In recent decades, the Western population has struggled to maintain a physiological weight, tending to be overweight.
This attitude which is anything but healthy, for the body and for the mind, has predisposing factors that are rather difficult to counter.
In general, it could be said that the primary cause of excess weight is an imbalance between the too much energy taken with food and that insufficient consumed with physical activity. On the other hand, this equation could be changed by both sides, still leading to the normalization of the caloric balance. So what to do?
Staying thin is difficult: why?
Let's say that, compared to the end of the last century, the main change concerned physical activity; thanks - or because ofautomation, the power consumption is decreased drastically. Children play less outdoors, teenagers no longer cycle, adults no longer do manual jobs - hobbies included.
On the other hand, some blame the change in habits food; It is obvious that, following globalization, the population consumes more ethnic food and fast-food rather than traditional, but it is not certain that the two eating styles have such a high caloric gap. What is rather evident, however, is that meals consumed outside the home have increased dramatically - among which we remember the all you can eat at low cost - instead of at home. It may seem strange, but to have breakfast, lunch and dinner in family it is now considered a protective factor both from food abuse and from various emotional and psychological disorders. A separate discussion should be made on the consumption of alcohol, which is worryingly increasing at all age groups - we remind you that ethyl alcohol provides 7 kcal / g and which, not being able to be used as an energy substrate, has as its sole destination the conversion into fat and fatty deposits - as well as being strongly insulin stimulating.
The first gross correction should be that of "to clean" the diet, eating at home and limiting alcohol as suggested by the guidelines, and of normalize the level of physical-motor activity, not only practicing sports, but re-educating oneself to the general movement.
What and how much physical activity to stay lean?
Physical activity is physiological and inherent in man. Lack of muscle work automatically predisposes to long-term health problems, precisely because motor exercise is implicit in the structure of the human body.
The absence of movement and resistance work leads to a reduction in muscle trophism and a drop in basal metabolism within a few months, regardless of diet.
Obviously, physical activity must also be calibrated reasonably. A young athlete can do even more workouts a day, including cardiovascular and strength work. An amateur sports adult might struggle to endure 4-5 workouts a week and in old age most are limited to 3 sessions - at medium intensity and no more.
Let me be clear, the motor exercise does not necessarily have to be done in the weight room; on the contrary, the choice must turn to the type of activity most appreciated. Former sportsmen are advised to dust off their old training bag and join a master team - amateurs - veterans (swimming, rowing, canoeing, athletics, etc.). Non-sportsmen lend themselves more to courses such as tone up, pump, gag, spinning, aerobic dance, step etc; some more recent activities can give great satisfaction, as in the case of functional training, bootcamp, crossfit. Sports games such as beach tennis, basketball, volleyball, five-a-side football are not excluded - even if the latter, statistically, causes more harm to the body than benefits.
In short, alternating anaerobic physical activity with aerobic one, or playing mixed disciplines, is necessary to maintain a high metabolism, a healthy heart, vessels and bronchi, and a functioning and functional musculoskeletal system.
In this section we will go beyond the concept of "clean diet", moving the bar of goals from a healthy body composition to another of good entity - which has more of an aesthetic purpose. Let us recall what has already been said: the diet, if on the one hand it allows to improve the balance between the masses by losing weight, on the other hand it is not sufficient to increase muscle mass in absolute terms. For this purpose it is necessary to undertake a muscle building course through resistance training.
Let's go back to nutrition. In other articles we have dealt with the "slimming diet" topic by analyzing the topic from a quantitative point of view, that is caloric; we therefore took into consideration the foods from their energetic aspect, making the balance between the energy brought to meals and that spent with work and physical activity. An evaluation quantitative nutrition is in fact always essential, even if not everyone is able to "weigh by the gram" everything they eat.For further information: Slimming Diet
In fact, it is logical that an approach of this type has several inconveniences:
- We must measure everything, making the calculations with the nutritional breakdown tables;
- It becomes tiring to feed in collectivity, in the family as much as in the restaurant;
- It is almost totally inapplicable for frequent travelers;
- It is impossible to use if you frequent canteens / restaurants.
- Absolutely unsocial.
This intricacy is well known to those who follow particularly alienating diets such as the ZONE or the Weight-Watcher or the Paleo.
Professional athletes cannot do without a diet that is weighed and evaluated in its proportions of energetic macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids) and in the quantity of mineral salts, vitamins and other nutritional factors. The amateur who simply wants to become or remain dry and proportionate, must instead have a sustainable approach first of all. He can feed himself without particular calculations, scales and counts, while remaining in shape; this obviously depends on the set objective.
