By Jimmy Dulson
Ex Bodyguard to A-list celebrities
Trainer of champion body builders
With the exception of some female athletes, the average woman eats insufficient protein. There are many reasons for this.
Simply, many women don't eat enough food during the day. By this very fact, their protein intake is minimal compared to their consumption of other foods, such as carbohydrates.
Many women shun the consumption of meat. It is common for a woman to eat red meat only once or twice a week and some type of meat only once per day. The most universal reason for this is their fear of fat, especially in red meat.
Protein is relatively more expensive than carbohydrates. Therefore, women, who are the primary food purchasers in this nation, will restrict their buying of protein-containing foods and replace them with carbohydrate-based foods in order to stay within budgets.
Exercise increases most nutrient needs. One of the controversial issues in nutritional circles is the adequacy of the RDA for protein to meet the needs of athletes. As some studies demonstrate, athletes who train intensively may need as much as two to three times the RDA, up to one gram per pound of body weight. Several studies with female athletes have shown that few actually intake adequate amounts of calories and nutrients, especially protein.
A diet that excludes animal protein makes it more difficult to insure adequate supply of all required amino acids for synthesis of body proteins. Balancing amino acid intake from plant sources requires dedication and knowledge of food constituents and how they interact to ensure adequate protein for the body.
Lack of education. Many women are unaware of how much protein they should eat on a daily basis or what foods contain protein and the amount that they provide. Because of the much-touted association of cardiovascular disease with animal protein, they avoid eating meat and many dairy products. More and more research shows that including lean meats in balanced meals does not increase the risk of cardiovascular heart disease in most individuals, especially if they are active.
Most women tend to eat too many carbohydrates in their diet. This appears to be associated with many factors.
Women typically adhere to a low-fat diet in the belief that dietary fat will make them fat. Generally speaking, a moderate amount of dietary fat will not cause an individual to become fat unless their total caloric intake is higher than their caloric output. As a result of the low-fat craze, many supermarket foods are labeled "low fat," but the fat calories are generally substituted with carbohydrate calories. Many women think because it is low fat, it is okay to eat all they want.
Although this is consistently debated in nutritional circles, research shows that eating snacks and meals comprised mostly of carbohydrates do not always induce a sense of fullness. Carbohydrates increase serotonin production, a hormone and neurotransmitter that stimulates the appetite center in the brain. Women eating primarily carbohydrates may feel hungry again shortly afterwards.
During certain times of the menstrual cycle, many women experience cravings for carbohydrates. Evidence exists showing a biological explanation for some of these cravings. According to the presented hypothesis, premenstruation and menstruation are accompanied by a decrease in serotonin levels in the brain. Because serotonin affects the mood, women often find themselves beset with mood swings, depression and decreased attention capabilities during part of their menstrual cycle. Carbohydrate consumption may be an attempt by women to increase their serotonin levels and regulate their moods. Basically, women eat carbohydrates to make themselves feel better.
Fat is considered 'bad.' As mentioned previously, women moreso than men, tend to fear dietary fat. The reasons are typically because of the misconception that eating fat will automatically make them gain body fat and the over-hyped association of dietary fat and cardiovascular disease.
While there is enough research validating the correlation of high consumption of saturated fat with cardiovascular heart disease, women also avoid the fats that are healthy and essential for the body. Mounting research demonstrates that essential fatty acids, such as those derived from fish oils and some plants, are beneficial in several ways. Fish oils have been shown to reduce menstrual symptoms, and a complement of unsaturated fats can reduce inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness.
Self-sabotage. Women are typically very self-conscious of their body image. Depending on individual self-perception or athletic goals, women invariably diet frequently to change their body shape. All too often, dieters tend to reduce their daily calories excessively to achieve their desired body weight. Although an initial weight loss occurs, they invariably sabotage themselves by restricting their calories too much. This often culminates in boredom, a decrease in metabolic rate, and subsequent food bingeing accompanied by rapid weight regain.
Due to time constraints, many women don't eat breakfast, especially mothers. They find it difficult to set aside enough time to prepare some type of meal for themselves to start off the day, often substituting cups of coffee for food. While this may help fat loss, it may also backfire.
One or two daily meals. Working women often eat only lunch and dinner, but there are also many that eat only once a day. This can work both ways: either these women will eat too much food in those one or two meals, or they don't eat enough calories.
Some women may not eat the entire day and binge during an evening meal. Researchers have recently named this the "Night-eating Syndrome." They found that abstinence from food during the day, especially by working women, instills such a hunger when they arrive home that they binge on high-density foods which interrupts their sleep and often leads to stomach distress. On the other hand, some women who refrain from meals during the working day often are too tired to prepare a meal in the evening and munch on low-nutritive foods that don't supply the nutrients and calories they need.
There is no doubt these days that physical activity is beneficial to one's health. While most women are aware of this, there are a few problems.
Many women often complain that they are too tired or don't have the time to exercise. Our convenience-based lifestyle also contributes to low levels of activity.
Conversely, there are many more women who think that more is better. Numerous women do copious amounts of aerobic exercise with the belief that more is better. In many instances, women overly increase their total daily energy deficit, lose precious muscle mass, and wonder why they stop losing weight and feel continually fatigued.
Women fear muscle. Most women these days fear muscle; they "don't want to get big." This is, of course, the most common fallacy I have experienced amongst the female populace. While this fear is partially founded in cultural and sociological influences, it also reveals a lack of realism. Women do not have the same levels of male hormone, the primary hormone that is required for increases in muscle size, and consequently will not gain excessive muscle mass.
Lifting weights historically has been associated with men and big muscles. Interestingly, after women tell me they don't want to get 'big' and they are asked if they want to get stronger, the answer is nearly always, "Yes." Women need to be educated on the benefits of weight training and the favorable changes it can have on the body and the mind. Gaining strength does not require having massive muscles.
Women want to "tone." Most women do not fully understand what that term means. Since they hear and see it used repeatedly in the media, they think that is what they should be doing: toning. However, most women have no definite conception of what the term means. The term 'toning' is erroneously applied to doing countless repetitions with a sub-maximal weight that does not incrementally challenge the muscle. The weight must be progressively increased for muscles to change and get stronger. Increasing the resistance the muscle must move increases strength or muscle mass.
Many individuals think that circuit-training machines are all that is necessary for weight training. While they have their place for beginners and individuals with physical limitations, most of the machines do not provide compression loading for increasing bone mineral density, which is important for reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Nor do they incorporate instability to increase a person's balance and stability, which is required in most daily activities and sports performance.
Because the free weights are associated with men, many women are unfortunately too intimidated to venture into the free weight area and use free weights. Many men respect the desire and commitment of women who weight train and are generally helpful in imparting advice on exercises.
Sadly, many of these fallacies originate and are perpetuated by the general media. The television and general fitness and health magazines are filled with misinformation and advertisements for gadgets that appeal to a woman's sense of worth and self-image. Diet and exercise books abound that misrepresent research and recommend doing ineffective exercise programs. As well, women don't realize how strong they are and how strong they can be.
It's time for women to break the mold and challenge themselves. This can be accomplished by adopting a sensible program of nutrition and exercise. Favorable changes will appear after a few weeks, but a longtime commitment will insure a healthy and pleasant life.
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