Nutrition is about energy balance. We gain weight when the energy consumed is greater than our energy needs. Conversely when our energy needs are greater than our energy consumed, we lose weight. Our weight stays the same when the energy consumed is equal to our energy needs. Nutrition Matters!
Some of the factors affecting our body’s energy intake are: the types of foods we eat, how our foods are prepared, our emotions, our psychology and mindset, how efficiently and effectively we digest and absorb our foods, our hunger and appetite signals, our eating habits, our sleep, our recovery and our stress levels.
Factors affecting your body’s energy usage are: our resting metabolic rate (RMR), thermogenesis (heat production – some people naturally run warmer than others), exercise, daily life movement that isn’t exercise (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis – people who fidget undoubtedly use more energy), our sleep, our recovery and stress levels, our hormones and our genetic factors.
Listed are some simple actions you can take in order to help your nutrition (without changing your fitness level):
1. Plan your meals.
This should help you manage your time.
This will also enable you to plan for more healthy foods to be available (we tend to eat whatever we have in our home regardless if it is healthy or not).
2. Whole foods over processed.
Whole foods have improved nutrients, fiber and protein which can help with satiety.
So what are whole foods? They are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, lean proteins, nuts and seeds, and other healthy fats such as olive oil, etc.
3. Keep a food journal.
The majority of us are unaware of what we are eating and why. Keeping a food journal (which can be very simple) can start to create a more accurate picture and the more you know the better. There are various ways to do this and many free applications are now available.
4. Only action creates change.
Simple actions are better than doing nothing. Simple actions will also help you create more sustainable change.
If your goal is to lose weight, other simple changes you can make is eat until you are 80% full. Use a system of portion control (it does not have to be difficult, simple is best), eat slowly and mindfully, and cut down on liquid calories (our drinks can often contain a high amount of energy).
If you are struggling to gain weight then eat until you are 120% full or uncomfortably full, eat quickly, and add a super shake that is a good combination of protein and healthy fats. If muscle gain is also your goal add resistance training four days a week.
Movement is also an important tool with regards to our energy balance and can improve our resting metabolic rate (RMR). RMR is the amount of energy we use while at rest. In particular intense exercise (such as lifting or resistance training) helps to prevent muscle loss, make our bones and connective tissues stronger and works effectively to preserve our RMR.
High-intensity exercise damages our muscles a little bit, initiating our body to repair, requiring our cells to produce more energy, challenging our defenses and immunity, helping our body to circulate more oxygen and nutrients, stressing our skeleton and connective tissues and may even help to keep our brain more active. Think of it this way. If we do not exercise, in particular no intense exercise (at a safe and manageable level of stress where training should be performed), then our circulatory system although active keeps our bodies in stasis. As we grow older that stasis becomes a gradual decline. On average we lose 5lbs of lean mass per decade between ages 25 and 65. Lean mass is muscle and bone and it is metabolically active. Therefore by the time you are 65 most people have lost 20lbs of lean mass, which helps to account for why their metabolism has significantly slowed down. The good news is you have a choice. The quality of the food you eat and what you do with your body will play a significant role in your abilities and your quality of life as you continue to grow older (assuming no major illnesses).