Skip to main content

4 reasons why you should eat

I feel ridiculous writing this post.

It should be excruciatingly obvious.

But it's not.

Everywhere I look I am seeing messages about not-eating.

"don't eat these things"
"don't eat very much"
"don't eat at this time"

And frankly, it's not very healthy. Physically or mentally.

So what I'm going to talk about today is why it is important to focus on eating, rather than not-eating, when working towards your health-improving goals. And yes, even, no, especially, when one of those goals is fat loss.

Fuel for your activities

So food is fuel for your body. It provides the energy you need to function. Your body uses carbohydrates and fat as fuel. It can use protein, but only when under quite a lot of pressure. Your brain can only fuel itself on glucose (carbohydrate) and you can only metabolise fat in the presence of carbohydrate ("fat burns in a carbohydrate flame").

When your body runs low on fuel, you feel tired, sluggish, and can't think straight. So eat. Regularly. 

And eat some carbs.  Not handfuls of jellybeans, but complex carbohydrates, with fibre, like whole grains, which help you to maintain steady levels of blood sugar to fuel your activities.

"Activity" is the key. If you are interested in losing some fat mass, you need to be active. Firstly because you will use more energy through activity than you can save by cutting your diet (and I am deliberately saying "activity" rather than exercise, because it's really all about keeping steadily on the move all the time, not spending 20 minutes doing some cardio then sitting down the rest of the day) and also because being thin is no fun if you are too hungry and weak to leave the house.

Move more, eat mindfully. But do eat.

There is one thing I need to mention here, which is the understanding that we burn fat less efficiently when blood insulin levels are high. This is the reasoning behind a practice known as "fasted cardio".

I'm not going to recommend fasted cardio, it's a contentious subject and there is not enough evidence that a) it works and b) it doesn't cause more harm than good. I'm going to give you a link for information and a couple of key warnings: Firstly, your performance will be impaired, this is a given, it will make your workout physically and psychologically harder - you won't work so hard, you won't burn so many calories, you won't get as strong an afterburn. Secondly, some people work out after a very long fast. Sensible people leave no more than 3 hours after a meal. That is plenty enough for anyone.

If you want to avoid high insulin levels during your workout, eat a balanced meal, with complex carbs (low GI) a couple of hours before you train. You get the fuel you need to perform, but without raising your insulin levels. That's not a fancy "trick" that's the standard advice for everyone.

Boost your metabolism

Do you know how your basal metabolic rate is calculated? You don't have to, all you need to know is that one of those components is the energy expended in processing the stuff you smash in your face.

So if you eat, actual real food, your body expends energy processing it. If you eat dust with added water you might get adequate nutrition (note I say adequate, not optimal) and you might get the same number of calories, but your body will expend very little absorbing it. This is why meal replacement shakes, soups etc originated for sick and elderly people - for people who needed easy nutrition to support their weakened systems. Not for healthy people who want to lose a bit of fat sustainably.

It's also well understood that cutting too many calories from your diet is not good for your health and should only be done temporarily and under the advice and supervision of a qualified dietitian. There's a lot of factors interplaying that affect how your body receives and processes calories, this is an excellent breakdown for the geeks amongst us, but what it boils down to is that the recommendation for sustainable weight loss is a daily deficit of around 500 calories, half of which should come from increased activity. For reasons stated in the Precision Nutrition article, you might not get the 1lb a week weight loss you might expect, not every week, some will be faster and sometimes it will grind to a halt, but stick with it and you will see results that stick with you. For some light hearted advice about this, check out this post, and this album on my Facebook feed.

Regulating your mood

Admit it. You are miserable when you are hungry. No one like it. Get over it and eat something.

Feed your willpower

Did you know that it's actually really hard to make good choices when your blood sugar is low? Of course you did, because everyone knows that you shouldn't do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach. When your brain isn't fuelled right you find it harder to get off your resistant butt and work out, you find it harder to resist another chocolate biscuit, or a cheeky portion of chips on our way home. This is why people who eat breakfast eat better, it sets them up for a morning of clear headedness and positive choices. Don't go making decisions on an empty stomach.

So instead of focusing about not-eating, let's concentrate on eating. Let's eat to fuel our bodies properly for activity, growth and healing. Let's eat good stuff that feels good to chew and sits comfortably in our bellies. Let's eat things that make us happy and keep our minds in good order, and let's stop trying to convince ourselves that there is anything wrong with that.

