Diet and Nutrition – the basics

Diet and Nutrition — some basics

With so many different diets available to us it is easy to chop and change what we eat to try to get a quick fix, which can work in the short term as the body is an amazing machine, but over the long term the Food Standards Agency recommends that we use the ‘Eatwell Plate’ below to ensure we have a balanced diet.

The plate is divided into the five basic food groups

– Bread, Rice, Potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods

– Fruit and Vegetables

– Milk and dairy foods

– Meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non dairy sources of protein

– Foods high in fat and/or sugar

The divisions are the rough percentages of the diet you should consume each day to achieve balance.

Unfortunately just getting the percentages right is not itself sufficient as you also need to consider the volume of what you are eating and drinking.

The term metabolism and energy balance is often used with regard to diet and nutrition and a basic understanding can be useful when considering ‘why am I no longer losing weight’ or ‘why do I run out of energy at the end of a marathon’. Metabolism is the range of internal activities that takes place in our bodies and the amount of energy that is required to drive these at rest is known as our ‘basal metabolic rate’ which is measured in calories. Your BMR is individual, although the general guidelines are 1500 kcal for ladies & 2000 kcal for men, as it is dependent on how much of ‘you’ there is.  Other factors are our body weight, how active we are and the ratio of fat-free mass to fat mass (body composition). One thing to remember is that fat-free mass (made up of fluids, bones and muscle tissue) are more metabolically active and therefore burn more calories than fat mass.

So what happens if you get the balance of energy used and calories consumed out of balance?

When food is consumed the body converts it to energy, if there is an excess of energy it is stored as fat weight. The key to losing fat weight is to create an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure.

Energy in > Energy out = weight gain

Energy in < energy out = weight loss

Energy in = energy out = weight maintenance

To lose fat weight a deficit needs to be achieved, a rough guide is to lose a pound of fat you need to burn approximately 3500kcal, which is best achieved by a combination of increased activity & reduced calorie intake.

People can get quite hung up on what to eat and when to eat but if you follow these simple guidelines you can concentrate on the training and getting faster;

  • Eat predominantly complex carbohydrates
  • Eat 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables
  • Moderate intakes of protein
  • Restrict intakes of food containing high levels of saturated fat and sugar
  • Drink at least 2 litres of fluid a day
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Foods high in fat and sugar are not essential to a healthy diet (but do taste nice)
  • Most people learn when to eat by trial and error, keep a diary and try different times to see how it affects performance.

But the most important thing is whatever you do, to have fun doing it and smile a lot!!

Andy Prior, Personal Trainer

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