How do I put these guidelines into action?
A great way is to follow a system call the Food Guide Pyramid. The Pyramid is a research-based food guidance system which goes beyond the "basic four groups" to help you put the Dietary Guidelines into action. It is based on USDAís research on foods Americans eat, what nutrients are in these foods, and how to make the best food choices for you.
The Pyramid and accompanying information will help you choose what and how many foods to eat from each food group to get the nutrients you need without getting too many calories Ė or too much fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, or sodium.
Your Food Guide Pyramid
Your Food Guide Pyramid provides a framework of what to eat each day. Itís not a rigid prescription, but a general guide that lets you choose a healthful diet thatís right for you from food that are readily available in your supermarket.
The Pyramid calls for eating a variety of foods to get the energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need. Your body needs more than 50 different nutrients for good health. Variety also prevents your diet from becoming boring. The way to assure variety Ė and with it, an enjoyable and nutritious diet Ė is to choose foods each day from the food groups shown.
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How to Make the Food Pyramid
Work for You
How many servings are right for me?
The Pyramid shows a range of servings for each major food group. To lose body fat, youíll need to gradually reduce your food intake down to the lower end of these ranges. Make sure you donít reduce more than one serving per food group per week, however. Cutting your calories too quickly can make it difficult to control your appetite and cause your energy level to drop. This can also cause your body to go into a semi-starvation mode and lower its metabolism to try to preserve its fat stores.
Regardless of your body fat goals, remember to eat at least the minimum number of servings in each food group. You need them for the vitamins, minerals, fiber, carbohydrates, and protein they provide. Just try to choose the foods lowest in fat from each food group.
The servings are intended to be averages over time. They are illustrations of healthful proportions of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in your diet, not rigid prescriptions. Donít hesitate to fluctuate your number of servings from each food group from time to time. This will help you from experiencing plateaus by not allowing your body to become accustomed to the same number of calories each day.
Donít skip meals! Research shows that people who skip meals (especially breakfast) donít lose fat as readily as those who donít skip meals. Try to spread your daily servings from the food groups out over five to six small meals a day. This can help increase your metabolism by requiring additional energy to digest and process food. Frequent meals also maintain your blood sugar level which sustains your energy level and curbs you appetite making you less likely to eat too much later and store the excess calories as fat.
Making The Pyramid Fit Your Goals
Once youíve reached your body fat goals, all that is needed to maintain Ė as opposed to reduce Ė your body fat is to stabilize the number of servings you eat to the level thatís right for you. In other words, after you lose the unwanted body fat, youíll also have the necessary guidelines to control your body fat in the future. If you find youíre gaining body fat, simply cut back on your calories by eliminating some of the foods you donít need to provide the fundamental outline for a healthy diet.
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The Right Way to Exercise
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How to Exercise to Lose Body Fat
Any form of exercise which requires you to use your muscles will cause your body to burn fat and benefit from all the positive changes associated with exercise. There are, however, several guidelines you should follow to help you maximize becoming more fit and less fat:
Type of activity: This refers to the type of exercise you do. The best exercises for burning fat are those which can be done continuously and involve the most muscle groups (especially the large muscles of the hips and legs). Although some exercises are more efficient for burning fat than others, there is no one "best" exercise for burning fat; anyone who says there is, is probably trying to sell you something.
In the simplest terms, exercise simply means increased activity. For beginners, that may mean something as simple as mowing the lawn or vacuuming the house Ė they both burn calories. The key is movement! To burn fat, you have to use your muscles; and to use your muscles you have to move. In fact, the landmark Framingham Heart Study which monitored 5,000 people for 25 years found that the best results from exercise occurred when people just started moving. Just remember, any exercise is good for you. But, the more muscles you use and the more continuous you use them, the more fat youíll burn.
Duration: This refers to how long you exercise. Twenty minutes is generally considered the minimum amount of time you need to exercise for adequate fat-burning benefit and to increase the growth of fat burning enzymes in your muscles. While itís true that the longer you exercise, the more fat youíll burn, keep in mind that exercise which uses more muscle takes less time to burn the same amount of fat as exercise which uses fewer muscles. Donít worry about the distance you travel while exercising; the time you exercise is whatís important, not the distance.
Intensity: This refers to your level of exertion or "pace" during exercise. Although some people still believe that if an exercise doesnít hurt, it isnít doing them any good, the "no pain, no gain" theory doesnít apply to fat-burning. Remember to think longer as opposed to harder when exercising to lose body fat.
The correct exercise intensity for burning fat is whatever is a moderate, comfortable pace for you. Although monitoring your heart rate (pulse) is a common method of checking to see if youíre at the right pace, a simpler method is the "talk test". This involves exercising at a pace where you can carry on a limited conversation without gasping for air at every word. Another method is to simply ask yourself "Can I keep exercising at this intensity for at least 20 minutes?" If the answer is "no," slow down to a point where you can continue the pace for at least 20 minutes.
Remember that as you become less fat and more fit, you will need to exercise at a faster pace to continue to reach the right intensity level (i.e. from walking to jogging). This is a result of your body getting "in shape". For you to continue to progress, your exercise needs to progress also.
Frequency: This refers to how often you exercise. Shoot for a minimum of 3 times per week with nor more than 2 days of rest between exercise sessions. If you want to exercise more frequently, by all means do it; but this depends on how fit you are. It may be just as effective for you to increase your intensity slightly or your duration on the days you do exercise rather than to add another day. Even the most highly trained athletes need a day off now and then.
These guidelines should always be used at a level thatís right for you. Ideally, you should try to vary the type of activity, duration, intensity, and frequency of your exercise to add some variety and prevent boredom. This will also help you work different muscles in different ways which will increase your overall progress and prevent your body from becoming accustomed to the same activity each time.
How does exercise help you lose body fat?
Regulates appetite: Although some people mistakenly think that exercise increases appetite to the point that extra food eaten will negate the number of calories burned, this is not the case. Exercise actually regulates your appetite helping you eat fewer calories.
Increases metabolism: Also untrue is the belief that exercise is not worth the effort because of the relatively small number of calories used. For example, walking burns about five calories a minute. Since there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, it would seem that you would have to walk 11 1/2 hours to lose a pound. The truth is that even moderate exercise creates an 8-fold increase in your metabolic rate (calorie burning) for hours after the exercise. This residual effect, not the exercise itself, is its greatest benefit of exercise for burning calories.
Maintains Muscle: The movement involved with exercise requires you to use your muscles, which causes the necessary physiological changes for muscle to maintain (or even increase) its size and strength. Since every pound of muscle requires 50-100 calories per day to sustain itself and since fat is burned almost exclusively in your muscles, maintaining your muscle is crucial to losing body fat. Without exercise, youíll lose muscle and reduce your ability to burn fat. When it comes to your muscle, you either "use it or lose it."
Increases Fat-Burning Enzymes: Muscles have very specific enzymes which burn only fat. Research has shown that people who exercise regularly have far more fat-burning enzymes in their muscles than people who donít exercise. In other words, exercise causes your body to "beef up" its ability to burn fat more efficiently. This means that the more you use your muscles with exercise, the more fat-burning enzymes your muscles develop to burn more fat.
Changes the Bodyís Chemistry: Exercise positively affects a number of hormones in your body which are related to fat storage such as insulin, adrenaline, and cortisol. Endorphins, small morphine-like chemicals, are secreted with exercise and can also help reduce fat storage, as well as create a feeling of well-being and alleviate stress. Exercise also speeds food transit time through the intestines to complete the digestive cycle which reduces the chances for digestive disorders and bowel cancer.
The benefits of exercise go way beyond losing body fat. A fit body responds differently to things than a fat body. Things like cholesterol, sugar, salt, etc. simply donít affect someone whoís fit the way they do someone whoís fat. From a health standpoint, exercise positively affects every organ in your body. Exercise also improves your sleeping patterns, energy level, and overall feeling of well being. The more you do, the more you will want to do as the benefits continue to increase and you get the results youíre after. In short, exercise is a must for losing body fat as well as improving the overall quality of life. It will add years to your life and life to your years.
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