Tuesday, January 30, 2007

How your body works #3

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that the 'HYBW' thread is not about providing never-before-revealed secrets on how to look like the (heavily edited) pictures we see gloating at us from magazines and advertisements. As the old body-building adage goes, if you want a perfect body, you have to choose your parents carefully.

What I am trying to move towards is a better understanding of how our bodies work, and what we can do to make the one we've got work more efficiently, without having to devote every waking hour to maintaining it, or having to exclude ourselves from general society (of course, this would be less of a hardship for some of us than others :-)

In HYBW so far, we've looked at how the body utilises and regulates its energy resources. The good news is that our bodies are extremely efficient at making sure we don't run out of energy. For the majority of us, the bad news is that our bodies are extremely efficient at making sure we don't run out of energy.

As I said in the last article, we have got to get away from being obsessed with our weight. Weight is a very unreliable way of working out if we are eating right. Fat weighs much less than muscle. When people crash diet, they lose muscle and fat. They lose weight. They they stop the diet, and their fat levels increase.

However the muscle you've lost will not all return (and, as you leave your teens behind, muscle and bone wastage begins anyway!). So, even if the dieter returns to the same weight they were at the beginning of the diet, they are almost certainly carrying more fat (and less muscle) than they were. So their body needs less food than it did before. You can work out the rest.

For the more fanatical (i.e. people like me) I'll look at some ways of measuring body composition in later articles, for now we need to find some ways of keeping the little men from hearing the starvation alarm bells ringing, so they don't slow our system down, and steal (sorry, borrow) from our muscle supplies, while not giving them so much stuff that they stockpile it away as fat.

Some good ways of doing this are:

1. Raise your metabolic rate

2. Eat smaller portions, more frequently

3. Eat more 'good' food

4. Eat less 'bad' food

In the next HYBW we'll look at what this means in practice.