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It is something of a tradition to moan about how Christmas seems to come earlier each year, but there are some things that are never too early to plan. One of these is your New Year’s Resolution list, especially if you want to get yourself into shape and be fit for summer. If you begin your planning early, and make a decisive schedule to follow, you are more likely to succeed with your plans. Here is how you can get started.

Do your research

Once you realise that you are unhappy with your looks or your strength, do not rush into changing the way you eat, or start pushing yourself to exercise excessively. Instead, do some research. Make sure you understand how nutrition works, know what you want from your body, and perhaps manage your expectations – if you are a lightly built, short person, you are unlikely to have Steve Rogers to Captain America transformation in which you gain six inches in height and your shoulders broaden!

Get a physical

This means getting a doctor to give you a once over, checking your weight, blood pressure, and perhaps your cholesterol and BMI too. He or she may recommend a blood test, just to make sure that everything is okay from that point of view too. There are also some tests that you can do yourself, measuring yourself at the key points around your body: chest, waist, hips and so on, and you can also check your body fat levels.

Have a DEXA body scan

Understanding your body fat could key in changing your body composition, as simply looking at yourself will not give you the full picture. For example, someone can look slim and have a high body-fat level, or be chunky and yet more muscular than they would first appear. An accurate body fat measurement can alert you to unknown issues, or perhaps reassure you that you do not have as much work to do as you initially feared. DEXA body fat measurements will not only give you a great idea of how much work you have to do, but you can also take them at regular intervals as you progress once you have started your new regimen.

Begin on time

Plan to start on the first day of the year if you like, but you can start at any time that you feel ready to begin making changes. Do not worry about imposter syndrome or let negative thoughts creep in: you are making positive changes for yourself and no one else. Aim to exercise moderately, eat well and persist – no changes will happen overnight and it is only after months of steady work that you will begin to see the fat melting off and the muscles beginning to show their definition. This is where your DEXA body fat scans and muscle measurement will serve to give you confidence – the changes inside will register there before they become visible!

Keep on going

Once you see those subtle signs of improvement keep on going with your workouts and good eating habits. After six months or so – just in time for summer! – compare a current photo with one taken before you began. It is almost guaranteed that you will see and feel like a completely different person.

That’s 200 Calories in one mouthful!

​Embarking on a new way of eating and making better food choices can be a daunting prospect. To help those of you new to tracking what you eat or if you just want to be more mindful of your caloric intake, here is a very basic introduction:

First, in a literal sense, a Calorie is always a Calorie since it’s a unit of energy and, as Einstein showed us, energy cannot just disappear.

Second, if you ever need it for a pub quiz(!) a food Calorie (properly known as a kilocalorie, or 1000 calories is the amount of energy required to heat one kilogram of air-free water by 1 °C.

[Another bit of science for you: what we all call “a calorie” is actually 1000 calories, scientifically referred to as a kilocalorie (or “Calorie” with a capital ‘C’) and printed on the side of food packets as “kcal”. But don’t fret or get confused, every popular reference to “calories” in magazines, cookbooks, diet books and the numbers on food packets are all referring to what we all know as “calories”. “Calories”, “calories” and “kcals” are all used interchangeably when it comes to food.]

Macronutrients, or ‘macros’, are nutrients that your body requires in large amounts. There are three primary macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fat. Alcohol, technically speaking, is the fourth macro but (before you say it) not one our bodies need at all and certainly not in large amounts!

Micronutrients, or ‘micros’, are nutrients referred to as vitamins and minerals consumed in small amounts.Protein
Protein’s primary role in the body is to promote growth, development and to help repair cells. Protein has a high thermic effect, meaning it requires a large amount of energy to break it down and digest. Higher protein diets can be a fantastic tool when looking to lose body fat due to it’ effects on muscle mass retention and appetite control.
One gram (1g) of protein equates to four Calories.

Carbohydrates
Although there is no physiological requirement for carbohydrates in terms of simply remaining alive, carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. Carbohydrates play an important role in digestive health, metabolism, athletic performance, mood and even sleep. The more physically active you are (and the more energy you use, the more carbs you may benefit from.
One gram of carbohydrate equates to 4 Calories.

Fat
As an essential nutrient, fat plays a crucial role in both optimal health, and athletic performance. Fat is directly involved in the production and regulation of the sex steroid hormones in addition to playing a pivotal part in supporting a healthy immune system.
1 gram of fat equates to 9 Calories.

Alcohol
Alcohol is not required by the body and has a unique metabolic pattern relative to the other macronutrients.
1 gram of alcohol equates to 7 Calories.

To calculate your total calories, simply multiply the number of grams of each macronutrient by its Calorie count per gram. Note – by tracking your macronutrients, you automatically track your Calories too. To learn more about tracking your food intake, read my blog ‘Macro Tracking Made Simple’.

Kevin Garde
Nutritionist and Bodyscan Consultant