Why eating healthy is not enough blog cover image. Raising The Bar Fitness

Why Eating Healthy Is Not Enough

Many people who set out to transform their bodies believe that eating “healthy” or by changing what they eat to healthier options is all they need to do to see results.

While this is a great start and I highly recommend eating a nutritious diet of nutrient-dense whole foods. 

When it comes to body transformation, i.e. gaining muscle or burning fat, eating healthy on its own is not enough and will not result in the body you want.

When it comes to transforming your body, the two most essential factors nutrition-wise are:

1) Calories in vs Calories out and
2) Macronutrient Split

These will be different for everyone and vary depending on your goal.
i.e. to gain muscle you need to be in a caloric surplus (eat more calories than you burn) and on the opposite end of the scale to burn fat you need to be in a caloric deficit (burn more calories than you consume)

It is 100% possible to gain unwanted weight while eating healthy and lose weight and muscle mass even if your goal is to gain because eating healthy on its own is not enough. 

What is eating healthy anyway?

Healthy Eating

To get an idea of what healthy eating is, let’s first look at a definition from a medical dictionary.

Any food believed to be ‘good for you, especially if high in fibre, natural vitamins, fructose, etc. Healthy foods may reduce cholesterol, reduce atherosclerosis and risk of stroke, help control glucose, halt the progression of osteoporosis, and reduce the risk of infections, cancer” – Segen’s Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.

And the World Health Organisation considers a healthy diet to be:

  • A healthy diet helps to protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
  • An unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are leading global risks to health.
  • Healthy dietary practices start early in life – breastfeeding fosters healthy growth and improves cognitive development, and may have longer-term health benefits such as reducing the risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing NCDs later in life.
  • Energy intake (calories) should be in balance with energy expenditure. To avoid unhealthy weight gain, total fat should not exceed 30% of total energy intake (1, 2, 3). Intake of saturated fats should be less than 10% of total energy intake, and intake of trans-fats less than 1% of total energy intake, with a shift in fat consumption away from saturated fats and trans-fats to unsaturated fats (3), and towards the goal of eliminating industrially-produced trans-fats (4, 5, 6).
  • Limiting the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake (2, 7) is part of a healthy diet. A further reduction to less than 5% of total energy intake is suggested for additional health benefits (7).
  • Keeping salt intake to less than 5 g per day (equivalent to sodium intake of less than 2 g per day) helps to prevent hypertension, and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke in the adult population (8).

link to report and references: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet

Healthy food can be seen as a food that is: 

  1. Nutrient-dense 
  2. Keeps our energy levels balanced 
  3. Limits our intake of sugar 
  4. Keeps salt regulated
  5. And help protect us against malnutrition, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Calories In vs Calories Out

Calories in vs calories out are first and foremost the best place to start when it comes to transforming your body by either burning fat or gaining muscle.

Basically, put if you are eating more calories than the number of calories you burn in a day you will gain weight = calorie surplus and by eating fewer calories than the number of calories you burn in a day will result in your body burning fat = a calorie deficit 

And it is that simple 

Infographic depicting in images a calorie surplus vs a calorie deficit

Macronutrient Split

By eating the right amount of calories with a good macronutrient split, this can also be referred to as a balanced diet which is defined in the Cambridge English dictionary as:

 “a combination of the correct types and amounts of food.”

In my opinion, a nutrient, full, balanced diet is a healthy one.

Macronutrients are the primary nutrients that are found in the food we eat 
1) Carbohydrates 
2) Protein 
3) Fat 

The correct balance of macronutrients is essential for body composition. 

When it comes to “weight loss” it is possible to lose and gain weight based on calories alone but for a “body transformation” where body composition is far more important than just the number on the scales macronutrients and having the right split is vital in ensuring that what we are actually burning is fat and gaining is muscle. 

When it comes to determining the right calorie amount and macronutrient, split it is not an exact science, but there are specific guidelines we can adhere to get them as close as possible based on an individuals starting body composition and fitness goals.

If you would like to know your starting calorie and macronutrient split based on your goals, please get in touch.

The Eating Healthy Excuse

In fact, from my experience, the clients that find it the hardest to get results regarding nutrition are the ones that come to me with an extremely healthy diet to start.

This also comes down to mindset as they already know that what they are eating is clean and considered healthy, they already believe that all they need to do is introduce the fitness/exercise and the results will come.
This is the most significant limiting belief when it comes to transforming your body as I have discussed in The Body Transformation Pyramid  exercise alone is only a small part of the body transformation process.

The issue here is portion control, although you are eating healthy and all the right foods if you feel overweight and out of shape then you are overeating, too much of a good thing is often bad.

At the start, I found it very challenging to get the healthy eaters to track what they eat and follow the nutrition program, and they used it as an excuse not to, as in I would often hear “Its fine I already eat healthily” or “My diet is perfect I am just here for the training”

Pro Tip: If you are not happy with your body to the extent you need to get help to change it, then your diet is almost certainly not right or okay there is something off that needs to be addressed.

Ingredients for a green smoothie laid out on a green background includes banana, apples, kiwi, lettuce and spirulina

How To Keep Track of What You Eat?

You need to track what you eat!

Tracking is, in my opinion, the only way to ensure you are on track with your nutrition and thus on track to achieving your goals.
With the use of nutrition tracking apps like MyFitnessPal tracking has never been so easy and there is no excuse for not tracking as it takes a matter of minutes.

If you want great body results – track what you eat!

Check out our blog post on How To Use MyFitnessPal Effectively 

Can You Transform Your Body By Eating Unhealthy?

So this then leaves the question if eating healthy isn’t enough to transform your body than “can you also transform your body by eating unhealthy” if you ensure you are eating the right amount of calories and your macronutrient split is on track”

To this, I say yes if you eat the right amount of calories with a good macro split to elicit the change you seek, and you know it’s on point from tracking then you can transform by eating “unhealthy food” (IFYM)

But (and yes there is a but) if everything you eat is unhealthy you will never be able to balance your macros, and your sugar will be way over where it needs to be. 

So by tracking alone, you will have to keep a large portion of the foods you eat healthily to ensure you stay on track with the numbers, which is just another reason why tracking what you eat is vital for a successful body transformation.

But why would anyone want to eat unhealthily? 

Unfortunately unhealthy foods are addictive, and they are made that way, and the best way I have found to cut them out is to 
Acknowledge which foods you are consuming that unhealthy 
Reduce them from your diet slowly and overtime
Eliminate – the more you can reduce them from your diet, the closer you are to eliminating them. 

Trainers Conclusion

Make it a habit to eat healthily, eat a balanced nutrient full diet that is aiding your health.

Do not forget about portion control and ensuring that you are not only eating right but that you are not over or under eating.

If body transformation is your goal track what you eat and get your calories and macros on point and the results will come!

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