Of course there are always rules to follow, which we will see below, and the possibility of "grammar" or not the diet depends on individuality. Some benefit from organizing their lives, others do not. A good compromise is to weigh the foods at the beginning, to "get an eye", and then to use the scale only for foods with a high energy density that cannot be estimated with sufficient care.
It should be noted that what is reported here is a simple guideline and cannot replace the work of a dietician. In addition, before embarking on a diet and movement protocol, it would be a good idea to undergo a sports medical examination and a general investigation of the state of health. Control of blood parameters is always desirable (blood pressure, glycemia, triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL and HDL, uric acid, CPK, transaminase, C reactive protein, etc.).
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that acts with a negative feedback mechanism especially with another pancreatic hormone, glucagon, to maintain blood glucose homeostasis.
Insulin lowers blood sugar (hypoglycemic) by bringing nutrients into insulin-dependent cells, therefore especially muscle and fat. Glucagon - but also catecholamines, cortisol and somatotropin - acts in the opposite direction by raising blood sugar, causing the liver to release glucose.
Blood glucose homeostasis is especially critical for the brain, which uses glucose as its primary substrate. The first alarm bells you hear in low blood sugar are dizziness, weakness, and a feeling of hunger. Conversely, if it rises too high, weakness can still appear, but the greatest danger is that it is sometimes asymptomatic, creating the conditions for various long-term damage - glycation: glucose reacts with the proteins and lipids of the tissue cells, damaging them, as is known to people with diabetes.
Insulin is also an anabolic hormone, with action on muscle tissue (promoting glycogenosynthesis, protein anabolism and hindering catabolism) but also on fat (promoting lipogenosynthesis and hindering lipolysis).
The level of insulin in the blood is called insulin. If chronically high, it determines the tendency to gain weight. This can be due to genetic causes, to overweight itself, to an incorrect diet and above all to a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, motor activity, especially of a metabolic nature - mixed anaerobic aerobic, high intensity but with medium volume - promotes tissue sensitivity to both glucose and insulin - to the advantage of blood sugar, weight loss but also muscle supercompensation.
Insulin is therefore not a factor to be fought, but to be exploited, also because - in addition to the tasks described above - it contributes to the hepatic conversion of GH into IGF.
However, chronic hyperinsulinemia - not postprandial, which is physiological - must be avoided. The production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins can only occur with low insulin levels - which explains why, in the case of type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular risk increases - as well as an efficient breakdown of adipose stores and the related cellular consumption of fat for production. of energy. Conversely, chronic high insulin levels promote the production of inflammatory prostaglandins, block lipolysis, and activate lipogenesis - the increase in fat storage. Among other things, in the long term, the latter condition leads to pancreatic exhaustion with the generation of insulin-dependent diabetes.
Especially for a person who is frankly overweight, with poorly controllable blood sugar, it is advisable:
- Follow a low calorie diet (-10 / -30% of the normocaloric);
- Eat no less than 5 meals per day: breakfast 15% of the energy, snacks (2) 5%, lunch 40% and dinner 35%. It may be a good idea to double the snacks and remove 5% from lunch and dinner;
- The carbohydrate composition at the lower limit of the nutritional balance (about 50%);
- The glycemic load of the meal, which in a balanced diet should not cause problems, should be of a reasonable amount between meals. Therefore, avoid eating excessively at dinner or lunch, giving greater importance to secondary snacks;
- In the past much importance was given to the glycemic index, however today this parameter has lost its applicative importance; consume food a low glycemic index, as was suggested until recently, however, it does not have negative effects;
- An exception to the above is the post-workout meal, which takes advantage of the greater sensitivity to glucose and insulin by optimizing the metabolism of dietary carbohydrates; in this case, it is a good idea to eat just enough to sustain recovery.
- Maintain fat at 25-30% of total calories. Fats give satiety and slow gastric emptying by stimulating CCK;
- Improve the composition of fats, preferring extra virgin olive oil - oleic acid (omega 9) - and animal sources (fishery products) with a large presence of biologically active omega 3 - eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega 6 is generally already quite present in the diet. EPA and DHA, in addition to being essential, help improve the sensitivity of cells to insulin and prevent complications from chronic hyperglycemia. Studies done on the sector suggest that your average country consumes insufficient amounts of omega 3, which should make up at least 0,5% of total calories. Omega 6, on the other hand, tend to be in excess of the recommended 2%;
- Prefer protein sources with a high biological value, to maintain the lowest possible protein intake. This is necessary if the goal is to lose weight. Excess with total proteins is in fact contraindicated, because the excess determines an unmotivated increase in total calories;
- Food choices should be made, in general, by preferring:
- Fresh and raw food, therefore not manipulated (with the exception of fresh bread). The possible tolerated conservation technique is refrigeration. Dehydration is tolerated for cereals and legumes;
- Foods rich in water;
- Among the foods of animal origin, choose the lean ones; if with a medium fat composition, eliminate any other lipid condiment;
- Among cereals, legumes, pseudocereals and derivatives, prefer whole grains;
- Choose seasonal vegetables and fruit. The vegetables are eaten alternately raw and cooked;
- Season with one or two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil per dish;
- Avoid frying;
- It is advisable to start meals with vegetables;
- It is not possible to give a concrete example of calculating portions, as it depends on the specific caloric intake. It is therefore recommended to first estimate how much you usually eat, then to apply gradual and reduced energy reductions.
