Our bodies are what allow our minds to interact with the world, for this reason, it is incredibly important for us to care for our physicality, as well as our minds. A healthy body increases the time we have here on earth and promotes a healthy mind. Therefore, in order to allow our minds to flourish, we must understand the basics of health – nutrition and exercise.
Unfortunately, it is so hard today to find reliable information on nutrition. Everywhere you look there is more contradictory information, fad diets, and secret shortcuts to perfect health. For this reason, I have decided to try to list out the absolute basics of health, with more in-depth guides coming later. I will attempt to ground these basics in simple scientific principles from my background in Biochemistry.
First up, weight loss and gain. They are two incredibly simple concepts, but sometimes they are hard for us to manage. On the most basic level, carbs, proteins, and fats, have a caloric value. This caloric value, or calorie, is a measure of energy. This means that when we have more nutrients (fat, protein, carbs) we have more energy. When we expend less energy than we consume, the energy we consumed is stored in our bodies as added weight. Similarly, when we expend more energy than we consume, our bodies take the nutrients already found in our bodies in the form of fat and glycogen (similar to glucose which is a carb) consumes them for energy. This is how we lose weight.
Aside from creating unhealthy deficiencies in our body to absorb less or surgery to remove the fat, there is no other way to lose weight. An individual must be using more energy than they take in. Everyone burns a certain amount of calories on any given day based on their body composition and activity level. It is important to find roughly how many calories you burn by first using a calculator and then doing your own experimenting. It is possible for us to increase our energy output by exercising, but the most important part of losing weight comes down to the diet.
*It is important to understand that weight gained or lost may also take the form of muscle. It is possible to stay at the same weight, eating the same amount of energy you’re putting out, while simultaneously building muscle and losing fat. However in most cases it is important to eat an excess of calories in order to build muscle when training*
Once again, there is an absurd amount of misinformation out about the diet. Some people will tell you “no carbs for a week and you’re golden,” or “you have to eat 300g,” of protein or “even no fats ever!” These are simply not the case. It is important to consume enough protein and fats to maintain a healthy body, the rest of your macronutrients are fairly flexible. Protein and fat recommendations vary. For myself, a 170 lb male who weight trains frequently, I try to consume 70-80g of fat and around 150g of protein. This is a high protein diet and unnecessary for people who are not undergoing rigorous exercise.
Other than these mandatory nutrients, the remaining calories in your day are fairly flexible. Perhaps you prefer lots of bread where others like more olive oil on their salad. This would simply mean more of your calories are devoted to carbs than theirs and that is not a bad thing. The major foods to avoid are saturated fat, as it is linked to heart disease and stroke, as well as refined flowers and sugars, as these are linked to diabetes and obesity due to their easy absorption into the blood stream. To give an example, whole grain over white bread and the more liquid the fat, the better it is for you. Saturated fats solid at room temperature, unsaturated are not.
As I mentioned above, it is possible to increase the energy spent on a given day by exercising. Any exercise will do the trick, but some are more effective calorie burners than others. For instance, jumping rope is credited with the highest calorie burn rate of around 1,000 calories/per hour of jumping rope. Swimming is low impact, making it great for anyone where joint health may be an issue, and burns among the most amount of calories per hour. HIIT is credited with enhancing energy consumption even AFTER exercise has stopped. HIIT is short for high intensity interval training and consists of a short duration of vigorous exercise, followed by a brief rest, repeated for several cycles.
I personally am a huge proponent of weight training, not only for appearance, but for longevity. Firstly, it is a great way to burn calories. The act of lifting weights burn calories and is then compounded by new muscle which requires even more calories. Second, it promotes muscle health.It is a terrible shame to see elderly men and women who fear living in a house with stairs, showering, or even not being able to get up out of a chair. Weight training carried out into your senior years is a preventative measure for such cases. If you can stand up with weight on your back, you’ll never fear the steps or getting out of a chair. If you can hold yourself up with your hands, showering becomes a lot less scary.
I’ll be covering more on diet and exercise in later posts, please subscribe for updates on my journey to promote not only my health, but other renaissance ideals to become well-rounded.