The Skinny On Fat
Contrary to conventional wisdom, ingesting fat does not necessarily beget body fat. It is the amount of calories ingested in relation to the amount of calories expended that determines whether weight is lost, gained or maintained.
However, it is important to keep in mind that there are over twice as many calories in a gram of fat than in a gram of carbohydrate or protein (nine per gram of fat and four per gram of carbohydrate or protein). As such, it is primarily the caloric density of fat that must be taken into consideration when weight loss is the desired goal.
Not all fats are bad for you. Indeed, some fats are necessary and play a role in tissue repair and formation, as well as cellular membrane formation and the maintenance of blood lipids. Fats are also utilized for hormone synthesis and are the body’s preferred energy substrate during low level activity of long duration (e.g. walking for 30 to 60 minutes).
Like protein, consuming some fat with meals helps you to feel satisfied longer after eating. Fish and nuts are examples of foods that provide beneficial dietary fats. Limit the intake of saturated fats and do your best to avoid trans fats.
Fiber In The Hole
Fiber aids in digestion and helps to regulate cholesterol levels. It is also believed to help prevent heart disease and colon cancer. Though there are essentially two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, the focus should be on sufficient overall fiber intake. Whole grains, vegetables and legumes are excellent sources of fiber.
Water (The Most Important Nutrient)
Despite the prevalence and trendiness of sports drinks, water is more than sufficient for fluid replacement during and after exercise sessions of reasonable duration and intensity. For exercise bouts lasting over an hour or of exceptional intensity, a sport drink of less than eight percent sugar content may be considered.
Remember to drink plenty of water to remain hydrated throughout the day and limit the intake of sodas, fruit juices adn other beverages containing excessive amounts of sugar.
Eating More Frequently To Lose Weight?
Consuming food in only one or two meals a day is not conductive to fat loss and actually slows the metabolism. In between these infrequent meals the body will perceive that it is starving and tend to retain fat for energy. Instead, aim to break up your daily intake into a combination of five or six smaller meals and healthy snacks. Not only will this alleviate the above mentioned starvation issue, but it will require the digestive system to work throughout the day, which will help to speed the metabolism.
Where It All Begins
Getiing started is as simple as making effort to improve the overall quality of the foods you consume. Try to maintain proper nutrient balance by eating a variety of healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, lean meats, legumes and nuts, and stay away from ritually consuming one particular food or partaking in fad diets as a means of achieving weight loss goals.
If you are accustomed to eating sweets, it is not absolutely necessary that you cut them all out at once. If you can trust yourself to indulge in a cookie or a decadent treat once a week, without allowing it to go any further, then you may do so. Instead of purchasing large packages of empty calorie treats, (i.e. cookies, ice cream, etc.), buy a reduced calorie, single serving package and allow yourself to have it when you have earned it (e.g. after a vigorous workout).
Always read nutrition labels. If a food is particularly high in calories, saturated fat, sodium or sugar content, or if it is lacking in fiber or protein content, consider a healthier alternative.
Having your body composition measured and basal metabolic rate calculated by a fitness professional, while taking into consideration your activity levels and fitness goals, is invaluable in helping you to determine an appropriate daily caloric intake.
For a basic guide to food selection and serving recommendations visit MyPyramid.gov
Use of information or advice in this article is at the sole choice and risk of the user.
E. Howley, B.D. Fitness Professionals Handbook, Fifth Edition, Human Kinetics, 2007
R. Clark, M. Kelly, S. Skinner, C. DeFrancessco, F. Campitelli, NFPT Sports Nutrition Manual, Second Edition, NFPT, 2006
About the Author
Gary Gochenour is a Master Fitness Trainer with the National Federation of Professional Trainers. He can be reached at [email protected].