ESSENTIAL ELEMENT: Energy Balance
Critical Concept: Net Calories
Our bodies thrive when we operate at a Net Zero or Net Negative Energy/Cal balance
The Energy Crisis
We inherited a genome that expects and requires energy expenditure through movement. Our genes are best thought of as an owner’s manual. Science is revealing more every day about how to read this double helix code book to unlock the instructions on optimal living. If we wish to be truly healthy and function optimally, we must follow the manual. We must eat by design, move by design, and think by design if we intend to maximize the quality of our lives. We must live by design.
Truth be told, if your ancestors didn’t move, they didn’t eat. As a hunter and gatherer, if you didn’t hunt and gather, you didn’t eat. Every cell in your body is stuffed with a genetic legacy that has been shaped over thousands of generations of successful adaptations to environmental stressors and the behaviors that promoted survival and reproduction. One key behavior that left an indelible imprint on your genetic owner’s manual is movements. The most active humans won in the greatest contest known to man: life.
Before the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago, all humans had to spend energy to secure energy. In other words, you had to burn calories to find, hunt, chase, fish, carry and prepare everything that you ever ate or drank. Have you ever carried 5 gallons of water across your office or kitchen to replenish a water cooler? You should try it. Now imagine walking a mile to fetch water every time you needed it. Compare that to turning on the faucet. Once you’ve got your water, go find, chop and gather wood for a fire. How does that compare to adjusting the dial on your thermostat?
Your cells are hard-wired to expect movement. All of your body’s physiology, especially metabolism, is geared for regular exertion (read: intense activity). Movement is as much a cellular nutrient as vitamin C or an essential element as oxygen. Any deficiency in oxygen is readily apparent – it is an acute essential element. Movement is a latent essential element – deficiency is not immediately apparent, but the effects are just as devastating.
The divorce that now exists between energy acquisition and energy consumption has led to an energy imbalance – better thought of as an energy crisis – that has produced the greatest threat to mankind’s health today: chronic disease. Although we have been designed to adapt magnificently to famine, we have no physiological defense against abundance and abuse…except intelligence and free will.
We must recognize that in our modern industrialized world, most things are done for us. Previously obligate activities like running down your lunch are no longer on your daily planner. We must remember that “busy” does not equate active.
We burn fat or store fat based on the simple but profound energy equation:
Calories In (consumed) – Calories Out (burned) = Net Calories Stored or Lost
Your body has an extraordinary tendency to store excess energy (calories) as fat. Too many people think that they can do a few extra minutes on the treadmill to burn off the latte and muffin that they had in the afternoon. The only thing more shocking than the realization of how long it would take them to burn off that snack is the net result of a year’s worth of muffins and lattes.
Although exercise is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle, it should not be reduced to a weight loss modality. Exercise has an overwhelmingly positive effect on cellular function, circulation, hormonal regulation, immunity, cognitive skills, bone density, muscular strength, balance and metabolism – to name a few. If exercise were ever sold as a “pill” – the definitive research consensus would drive it to the top of the all time block-buster hits.
Always exercise for health gain, not weight loss. Eat to sustain an active lifestyle and train to burn the fat. If achieving your Ideal Weight requires that you become lighter, a Best Practice is to aim for one pound of fat loss per week. That’s a net negative of 500 calories per day (3500 calories in 7 days). This is best done by reducing your intake by 250 calories (try smaller plates) and increasing your output (activity) by 250 calories.
Our ancestors moved as if their lives depended on it – and today, ours still do. If you wish to be truly healthy, you must become truly active. Build activity into your everyday life: park far away from the building, bike to work, take the stairs, change the water bottle…down the street. Just do something. Just move.
Do what moves you!