Guest column:

Weighing in on the keys to weight loss this summer

Posted

With warm weather on the horizon, many fitness fanatics are beginning to pack the health clubs in an effort to sculpt their figures — the infamous beach-body mantra. But many believe in spot reduction, which is the false belief of training a certain area of the body, such as the abdomen, in order to achieve weight loss in a specific region.

The truth is that weight loss is an overall depletion of body fat and cannot be achieved in just one specific area. While many are after stellar six-pack abs, it’s very possible those impressive muscles are hidden beneath an undesirable fat layer. An excessive sit-up program will not make those muscles appear until appropriate weight loss is achieved. The same holds true with a perceived spot reduction in the waistline and gluteus. So what can be done? Along with a good exercise program needs to be an intense focus put toward a good diet.

Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates, as they are the body’s main energy source and 40 to 60 percent of total daily calories should come from them. Carbohydrates are essential for brain and nervous system function. But don’t abuse them. In excess — and if unburned — they will be stored as fat. Think of it this way: each of us has a 40-ounce carbohydrate glass in our body. If we keep filling it up and don’t drink anything, it’s going to overflow. If we aren’t active and choose more of a sedentary lifestyle, that excess will turn into carbohydrate fat storage.

There are two main forms of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates, such as candy, soda, syrups and table sugar, provide very little nutrition and should be avoided. Take the complex carbohydrate path of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain rice, breads and cereals, and eat more legumes, such as beans, lentils and dried peas. Don’t be scared. Carbohydrates aren’t as evil as many believe them to be.

As for fats, learn to label-read. Fats should comprise about 20 to 30 percent of total daily calories, with less than 10 percent coming from saturated fats. These fats, which are seen in high-fat cheeses, high-fat cuts of meat, whole-fat milk and cream, hold virtually no nutritional value. When looking at a nutritional label, try and get the saturated fat — especially trans fat — number close to zero.

But don’t forget about the good fats — polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. These fats are found in trout, herring, salmon, flaxseed, nuts and avocados. Yes, contrary to popular belief by many, avocados contain “healthy” fat. These fats provide essential fatty acids that our bodies need but can’t make, and may also help lower blood cholesterol levels when they are used in the place of saturated and trans fats.

An adequate and healthy diet, combined with a quality structured exercise program, will help mold those looking to sculpt their bodies for a Long Island summer.

Brian T. Dessart, a former Herald sports preview editor and director of marketing, now contributes to Sports Illustrated, covering performance, fitness and action sports. He also hosts weekly digital video segments, titled the #NHLNugget.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine provides the following sample 2,000-calorie diet, with 50-60 percent of the total calories from carbohydrates:

Breakfast

*Cold cereal

1 cup shredded wheat cereal

1 tbsp. raisins

1 cup fat-free milk

*1 small banana

*1 slice whole-wheat toast

1 tsp. soft margarine

1 tsp. jelly

Lunch

*Smoked turkey sandwich

2 ounces whole-wheat pita

bread

1/4 cup romaine lettuce

2 slices tomato

3 ounces sliced smoked

turkey breast

1 tbsp. mayo-type salad

dressing

1 tsp. yellow mustard

*1/2 cup apple slices

*1 cup tomato juice

Dinner

*Grilled top loin steak

5 ounces grilled top loin

steak

*3/4 cup mashed potatoes

2 tsp. soft margarine

*1/2 cup steamed carrots

1 tbsp. honey

*2 ounces whole-wheat

dinner roll

1 tsp. soft margarine

*1 cup fat-free milk

Snacks

*1 cup low-fat fruit yogurt