Nutrition is the most important modifiable factor to improve quality of life in terms of health. But, sadly, we do not put too much attention on the way we eat. Probably, because we came from a history of hunger, and, for us, to satisfy that hunger is maybe more than enough. This lack of consciousness and the confounding information from the marketing of food industry are leading to a dramatic change in our feeding. This change in our nutrition habits that is producing an increase of obesity and overweight and all related diseases (especially type II diabetes) has been called “Global nutrition transition” and it is more serious and alarming in emerging economies. So, it is a phenomenon that is affecting seriously Asia Pacific countries. And the prevalence of obesity, overweight, or type II diabetes, is growing quickly in these countries.
This new food environment is characterized by a great availability of products at a very low price but with a poor nutritional value. So, we have food plenty of calories at a low prices close to anytime and anywhere. Moreover, not only most of these products have very few or none nutritional value, it is also that classical healthy food (fruits, vegetables, even fish) is losing nutritional value because of the intensive production methods. At the end of the day we have a lot of easy, cheap and satisfying choices to eat, so, we are not worry about, although we are ingesting a high number of calories and although we are missing nutrients we should eat.
On the other hand our lifestyle is becoming more sedentary and more stressful every day. We do not move, or move much less, and we do not exercise to counteract this new lifestyle.
One of the consequences of this lack of physical exercise and this deficient nutrition is that we are leading our bodies to lose muscle ad to gain fat. And it has been shown that in Asian people sometimes this fatness is not apparent. People could have an excess of fat but could looks “thin” from the outside because this fat is accumulated not only under the skin but around the viscera, and the deleterious effects of fat are even greater with this “hidden-fat”.
The power of correct nutrition
But, in the same way that wrong nutrition can lead us to lose our health, correct nutrition can reverse these changes. If we are able to refuse these easy but unhealthy options and we start to think in nutrition instead of just eating we can stop this dangerous trend. We have to look for food that can give us the right nutrients without an excess of calories. Clearly vegetables should be part of this diet but we have to take them raw or boiled or grilled, instead of fried. We also had to avoid the consumption of sugar and sweets and to improve the intake of raw fruit. If we realize that what we eat is what we are made of maybe we will put more attention to the food we choose. But sometimes is not only a problem of what we eat but rather a problem of how we eat. We have to look for an order and a good distribution of food and nutrients along the day.
The value of a nutritious breakfast.
One clear example of this unhealthy new eating model is that more and more people is shifting to skip the breakfast. Because we have to go too early, because we have not time even because we think we can save calories in that way. We have to look deeper at the word: break-fast, because this meal is the meal that is saving us from the larges fasting period of the day, that is overnight. So, it is time to give our body nutrients to let it to work properly. And we should include protein in this breakfast because protein is the only macronutrient we do not have stores of. And our body is using (and needing) protein all the time in its work of continuous rebuilding. So, if we do not give to our body the adequate protein at the adequate time, it is going to look for it and we are going to lose muscle. And it is a big mistake to think that we can recover it later with a great dinner. It is just the opposite, because this extra food is going to increase our fat.
Are shakes the answer?
Getting the necessary nutrition through traditional meals can seem challenging for many people, because it takes time to prepare and eat large meals. Timing the meal is very important as well. So, we need something, easy and fast, but good It has led to the increasing popularity of supplements like meal replacement shakes, that deliver key nutrition in the form of a drink. It is an affordable proposal that allows us to get a proper nutrition in an easy way. I have long advocated such shakes, especially in sports, those we call “recovery shakes” – so much so that I became known as “Dr Shake”!
By the way, many top athletes are starting to realize how important personalized sports nutrition is for them. And they are common users of these shakes.
Stay active, stay healthy
And, I want to grasp the opportunity to stress the importance of staying active. Just as in my home country, Spain, many people across India love watching sport, whilst perhaps not participating enough. This is one of the reasons that India has been caught up in the type II diabetes epidemic that’s sweeping the world. According to the data of the WHO we could expect for 2030 a number of diabetic people in India around 80 million. Of course with the amazing variety of food available, especially sweets, it is too tempting to have many delicious meals a day.
The main problem nowadays is the great misbalance between the calories people consume and the calories they spend, leading to increasing numbers of overweight people. This in turn leads to a sharp rise in ill health and death from cardiovascular diseases, along with type 2 diabetes and most other major diseases of the 21st century.
But, again, we can reverse this critical trend, by making changes in the way we live. Balanced nutrition – with the right nutrients but less calories – and an active lifestyle are the pillars of the new way of life that can allow us to live longer and better.
We are all proud of our national athletes, and they inspire us to lead a healthy, active lifestyle. And they should inspire us as well to take nutrition very seriously. If you are a sports fan wishing to lose weight, do not reject to eat. Perhaps you could play more sports, while ensuring that you have a nutritious diet that helps keep you in shape.
Dr Julián Álvarez García Is a Physician specialized in Sports Medicine and a Nutritionist specialized in Sports Nutrition. He also got his PhD in Sports Physiology. He is a member of Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board (NAB) which is comprised of leading experts in the fields of nutrition and health who help inform, educate and train Independent Herbalife Members and members of the public on the principles of nutrition, physical activity and healthy lifestyle.