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What is a balanced diet, anyway?

You’ve probably heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Sure, it tends to be a bit overused these days, but there is a lot of truth to it.

The fact is, we are what we eat, and making better nutritional choices can have a significant impact on our health, well-being, energy levels, and fitness results.

In this post, we’ll take an in-depth look at the importance of having a balanced diet. More importantly, we’ll go over what constitutes a balanced diet and how you can go about improving your nutrition.

Let’s dive in.

What Is a Balanced Diet, Anyway?

In the simplest of terms, a balanced diet provides us with enough of each nutrient while also keeping our caloric intake controlled. The nutrients in question are proteins, carbs, fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

The body is a complex piece of biological machinery and needs an adequate supply of many nutrients to function normally and remain healthy. Deficiencies often hinder our performance, prevent us from making progress with our fitness programs, and can even lead to health problems down the road.

Let’s take a quick look at the five categories of nutrients we need:

1) Protein 

Protein is made of amino acids – the building blocks of all living organisms. Getting enough of this nutrient is vital for adequate recovery, optimal muscle gain, and good health.

2) Carbohydrates

Carbs are the primary source of energy for the body. Once ingested, the body breaks carbs down into monosaccharides (simple sugars), which then fill our muscle glycogen, provide much-needed glucose for the brain, and help us maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

3) Fats

Dietary fats are essential for various bodily processes. Most notably, they support our metabolism, help keep our cells healthy, contribute to brain function and health, help the body synthesize hormones, and aid in absorbing nutrients like vitamins A and D.

4) Fiber

Dietary fiber is vital for satiety (feeling full), the gut, and cardiovascular health. Research shows that fiber can also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer down the road.

5) Vitamins and minerals

Also known as micronutrients, vitamins and minerals play thousands of essential roles in the body. Deficiencies are linked to poor physical performance, a decline in cognition, and an increased risk of long-term health problems.

The Importance Of A Balanced Diet

One of the simplest ways to boost your health, improve your fitness results, and elevate your well-being is to take better care of your diet. Here are three crucial reasons why you should:

  1. It helps with fat loss and muscle gain

Good nutrition is vital for fat loss and muscle gain. While it’s entirely possible to lose weight on a subpart diet, making sure to get enough of each nutrient is important for well-being, energy levels, dietary satisfaction, and muscle maintenance.

Following a balanced diet makes the weight loss experience more manageable, more enjoyable, and more effective.

The same goes for muscle gain. The body needs various nutrients to function well and optimize muscle protein synthesis rates (nutrient uptake to the muscle). Balanced dieting allows you to get everything you need to optimize the underlying processes behind physical development.

  1. It speeds up post-training recovery

One of the best things we can do to optimize our training recovery is to consume a varied and calorie-controlled diet. Once we finish a workout, protein and carbs help kickstart the recovery process. Protein lends amino acids that help repair muscle tissue, while carbs begin to replenish lost glycogen.

Interestingly, research shows that glycogen depletion can hinder muscle protein synthesis. So, getting enough carbs has a direct impact on our ability to recover well and build muscle.

  1. It boosts your energy levels

Another overlooked benefit of balanced dieting are the improved energy levels.

The truth is, our food choices can have a significant impact on how we feel and how energized we are. Nutritious foods tend to digest more slowly and release energy over several hours. As a result, we don’t feel the sudden rush of energy, often followed by a crash. Instead, we feel a consistent stream of energy that boosts our productivity, improves workout quality, and allows us to feel better throughout the day.

Plus, having some protein, fiber, and dietary fat in each meal further contributes to digestion and absorption. Besides the steady energy levels, they also help you remain full for longer after eating and more easily control your caloric intake.

In contrast, unbalanced diets often bring a temporary boost in energy, followed by a crash. We become fatigued, lose motivation, and have to deal with brain fog and other adverse effects. This is most common with diets that are high in low GI carbs (white bread, cakes and confectionary treats).