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Counting calories? Why eating right outweighs exercise

Exercise alone cannot drive significant weight loss. PHOTO | FILE
Exercise alone cannot drive significant weight loss. PHOTO | FILE 

Setting fitness and diet goals at the start of the year has become almost inevitable in today’s society as individuals become more aware of the benefits of good health.

It is now becoming more apparent that what one eats plays a bigger role in losing weight than the work-out plan they pick.

Fewer calories

Shiv Simani of Just Gym says the adage “80 per cent diet, 20 per cent exercise” holds true but differs slightly from person to person.

“It is a generalisation that works, but varies depending on various factors including age, gender, weight and height,” he said.

He, however, notes that for one to lose weight, the body has to take in fewer calories than the amount it will burn. It is advisable that one eats fewer calories than their body burns up on any given day. It takes a lot more work to burn, say 600 calories through exercise than it does thousands of calories through everyday eating habits. A calorie is a unit that measures energy. These are usually used in measuring energy content in foods and beverages.

While proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins should feature in every balanced diet, it is the percentage intakes that really matter. This is because proteins, carbohydrates and fats in food serve as the body’s energy sources.

Shiv says one has to be clear on his or her goals (weight loss or muscle toning) as this will help design a plan that works best.

Deprive body of energy

A woman keen on losing weight will for instance require to take in less calories than her male counterpart regardless of their weight, height or age.

“This is because by nature, women tend to store more fat in the body than men,” he said, noting that one should be careful not to deprive the body of the energy it would require during the work-out.

Just cutting calories without regard to the food one eats is not a good way to go about losing weight.

While cutting out some food types might work for some people, many individuals end up hungry and eventually drop the entire diet plan.

Shiv says an online body mass index (BMI) calories calculator can come in handy in estimating the number of calories one burns during exercise and everyday living.

A simple Google search can generate the BMI and calories calculator, which allows one to feed in data about their age, sex, current weight and height to assist in yielding appropriate results.

Knowing how much calorie intake the body requires a day should be used as a guide on what food types to reduce from the diet.

Appropriate food

Working out probably takes one-and-a half hours. What work out enthusiasts should ask is whether they are eating the appropriate food while away from the gym.

“When away, are you eating carbohydrates, proteins and minerals to meet your nutritional needs? Also ask yourself if what you are eating will be enough when you hit the gym later in the day,” said Shiv.

He said the practicality of the goals set should be key and that one should not embark on a diet or fitness plan simply because others are doing it.

To achieve their fitness goals, they should strive for tailor-made plans that fit into their lifestyles and work schedules.

Increasingly packed office schedules, unrelenting traffic gridlock and family commitments are some of the factors that pushed many to prefer fitness trainers last year.

The advantage of a personal fitness trainer is that he designs your nutrition programme, monitors your weight and picks work-outs that suit your body type in order to meet the set goals.

A gym instructor on the other hand hardly ever advises on nutrition, does not push you to the edge or rarely makes follow ups on weight, making it futile to focus only on exercise while ignoring what you eat.

ligadwah@ke.nationmedia.com