Vitamins and Minerals
Is it useful to supplement to stay slim?
Multivitamins and multiminerals are the best-selling supplements in the world. However, while they give you a better chance of getting enough vitamins and minerals, they don't give you any preventative benefit on death from any cause.
For some, commercial fruit and vegetables would often be low in micronutrients, both because of the soils that are intensively cultivated, and above all because of the fact that even months pass between harvesting and consumption, with loss of vitamins between which the most labile is C. To this would be added a further home preservation, exposure to thermal changes and to the sun, oxidation with cutting, heat treatment and / or dilution of cooking. However, studies do not fully confirm these alarmisms, in the sense that there is a real nutritional loss, but that with a balanced diet alone it is still possible to introduce everything necessary.
However, it is important to know that a deficiency in minerals and vitamins leads to chronic fatigue and poor general functioning. In particular, the B vitamins are essential for energy metabolism; on the other hand, each of these factors plays an irreplaceable role on metabolic homeostasis.
For information on dietary supplements that may support weight loss, see the section below on coffee and caffeine.
Eyes, Mouth and Stomach
Those who are used to abusing food usually have a greater capacity for gastric distension - people with an aptitude for "grignotage" are an exception.
The reduction of this extensibility leads, in the long term, to an equally reduced capacity to take food per meal due to the anticipated neuro-chemical stimulus of satiety - production of ghrelin from the bottom of the stomach that reaches the hypothalamus in the brain.
At the surgical level, gastric banding or the temporary application of an intragastric balloon can be performed. On the other hand, if these solutions are often necessary for obese subjects, it is not advisable for people who are slightly overweight, much less for people of normal weight who want to stay fit.
The same effect can be obtained by acting with other systems, first of all a little patience; this process occurs physiologically by resizing the portions after a few days. What is certain is that, if the eyes continue to be larger than the mouth, this process will never happen. In theory, then, by eating slowly, the hormonal stimulus of satiety (for example, by the insulin itself) should occur in complement to the nervous one of the gastric walls, with good efficacy even in those who usually overeat. Not to mention that an overweight person should have a basal level of leptin, a hormone produced by adipose tissue which is also responsible for the sense of satiety, higher than normal. On the other hand, habits die hard and often the reasons for food abuse are psychological in nature; the advice of any professional should be to fix these first, and only then try your hand at the diet.
There are also other theories, more or less acceptable, to reduce the extension of the stomach. One is the increase in the tone of the transverse abdomen (one on each side). This is a deep abdominal muscle that encircles the bowels along the entire length from the inside of the ribs to the iliac spine and groin. Its tone exerts pressure on the bowels pushing them inwards, stimulates intestinal peristalsis (anti-constipation effect) and reduces the size of the stomach lumen.
For this purpose, it would be sufficient to perform 2-3 times a week from 1 to 3 sets of crunch abdominal in "vacuum"until failure. Vacuum means that during the execution of the crunch, in each repetition at the end of the concentric phase, all the air must be exhaled, forcing and contracting for a couple of seconds. The exercise must be performed on an empty stomach.
Alcoholic and soft drinks
Alcohol and red wine
Beyond the banalities and clichés, it is undeniable that ethyl alcohol has a negative impact on the body. The metabolism of ethanol involves the release into the circulation of acetaldehydes, reactive and toxic substances that contribute, together with ethanol itself, to damage all tissues.
Alcohol also affects the caloric aspect of the diet. In fact, ethyl alcohol has a caloric intake of about 7 kcal / g. Translated, a 125ml glass of red wine has around 105 kcal - depending on the strength. Not to mention spirits, especially sweet liqueurs. Note: alcoholic beverages are not accompanied by any other noteworthy nutritional advantage, with the exception of minerals, some antioxidants in red wine and a few maltodextrins in beer (however negligible).
The calories of alcohol are called "empty" calories because, being dissipated exclusively in heat or transformed into fatty acids, they cannot be used for cellular energy production. Furthermore, ethanol is ignored by the neuro-endocrine system, regardless of the sense of satiety. Indeed, ethyl alcohol has a well-known "aperitif" function, caused by a marked insulin-stimulating power which, due to its rebound effect, determines reactive hypoglycemia. If we associate this with the typical central disinhibition, we obtain an element of very strong predisposition to discontrolled or in any case excessive nutrition. The essential danger is therefore that of taking in a lot of calories without realizing it.
