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"How to Create a Balanced Diet for Fat Loss and Strength Building: Nutrition Tips"

A healthy individual can be far more productive, more energetic and in turn much happier than the ones who frequently fall ill. Sickness can act as a burden, not just financially but mentally as well.



Investing in health, thus helps us gain the ROI (return on investment) of fitness and allows us more time to focus on our goals in the long run.

In order to build strength, to look lean, to feel fit and fresh, it is worth spending some time understanding the basics of nutrition.  It is important to know, how to plan your meals better so that we can make our diet more balanced and wholesome.

And this article is meant to help you with just that!



Weight loss for most individuals is tiring and tricky. When you follow a weight loss diet, very often, you are either expected to give up on your favourite foods or you are expected to replace meals with supplements/ shakes or you are told to skip meals and have soups or salads or weirdly spelled foods. Sure, all of the above helps. But, only temporarily. The day you decide to eat your usual meals, get back to your routine eating patterns, you are back to square one. What if we tell you that, it is possible to lose weight without all of the above? Sounds convenient, isn’t it?



Let’s understand the term – Balanced Diet/ Balanced Meal first. In simple words, any diet/ meal that provides you with all the nutrients essential to function to the best of your ability is a balanced diet.

But, the question is – Can a balanced diet help to lose weight? Can it help to build strength? Is a balanced diet enough to maintain weight, once you have lost it?

The answer to all the 3 questions is a big yes. Whether you want to lose weight or build strength, it is essential to consume a balanced diet. When your diet is not balanced, it puts you at risk for nutritional deficiencies which hinders weight loss, leaves you feeling drained and tired. Obviously, under such circumstances, your exercise performance is hampered and so, your overall fitness level declines. You feel like sleeping more often and despite a decent duration of sleep, you don’t feel fresh or energetic. This further affects your meal choices and frequency. Lastly, you end up skipping your workout regime altogether. A cycle of poor eating habits, low energy levels and no exercise thus develops. Now you know the power of balanced diet!




Components of Balanced Diet

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner – these are the 3 main meals in a day. Normally, most of us prefer having these 3 main meals routinely.  Let’s apply simple maths,

3 main meals X 7 days in a week = 21 meal opportunities

In order to make these 21 opportunities nutritionally balanced, it must contain all the 3 categories of nutrients mentioned below.


A.    Macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, fats and water

B.    Micronutrients – vitamins and minerals

C.    Special category of nutrients –phytonutrients (antioxidants), bioactive compounds etc.


Macronutrients

Macronutrients are those nutrients required by the body in large amounts. It is essential that we include these macronutrients in our diet in the right proportion in order to stay healthy. Macronutrient comprises of –

1.     Carbohydrates

2.     Protein

3.     Fats

4.     Water

 

Carbohydrates

The most dreaded nutrient in the past few years is the carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are super essential macronutrients. Infact at least 50 – 60 % of our calories must come from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, upon digestion provide our body with the energy currency – Glucose. Glucose is the main source of energy for our muscles and brain to function. Let us imagine that you are doing an intense workout. Which are the 3 organs that you would require the most? Muscles, Brain and Lungs. The muscles help you perform the workout and the brain instructs the muscles what it must do. Now, let us assume that you choose to cut down carbohydrates from your diet. What will happen? The brain does not efficiently direct the muscles and thus, the muscle function is affected. Hence, your workout performance is negatively affected.



Besides, if the intake of energy from carbohydrates is less than what is required, then proteins will be used for energy purpose. This reduces the pace at which our body can build stronger muscles. Carbohydrates thus provide what is called as the ‘protein-sparing action’.


Types of Carbohydrates

When I say carbohydrates what you think about is - french fries, breads, muffins and cakes, sweets and fruit juice. These are called as Simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are easily digested in the body and lead to a rapid and sharp spike in blood sugar levels. With a sedentary lifestyle, the blood sugars are under-utilised. Most of it, is then converted to fat and stored in our body.


 

Complex carbohydrates are those which are full of fibre and require a longer time to be digested by the body. Upon consumption, they tend to release glucose slowly, thus leading to a sustained supply of glucose to our body. The blood sugar levels gradually increase and so we feel satiated for a longer span of time. Whole grain cereals, whole grain pulses, vegetables and fruits are the commonly known sources of complex carbohydrates.


Carbohydrate choice

So, is it okay to include simple carbohydrates in all the 21 main meal opportunities?

The answer is No! For those individuals who do not have any medical conditions and are healthy, it is totally okay to include any of these processed carbohydrates about two times in a week. The rest of the meal opportunities must be focused on incorporating healthy carbohydrate options.

Let’s check them out – Whole grain cereals, whole grain pulses, vegetables, fruits and dairy products are the healthier versions of carbohydrates.

 




Which of the following carbohydrates is advisable for someone who is trying to lose fat?

  • 0%Orange Juice

  • 0%Brown Bread

  • 0%Sabudana

  • 0%Daliya


Check out the answer at the end of the blog !


Proteins -

The most over-rated nutrient of the decade has to be ‘proteins.’ Yes, there is no doubt about the fact that proteins are necessary. They are important for weight loss and muscle building as well. However, it is essential to remember that our body requires everything or every nutrient rather, in moderation. Anything in excess would be stored. For human body, the easiest form of storing excess energy is fat. If you decide to consume more proteins than required, your body would convert it to fat via various pathways. Similarly, if you choose to eat a lot of carbohydrates, your body will convert it to fat.


Protein intake and Fat loss

Good intake of protein can help to reach satiety levels early. It requires more energy to be digested and has the ability to help us increase our BMR (Basal metabolic rate - calories burnt by the body to perform basic life-sustaining functions). It ensures a tab on cravings and late-night snacking.



