Energy. When in = out.

Energy. When in = out.

Heard of energy balance? The concept may not be so well known. Still, the fact is that energy balance is one of the most important things to keep track of for those who want to live healthily and avoid gaining or losing unnecessary pounds. And it’s all about balancing the energy you put into yourself with how much you spend. Easy as that….or not?

People’s energy needs are different for many reasons. Genetics come into play, as does age. Women generally need less than men. Those who work hard spend more energy than those who have a sedentary job. During training and competition, elite athletes might need so much energy that it becomes almost impossible to eat as much as required. When the career ends, the same rules apply as for the rest of us. Eating habits must follow the performance. Otherwise, the pants quickly become too tight.

In these times, many of us work from home. It is easy to become passive, while the proximity to the refrigerator can further challenge the energy balance. Those who exercise can and need to eat more than those who sit still, but it is, of course, also important what we eat. Slow carbohydrates in whole grains, legumes, and pasta give a long feeling of satiety. Vegetables in abundance do not provide much energy but create volume and fill the stomach. Drinking plenty of water contributes to both well-being and satiety.

But those who eat more of the fast carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, and fried foods, also adding sweet drinks, risk ending up in a vicious circle. The energy runs out quickly, and the craving for sweets comes creeping. Blood sugar shifts up and down like a roller coaster, and over time the energy balance is disturbed. Those who eat in this way will also be less able to concentrate and exercise.

Another definition of energy balance could be the World Health Organization's recommendations about how much of our energy should come from carbohydrates, fats, and protein, respectively. Calculated in energy percentage, about 30 percent from fat, 55 percent from carbohydrates, and 15 percent from protein. It is crucial to keep in mind that fat contains twice as much energy per unit weight as carbohydrates and proteins. It is also of great importance where the nutrients come from. Unsaturated vegetable fat, for example, is preferable to saturated fat from animals. Slow carbohydrates have other properties than fast ones, and protein sources from the plant kingdom can differ from each other and proteins in meat and fish.

And one thing that many people seem to forget: alcohol contains almost as much energy as pure fat. A glass of white (15 cl): 85 Kcal. Red: 90 Kcal, Strong beer (50 cl) 200 Kcal, and so on. Anyone who throws in an alcoholic drink such as a Long Island Iced Tea with five different spirits and Coca-Cola on top splurges the metabolism by up to 400 kilocalories. This corresponds to 15-20 percent of the total energy requirement per day for an ordinarily active woman or man.

… And then it is not just the energy balance that is in danger.

But as usual, it is not black or white. A study by the American Diabetes Association has examined the links between alcohol consumption and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. An amount equivalent to one glass of wine a day seems to be able to protect. In contrast, double the amount increases the risk of being affected.

It is as usual. Enjoy with moderation.

Link to article about alcohol and type-2 diabetes

In other words: Balance your diet. Eat whole grains and fibers. Lots of fruit and vegetables. Fat from plants and seafood, and feel free to add some acidic products while eating less red meat, salt, and sweets. And then a daily 30-minute walk on top. 

It does not get any easier than that – and it does not need to be more difficult.

Read more:

Link to JAMA-article

Link to article about multifunctional food