The intake of ethyl alcohol leads to a saving of brown body fat, limits lipolysis and, if in strong excess, promotes adipose deposition. In the past it was even believed that it was responsible for a predisposition to visceral android distribution, but today the only certainty is that it favors the accumulation of triglycerides within the liver, promoting what is called hepatic acolic steatosis.
According to some studies, drinking a couple of glasses of red wine a day would be good for the heart by improving cholesterol. This results in an antiatherogenic effect. However, since the antioxidants (grape polyphenols) responsible for these effects are also abundantly contained in foods (vegetables and fruit), it is at least questionable to suggest the consumption of red wine; it is one thing to preserve a habit by measuring it, another is to have to introduce a potential habit of abuse - let's not forget that ethanol is a nerve principle potentially responsible for drug addiction.
Now let's talk about the various sugary drinks such as cola, orange, fizzy etc. Also in this case, consumers often forget to consider them calorie foods, committing a fundamental error, given the massive presence of sucrose or glucose or fructose.
Those who habitually drink soft drinks can take over 100 g of sugar on a hot day without realizing it, or rather without thinking about it. This also applies to different types of fruit juice, especially concentrates; nevertheless, natural juices can be consumed, possibly and in any case not every day, in the moments of greatest energy consumption.
Light drinks certainly have the advantage of lower caloric intake, but sometimes have a negative effect by increasing the feeling of hunger - the sweet taste promotes the release of insulin, with reactive hypoglycemia and a feeling of hunger.
In summary, those who want to stay thin must eliminate alcohol and sugary drinks, promoting the consumption of water (at least 1 ml per 1 kcal taken with the diet).
Coffee and caffeine
Coffee - bitter of course - is used by some to "replace" one or two small meals. Better to limit yourself to these quantities, as this drink contains a nerve-excited methylxanthine known as caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine).
Caffeine acts as a sympathomimetic allowing small amounts of glucose to be released into the blood by raising blood sugar, but weakness and hunger may not be avoided to this extent. What's more, it appears to have a slight thermogenic effect, while also promoting the release of fatty acids.
Supplements for weight loss
For reasons of necessity, some choose to take caffeine in combination with other drugs such as guarana and bitter orange tablets. However, pay attention to the origin and content, especially if the purchase is made in an unofficial way by hand; it would not be difficult to find yourself with products based on ephedrine, amphetamines or other principles not allowed in your country.
As a slimming support supplement, glucomannan and other soluble fibers (promote satiety), chitosan (lipid chelator), guggulsterones and forskolin (with hypothetical thyroid stimulating function), phenylalanine (to optimize the sense of satiety), phenylalanine (to optimize the sense of satiety), yohimbine can also be recommended (other potential lipolytic stimulant), iodine (essential for the production of thyroid hormones and often deficient in the diet) etc. It is always recommended to consult your doctor before using any of these products.
Fighting stress to stay lean
You can read more about this topic by clicking on the link below; we will therefore limit ourselves to summarizing the most important principles of the subject.For further information: Diet and Stress
Stress promotes eating disorder, and eating disorder itself causes stress. When one is not in psycho-emotional equilibrium, the organism reacts by releasing those hormones which - millennia ago - were used precisely to face dangerous situations; in particular catecholamines and cortisol.
Especially the former have the effect of increasing attention and cardiac output, both of which demolish the energy reserves to supply glucose to the muscles and the brain; the second also affects a lot on other metabolic sets, but we refer the reading to the address already mentioned. Just think that high cortisol in healthy people - not to be confused with hypercortisolism - can compromise the synthesis or maintenance of lean mass, blood sugar, in some cases weight loss, homeostasis of other hormonal axes, facilitate the aging, predispose to greater sensitivity to infections, predispose to chronic fatigue syndrome and more.
What is important to understand is that the biological function of these hormones is over-exploited by contemporary man, while they should be released only in case of real danger. However, it is no coincidence that anxiety is defined as a feeling of intense worry or fear, related to a specific stimulus but not necessarily proportional to the internal event triggered, associated with a lack of adaptation response on the part of the organism. Knowing that we have to go to work, where a superior exerts pressure on us, does not put our life at risk, but it is a very strong cause of anxiety and therefore of stress.
Stress is the primary cause of food abuse, almost always aimed at the consumption of junk foods, also significantly worsening the caloric balance. We won't go any further on how to reduce stress, because the causes are highly specific and personal. Readers only know that this is one of the primary goals for staying slim.