Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How to be fit, lose weight, and keep it off -- Part 2

This is the part 2 of a series of my thoughts and knowledge on fat loss.
[Part 1, Part 2]


Diet plays the main role in any fitness program. The main belief is:

"A calorie is a calorie"

Which means no matter what you take, be it fats, carbohydrates or proteins, they will eventually be the same.

Well, it is both right and wrong. A calorie, by its simplest definition, is a unit of energy and is equivalent to 4.184 absolute J.

Our body metabolise fats, carbohydrates and proteins differently. The energy yield from a gram of fatty acids is approximately 9 kcal (39 kJ), compared to 4 kcal/g (17 kJ/g) for proteins and carbohydrates.

The composition of meals we eat is important:

An example of French Fries
French Fries are considered "poison" because they consists of mainly carbs and fats. Let us not consider the unhealthy trans-fat in French Fries yet.

When the carbs enter your body, insulin is released. However, a major effect of insulin on fat is it prevents you from burning it. Imagine eating french fries: the carbs enter your body -> insulin levels rise -> fats from french fries is prevented from burning and stored. Essentially, this is going to add lots of energy into your body without you realising it!

Adding protein into meal
Amino acids are the building blocks of muscles in our body. Without it, we cannot function. There are a few advantages of ensuring there are some protein in your everyday meal.

1. It helps you to recover from workouts.
2. The body uses more energy to digest protein.
3. Protein supposedly helps to slow down the rate of digestion of carbs, lowering the insulin spike after meals.

However, it is important to note that too much protein is also harmful. Urea is produced when excess protein is broken down into usable energy, giving more stress to the liver and kidneys. How much protein to take will depend on how much you have exercise, the nature, and the intensity of it.

Effects of fibre in meal
Roughage helps you in the following way:

1. Easier bowel movement.
2. Makes you feel fuller during meals.
3. Actually slows down your digestion, ensuring a more even release of energy from food
4. I have heard that it helps to reduce the amount of fats being absorbed by the body... Not so sure about it though.

The easiest way to get fibre is from vegetables, fruits and wholemeal bread.

Glycemic index
Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal, in fact they behave quite differently in our bodies. The glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low GI carbs - the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels - is the secret to long-term health reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to sustainable weight loss.

What are the benefits of a low GI diet?

1. Low GI diets help people lose and control weight
2. Low GI diets increase the body's sensitivity to insulin
3. Low GI carbs improve diabetes control
4. Low GI carbs reduce the risk of heart disease
5. Low GI carbs reduce blood cholesterol levels
6. Low GI carbs can help you manage the symptoms of PCOS
7. Low GI carbs reduce hunger and keep you fuller for longer
8. Low GI carbs prolong physical endurance

Eating too much high GI food helps can be detrimental to the body, and this is especially so for obese or sedentary people. However, it is still worth to note that high GI carbs help re-fuel carbohydrate stores after an intensive exercise.

As we know, there are four types of fat: saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and trans fat. It is however unnecessary to go too deep into details.

Do we need fats in our diet?

Yes! Fats have many important roles to play in the body:

1. Fat is the main energy store in the body.
2. Fat deposits act as a cushion for vital organs and help to insulate the body.
3. Fat is a carrier for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and helps in their absorption by the body.
4. Fat is a source of essential fatty acids, such as omega-3, which cannot be made in the body and must be obtained through food sources.

Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are fatty acids that cannot be constructed within an organism from other components (generally all references are to humans) by any known chemical pathways; and therefore must be obtained from the diet. EFAs play a part in many metabolic processes, and there are evidences to suggest that low levels of essential fatty acids, or the wrong balance of types among the essential fatty acids, may be a factor in a number of illnesses.

They are classified into omega-3 (ω-3) and omega-6 (ω-6). Some of the food sources of ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acids are fish and shellfish, flaxseed (linseed), hemp oil, soya oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables, and walnuts.

Trans Fats
Trans fat raises LDL-cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) and reduces HDL-cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) in the body. As a result, trans fat increases the risk of developing heart disease.

Our body does not require trans fat, so we should try to keep trans fat intake to a minimum.

The main sources of trans fat in our diet are pastries, cakes, cookies, biscuits, commercially deep-fried foods as well as products containing vegetable shortening and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Do take note to consume less when indulging.

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