Exercise and Diet - Factual or Fictitious?
Did you know you can still eat your favourite foods and still lose weight? Find out the Benefits of Exercise, Myths of Exercise, Ways to Recover Quickly after Exercise and Myths of Diet
Benefits of Exercise
1. Exercise improves your mood
Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A workout at the gym or a brisk 30-minute walk can help you calm down.
Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out. You'll also look better and feel better when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem. Regular physical activity can even help prevent depression.
2. Exercise combats chronic diseases
Worried about heart disease? Physical activity might be the ticket. If it is done regular it can help you prevent type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer or manage high blood pressure. Your cholesterol will benefit, too. Regular physical activity boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol while decreasing triglycerides. This one-two punch keeps your blood flowing smoothly by lowering the build-up of plaques in your arteries.
3. Exercise helps you manage your weight
Want to drop those excess pounds? Trade some couch time for walking or other physical activities.
This one's a no-brainer. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn and the easier it is to keep your weight under control. You don't even need to set aside major chunks of time for working out. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk during your lunch break. Do jumping jacks during commercials. Better yet, turn off the TV and take a brisk walk. Dedicated workouts are great, but physical activity you accumulate throughout the day helps you burn calories, too.
4. Exercise boosts your energy level
Regular physical activity can leave you breathing easier.
Physical activity delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, develop and strengthen your entire cardiovascular system and the circulation of blood through your heart and blood vessels. Big deal? You bet! When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you'll have more energy to do the things you enjoy. Exercise will give you a feel good factor that will become addicted.
5. Exercise promotes better sleep
Struggling to fall asleep? Or stay asleep? It might help to boost your physical activity during the day.
A good night's sleep can improve your concentration, productivity and mood. And you guessed it - physical activity is sometimes the key to better sleep. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. However if you exercise too close to bedtime, you may be too energized to fall asleep. If you're having trouble sleeping, you might want to exercise earlier in the day.
6. Exercise can be - gasp - fun!
Wondering what to do on a Saturday afternoon? Looking for an activity that suits the entire family? Get physical!
Physical activity doesn't have to be a drag. Take a ballroom dancing class. Check out a local climbing wall or hiking trail. Push your kids on the swings or climb with them on the jungle gym. Plan a neighbourhood kick about or go to your nearest pool for a swim or paddle. Find a physical activity you enjoy, and go for it. If you get bored, try something new. If you're moving, it counts!
Are you convinced? Good. Start reaping the benefits of regular physical activity today!
Myths of Exercise
Myth 1: Performing sit-ups gets rid of fat around the stomach
Spot reduction doesn't work. Exercising specific muscle groups in particular parts of the body doesn't burn fat from that area. Think about it... if spot reduction worked all chronic gum chewers would have thin faces.
Fat is lost gradually from all over the body. Although sit-ups won't melt fat from your tummy they will help tighten the muscle under the fat, which makes it worthwhile.
Myth 2: Muscle turns to fat when you stop exercising
Muscle and fat are completely different tissues that are not interchangeable. Instead, there are two key reasons why people perceive that muscle turns to fat when they stop exercising.
Muscle goes from firm to floppy when it's not used. It also decreases in size hence the saying, use it, or lose it.
Many people stop exercising but don't adjust how much food they eat. The reality is, when you exercise less, you have to eat less.
Myth 3: You have to exercise for 20 minutes before you start burning fat
Wrong! Each one of us has a different point where our bodies start burning fat. This is partly determined by genetics but mostly by fitness level. As you get fitter your body will get better at burning fat. But it's important to note that any physical activity has an impact on burning fat so every time you move, it's worth it.
Myth 4: Miracle machines and potions can get you fit with no effort required
Golden rule: if you don't work, it doesn't work. Commercials and magazine ads are filled with get-quick-fit machines, potions and supplements promising to get you fit with no effort required. But before you get your credit card out, remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Myth 5: Resistance (weight) training impedes weight loss
Weight training is a great add-on to cardiovascular exercise because it helps maintain muscle mass, boost metabolism and reduce fat. After age 20 our metabolic rate can decrease by around 1-2% per decade. This is primarily due to muscles shrinking with age and decreasing use.
In addition, we lose both fat and muscle during weight loss. So relying on an eating plan without upping exercise levels, will mean the greater the muscle loss. Weight training can help you keep the muscle while you lose the fat. Particularly on the upper body which isn't loaded much by walking, jogging or cycling etc. If gyms aren't your thing, keep in mind that as far as your muscles are concerned, lifting garden gnomes, bricks or even bags of laundry can have the same benefits as lifting weights.
