Whilst health and fitness are about a lot more than just how much a person weighs, the correlation between maintaining the correct bodyweight and overall wellness is undisputed. Obesity is one of the most urgent medical problems of our time and anybody who has been seriously overweight will know just how inhibiting it is to both internal and external bodily function.
People have been going on diets for centuries, but we are fortunate in that we are increasingly able to understand and appreciate not just the benefits of eating less food, but of eating the right food and in the appropriate quantities and proportions. In particular, we know that although the number of calories we consume in relation to those we burn is the ultimate determining factor in bodyweight, the constitution of the food that we eat is also important in how it shapes our bodies.
Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats
Essentially the food we eat can be divided into three types, which we call macronutrients – protein, carbohydrate and fat. The latter two can be further subdivided, so we have simple (sugar-based) and complex (starch-based) carbohydrates, often referred to as “carbs”, and saturated and unsaturated fats. We need all three, but in a healthy diet we would consume them in certain proportions and when we are striving towards a particular objective we may tweak those proportions with a view to minimising or maximising the consumption of one or other of them.
The traditional way of approaching a diet is through calorie control. By factoring in such things as age, height, gender, natural build, metabolism and – crucially – lifestyle, we can calculate approximately how many calories we each need to maintain bodyweight at its existing level. Then, if we wish to lose (or gain) weight, it is a simple matter of adjusting the number of calories taken each day and monitoring the change as it happens.
The Role of Macronutrition
But our understanding of the role played by each of the macronutrients helps us to condition our bodies as well as simply to change our weight. To develop the point, imagine having become obese not only through over-eating but also as a result of a total absence of exercise from your daily routine. Losing a lot of weight will undoubtedly make you feel better and will make exercise easier as there is less weight to carry around, but even without the excess weight it would be difficult at first to walk any considerable distance because your body will be unused to exercise, and unconditioned for the purpose.
Thus the ideal solution would be not just to reduce bodyweight, but at the same time to undertake exercise to prepare yourself for a more active live. Your muscles will be developed, or reactivated, and in order to do this a diet rich in protein would be advisable as protein is the building block of lean muscle. The higher the proportion of protein consumed the less fats and carbohydrates – especially sugars – would be involved, bearing in mind the cap that you have imposed on your own calorie intake.
Controlling calories, achieving a healthy macronutritional balance and performing physical exercise is the magic combination to unlocking the secret of a successful diet.