There is no single catch-all diet or routine to lose weight. The key is physics and biology – consume fewer calories and expend more calories. Calories are neither good nor bad, they’re Switzerland. They are simply a measuring tool to gauge how much energy is going in and out of your system. Each person has different caloric needs so there’s no magic number to count or burn.
With this in mind, the quality of the calories in and calories out becomes even more important. Making our choices count helps ensure better overall health and can be a boost in weight loss. We’ve broken down the macronutrients and types of exercises below, but each person is unique, so find what works for you. And be sure to consult with a health care provider if you have other factors to consider.
Calories are just a part of the total picture – just a number. The question is, are you choosing calories with the most impact? We have so many choices out there, so a little knowledge of the science behind our choices can be useful.
Protein is in every cell of our bodies. Muscles, connective tissue, skin, bones, and hair are all made of this macronutrient. They help with reactions in the body and do amazing things like carry hemoglobin to exercising muscles via the bloodstream.
Our bodies do not store protein, so it’s essential to have it in our diets. There are many sources with unique benefits and issues. Meat is the most common source, but it’s easy to get high amounts of saturated fats, particularly in red meats. White meats and fishes can be healthier, but have less iron, an important micronutrient. The key is to have balance.
Other sources of protein are from plants, like legumes, nuts, and soy. These are great sources, but be aware that they often need a ‘complementary protein’ to be complete. For instance, beans are incomplete but add some rice and you now have a complete protein. You can also consider protein shakes like Univera Ultra Protein for a complete protein in a convenient form.
When it comes to weight loss, fiber is your friend because it helps you feel full without adding extra calories. Fiber is a carbohydrate found in plants like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The bulk of the fiber is in the skin, seeds, and membranes. That’s one reason a whole apple is much better for you than apple juice.
In addition to helping with satiety (feeling full), “soluble” fiber, which absorbs water, slows the absorption of sugars into your bloodstream by forming a kind of gel inside your gut. Lower blood sugar helps maintain lower insulin levels, which means your body is less likely to store fat.
Despite their recent, often unearned, bad reputation, fats are important to our health. They give the body energy, support cell growth, help protect organs, and keep the body warm. Plus, they help the body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones.
The ‘bad’ fats you hear about are mostly the saturated and trans fats that can contribute to poor health. But there are also ‘good’ fats that can help maintain or even improve key health factors. The trick is to pick the right ones.
A small to moderate amount of healthy fats in your diet is helpful for weight loss. Because they take longer to digest, a small amount of healthy fat at each meal can help you stay fuller longer. Healthy oils for cooking are olive, safflower, and canola oils. Heart healthy Omega-3s are found in fish such as salmon, trout, and sardines and plant sources like ground flaxseed and nuts. You can also find Omega-3s in supplements like Univera’s Claricor Omega in the US or Optimum Omega-3 in Canada.
Carbs & Sugar
Like fats, carbohydrates have a bad reputation. Some carbohydrates, like sugar and refined white grains, deserve that rep. But, there are many carbs that are healthy and can be an important part of your macronutrient mix.
For best results, choose carbs with high fiber – fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans. In addition to the energy from the carbohydrates, you’re benefitting from the fiber, and in the case of the beans, from protein.
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are actually considered micronutrients and they serve different roles in the body. Getting a variety of foods and the macronutrients listed above will go a long way to nourish your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs. But if would like some extra assurance, supplement with Univera’s MegaVitamins which was formulated to meet the recommended daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals with the added benefit of vegetables, fruits, berries, sprouts and alpha lipoic acid.
When expending calories, any movement is useful. But, to have the most impact, it’s best to mix it up as different activities produce different benefits.
Strength, or resistance, training is important not only to increase muscle strength, power, and endurance, but the extra muscle also helps increase your metabolism. The movement involved also helps with flexibility. And, as you continue to improve and challenge yourself, stronger muscles, ligaments, and tendons help reduce the risk of injury.
If you have access to a gym and are interested in using weights, that’s great. But don’t let that stop you! Body weight exercises like these are available online in abundance. Plus, don’t forget that yoga and other full-body routines will incorporate strength training naturally.
First, cardiovascular exercise is any movement that makes the heart and lungs work harder. It is especially helpful in improving heart health. Cardiovascular exercise, especially those that involve impact, also helps with improving bone density. It also helps with sleep and mood. Some studies show that it can also affect brain health.
Fitting cardiovascular exercise into your routine can be as simple as walking more, swimming, or running. If your focus is weight loss, many experts recommend interval training – alternating between high-intensity bursts of activity and lighter periods of activity. There are many interval routines available online, but a short effective one is demonstrated here.
Improving and maintaining flexibility is important not only to prevent injury as you move forward with strength and cardio, but it will help make those activities more effective. It also helps with posture and delays the onset of muscular fatigue.
In addition, meditative practices like yoga that improve flexibility also help with relaxation. Meditation can also enhance spiritual growth and mindfulness.
Calories and Metabolism
Energy (calories) is the currency of life. Each cell in our body needs energy to live and do its job. Metabolism is how your body converts and stores the fuel you eat into the energy those cells need. Your level of metabolic fitness is a measure of how efficient your metabolism is, and it’s absolutely critical to your long-term health and the way you feel every day.
If you are concerned about your metabolism, there is a tool to assess your metabolic fitness so you can determine your next steps. The good news is metabolism is not something you’re stuck with. It’s in your power to improve it.
Finding the right balance of calories in and calories out will help you as you set goals and move forward towards weight loss. Consult with professionals when possible, make as many good choices as you can, and be true to what works for you and you’ll be on the right path to meet and exceed your goals.