';

Healthy Living

The phrase “eat healthy” gets tossed around a lot, but most guys don’t know exactly what that means. No, it doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself to an all-kale diet, or start consuming food exclusively in juice form. In fact, those are considered poor examples of good nutrition and will most likely lead to unhappy outcomes.

A healthy diet consists of food that satisfies your body’s requirements for energy, fuel, and building blocks. To illustrate this point, several public health agencies have produced visual representations of what a proper diet should look like. Although the graphics look different, they all boil down to the same basic principles:

A well-rounded diet consists of lots of vegetables/produce, a fair amount of grain products, a reasonable amount of dairy products, a reasonable amount of meat products, and a small amount of fat. Of course, these can be tailored around individual dietary restrictions (for example, soy products and lentils are great sources of protein in lieu of meat products).

Lastly, total calorie intake should match the requirements of each individual; it makes sense that an Olympic swimmer needs to eat more food than the average person, because the swimmer uses more energy throughout the day. So take into account the amount of physical activity you partake in on a regular basis and base your calorie intake on that. That way you can ensure you’re getting enough energy to get through the day without consuming extra calories which can lead to unwanted weight gain.

Want to go deeper? The Harvard School of Public Health has a great resource related to nutrition and healthy eating: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that adults get at least 2.5 hours of exercise every week2. Now, that may seem like a lot, but fortunately exercise doesn’t just mean going to the gym or going for a run. Walking or biking to and from work or school are great ways to get exercise. Playing recreational sports with a social group, like Team Edmonton, is another great way to be healthy. Turning exercise into a social event by bringing along a friend or two is a great way to stay on track, keep each other accountable, and have more fun!

Not surprisingly, exercise helps maintain a healthy body weight by increasing the number of calories that you burn. What may be surprising is that the majority of those calories lost are not shed at the gym, but rather afterwards. Regular exercise actually helps increase the baseline rate at which your body uses calories, commonly called your metabolism (“resting metabolic rate” is the scientific term). Finally, physical activity affects not just your body, but also your mind. Regular exercise reduces the effects of stress, reduces levels of depression and anxiety, improves energy levels, and boosts self esteem5.

Obtaining a healthy weight is a concern for countless men and women across the globe. Companies and scientists have gone to incredible lengths to fully understand the weight loss process.

Weight loss is often packaged as a diet, meal replacement, workout routine, or something else along those lines. Ultimately, weight loss boils down to one simple rule: if you use more calories than you gain, you will lose weight. Simple as that, right? Well… almost.

If you try out a quick-fix low calorie diet, over the short-term, you will lose weight but your body will gradually adapt to the reduction of calories. Your resting metabolic rate will actually decline in response to the diet. This is because evolution has trained your body to respond to starvation conditions and as you reduce your caloric intake, your body’s metabolism becomes more efficient. This means that if you drastically cut calories for a short period of time, once you stop your diet, you could return to your prior weight – or possibly more.

But what about low-carb diet? The paleo diet? Atkins? Many of these diets have a large media-backing but not a lot of science behind them. A number of studies have found no outcome differences between low-carb, low-fat, and low-calorie diets, with the average weight loss being between 2-4 kilograms6. To make things even simpler, science has shown that diet-related weight loss occurs not because one type of food is being restricted, but rather because total calorie intake is decreased7. It’s also important to remember that eating a heavily-restricted diet may result in your body not getting enough of a particular vitamin or mineral and could actually harm you.

Lots of guys are trying to bulk up at the gym. To do so, many guys resort to taking all sorts of powders and supplements. Of course, supplementation is not a required to build muscle. It is only recommended when your normal dietary intake does reach your body’s requirements for certain building blocks. Protein and creatine are the two most commonly used supplements. Here’s a breakdown of what they do.

Protein:

Protein supplementation (a.k.a. protein powder) is the bread-and-butter of the gym-bunny’s recovery routine, and for good reason. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends taking protein to promote an increase in lean body mass and increased muscular strength6. Not all protein is the same, and it comes in a variety of forms, with the most common being whey, casein, and soy. Whey protein, which is a by-product of cheese production, is the most frequently recommended form of protein because it has the highest level of essential amino-acids and branched-chain amino acids. In short, it is the most efficient at forming new muscle.

Creatine:

Although not totally understood why, creatine has been shown to increase maximal muscular strength by 5-15%7. Unfortunately, this gain is not reflected in endurance performance (such as running or swimming). Many people experience a slight weight gain a few days after beginning to supplement with creatine due to water being drawn into muscle cells of the body. Don’t worry though. This weight gain is normal and not unhealthy.

In Summary:
  1. Eat a well-rounded diet made up of healthy carbs, protein, and fats.
  2. Exercise regularly. Remember, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go the gym. Running, walking, and biking are just a few examples of good physical activity.
  3. Burning more calories than you consume is the only sure-way to achieve weight loss, but you have to maintain your diet.
  4. Although not necessary for strength gain, protein and creatine are effective dietary supplements. Whey protein is your best bet for effective protein powder.

1 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. Retrieved at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/

2 Public Health Agency of Canada. (May 23, 2011). Physical Activity. Retrieved at http://www.cmaj.ca/content/174/1/56.full

3 Team Edmonton. Retrieved at http://www.teamedmonton.ca/

4 Shook, R. P., et al. (2014). Moderate cardiorespiratory fitness is positively associated with resting metabolic rate in young adults. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 89, 763-71.

5 Rebar, A. L., et al. (2015). A meta-meta-analysis of the effect of physical activity on depression and anxiety in non-clinical adult populations. Health Psychology Review. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25739893

6 Strychar, I. (2006). Diet in the management of weight loss. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 174, 56-63.

7 Sacks, F. M., et al. (2009). Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. New England Journal of Medicine, 360, 859-73.

8 Abaray, R., and Boatwright, D. Resistance Training: Benefits of Post-Exercise Consumtion of Protein Supplement. Retrieved from https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/resistance-training–benefits-of-post-exercise-consumption-of-protein-supplements/

9 Bird, S. P. (2003). Creatine Supplementation and exercise performance: a brief review. Journal of Sport Science and Medicine, 2, 123-32.