Simple things are the hardest to follow. Given the hectic times we live in, managing even a simple three-course-meal diet becomes a task, banished to our ‘To-(never)-do-list’.
Here are the five basic nutrition mistakes we commit and tips on how to stay in line with our health goals.
NOT EATING ENOUGH
Calculating your weight comes down to a simple logic: (calories in) minus (calories out). Not eating enough can seriously mess up your body’s ability to control your appetite. When people restrict their recommended calorie intake, the body’s metabolism slows down and it goes into starvation mode. This affects our body’s ability to conserve energy. Less calorie intake also shrinks the lining of our intestinal tract hindering our body’s ability to digest food properly. The basic foundation of sustainable fat-loss is building muscle, so restricting calories - intentionally or otherwise - can have side effects. It can sabotage your weight-loss programme even before it starts.
The Fix: It might seem like too much effort, but using a calorie counter helps in sustaining your weight-loss/weight gain goals more effectively. Although no calorie counter can provide you with the exact calories associated with foods, it does a pretty good job to help you track your calorie intake. Make sure to derive 30 per cent of your calories from fats, 40 per cent from carbs and 30 per cent from protein. According to a research by Mayo Clinic, a protein diet may help in weight-loss and boost muscle growth because protein makes you feel fuller. But prolonged protein diet is also not advisable since it can lead to nutritional deficiencies, especially if you restrict carbs that provide fiber. Focus more on weights over cardiovascular exercises because when you’re building more muscle you’re also burning more weight.
Consuming fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat. But obviously, if you chow down boiled chicken breast and quinoa but spend all day glued to your chair, your collar will start feeling tighter. Belt down two Maharaja Chicken Macs with extra cheese but do 50-100 push-ups, your sleeves not your collar will start pinching. We’re not suggesting you have a burger, but you get the point. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.
The Fix: Ditching it completely isn’t advisable, according to experts at the Harvard Medical School. Fats help us absorb vital minerals and vitamins. It’s also important for inflammation, blood clotting and muscle movement. However, not all fats are created equal. For instance, good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats derived from sources like seeds, nuts, fish and vegetables. Bad ones are trans-fats, usually found in commercial cookies to french fries and burgers. In short, without fat your body can’t build the hormones that tell your body to convert protein into muscle. So, up 30 per cent of fat intake (of the noble kind) and hit the gym hard for some real gains.
The need for speed doesn’t work here. Eating is a psychological process. What, when, where and how we eat affects how we feel. For instance, almost all research point towards a more moderate speed of eating to derive the most satisfaction. The point is to eat slowly and consciously so that we don’t keep eating even when we’re full. Here’s a case in point: In an experiment conducted by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 17 healthy men ate 300ml ice cream (675 kcal) in two different sessions. They either took 5 minutes to scoff it down or took almost 30 minutes to savour it. The study found that the levels of fullness causing hormones (PYY and GLP-1) that signal the brain to halt eating, were significantly higher among the 30-minute men.
The study's author Alexander Kokkinos notes: “The notion that eating quickly may lead to weight gain used to be considered an old wives’ tale. Anecdotal evidence does suggest that faster rates of eating may not induce satiety as thoroughly as a moderate rate, thus leading to overconsumption.”
The Fix: Slow down and enjoy your meal, says Kokkinos. Eating slowly favours satiety. The study concludes by saying that “There was a trend for higher fullness immediately after the end of the 30-min meal compared with immediately after the 5-min meal.”
EATING BIG, EATING LATE
It’s a story we’re all too familiar with: late morning breakfast, rushed lunch meetings and late night bingeing means we’re eating most calories later in the day. Piling more on your plate later in the day also means there’s a bellyfull of food you’re not burning off. A study published by Northwestern University in Chicago suggests that people who eat after 8pm are more prone to weight gain. The study showed that aside from calories consumed throughout the day, the timing was equally important. It concluded that people who ate after 8pm were more likely to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) even after controlling the timing and duration of sleep.
The Fix: Eat most of your calories earlier in the day because front-loading your calorie intake makes more energy available throughout the day and adequate time for our body to process it. It could also be your answer to why you’re still not losing weight.
Nutrition expert Neelanjana Singh agrees. “When you wake up your metabolism is fastest and slows down during the day. It’s always good to keep in sync with your metabolism. If you eat big and late, you will store carbohydrates and fats, which will be difficult to burn at night,” says Singh, who is a nutritional therapist at Heinz Nutrilife Clinic, New Delhi.
CUTTING CARBS, COMPLETELY
No doubt you should be cutting down on carbs, especially if they’re triple-fried and refined. But banishing them out for good will deprive your body of much-needed pre-and-post workout fuel.
The Fix: Spread your carbohydrate intake throughout the day and avoid easily digestible ones like french fries or sugary food, says Singh. “40-45 per cent of your daily nutrients should come from complex carbs which are fibrous in nature such as millets, ragi, jowar, etc. Ideally, take your carbs early in the day and opt for wholegrains. And as a rule of thumb, reduce your intake of carbs that are white - be it breads, pasta, rice, cookies or crackers. This can also prevent a lot of chronic diseases and metabolic problems.