Balance is a crucial element of success to any workout goal, whether looking to build muscle, lose fat, or improve athletic performance. It is a crucial aspect of every part of our lives, between balancing free time to maximize potential extra visits to the gym to balancing our caloric intake. It all plays a big role in the results we will see.
A well-balanced diet provides important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to keep the body and mind strong and healthy. Eating well can also help ward off numerous diseases and health complications, as well as help maintain a healthy body weight, provide energy, allow better sleep, and improve brain function. A diet with balance provides the body with the proper proportions of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and liquids. It is important to not eliminate any essential macronutrient, such as fats or carbohydrates, but be conscious of portion control.
1. Control Body Weight
Eating a healthy variety of nutrient-dense foods leaves less room for those calorie-dense foods that typically lead to weight gain. These would be such foods as, processed foods and fatty or sugary snacks that provide little nutritional value. The body has little use for these foods and will tend to store rather than use them for energy. Eating carbohydrates like whole grains, oats, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and quinoa that have a low glycemic index (ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 based on how much they raise blood sugar levels after consuming) will allow the body to stay fuller over a longer period of time. These complex carbohydrates break down and release into the blood stream over an extended period of time preventing triggers in the brain to crave simple sugary snacks. Along with lean proteins (chicken, most seafood, eggs, lean cuts of pork, etc.), the metabolism can stay elevated longer limiting the feeling of hunger after a short time frame.
2. Fight Off Disease
When eating a balanced diet, essential nutrients will produce and help maintain key germ-fighting cells in the immune system, and greatly improve vascular function. The immune system relies heavily on blood flow, so better vascular function will help provide disease fighting cells to areas of need quickly. Deficiencies in certain nutrients can impair immune system function, such as vitamin A, B-vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, Zinc, and Iron. A diet filled with fruits and vegetables also increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and materials that help prevent bacteria and infections from attaching themselves to cells in the body.
Some of the most important aspects of a balanced diet is the reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin C raises levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers blood pressure, two very important potential stresses to the cardiovascular system that need to be monitored. Vitamin C also helps interfere with fat being converted to plaque in the arteries. Essential fatty acids also protect the body against damage from over-reactions to infection. A balanced diet will limit the amount of excess body fat that can develop, which puts extra stress on the cardiovascular system eventually causing serious problems.
3. Have More Energy
The food we eat has a tremendous impact on the energy we have throughout the day. Nutrient-dense foods will digest and therefore be released into the system over a longer period of time. On the other hand, easily digestible food (sugary/simple carbohydrates) will digest much quicker, causing the body to feel hungry again in a much shorter time frame. This can cause spikes in the release of energy into the blood stream, immediately followed by lows. Ideally the goal is to maintain energy levels through the day without these extreme highs and lows. Eating well keeps our energy on a relatively level base from morning until night. Proteins can help provide satiety much more effectively then processed foods or simple carbohydrates. Every 3-4 hours consuming a source of protein can be a very important rule to live by to prevent unnecessary snacking. Also, make sure to increase healthy fats, which the body will use for energy more compared to unhealthy saturated and trans-saturated fats. These unhealthy fats can make you feel sluggish as the body fights to break it down and absorb harmful byproducts. Food that is also iron-rich, like dark leafy greens, can also help provide a boost in energy because iron helps deliver oxygen to working muscles and the brain, which is what they run on.
4. Sleep Better
There are few things our bodies need more then sleep. It allows our muscles to recover and replenish from the day’s activities and workouts. Sleep will rejuvenate the brain and its ability to function at a high level for the next day. Without it we feel sluggish, energy levels remain low, focus and concentration levels are affected, and cravings for less beneficial food are triggered. Poor eating habits often cause stomach and digestive issues due to the toxins that may be released into the blood system. Raised acidity can also put strain on the digestive system, making it very difficult to get a good night’s sleep. It is important to not overeat at nighttime, which many people are guilty of due to poor eating habits during the day. Making sure meals are spaced out effectively becomes an important rule once again. We do not want our bodies starving by the end of the day and have to make up for a lack of nutrients with a large dinner. It makes it extremely difficult for the body to prepare for sleep when it is working hard to digest a large quantity of calories. Plan the next day out, so you don’t run into a situation that leads to a sleepless night.
5. More Brain Power
What could possibly be more important than our brains? We have an opportunity to keep it healthy and functioning at a high level based on our eating habits. Omega 3 fatty acids provide a number of important benefits, such as improved memory and the ability to learn. They also help fight against debilitating mental disorders, for example depression, dementia and schizophrenia. Foods such as, salmon, walnuts, avocado, and kiwi contain these important fatty acids. Omega3s can provide long term benefits to support synaptic plasticity which is how our memory and learning are developed and possibly improved. So make sure they become an essential part of your diet for a clear and highly functioning brain.