Myth 6: It's best to exercise before breakfast because you burn more fat
There is little evidence to support this theory. However, the number one consideration for exercise is to do something within the 24 hours of most days. From a practical perspective mornings are best because it's done, out of the way and the rest of the day is yours.
Myth 7: Exercising after main meals is better than before
There isn't a right or wrong answer here. Exercising before or after meals is ok; the main thing to consider is that you do not skip meals and that you leave enough time for digestion before your workout. For a large meal this could mean about 3-4 hours, and for a small meal about 2-3 hours. However, some people can snack right before a workout as well, so it really depends on the individual.
Myth 8: People that are very overweight should avoid exercise
Wrong! Just take it easy when you start and aim to build up gradually.
First, concentrate on increasing daily incidental activity. Reduce the use of labour saving devices like remote controls etc. Try standing or, even better, pacing when chatting on the phone, park further away from the entrance of a shop, and use the stairs instead of the elevator.
Ways to Recover Quickly After Exercise
Time is one of the best ways to recover (or heal) from just about any illness or injury and this also applies after a hard workout. Your body has an amazing capacity to take care of itself if you allow it some time. Resting after a hard workout allows the repair and recovery process to happen at a natural pace at least one day off a week is essential.
If you only do one thing after a tough workout, consider gentle stretching. This is a simple and fast way to help your muscles recover.
Cooling down simply means slowing down (not stopping completely) after exercise. Continuing to move around at a very low intensity for 5 to 10 minutes after a workout helps remove lactic acid from your muscles and may reduce muscle stiffness.
After depleting your energy stores with exercise, you need to refuel if you expect your body to recover, repair tissues, get stronger and be ready for the next challenge. This is even more important if you are performing endurance exercise day after day or trying to build muscle. Ideally, you should try to eat within 60 minutes of the end of your workout and make sure you include some high-quality protein and complex carbohydrate.
You lose a lot of fluid during exercise and ideally, you should be replacing it during exercise, but filling up after exercise is an easy way to boost your recovery. Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in the body and having plenty of water will improve every bodily function. Adequate fluid replacement is even more important for endurance athletes who lose large amounts of water during hours of sweating.
Try Active Recovery
Easy, gentle movement improves circulation which helps promote nutrient and waste product transport throughout the body. In theory, this helps the muscles repair and refuel faster.
Have a Massage
A massage feels good and improves circulation while allowing you to fully relax. You can also try self-massage and avoid the heavy sports massage price tag.
Take an Ice Bath
Some athletes swear by ice baths, ice massage or contrast water therapy (alternating hot and cold showers) to recover faster, reduce muscle soreness and prevent injury. The theory behind this method is that by repeatedly constricting and dilating blood vessels helps remove (or flush out) waste products in the tissues.
Get Lots of Sleep
While you sleep, amazing things are taking place in your body. Optimal sleep is essential for anyone who exercises regularly. During sleep, your body produces Growth Hormone which is largely responsible for tissue growth and repair.
One simple way to recover faster is by designing a smart workout routine in the first place. Excessive exercise, heavy training at every session or a lack of rest days will limit your fitness gains from exercise and undermine your recovery efforts.
Listen to Your Body for a Faster Recovery
The most important thing you can do to recover quickly is to listen to your body. If you are feeling tired, sore or notice decreased performance you may need more recovery time or a break from training altogether. If you are feeling strong the day after a hard workout, you don't have to force yourself to go slow. If you pay attention, in most cases, your body will let you know what it needs, when it needs it. The problem for many of us is that we don't listen to those warnings or we dismiss them with our own self talk ("I can't be tired, I didn't run my best yesterday" or "No one else needs two rest days after that workout; they'll think I'm a wimp if I go slow today."). This will not improve your performance just hinder it.
Myths of Diet
Myth 1: Fad diets work for permanent weight loss
Fad diets are not the best way to lose weight and keep it off. Fad diets often promise quick weight loss or tell you to cut certain foods out of your diet. You may lose weight at first on one of these diets. But diets that strictly limit calories or food choices are hard to follow. Most people quickly get tired of them and regain any lost weight.
Fad diets may be unhealthy because they may not provide all of the nutrients your body needs. Also, losing weight at a very rapid rate (more than 3 pounds a week after the first few weeks) may increase your risk for developing gallstones (clusters of solid material in the gallbladder that can be painful). Diets that provide less than 800 calories per day also could result in heart rhythm abnormalities, which can be fatal.
Top Tip: Research suggests that losing ½ to 2 pounds a week by making healthy food choices, eating moderate portions, and building physical activity into your daily life is the best way to lose weight and keep it off.
