As many members of the public take on exercise, one of their big questions is “how important really is food if I am now going to lead an active lifestyle?”. To sum it up, food is VERY important. It is impossible to out train a bad diet and here’s just a few reasons why:
- One of the single most important things to remember is that whether your goals are to tone up or to lose weight, diet is one of the strongest influencers of your change in body composition. Energy balance must be achieved effectively in order to achieve your goals. If your aim is to lose weight then you should consider approximately a 10-20% calorie deficit (any lower than this can lead to illness so be careful not to consume too little). On the other hand, if you’re aiming to gain muscle mass then you should aim to consume an additional 500-1000 calories above your basal rate. However, you must ensure these calories remain healthy and do not avoid fats. A common myth is that you should consume less fat to lose weight. However, fat is vital for every day bodily functions and should account for 20-30% of your daily calorie intake. Despite this, it’s important to consider the types of fats you choose within your diet. You should aim to consume healthy fats ie eggs and avocados and avoid unhealthy fats such as chocolate for optimal body composition.
- It’s also important to consider where your fat stores are. Subcutaneous fat is fat which lies directly under the skin and so we can detect changes in our own subcutaneous fat when leading an active lifestyle. Although you may notice a change in these fat stores when starting an active lifestyle but continuing with an unhealthy diet, it’s also important to consider visceral fat which is fat that surrounds the internal organs. Visceral fat can be very harmful for our health, particularly fat around the abdomen. Therefore, although you may feel that your body composition is improving with exercise but with a poor diet, also consider how your internal organs may suffer from leading an unhealthy diet.
- Diet has also been associated with cardiovascular disease whereby consuming less than the recommended 5 fruit and vegetables a day and consuming high volumes of unhealthy fats leads to an elevated risk in developing cardiovascular disease. Consuming more calories than your body can expend and consuming high volumes of unhealthy fats can lead to atherosclerosis which is narrowing of the arteries due to an excess accumulation of fatty deposits. Therefore, to help prevent the development of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, try to consume at least 5 fruit and vegetables and avoid a high calorie/unhealthy fat diet.
Collectively, to lead a healthy diet you should aim to consume food rich in fresh fruit and vegetables (at least 5 a day), whole grains, fish and seafood, low in sodium and limited in alcohol, red meat and dairy foods.