burn the least amount of energy. The body’s processes are kept at a more even keel, without spikes in blood sugar associated with hunger.


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