Monday, 28 May 2012

Simple Tips to Improve Your Diet

Summer's here (at last!) and it's time to dig out your summer wardrobe.  For some of us, that can kickstart a healthy eating plan to feel better about ourselves and maybe shift a few pounds in the process! Here's some Simple tips to help you improve your diet.

Okay first things first: there is a difference between getting fit and losing weight. You can get fit without losing weight and you can lose weight without getting fit, they aren’t the same goal and require different things!

Food and What You Need To Know

There are a few important things you will need to know. Firstly it is that most types of food aren’t bad for you, just the amounts are. Fats, carbs, protein, fruit – they are all good for you if they are balanced well.  The common misconception is that as long as you don’t eat a lot of fats, you won’t become fat. This is not the case! The biggest type of food that causes you to gain fat and weight is complex carbohydrates (i.e. pasta, rice, spaghetti, bread, etc.)

Carbohydrates are the only food your body can produce energy from so your body has adapted to turning the unused carbohydrates into fats and storing it. Complex carbohydrates (foods like pasta & rice, etc.) are made up of long complicated chains that your body can store and use for energy when you need it – for example, eating pasta before playing netball and burning off all the energy it gives during the game. Simple carbohydrates (i.e. sugars) are made of basic chains that force you to have energy straight away. This will give you a ‘sugar rush’ for half an hour or so and then leave you energy-less. For example chocolate bars force a lot of sugar into your body and give you a lot of energy for a short amount of time but then leaves you with no energy again.

Protein is a very good type of food to eat for losing weight. Protein is found in meats, fish and eggs and is used for repair and growth of muscle, skin tissue, bone, hair, nails (etc, etc.) If there is no part of your body that is damaged or need repairing (this is my favourite part) your body will not keep the protein as it cannot store protein!

So bear those simple facts in mind when trying to improve your diet to lose weight! Do not attempt a ‘no carbs’ diet as this is extremely unhealthy and dangerous. Carbohydrates should be eaten every day, but only the necessary amount to how often you exercise. There are, of course, certain heart disease risks that are heightened if you eat a lot of red meats, for example steaks, mince meat. But, white meats (such as chicken breast, turkey breast, etc.) do not have these risks attached and contain more protein than red meat. Tuna is one of the only foods to have a high protein count and nothing else (i.e. no carbs,) but eating too much tuna may increase risks of mercury poisoning, so try to limit yourself to one tin a day at the most.

Combining Your Diet Knowledge with Simple Exercise

The best way to lose weight is to use the above dietary knowledge to form an effective diet plan and to do fat burning exercise. Fat burning exercises are usually the same pace as a ‘power walk’ (unless you are very healthy – then it will most likely be a light jog) that should keep your heart rate at about 120 beats per minute. This kind of exercise burns off the most fat compared to the amount of effort needed, however it does need to be done for longer – usually about 50 – 60 minutes to see better results.

This type of exercise does not improve your health. However, playing netball does. Running around the netball court for 40 minutes isn’t as easy as it looks is it? That’s because your heart is most likely beating at around 140 beats per minute – or 65% of its maximum capacity.  This is the cardio zone which is the best for improving your health and fitness – in particular your cardio vascular system (lungs and heart.)

Metabolism – What to eat and when

Metabolism has a massive impact on when you should and shouldn’t eat certain things. Whatever you eat for breakfast is burned off all day, so you should have a medium size, slow releasing breakfast – i.e. porridge, Weetabix, etc. You should aim to have a snack between breakfast and lunch – maybe a chicken sandwich on wholemeal bread (whole meal bread has less of a ‘starchy’ inner layer than white or brown bread). 12 o’clock noon is the time of day where your metabolism is at its fastest, so if you were going to have some crisp, chocolate or sweets (or anything unhealthy) this would be the time to have it – after your lunch of course! Your metabolism is at its slowest in the evening and at night, so you should aim to eat your dinner before 6pm. Since your body’s metabolism is slow at this time, try to keep the meal fairly light on carbohydrates as the energy that they give you will not be used at this time and will just be converted into fat (unless you exercise at 10 or 11pm.)

You should eat roughly 2-3 hours before doing any sort of training – particularly playing netball which involves a lot of running and more physically demanding work than fat burning exercise. As I said before, the best thing to eat before exercise is complex carbohydrates (rice, pasta etc.) as these give you energy to store and burn off later on, in training!

Remember, the only way to lose weight is to use up more energy than you are putting in – only slightly though, don’t go crazy!

Please note: All advice given should be taken with consideration to your current diet. Don’t change things too fast as this will shock your body and may cause you to lose a high amount of weight in a short amount of time, which can be unhealthy in some circumstances. A weight loss of 2 lb per week is a healthy amount, although any loss of weight is an improvement.

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