Advisory Board: Whitney Sweat R.D. February 16th, 2010
To all of the Power Up Challenge participants, great job on taking the first steps towards healthy lifestyle changes. In addition to other aspects of wellness, many people are focusing on making changes in their nutrition and exercise habits either to lose weight or to maintain weight. While it is great to get off to a strong start, it is also important to take a moment and assess the activities you do each day and be sure you are not doing too much too soon. As stated above, this challenge is meant to help you make lifestyle changes, ones that are going to be sustainable for the long term. Some of these changes might include:
- Eating breakfast daily
- Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into meals
- Building physical activity into your daily routine
The goal of the challenge is to promote wellness in many aspects of our lives not just for the duration of the challenge, but for the future as well. A misstep that people often make is transitioning to new habits too quickly or perhaps to drastically. Either one of these tactics can be unsustainable in the long-term and may negatively impact end results. Examples related to nutrition may be making too dramatic of dietary changes, eliminating a food group, or severely limiting calories. In relation to exercise, one might exercise at high intensities for a long duration every day without allowing for adequate time for muscles to recover. While at first this may help to promote weight loss, it is often not the type of weight loss that can be sustained for the long term. These tactics can also be harmful to our bodies.
Reasons a slow rate of weight loss is desired
- We require over 40 nutrients each day and we must eat enough food to obtain these
- A variety of foods from different food groups is important
- Our bodies require fuel for daily activities plus exercise for optimal performance and recovery
- It is important to preserve lean tissue while losing weight by having a diet adequate in protein, carbohydrate, and calories (resistance training can also help)
- The changes made to promote weight loss should be sustainable
- These changes should also be attainable, measurable, fun, and consistent
A variety of foods, especially fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean or plant based sources of protein, low fat yogurt and dairy, and healthy fats are crucial for our overall nutritional health. Restricting calories is also often very difficult and when we do not fuel our bodies appropriately, it naturally responds with intense cravings for food, it is simply asking for adequate nourishment! Because it is so difficult, it is not maintainable and many people that go on crash diets will ultimately gain weight back when they revert to their old eating habits. The latter point made is what is really crucial; any changes that are made must be sustainable and healthy for our bodies for the long term.
Fuel for physical activity
Another aspect to consider is the increase in physical activity that many of you are now doing. One important aspect of any weight loss program is to lose weight at a safe enough rate (1-2 pounds per week) so we can preserve lean tissue. When we lose weight we will lose adipose tissue, but we lose some of our lean tissue as well. To maximize the amount of muscle we retain while still losing fat, and adequate intake of food is necessary to refuel and repair muscles. Fueling our bodies for everyday activities plus additional exercise is very important. Each time we exercise we deplete the carbohydrate we store in our muscle to use for energy during the exercise bout. To properly refuel:
- Consume a post-work out meal that contains carbohydrate (to replenish carbohydrate stores for energy) and protein (to repair muscle)
- Eat plenty of nutritious food throughout the entire day
- Take days off from intense or heavy exercise for extra recovery time
Remember you signed up to make lifestyle changes, not just changes while the challenge is going on. Focus on adequately nourishing your bodies with healthy foods that you enjoy and listening to your body when it requests fuel and rest. These are also important aspects of wellness. I wish you all good luck in your endeavors throughout the Power Up Challenge and after; and please come see the nutritionists at Student Health Services if you would like personalized assistance in any of the above areas!