14 January 2016

South Africa: The Best Way to Get the Health Plan Is to Follow Your Body, Not the Pack


For centuries, humans have been governed by the different theories in the sciences of nutrition, physical activity, exercise and health.

In modern sciences, it is challenging for one to maintain a well-rounded lifestyle as health has become ubiquitous. Diets and exercise regimes have become highly commercialised and are aggressively marketed in the nutritional industry. It is challenging to know what to believe and what to discard as quackery or mickey-mouse science.

It is a fact that if you are obese, diabetic or have insulin resistance, you should restrict carbohydrates and sugars. But many other people find it challenging to establish which eating plan they should follow and what exercise routine they should stick to.

The crisp questions are: what do you want to achieve? Do you want to be healthy, lose weight, reduce your body fat percentage or improve your sport or exercise performance?

Too often we impose a generic approach, using what has worked for others. But with health and human movement sciences, there is no quick fix. The concept of individualism is key. The challenge is that it is often ignored due to critical constraints of time, effort and funding.

To find the regimes of exercises that help to burn fat, the first step is to understand that humans are all different in the way they respond to exercising, eating, meditation and physiological processes. Just like all other body processes, each of our metabolisms are different too.

It all boils down to your metabolism

The metabolism is simply the rate at which your body burns fat. It is a rule of thumb that your metabolism is faster when you are younger and that it slows as you age. However, your metabolism will be different from the next person's - even if you are the same age.

Although your metabolism has much to do with how fast you burn fat, there are several other factors at play. These include genetics, the environment, age, demographics, your individual health status and your medical histories. As a result, you respond differently to what happens to your bodies when you eat healthily or exercise.

In addition, it is also possible to increase your metabolism. There are two ways to increase your metabolism: by exercising or by eating specific foods.

Exercise is beneficial and it assists in speeding up the metabolism but it does not make your body lose weight.

Where exercise will also help is by:

helping your body de-stress;

revitalising your body and making you feel more energised; and

improving your performance for sport or maintaining an active lifestyle.

Eating is also key in determining the speed of your metabolism. Foods that are the most effective are those with high sources of fibre, coffees and teas as well as vegetables.

Improving metabolism through pills or drugs should never be considered.

Consistency is key

Homeostasis is the physiological process in which the body manages the internal interactions to maintain equilibrium or balance and function normally.

If you constantly change your diet, your body has to do adapt to bring it back to equilibrium. If you eat pasta in week one and two and only meat and poultry in week three and four, your body will undergo different processes to breakdown the macronutrients it gets from those foods.

The same goes for exercise. To gain momentum, you have to maintain an exercise regime that the body can get used to and improve on.

The way your body responds to your diet and exercise will initially take a lot of work. At the beginning, your body may feel tired, lethargic and you may experience a decline in performance. But at the end of the day, by maintaining your diet and exercise regime, the results will prove worth it.

Disclosure statement

Habib Noorbhai does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

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