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The balance between diet and exercise in weight and fat loss

In our last post we made some sense of the main driver of a flat abdomen: leanness. But how do we achieve that elusive goal? Well, the story is a little bit more interesting than we tend to hear. So lets start by covering some basics.

We have all heard about the need to achieve a balance between energy ‘in’ (our diet) and energy ‘out’ (what we burn/use on a day to day basis). Well, research is suggesting that this may not be as basic as we first thought. The evidence is pointing to these two factors playing different roles in the weight loss equation. Our nutrition is being suggested as a much more important driver of weight loss, while exercise seems to serve as a protector against weight gain (among many other health benefits of course!).

You may have experienced this in the past: you realise that you have put some weight on and decide that its time to do something about it. So you start exercising. Weeks later you are still frustrated by the very minimal changes on the scales… have you been there?

Well, the (somewhat) good news here, is that you are not really to blame for those small changes. Research is now consistently reporting that the weight changes that result from exercise alone are quite small. A large review of studies on the topic showed that in the short term (16 weeks in this case) exercise alone reduced fat by 0.25kg per week. Now, this is nothing to be scoffed at: this indicates that over the 16 weeks people can lose 4kg of fat, which is great. And it is a sustainable amount of weight loss.

Also, the quantity of fat loss is dependent on the amount and intensity of exercise performed. So how much exercise do you need to perform for that quarter of a kilo? About 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week (5-6 days).

And what is achievable at greater loads of exercise? Well, if you exercise 6 days a week at a moderate to high intensity – meaning you are burning about 550cals or 2300kj per session – you can expect to lose 0.4-0.5 kg/week of fat. Great results but tough schedule!

I am a great believer and promoter of regular exercise. My business revolves around it, and the benefits of it are incredible in their scope and depth. And we will publish posts in the future on the many (and often unknown) benefits of exercise. However it is more important for me that you receive the right advice and are equipped to make the right decisions for the specific goals that you may have.

So which way does the balance tip? A summary of the research indicates that exercise will account for approximately 20-40% of fat loss, while your diet will account for anywhere between 60-80%. Definitely worth while spending some time exploring this side of the equation! And the good news is that it will take a lot less effort and time to achieve significant results.

This benefit will be even more important for you if for whatever reason, your capacity to exercise is limited. For example due to injury, serious health conditions, or an extremely tough work schedule.

So what can you expect from dietary changes?

Well, our clients are losing an average of 1kg per week form dietary changes alone. Well, this will take another post to explain it in good detail so that the mechanisms can be well understood, but so that you can get started between now and then, here are some foundational recommendations we make:

  • Eat natural foods – every meal should look like you just picked it from a plant, or like you were hunting that morning!
  • Eat lots of colour – what is the average colour in your diet? If its brown, then please do make sure you stay tuned to our next blog, as you will be surprised as to what may be going on in your body!
  • Eat regularly – 5-6 smaller meals a day are ideal to maintain blood sugar levels well regulated
  • Decrease the amount of grain based carbohydrates in your diet – this will obviously depend on what you are currently eating. But by an large, we tend to over-consume grains, a dietary habit that may be at the root cause of many of our western diseases.

I’ll go into a lot more detail about these recommendations in our next blog. But what I’d love you to do is to start thinking about the above information, and start to make small gradual changes based on it. Look at the dietary recommendations above, mix them with some regular exercise (yes, this is still important!), and stay tuned to our next post.

Please tell us if any of this doesn’t make sense, or if you have any further questions. Our aim is to inform you so you can lead a more energetic life. We want to help shape your life performance -forever!

If you have specific questions, don’t hesitate to contact our Exercise Physiologists at www.informhealth.com

Getting a ‘flat-stomach’!

This is a huge topic with many ramifications, so to give it the attention it requires I’m going to address it over a number of discussions over the next few weeks. This way we can start to put things in place one step at a time, and give you the time to ask any questions you need.

So here it is! I’d love to get your feedback, opinions and further questions on this!

Firstly one thing needs to be clarified. Many people do crunches to reduce the fat around their abdominal area. Fat CANNOT be spot reduced, meaning that you can’t choose where you will lose fat from, even if you focus your exercise (or scrubbing/loofaing) on that specific area. Fat loss is a chemical process that happens from the whole body.

So you will lose as much fat from your abdominal area from doing crunches as you are from squats. as a matter of fact you will lose more from the same number of squats, as you are using a larger muscle mass, and hence requiring more energy.

It’s worthwhile mentioning that adypose (fat) cells in the abdominal region are more labile. That is, they are typically the first to absorb fat and the first to lose it. But this is due to their chemical/physiological responses and not to the type of exercises we do. This is why we would tend to see guys with relatively lean legs and arms, but with a bulge around the abdominal area. And why women find it harder to lose fat from the stubborn hips and bum area. These fat cells truly are more stubborn!

So, the number one rule to achieving a flat stomach is to get rid of the covering over it! yes, its about becoming leaner. I guess most of us have heard the statement that ‘we’ve all got a six-pack, we just need to show it’. This is largely true. The shape of that six-pack (which is actually an eight-pack, as there are eight visible segments of the rectus abdominis behind its connective tissue) is largely genetically determined, but the leaner you are, the better it will look!

Next week I’m going to post a discussion on some recent and very high quality research that presents very interesting and exciting strategies to help us become leaner in a sustainable and achievable way, so make sure you stay tuned in!

So what should we take away from this weeks discussion: a) start to look at your dietary intake, because therein lies the answer to your ‘six-pack’, and b) spend the time you may have spent on crunches/sit-ups on ‘larger’ whole body exercises, or increasing your energy expenditure (out put) by doing some higher intensity cardio(vascular) exercise, such as fast walking, jogging, cycling, etc. Even a solid gardening session will do the trick! considering the rains we’ve had, and the current sun-shine, I’m sure your lawns could need a bit of attention. If not, I’m happy for you to exercise on mine!!

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