Myth 2: High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets are a healthy way to lose weight
The long-term health effects of a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet are unknown. But getting most of your daily calories from high-protein foods like meat, eggs, and cheese is not a balanced eating plan. You may be eating too much fat and cholesterol, which may raise heart disease risk. You may be eating too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which may lead to constipation due to lack of dietary fibre. Following a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet may also make you feel: nauseous, tired, weak.
Top Tip: High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets are often low in calories because food choices are strictly limited, so they may cause short-term weight loss. But a reduced-calorie eating plan that includes recommended amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat will also allow you to lose weight.
Myth 3: "I can lose weight while eating whatever I want"
To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you eat. It is possible to eat any kind of food you want and lose weight. You need to limit the number of calories you eat every day and/or increase your daily physical activity. Portion control is the key. Try eating smaller amounts of food and choosing foods that are low in calories.
Top tip: When trying to lose weight, you can still eat your favourite foods, as long as you pay attention to the total number of calories that you eat.
Myth 4: Fast foods are always an unhealthy choice and you should not eat them when dieting
Fast foods can be part of a healthy weight loss program with a little bit of know-how.
Top tip: Avoid supersize combo meals, or split one with a friend. Sip on water or non fat milk instead of a fizzy drink. Choose salads and grilled foods, like a grilled chicken breast sandwich or small hamburger. Fried foods, like French fries and fried chicken, are high in fat and calories, so order them only once in a while, order a small portion, or split an order with a friend. Also, use only small amounts of high-fat, high-calorie toppings, like: regular mayonnaise, salad dressings, bacon and cheese
Myth 5: Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight
Studies show that people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times during the day tend to be heavier than people who eat a healthy breakfast and eat four or five times a day. This may be because people who skip meals tend to feel hungrier later on, and eat more than they normally would. It may also be that eating many small meals throughout the day helps people control their appetites.
Top tip: Eat small meals throughout the day that include a variety of healthy, low-fat, low-calorie foods.
Myth 6: Eating after 8 p.m. causes weight gain
It does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight. No matter when you eat, your body will store extra calories as fat.
Top tip: If you want to have a snack before bedtime, think first about how many calories you have eaten that day. And try to avoid snacking in front of the TV at night it is easy to over eat by picking at food. Chop up vegetables and fruit and eat those as a healthy snack.
Myth 7: Eating red meat is bad for your health and makes it harder to lose weight
Eating lean meat in small amounts can be part of a healthy weight-loss plan. Red meat, pork, chicken, and fish contain some cholesterol and saturated fat (the least healthy kind of fat). They also contain healthy nutrients like protein, iron, and zinc.
Top tip: Choose cuts of meat that are lower in fat and trim all visible fat.
Also, pay attention to portion size. One serving is 2 to 3 ounces of cooked meat-about the size of a deck of cards.
Myth 8: Dairy products are fattening and unhealthy
Low-fat and non fat milk, yogurt, and cheese are just as nutritious as whole milk dairy products, but they are lower in fat and calories. Dairy products have many nutrients your body needs. They offer protein to build muscles and help organs work properly, and calcium to strengthen bones. Most milk and some yogurts are fortified with vitamin D to help your body use calcium.
Top tip: The Dietary Guidelines recommend that people aged 9 to 18 and over age 50 have three servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese a day. Adults aged 19 to 49 need two servings a day, even when trying to lose weight. A serving is equal to 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1½ ounces of natural cheese such as cheddar, or 2 ounces of processed cheese, choose low-fat or non fat dairy products if you are eating in these quantities.
Myth 9: A big glass of fruit juice with your breakfast is really good for you
Whilst fruit juice does contain some essential vitamins, it is loaded with sugar. A 250ml glass of fruit juice has around 20-25 grams of carbs. For most people, that's an entire meal's carbohydrate allowance in one glass, most of which is sugar! What's more, this concentrated source of carbs induces a massive insulin spike leading to potential fat storage and an energy slump afterwards.
Top Tip: If your goal is to lose weight, then it is best to limit your intake of fruit juice as much as possible. Have the whole fruit instead. The fibre in the fruit will slow the absorption of the carbs (which reduces the insulin spike) as well as helping you feel full.
Myth 10: Five a day will stop you getting ill
The World Health Organisation says that you should eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, but recent research shows that nearer 8 to 12 portions are what we should be aiming for. This will help to reduce your risk of certain serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and colon cancer, plus it will help to boost your immune system making you more resistant to coughs and colds, too.
Top tip: How you prepare your veg has a huge impact on their benefits. The Government's daily recommended intake of five portions of fruit and vegetables is way too low. Aim to make fruit and veg about one-third of your daily diet.
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