With dozens of new exercise crazes hitting the storefront gym every day (Zoomba, anyone?), it’s easy to get overly focused on exercise as THE way to lose weight. Upping the calories you burn will certainly do the trick, but are enough calories and the right calories entering the body to begin with? Balancing both intake and expenditure can yield safe and satisfying results, according to nutritionists and MDs alike. Not eating healthy could have a detrimental effect, though, if you’re working out more and still eating poorly.
There are many reasons to try and lose weight other than improving your physical appearance, including wanting to live longer, having a healthier heart, or feeling lighter in your joints. Even if these health reasons are secondary, they are known, positive by-products of losing weight (if you are indeed heavier than your target fitness weight). Finding the right nutrition for your body is necessary to keeping the health factor, and not spiralling into damaging results.
There are two aspects to eating healthy calories while exercising: what to eat and how to eat the right portions for your new active plans. You don’t have to eat raw eggs as Rocky did to get in shape for his title fights, but there are different nutritional needs for an active body than for one with a more sedentary lifestyle, and the difference doesn’t end with “eat more,” or by cutting out an entire food group.
It may sound complicated, but certain types of calories boost energy levels and repair cells that are either broken down or need building up. By knowing whether a food is a fuel, a tool or uncool tells you which way to go with adding healthy foods.
In simpler terms, if the food was once a living plant, like a fruit, vegetable, bean, nut, whole grain or tomato (I’m not deciding), eat more of it. If the same living plant has been processed to no longer resemble the original, or if sugar has been added, eat less of it. The closer a food is to its live source, the more bang for your nutritional buck.
The Good Guys
Bodies are the ultimate recycling experts, and vitamins and minerals are recycled into energy and are essential tools for the body’s metabolism. Functions, such as elimination of waste, need to be supported to, and with the right enzymes, antioxidants and friendly probiotics.
If you don’t give yourself enough of the right foods, you may not have enough energy, which can ultimately cause the workout to lack effectiveness. And of course, staying hydrated with enough clean water is crucial in keeping it all circulating smoothly. If not, you can probably expect to feel lethargic. Forcing yourself to keep going through fatigue can have a negative effect on motivating yourself to exercise in the first place.
Some essential elements of the good fuels are: fruits and berries, nuts, vegetables including lots of leafy dark greens, healthy fats, whole grains and moderate amounts of yogurt or other sources of calcium (sesame seeds for the vegan).
Protein is essential as well for building muscle (which will burn more calories if strong). Eating small portions of lean meats or combining beans and rice are two ways to add protein that your body needs for that belly dancing class.
And a quick word about sugar: it is a false friend of your workout. The “energy boost” it offers is one of those empty calories that won’t do you any favours in about an hour.
Portions-- Up and Down
It would be a mistake not to talk about the portions of food needed for healthy weight loss. Whole industries of “diet experts” tell us how to count calories and specifically to reduce the amount of food we intake.
In America, we directly correlate how much we eat with how much we weigh, and often the real problem is malnutrition. We still eat enormous amounts of food at every meal compared to countries around the globe, and still we suffer not having enough energy. So clearly, just eating more doesn’t give us more ability to exercise. But the important point here is: we need to increase portions for better foods and decrease the least nutritious choices. Only then can we even begin to responsibly decrease overall calories, if appropriate. We can’t misunderstand healthy eating for simply eating less of everything.
Balance is Key
With a new exercise routine comes new hope, or at least determination, to get fitter and slim down, a form of self-care. Giving yourself the power to recycle your food into fuels and tools takes only a little time, and you can do more gradually as you learn.
Start small, by adding a spinach salad an hour before your workout, with a handful of nuts or sliced avocado for “good” fat. Swap out your morning bagel for a more whole-grain choice, like rye bread and organic butter or goat cheese.
Having more healthy input with a balanced diet will give you that solid foundation you need to lose weight, and also help sharpen your mental focus, help reduce stress and elevate your mood. After all, that’s what being happy in your own skin is all about!
Today’s guest writer is Virginia Cunningham, a health enthusiast and experienced yogi in Southern California. Working in collaboration with NorthWest, she is able to share the keys to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and has helped hundreds of individuals meet their fitness goals.
© Diets and Calories