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Exercise and eat right to be 'fit to fight'

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brok McCarthy
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Have some weight you want to lose? The easiest way to lose it is to go on a fad diet or skip meals, right?


"When you don't give your body the nutrition it needs, doing more harm than good," said Capt. Jennifer Bradley, health and wellness center dietitian. "When you deprive your body of the proper food or food all together it enters starvation mode and stores more fat and burns muscle for energy. When you go back to your old eating plan, not only are you likely to gain back the weight you lost, you're likely to gain more weight back. This starts the vicious cycle all over again."

The best way to lose weight is the old-fashioned way -- working out. The fastest way to lose weight is to work out on a regular basis and eat right, she said.

"First and foremost, you should always eat breakfast," she said. "Without it, your body's metabolism slows down. You should also eat six smaller meals a day rather than three big ones. If you eat six times a day, you will spend less time feeling like you are hungry and you will keep your metabolism burning at a faster rate, making you lose more weight."

The captain also said using a fad diet, like a low carbohydrate diet, is not good for your health long term.

Losing weight on a fad diet?

"Everyone has heard stories of someone going on a low carb diet and losing 10 pounds very quickly, then coming off the diet and gaining 15 back," Captain Bradley said. "This is because your body needs carbs, protein and fat to run efficiently. When you come off your diet, your body acts like a little kid who you have deprived of something he or she likes -- it will absorb as much as it can and then some."

Captain Bradley said people who are concerned about carbs or fat should watch the types they eat and also the serving sizes. For carbs, people should eat more complex carbs, like those found in fruits and vegetable, whole grain breads and cereals. For fat, people should avoid eating foods that are high in artery-clogging saturated fat, such as fries, candy bars, chips, bacon, hamburgers and doughnuts.

"When it comes down to it, no food is bad for your health, you just have to make sure you eat everything in moderation," Captain Bradley said.

Diet and exercise are the key

A good diet is only half of what a body needs to lose weight, the other half is exercise.

"In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you should work out for 45 minutes to an hour, three times a week at the very least," said Mrs. Mandy Baerman, HAWC exercise physiologist. "In order to lose weight, five times per week is recommended."

She said as people lose weight, they shouldn't lose more than about two pounds of fat a week. This means that in a given week, a person shouldn't burn more than 7,000 excess calories.

"If you're working out, you shouldn't measure how well you're doing based on your weight, especially if you're strength training, because as you exercise you are gaining muscle, which is more dense than fat." Mrs. Baerman said. "Instead, you should measure your progress based on how your clothes are fitting, or by having your percent body fat measured before you begin an exercise program and again at six to eight weeks."

Before starting up a diet plan to go with a work out, keep in mind that everyone's body needs a certain number of calories every day to perform normal bodily functions.

"Everybody's body needs a certain number of calories every day to sustain," Captain Bradley said. "Fortunately, there is a way to figure out your total daily energy expenditure or just how many calories your body needs at rest."

Finding your magic number

The Harris-Benedict Equation is something you can use to figure out your resting energy needs (i.e. sitting on the couch all day without any activity) based on gender, age, height and weight.

Have a calculator and paper ready:

For men, the equation is:
66 + (6.213 X weight in pounds) + (12.69 X height in inches) - (6.8 X age in years)

For women, the equation is:
655 + (4.354 X weight in lbs) + (4.569 X height in inches) - (4.7 X age in years)

For example, we will take Senior Airman Snuffy. Airman Snuffy is a 24-year-old male who is 5-foot-11-inches tall and weighs 180 pounds. Before we do any actual math, let's fill in the holes.

Senior Airman Snuffy's equation should look like this:
66 + (6.213 X 180) + (12.69 X 71) - (4.7 X 24)

After working the multiplication inside the parenthesis, Airman Snuffy's equation will look like this:
66 + (1,118.34) + (900.99) - (112.8)

Once the equation is solved, we find Senior Airman Snuffy's body needs about 1,972 calories every day just to function.

"This equation only gives you a general idea of how many calories your body needs," Captain Bradley said. "To figure out exactly how many calories your body needs, you need to know body composition, sport and training schedule."

For more information, call the Health and Wellness Center at 784-4292.