Despite what the media likes to make us believe, there are no magic pills or miracle diets when it comes to good health. It just comes down to being consistent with your eating, exercising regularly and most importantly, recognising that we are all slightly different, and no one size fits all. To help explain why good food and exercise is so critical, and on the flip side, engaging in fad diets and restriction can be so detrimental, lets first talk body composition.
Body composition is the ratio of muscle (lean) mass to body fat ad it is an incredibly important determinant of overall health. It underpins how we manage our weight long-term. Yet within society, we tend to focus a lot on our bodies fat levels, and in doing so neglect the importance of muscle. For instance, if we talk about losing weight, it is typically that we want to lose fat. But the reality is when we lose weight, a concurrent loss in lean muscle generally occurs. Likewise, many women are also scared to ‘gain’ muscle, thinking it will make them bulky or big. In fact, muscle is an incredibly powerful tool for controlling weight and not to mention is associated with a whole bunch of other health benefits such as
- reducing the risk of chronic disease
- protecting your bones
- improving mental health
- encouraging restorative sleep
- increasing flexibility
Why is muscle so important?
Muscle is our largest metabolic organ. Therefore, it not only plays an important role in physical function (movement), but also our metabolism. To put it quite simply, the higher ratio of muscle you have, the higher your metabolism and the higher your energy requirements are (which means you get to eat more!). Now that has to be a good thing! Maintaining and supporting muscle, through regular exercise (especially resistance) and adequate dietary intake (especially protein) is therefore critical. It is also important to understand the negative effects of under eating or yo-yo dieting on our muscle (and therefore weight long term). As mentioned, when we lose weight, especially if quickly, we tend to lose both body fat and lean muscle. The problem this creates is with less muscle, our metabolism decreases, which means energy requirements go down. Then if/when you regain weight (which happens with fad diets as they are not sustainable) you gain body fat plus your metabolism is lower, so next time you try and lose weight it is even harder, so you restrict more. It is a viscous cycle!
So how do we prevent this?
By being consistent!! In fact, being consistent actually allows a degree of flexibility with our eating, which is essential for long-term success. Eating both regular main meals, and eating enough at mealtimes is essential. Likewise aim to eat every three-four hours by including 2-3 healthy snacks per day. Likewise, ensuring that you balance your plate by including a small serve of protein, some wholegrains or starch vegetables (such as sweet potato, corn or potato) and at least 2-3 different non-starchy and different coloured vegetables and/or salad greens with each main meal. This ensures that your body receives the nutrients it needs to function optimally, the protein it requires to help build and retain lean muscle and most importantly to support your metabolism in the long term.
Article formulated for HUSTL. HEALTH.
Created by ®Chrissy Freer