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Health and Fitness
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A Balanced Diet
Dietary advice for all types of athletes is the same as for the general public. That is, eat a well-balanced diet from a wide variety of foods in sufficient amounts to meet energy needs. Experts agree the key to healthy eating is the time-tested advice of balance, variety and moderation. In short, that means eating a wide variety of foods without getting too many calories or too much of any one nutrient.
Because people need more than 40 different nutrients daily for good health, it is important to eat a variety of foods. No single food supplies them all. Diets that include a wide variety of foods not only reap the nutritional benefits, but may also help prevent disease and consequently live longer. Recent studies have found that people who ate wide varieties of foods had a lower risk of premature death than those who ate the same food year after year.
Your daily food selection should include bread and other whole-grain products; fruits; vegetables; dairy products; and meat, poultry, fish and other protein foods. How much you should eat depends on your calorie needs. Nutrition experts like the American Dietetic Association recommend that we eat a diet low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are foods such as pasta, rice, potatoes, and breads. Generally, nutritionists suggest that we consume no more than 30 percent to 35 percent of our calories as fat, at least 55 percent as carbohydrates, and the remainder as protein.
The Food Guide Pyramid shown below is a practical tool to help you make food choices that are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Using the Pyramid enables you to eat a variety of foods daily so that you can get the nutrients you need. The basis of a healthful diet as shown in the Pyramid is foods from the grain products group, along with vegetables and fruits. Limit fats and sugars added in food preparation and at the table.
Controlling Fat in Your Diet
All fats are a combination of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Each of these types of fats has different effects on the body, but all contain nine calories per gram. Fat is an essential nutrient that everyone needs to stay healthy. It is a valuable energy source and carries fat-soluble vitamins needed for proper growth and development. It also contributes important taste and textural qualities that are part of enjoying food. Too much fat, however, can increase the risk of heart disease, obesity and other health problems. Studies have shown that diets that are too high in certain saturated fatty acids and dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol.
Health authorities recommend Americans consume 30 percent or less of their total daily calories from fat, with 10 percent or less of those calories from saturated fat. The 30 percent fat consumption refers to your total fat intake over time, not single foods or meals. Refer to the table below as a guide to the amount of fat in grams to include in your daily diet.
Calories Total Fat Total Saturated Fat
1,600 53 or less 18 or less
2,000 65 or less 20 or less
2,200 73 or less 24 or less
2,500 80 or less 25 or less
Remember that it’s the total fat intake over time that’s important. A food high in fat can be part of a healthy diet as long as it’s balanced with other lower-fat food choices. Use the Nutrition labels on food products as a further guide to select foods appropriately.
Attaining a Healthy Weight
Excess body fat increases your chances for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some types of cancer and other illnesses. But being too thin can increase your risk for osteoporosis, menstrual irregularities and other health problems. The best way to control body fat is by proper nutrition and regular exercise. Start by calculating how many calories your body needs based on your current weight and activity level. The weight that’s right for you depends on many factors including your sex, height, age and heredity.
Body composition consists of lean body mass (LBM) and fat. Lean body mass, also called frame size, is made up of muscles, bone, vital tissue and organs. A person’s ideal body weight is determined by their frame size. A person with large bones and muscles would have a heavier ideal weight then a person of the same height with small bones and muscles. An optimal ratio of fat to lean mass is an indication of fitness. Ideally, a man should be approximately 15% fat and a woman 22%. The ideal weight for a person changes as their lean body mass changes. The right types of exercises will help you decrease body fat and increase or maintain muscle mass.
Improving Your Eating Habits
To improve your eating habits, you first have to know what’s wrong with them. Write down everything you eat for three days. Then analyze your diet to see where you are eating foods that are high in fat and calories. Compare what you usually eat to the recommended number of servings and make modifications to your diet that are consistent with healthy eating.
If your favorite foods are high in fat, salt or sugar, don’t eliminate them. Instead, moderate how much of these foods you eat and how often you eat them. If you keep portion sizes reasonable, it’s easier to eat the foods you want and stay healthy. It has been found that adhering to a rigid diet plan can be too restrictive and can set you up for failure. This is because the rate at which your body burns calories slows by about 15% on rigid weight-loss plans, making it even more difficult and frustrating.
When eating “forbidden” foods that are high in fat or calories, select other foods that are low in these ingredients during the day. Your food choices over several days should fit together into a healthy pattern. Using this strategy, you won’t feel deprived of the foods you enjoy.
It is also important not to skip meals. This is not only because people tend to overeat at the following meal, but also tend to eat foods that are not healthy. Snacking between meals to help curb hunger is also helpful as long as the snacks are healthy and a reasonable size.
