Exercise and Balanced Diet

Performance of our bodies is directly linked to the type of food we eat. A balanced diet and optimal exercise positively affect our energy levels, body’s immunity system, digestion, metabolism, appearance, sleep and overall well-being.

Small changes in our diet can make huge difference to our health and well-being. There are a number of aspects that contribute to a balanced diet. It is important to mention, that the body needs a healthy intake of carbs, fats and protein. All three are important for an optimal functioning of the body.

Carbs are an important energy source that enable both physical and mental work.

There are 3 main categories of carbohydrates: Simple, Complex and Fibrous.

Simple carbs (such as sugar) break down and raise blood sugar levels quickly, which, in turn produces insulin- so called, fat storing hormone.

Complex Carbs (such as Quinoa, oats, beans) take much longer to break down and provide energy for longer period of time.

Fibrous carbs (such as broccoli, asparagus) aid digestion.

According to the latest research, people should consume 6 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight in form of “good carbohydrates”, such as vegetables, lentils, beans, chickpeas etc.

Fats- Forget the idea that all fats are evil, some, specifically unsaturated fats, are very important for healthy bodily function. They serve as a source of energy, lubricate joints and protect the heart, inhibit low level inflammations. They are also important for healthy hair, skin and nails.

Proteins enable muscles to grow stronger. Try to consume proteins from lean sources (chicken, turkey, eggs), or vegan equivalents (such as tofu, pulses, beans etc).

Proportions and timing matter

Today dinner has become the main meal of the day, which puts enormous pressure on the digestive activity and upsets out cycadean rhythm (internal body clock), leading to poor sleep, which in turn leaves the body craving more food, especially sugars and so the vicious cycle carries on.

To avoid getting into such a cycle, it is necessary to eat the right foods at the right time:

An optimal breakfast is considered to be the most important part of the balance diet. Get the largest portion of your carbs in the morning. Breakfast should consist of 40% Carbs, 35% protein, 25% fat. A healthy breakfast would consist of a hot cereal, muesli, quinoa yogurt or a quark, fruit (preferably berries), nuts and seeds.

Lunch should be your main meal and it should consist of 40% of Protein, 30% of Carbs and 30% of Fat. Some good choices for lunch are: salads with protein sources (such a fish, seafood or meat or vegan equivalent), sprinkled with high quality (cold pressed) oils, raw or cooked vegetables. Raw vegetables can be optimally digested at lunchtime. Avoid eating large amounts of carbs, as they create energy spikes and subsequent drops, leading us feeling lethargic and craving sweets.

Dinner should be the smallest and the lightest meal of the day. As our cycadean rhythm and metabolism move into sleep mode in the evening, so does our digestive system. The nightly digestive rest called ‘Intestinal rest’ is triggered by a sleep hormone melatonin and during this time heavy foods cannot be digested adequately, which leads to their fermentation and therefore bloating, which in turn, affects our sleep.

Our growth hormone (Somatotropin) is primarily produced during night sleep, but research shows that this only happens after 12 hours of fasting. This growth hormone is compared to ‘Fountain of Youth’ as it protects us against arteriosclerosis, promotes fat loss, muscle development and reparative processes of the body. Dinner should consist of 55% protein, 30% Fat and only 15% carbs.

It may come as a surprise to some, but raw foods, including raw vegetables and salads, as well as wholegrains are hard to digest and must be avoided in the evening. Same applies to those that ferment easily, such as fruit. Undigested food ferments in the intestine creating toxic substances to be cleared by the liver. It is known that the liver does so in the early hours of the morning with a so called ‘toxic alarm’, which has a tendency of waking us up.

Good sleep is also very important for a healthy body and mind. It is necessary to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. I will write on importance of sleep in a separate blog. Meanwhile, if this subject interested you, I would highly recommend you read ‘Why Do We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker.

Exercise is fundamental for healthy digestion. Do at least some sort of physical activity daily, preferably for at least half an hour; would it be some sort of training, a swim, a bike ride, a short brisk walk, or even gardening.

Drinking sufficient water (at least 2 litres a day) helps with optimal digestion and is generally important for every system of our body. At the same time, it is essential to avoid drinking too much water, as this can cause valuable minerals to be flushed out. Also, drinking water just before, straight after or during a meal will cause dilution of your digestive enzymes, which will hinder digestion.

Finally, according to the Mayr Medical concept practiced and promoted by Lanserhof, a leading medical clinic and health spa, chewing your food well promotes digestion, so chew well and eat mindfully.

In summary, our well-being is directly linked to the type of food we eat and how mobile we are. It is also important to maintain a balanced intake of carbohydrates, fats and protein. Small changes in our dietary habits can make a huge difference to our health.