Food is Really Fuel

Diet and exercise; they go hand in hand. Although we recognize that our bodies change after 30, many of us fail to modify their diet to adapt and support the change in nutritional needs.{{more}} We still eat the same foods (frequently in the same proportions) as we did when we were in our 20s. Shifts in metabolism, hormones and lean body mass require a shift in nutrition. Think of food as fuel for the machine and consider the proportion as a fuel-to-energy ratio.

Our bodies are annoyingly efficient at optimizing energy in order to maintain a steady metabolic rate. This means that the weight you slowly gain over a period of time becomes your new normal, and your body will parcel out energy and send hunger or satiety signals to the brain to maintain that weight.

This is one of the most compelling arguments for slow weight loss. You are allowing the body to adapt to the new normal weight without the shock of restricted calories.

Otherwise, the body’s response will first be to send hunger signals to the brain (“feed me, I need to maintain my steady state”), and then when it doesn’t get the food, will go into starvation mode, ketosis, and slow the metabolic rate to parcel out the nutrients.

Neither is a desired outcome or pleasant state of mind. Set yourself up for success. Any change to diet habits is a significant lifestyle change. Food is a primal necessity and has an emotional component, so why add another complication like the frustration of constant hunger and cravings?

As we age, our bodies have less demand for sugar. This includes flour, most carbohydrates, and processed foods. All of these catabolize to glucose. More glucose in the bloodstream than the body can handle triggers the hormone insulin which takes away the excess sugar and moves it into storage (fat). As we get older, we become more sensitive to high fluctuations in blood glucose.

How can you tell if your carbohydrate load is too high? The first sign is the appearance of or increase in belly fat. You can begin to reduce your carbohydrate load by switching to foods with a low glycemic index such as fruits, legumes and non starchy vegetables.

Glycemic index refers to a food’s ability to raise blood sugar to a target level within a specific timeframe. It applies only to carbohydrate foods because they are the foods that most affect blood sugar levels. Protein and fat have minimal impact on blood glucose levels, but excess fat and saturated fat will cause plaque deposits in the arteries.

Make small, gradual changes in caloric intake and you will be more successful in keeping the weight off. For breakfast, try a protein shake with a banana and fruit instead of cereal. Include whole and sprouted grains in your meals. Try to eat food the way it looks in Nature. If you can’t recognize it, then it is probably processed. Fast food is found in Nature; it’s called fruit.

Lesley is a health and fitness professional providing a balanced approach toward a healthy lifestyle. She can be reached at