One of the sure-shot ways of losing fat and preventing it from being regained is to build strong muscles.


How to build stronger muscles?

i.                 Regular exercise and inclusion of some form of weight bearing exercises/ resistance training.

ii.               Adequate intake of protein in all main meals with a well-balanced diet.

iii.             Restful and deep sleep.

Muscles are metabolically the most active tissue in our body. If there are two individuals with different muscle mass – Person A has a high muscle mass and Person B has low muscle mass. Person A will burn more fat even at rest. Surprising, isn’t it? Ever wondered, how athletes and sportsmen have a huge appetite and yet look lean and muscular. Now you know the answers lie in their muscle mass.


Protein choice

For weight loss, it is recommended to opt for vegetarian sources of protein more frequently. Well, yes! You read it right. While non-vegetarian proteins are better absorbed and assimilated, they are sources of saturated fat, especially red meat and hence, may lead to elevated cholesterol levels. Few researches indicate that saturated fat can have adverse effects on appetite and metabolism. It encourages inflammation in the body.



Besides, due to the frequent use of steroid hormone injections, non-vegetarian sources of proteins very often lead to hormonal imbalance in the long run, thus impairing the body’s ability to lose fat and to maintain it. In order to make meat look fresh, often high amount of salt and preservatives are used. These are harmful for our body.

Hence, the frequency of vegetarian protein sources must be more often as they are a far better pick in the long run.


Sources of protein

Pulses, Legumes and Beans, Millets, Nuts and Dairy is a good inclusion. For the body to build muscles continuously, there must a consistently sustained supply of amino acids (building blocks of protein). This is possible only when, every main meal has at least one good source of protein.

Traditional Indian food combinations are designed to ensure that one good source of protein is incorporated in each meal. These combinations are such that, they improve protein quality thus helping in muscle building.

 

Fats –

Yes, fats are essential in a healthy balanced diet. When food containing fats are ingested, they reach the stomach and trigger the release of certain compounds (CCK). This compound helps us attain satiety. In the absence of fat in the diet, we are likely to consume a large meal (mostly high in carbohydrate). And by now, we already know, anything consumed in excess is not good. The excess carbohydrates get converted to fat in the body and thus, comes in the way of weight loss.


What makes fat an essential component of our diet?

Fats are inevitable for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K. In the absence of fat, individuals are likely to be at risk of these nutritional deficiencies. Lacking in fat soluble vitamins will not only prevent weight loss but it will also be a cause for poor immunity. For overall health and well-being, it is utmost important to have good immunity and stay away from infections and ill health.

Fats also make our meals appealing and tasty. This helps to cut down cravings. Many a times, when we follow restrictive diets, we tend to crave for a pizza, burger or a glass of cold coffee with ice-cream. Over a period of time, we give in to these cravings and lose the control over our eating pattern. This slip costs us our time, energy and effort in getting fitter. Hence, say ‘no’ to restrictive diets!


Sources of fat

While addition of fat is a must, we should be making the right choices with fats. Incorrect fat choices can make us gain weight and in turn defeat the purpose. Margarine, butter, lard, vanaspati, dalda are best avoided. Prefer to opt for healthy fats from oils, ghee, nuts, peanut butter and oilseeds. Recent diet fads suggest addition of ghee/ clarified butter or coconut oil to coffee. Such odd combinations are must not be tried. Addition of fats to your main meals helps in absorption of nutrients.



Water –

Now, you are surely surprised why water is a part of macronutrients and how can it help to lose weight, isn’t it? Water is extremely important and most frequently ignored. About 70% of the human body comprises of water.

Hunger and thirst signals are interpreted by the same area in the brain. It is easy for us to confuse between hunger and thirst. It is therefore essential to drink a good amount of fluids daily to avoid over-eating. Remember to drink a glass of water, wait for 20 mins and if you still feel hungry, you know that the hunger signals are for real. Sipping water in between work also helps to deal with mindless snacking.

Ever observed how we can easily finish a big tub of popcorn while watching a movie? Most of us are not used to drinking water at the theatre or while watching a movie at home. Hence, we fall for the trap of –

Distraction + Dehydration = Over-eating

And no! There are no quick fixes to poor eating habits. Extra workouts cannot help burn the fat, that we have accumulated due to wrong lifestyle practises.




Besides when muscles are built, it requires water. If you are used to intense workout, drinking less amount of water puts you at risk of landing up in cramps during the workout. Selection of fluids must be done on the basis of season. When fluid choices are incorrect, they add unnecessary calories to the diet. Watch out for our articles to know more about the right fluid choices.

 

To make our diet sustainable, we must build healthy habits and healthy habits cannot be built overnight. It is calls for continuous effort at getting better each day and learning from your incorrect health decisions in the past. The idea is to stay aware and updated with the right nutrition knowledge and to ask questions. Refrain from blindly following any advice and always consult qualified health professional to get answers to your health-related queries.   


Answer to the Poll - Daliya is recommended for someone trying to lose fat as it is a source of fiber and has many nutrients intact. Fruit juices, Breads and all the other alternative are high on Glycemic Index/ Lack fiber which is a very important constituent of complex carbohydrates.

 

For more interesting information on healthy diet and effective remedies for common health concerns, stay tuned to our blogs❤️





Article by - Dt. Niti Dhulla, RD | PGD | BSc (FND)

 

(Registered Dietitian, Gold Medalist in Food, Nutrition and Dietetics from University of Mumbai, Certified Yoga Instructor and Internationally Certified Fitness Expert)

 

Owner and Founder at Online Nutrition Consultancy “NutriDietByNitiDhulla”

 



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