Many people argue that because they go to the gym, walk or run on the treadmill, cycle or lift weights, that they can virtually eat whatever they want to without side effects. That eating fast food, processed and refined carbohydrates and trans-fats can be negated by spending a few days working out.
These people are deceiving themselves, as only a small aspect of health has anything to do with calories. This statement sounds quite shocking to most people who are drilled by countless television ad spots and doctor recommendations, that tell us that calories, and specifically fat calories, are bad for us, and we MUST burn them off.
A healthy eating and exercise plan go hand in hand for a number of reasons, and NONE of these reasons that I am going to mention have anything to do with calories or even weight gain/loss. Having one without the other is a recipe for disaster, combined with premature aging and degeneration. By knowing these facts, you can hopefully help prevent this from happening, and even slightly reverse some aspects of aging and bodily ‘dis-ease’.
Top Reasons Why Healthy Eating and Exercise Go Hand in Hand
1. A Healthy Diet Provides Antioxidants, and exercise, especially excessive exercise to burn off calories causes an enormous amount of oxidative stress in the body. This causes free radicals, which are responsbile for aging on many different levels, from facilitating disease to increasing the wrinkling process.
Without a diet high in whole foods and super foods, like raw vegetables, nuts and seeds, grass-fed animal products and some fruits, aging can happen rapidly if the body does not have adequate amounts of antioxidants fighting off the free radicals caused by exercise. (Exercise can increase levels of natural glutathione in the body, a powerful antioxidant, but the levels at which it increases is not enough if the diet is not supplied with the appropriate antioxidant rich foods).
2. Food provides calories, but not all calories are created equal. We’re often told that a calorie is a calorie, and 100 calories of this is the same as 100 calories worth of that. This leads to the “burning off syndrome”, where no matter what we eat, we MUST burn off this many calories because that is what we consumed. This, however, is a lie and is perpetuated by an inaccurate and outdated view of nutrition information.
If you eat 100 grams worth of a chocolate cake made with coconut flour, coconut oil and xylitol or stevia compared to 100 grams worth of chocolate cake made with refined white flour and white sugar, as well as refined vegetable oils, your body will treat those calories very differntly from each other.
First off, because the chocolate cake made with coconut flour contains no grain or sugar carbohydrates, the effect on blood sugar and insulin will be very minimal. The chocolate cake made with high carbohydrate flour and sugar will spike blood sugar rapidly, resulting in a quick rise in insulin. Over time, when cells cannot respond well to insulin because of chronic spikes, it stores blood sugar as fat.
Coconut oil is also treated very differently from unsaturated vegetable oils. Coconut oil contains medium chained fatty acids, which are burned by the body for energy very rapidly. Unsaturated oils like canola, soy or safflower oil are primarily made out of long chained fatty acids, which are stored for later energy use (as fat) more easily.
Consuming a low glycemic diet, one that doesn’t spike blood sugar rapidly, tends to not only be the best for blood sugar health and decreasing excess fat storage, but at times I believe it to be more effective than exercise, comprising about 70% of how the body stays fit and young.
3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids are extremely deficient in diets that are primarily based on prepackaged and restaurant foods. These fats, which are found primarily in fish and some seeds and nuts, have been shown to be deficient in those suffering from depression, ADHD, anorexia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s, aches and pains, inflammation, poor immune function, brittle nails, dry skin and more. These are truly amazing, health brimming fats that people just do not get enough of.
People who think that they can skip the healthy eating and exercise rule and eat whatever they want are setting themselves up for many of these symptoms later on. Prevention is the key, so increasing the intake of low mercury fish and seeds such as chia or flaxseed are key to fighting many of these dis-eases.
NOTE: Vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like flax and chia seeds, although still helpful, are not treated the same as animal sources. Plant sources of omega-3’s are in the form of ALA, or alpha lipoic acid, which must be converted in the body to the brain healthy DHA and EPA, which the body primarily finds useful. ALA is very hard to convert in the body, and only s small percentage gets converted—eating fish and even some eggs and raw dairy, which are rich in DHA and EPA can ensure proper absorption and assimilation of the proper amount of fatty acids.
4. Lauric acid, which is another fatty acid, is important for proper brain development and function, and is virtually empty in the standard American diet (SAD). The highest source of lauric acid is human breast milk, followed by unrefined and organic coconut oil. Some research is being conducted on the use of lauric acid in improving Alzheimer symptoms, but we already know that this amazing fatty acid is responsible for antibacterial and anti fungal properties in the body. Believing that you can simply exercise and eat unhealthy will not defend you against bacteria or viral illnesses that coconut oil may be helpful in combating.
5. Sugar is a major culprit in many diets today, and not necessarily by choice. Seeing how about 95% of money spent on grocery foods is for processed foods, it’s easy to understand way. Sugar is lurking in foods you would never expect—unless you make them yourself. It’s not that exercise can’t combat the effects of sugar in some sense, because it can—exercise can help make the cells sensitive to the effects of insulin, which can help take in blood sugar efficiently, decreasing the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
However – sugar, especially the massive amount consumed by those who don’t care about eating healthy and think they can just “burn it off”, aren’t realizing a few aspects. First, sugar decreases immune function, making your body more susceptible to illness. Also, sugar can increase the visible aging process, like wrinkles, because it can attack the most vulnerable proteins in the body: collagen and elastin.
6. A healthy eating and diet program includes foods that are rich in probiotics, or beneficial bacteria essential for healthy digestion and immune function. Without eating raw yogurt or milk, fermented vegetables and beverages, like kefir or kombucha, your health in many forms starts to suffer—especially if you are exercising and placing your body under stress.
It isn’t widely known, but the intestines are not only responsible for proper digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, but they can also play a role in fighting and alleviating depression. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is commonly associated with the brain and its “feel good” properties, is often found in the intestines. So much so, in fact, that over 90% of the body’s serotonin levels are found inside the gut and intestines.
When intestines are unhealthy due to bodily stress and a poor diet, serotonin levels can decrease and lead to depressive symptoms. Although probiotics cannot treat depression solely, as there are many different contributors, it is important to analyze a diet to see if it is lacking in these beneficial microorganisms.
I truly believe that an unhealthy diet is one of the biggest contributors to depression, and depressive symptoms, in the developed world.
7. Valuable proteins and fats help to repair cells, tissues, muscles and bones that is essential for those who exercise in any form. When you run, lift weights or walk, you are putting stress on your body. This stress is good, as long as you are supplying it with the appropriate nutrients to help combat any additional stress and the wear and tear that exercise can bring.
Are there any points that you think I’ve missed? Share your opinions!
This is ‘The Healthy Advocate’.