If you want more personalised advice about improving your health and wellbeing, head on over to Fire Lotus Fitness, where I offer a load of accessible options for in-person and online personal training.


Popular posts from this blog

Training with Fibromyalgia - a primer for Fitness Professionals

Fitness and Fibromyalgia
The second of my posts about training clients with chronic illness (the first on EDS is here)

Learning how to achieve fitness in a chronically ill body was first my way of life, and later, my profession; as I train or programme for a number of Personal Training clients. I have EDS and Fibromyalgia (which commonly presents alongside EDS).

While the physiology and mechanisms behind EDS are relatively well understood, at least in terms of recognising the roles collagen plays in our bodies and the effects of an anomaly, fibromyalgia is a bit of a tricky one. The diagnosis, causes and management of fibromyalgia are not very well understood, and while progress is being made in terms of recognising physiological markers etc, we are still very much in the dark.

One thing that is generally agreed on however, is that exercise is good therapy for fibromyalgia, and that's where we come in.

Scope of practice
Here we go again...

Fitness professionals are there to help …

But how can you be an athlete when you are sick?

Training through chronic illness - living life on the edge.
I'm living a double life.

My superhero persona goes to the gym and lifts enormous weights. She's vital and has her life together. Endless to-do lists in a bullet journal, juggling work and kids and being an athlete and performer with theatrical effortlessness.

Then there's the secret side people don't see, where I lie on the sofa in my flare day leggings and fleece, clutching a cup of tea for the slight relief the warmth affords my stiff, clawed hands.

I know I'm not the only one. I know a lot of athletes living with chronic illness. Outwardly fitter and busier than the average person, inwardly wracked with pain and fatigue.

There are two ways people tend to interpret this. Either we are not as sick as we claim, or we are stupidly putting our health at risk doing sport that seems counter-intuitive to our well being. The reality is a lot more complicated. I wanted to formulate a decent answer to "why …

Training Ehlers Danlos Athletes - a primer for the Fitpro.

When you have a rare health condition, it's pretty exciting when you encounter someone who knows about it. Even more so when you encounter people who are interested in it and more importantly, understanding how to bridge the gap and work with it.

This is why I am really happy to be seeing more and more fitness professionals asking "I have a client with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, what do I need to know?"

As a fitpro, and athlete living with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome I am always happy to chat to trainers looking to broaden their understanding, and as I am often answering the same questions, I thought it would be good to do a write up.

Quick disclaimer before we start - I'm not a medic, and this is not for medics. I'm going to provide you with as many references as I can, but please seek specific medical input from your/your client's health care professionals. And with that we get to our first point.

Scope of practice.
Quick, check your job title. Are you a personal tr…

What's the deal with yoga and hypermobility?

I wanted to address a question today that keeps coming up on various hypermobility and EDS forums that I frequent. It comes up so often in fact that I feel like I have to write this all up in one place, to save me 1000s of key strokes of individual responses and distil some of my opinions and thought processes on the matter.

It always goes like this. Someone asks a question like "I've just been diagnosed with hypermobility, I've been told I can't do yoga anymore..."

The responses are always a mixture of "yes, my doctor/physio told me yoga was the worst thing I could do for my hypermobility" and "I do yoga and it's been the best thing for my hypermobility".

So what gives?

Well, I'm firmly in the "yoga is useful" camp, and I have to disclose that. I'm a yoga practitioner of around 20 years and a perinatal yoga teacher, as well as a personal trainer and bendy person.

While I have the deepest respect for the medical professio…

I'm going to help you find the best diet for you!

It's the most common question people ask me when they find out I'm a Nutritionist:

"What's the best diet?"
So today, I am going to tell you... You are welcome.

The best diet for what?
So the first question I will ask is... what are your goals? What are you actually trying to achieve?

Gym culture tends to revolve around bodybuilders, because it tends to glorify that aesthetic. But a bodybuilder's eating habits are really not very helpful for someone who is working out 3-4 times a week and trying to lose weight.

Eating for performance is a very different beast from eating for weight loss, and both of those can be very different from eating for good health.

[for instance the protocols I would use to help a physique competitor cut fat for stage are very different from how I would handle a non-athlete wanting to lose fat for health; and also very different from how I would support a weight-class athlete, like a boxer or powerlifter, cut weight for competition.]