As I have explained before, the simple equation of energy in, energy out is far too simplistic when it comes to the massively complex system that is human metabolism. If you struggle with this concept, or if you’re doggedly hanging on to the belief that notching up the calories on the treadmill or your fancy heart rate monitor, gives you license to eat the equivalent calories in the form of chocolate cake and all will remain equal, then you really need to keep reading.
It’s? not about the quantity – the calorific content that matters, it’s about the quality of the food and the impact the food has on your hormones, which then determines whether you store the food as fat, or burn it as energy. Eating, for example, wholesome, nutritious, well-balanced foods like raw nuts will keep blood sugar levels stable, insulin levels low and the body in burning not storage mode. The same quantity of calories from a refined, high carb food like cake, will trigger a surge of insulin, putting you in storage mode, while also setting you up for a blood sugar and therefore energy drop shortly after eating the cake, resulting in sugar cravings and feeling sluggish.? This then leads to you grabbing for more sweet foods to perk you up again. I cannot stress enough how different foods dictate whether your body uses your body fat as a source of fuel or whether, like most people in the Western world, carb cravings and constant feelings of hunger drive you to eat to get your energy.
When it comes to exercise, it is again, far too simplistic to see food simply as fuel and that you can therefore ‘get away’ with a low quality, junky, highly processed, nutrient poor diet by putting in the hours doing regular exercise. In fact, doing lots of exercise on a poorly nourished body will put a massive stress on your body and further deplete vitamin and mineral stores. The quality of the food you put in to your body has a direct correlation with how well you sleep, how well your cells function, how able your body is to constantly renew and repair, how well your brain functions etc. Also, remember that exercise has relatively little to do with what you weigh and how much body fat you have.
Our basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy your body burns at rest, doing nothing, at all. What determines this amount of energy i.e. the amount of calories required to keep your brain, heart, liver and the multitude of other functions in the body ticking over, is down to your metabolism or metabolic rate, and this is largely influenced by the amount of muscle you have as muscle is very calorie hungry: the more muscle you have, the higher your BMR, the more calories you burn at all times.
Your BMR accounts for about 70% of the energy your burn on a daily basis – I repeat, about 70% of your daily energy requirement comes from what’s going on inside your body to keep it ticking over. About 10% is down to the thermic effect of food i.e the energy it takes to digest our meals, and only about 20% of the calories you burn is down to exercise. In order to keep at a healthy weight you need to eat a high quality, wholefood diet and you need to maintain muscle mass by doing resistance exercise. Running for hours on a treadmill is a nonsense as those calories that slowly notch up would be largely notching up if you’d stayed in bed instead because your body is constantly burning calories, especially if you have a good percentage of muscle mass. The calories you see as having been burned during your workout INCLUDES the calories you would have burned if you’d stayed in bed! Be smart with your exercise and sensible with your food choices and your fat stores, your appetite and your energy levels will take care of themselves without the need for sugar, caffeine or energy drinks to keep you going and without the need for hours upon hours of joint-wearing exercise.