A Balanced Diet
A balanced lifestyle carefully combines exercise, diet, work and rest so that the individual feels good and maintains their well being. In this equation diet plays an important role, as it provides all the nutrients for health, fitness and well being. A balanced diet provides the energy to work, exercise, and rest and repair tissues. It also maintains an energy balance: Calories in = Calories out
Active people, such as footballers, use more energy and therefor need more calories and more of the foods that provide them. Individuals that live a sedentary lifestyle (one that does not involve much physical activity) and eat more calories than they use to tend to put on weight.
As you have seen, energy balance depends on calories in being equal to calories out. If you stop exercising for any reason, through injury for example, it is important to keep a balance between the amount of calories taken in and the amount of calories used up so that you neither lose or gain weight. This is known as energy balance.
Factors of a Balanced Diet
There are seven factors of a balanced diet and these are split into two smaller parts.
- Macro Nutrients (Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats) - Macro nutrients form the biggest part of what we eat.
- Micro Nutrients (Vitamins, Minerals, Water and Fibre) - Micro nutrients are needed in smaller quantities than macro nutrients.
There are two types of carbohydrates, simple sugars and complex starch. Sources of simple sugars include: Biscuits, cakes, chocolate, fruit and vegetables. Complex starch sources include: Brown rice, wholemeal bread, potatoes, pasta, bananas and pasta (found in natural foods).
Most of our energy should come from carbohydrates. This type of energy is stored in out muscles and liver as glycogen. It can be quickly converted into glucose and provides us with energy.
Although most of our energy should come from carbohydrates, fats also provide energy. This can come from butter, margarine and cooking oil as well as from meat and cheese. We burn energy from fat when we exercise over long periods of time so if we want to burn fat we need to exercise for longer at a lower intensity.
There are two types of fats: Saturated and Unsaturated
- Saturated - These are unhealthy because they increase cholesterol. They are found in animal products.
- Unsaturated - These are healthy and can reduce cholesterol.
Protein is particularly important for building and repairing muscle tissue. Muscles are damaged during exercise, for example when lifting weights. It is important to use the principles of rest to allow our muscles to repair, recover and adapt so that they are stronger when we exercise them the next time.
Vitamins are essential but only needed in small amounts. They can be found in dairy products, fresh vegetables, meat, cereals, nuts, fruit and vegetable oil, and they help our vision, skin, bones, teeth and healing capability, among other things. A balanced diet should provide all of the vitamins you need, although some people take vitamins in tablet form.
- Vitamin A - Necessary for Vision - Found in Milk and Cheese.
- Vitamin B1 - To release Carbohydrate - Whole Grains, nuts, meat.
- Vitamin C - Helps Healing - Fruit and Vegetables.
- Vitamin D - Absorption of Calcium - Found in Milk.
- Vitamin E - Growth and Development - Vegetable Oil.
There are many minerals that need to be included in a balanced diet and they all have a particular function. Calcium and Iron are two of the most important.
Calcium is vital to health, especially during growth in childhood and adolescence. It is important in the formation of bones and teeth, and helps to make the bones strong. It is also important for older people as it helps to maintain bone density which decreases with age.
Iron is essential because it is involved in the formation of red blood cells and is also important to haemoglobin and the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. Without iron, the blood would not be able to carry oxygen around the body. It is especially important for athletes involved in distance events.
Water holds oxygen and is the main component of many cells. It transports nutrients, waste and hormones around the body and controls the distribution of body salts. It is essential to control body temperature. During exercise, the body sweats, and without water becomes dehydrated. In sport this often happens, especially in the longer endurance events and activities, such as the Tour de France, the London Marathon and long boxing matches, where the athletes and performers sweat profusely.
Wholegrain cereals and bread provide insoluble fibre that bulks our food and helps to prevent constipation. Fruit and vegetables provide soluble fibre that helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels.