When you imagine an optimally healthy person, you probably picture extremes. A person that goes to the gym seven days a week, someone whose diet is made up of 80% protein or an individual that goes through a kilo of kale each day.
But, as it turns out, general health and fitness is pretty low-key. Research suggests that it’s the quality, not the quantity, of your food and exercise that make or break your results.
For example, one group of researchers divided their participants into two groups; one was put on a healthy low-fat diet and the other was put on a healthy low-carbohydrate diet. Both diets ditched highly-processed, high-sugar foods and focused on normal-sized portions of either low-fat or low-carb wholefoods like fruits, veggies and other unprocessed foods like grains, high quality meat and other healthy options.
The results? Both groups lost weight, regardless of their genetic profile. This implies that when you’re looking to lose weight, it’s more effective to focus on high-quality foods rather than shrinking your portion sizes or stocking your cupboards with highly-processed, packaged “diet” foods.
As for exercise, a study conducted by researchers at Skidmore College found that the same idea applies. Participants in this study were divided into three groups. The first group was sedentary; the second group was put on a schedule of high-intensity resistance training four times per week; and the third group followed a fitness plan with lots of variety, including resistance training, interval sprinting, stretching and endurance exercise.
When the study finished and the results were analyzed, researchers found that the third group (varied exercise program) showed the greatest health improvements, including weight loss, reductions in total and abdominal fat mass, smaller waist circumference and improved blood glucose.
In a summary of the study, researchers said, “If your goal is to lose weight and maintain optimal health and fitness, the quality of your exercise and diet regimen matters more than the quantity.”
For so long, we’ve been told that more exercise and less food is the key to weight loss and health. Shifting mindset is never easy, but once you wrap your head around the idea of “quality over quantity for optimal health”, you may find that your journey to wellness is far less daunting.
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