Improving how you eat takes time. Don’t make drastic changes to your eating habits all at once as this can cause you to get discouraged. Instead, make small changes gradually that will lead to positive, lifelong changes in eating habits.
Exercise and Weight Loss
The key to weight control is keeping energy intake (food) and energy output (physical activity) in balance. When you consume only as many calories as your body needs, your weight will usually remain constant. If you take in more calories than your body needs, you will put on excess fat. If you expend more energy than you take in, you will burn excess fat.
Exercise plays an important role in weight control by increasing energy output, calling on stored calories for extra fuel. Recent studies show that not only does exercise increase metabolism during a workout, but it causes your metabolism to stay increased for a period of time after exercising, allowing you to burn more calories. There are two basic forms of exercise: anaerobic and aerobic.
When Should You Exercise?
Among the factors you should consider in developing your workout schedule are personal preference, job and family responsibilities, availability of exercise facilities, and weather.
It’s important to schedule your workouts for a time when there is little chance that you will have to cancel or interrupt them because of other demands on your time.
The two most popular times to workout are the hour just before the evening meal and early morning before the workday begins. The late afternoon workout provides a welcome change of pace at the end of the workday and helps dissolve the day’s worries and tensions. Advocates of the early start say it makes them more alert and energetic on the job.
Anaerobic activity is short in duration (0 to 2 minutes) and high in intensity. Anaerobic activities include activities such as racquetball, downhill skiing, weight lifting, sprinting, softball, soccer and football. This type of exercise requires immediate energy to be supplied by blood glucose and muscle glycogen, and focuses more on increasing muscle mass and building power.
Anaerobic exercise is very important in improving strength to perform daily activities and train for sporting events. “As you build muscle and get stronger, ordinary activities require less effort, leaving you with more zip all day long.” Additionally anaerobic activity increases your metabolic rate for several hours after exercising, as well as your resting metabolic rate. The quickening of the metabolic rate may make it easier to shed unwanted weight.
In the strictest sense, moderate-intensity activities that can be sustained for more than 2 minutes are called aerobic exercise. More commonly, aerobic exercise is defined as using the same large muscle group, rhythmically, for a period of 15 to 20 minutes or longer while maintaining 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. Examples of aerobic activities include cross-country skiing, biking rowing, jogging or walking.
Aerobic exercise is highly effective in improving the cardiovascular system because it conditions the heart and lungs by increasing the oxygen available to the body and by enabling the heart to use oxygen more efficiently. Other benefits include:
h Reduction in body fat.
h Increased energy and general stamina
h Toned muscles and increased lean body mass.
h Reduced tension, depression, and anxiety
h Sleep better.
The intensity and the duration of an aerobic workout are the two important factors. The best way to measure the intensity is to check your heart rate. “Studies have shown that for the greatest cardiovascular improvement and most efficient fat burning, exercise should fall in the range at which the heart beats between 65 percent and 80 percent of its maximum.”
Figuring Your Target Heart Rate
To calculate your target heart rate, first subtract your age from 220 to find your maximum heart rate. For example, the maximum heart rate for a 30 year old person is 190 (220 – 30 = 190). Then to calculate the low end of the intensity range multiply this value times 65%. To calculate the high end multiplying it times 85%. This is your target heart rate range. So the target heart rate range for a person that is 30 years old is 124 (65 * 190 = 123.5) to 162 (.85 * 190 = 161.5).
Exercise Duration and Frequency
Generally, the duration recommended ranges from 12 to 60 minutes. During the first 20 minutes, a combination of the various types of energy – sugar, carbohydrates and fats are burned. At about 20 minutes the fat-burning phase begins. “An ideal program for weight loss is to exercise at an intensity of 70-80% of the maximum heart rate for 30 to 60 minutes, 4 to 5 times a week.”
When first starting an aerobic exercise program you want to exercise at the low end of your target heart rate, at 60%, and for a shorter duration. Then as your body adjusts, increase gradually to the high end, at 85% to 90% and increase the duration. After you have exercised for about 5 minutes, check your heart rate by taking your pulse. You can take it for 10 seconds and multiply times 6 or 15 seconds and multiply times 4 to determine the beats per minute. If you are too low, you can increase your pace, switch to a lower gear while cycling, or swim faster. If it’s too high, slow down. You could also use a heart rate monitor to check your pulse automatically for you. Many exercise machines include heart rate monitors to make it easier for you to maintain your intensity level.
The 1995 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the basis of the federal government’s nutrition-related programs, include physical activity guidance to maintain and improve weight – 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on all, or most, days of the week. Recent recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine stress 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most and preferably all days of the week. And if you have a hard time setting aside 30 minutes all at one time every day, the new guidelines recommend shorter bouts of 8 to 10 minutes totaling the minimum 30 minutes on most days.
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