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Diet and exercise: A delicate balanceArticle date: 20 January 2014

Diet and exercise - two of the most important factors when it comes to overall health - are unsurprisingly intrinsically linked. The balance between the two can be the difference between being grossly overweight and losing too many pounds too quickly.

But how can individuals ensure they are getting the balance right?

The 'c' word

That's right - calories. One of the primary factors connecting diet and exercise is calorific intake.

Everything we eat or drink boasts a calorific value - the higher the value, the more calories are contained in that particular portion of food or volume of drink. 

A calorie is an indicator of how much energy that item will provide for our bodies, meaning high-calorie foods will provide the most energy - and require us to burn it all off in order to stay a constant weight.

While there may be guidelines outlining roughly how many daily calories the average healthy man (2,500 kCal) or woman (2,000 kCal) may need, the amount of calories an individual requires depends on little more than how much energy that person burns in a day. This is where exercise comes into play.

In order to maintain a consistent weight, a person's calorific intake must equate to the amount of energy they are burning through daily exercise, such as climbing the stairs or walking to the shops. Too few calories will mean that individual will resort to burning fat stores for energy and will lose weight; eating an excess of calories, meanwhile, will see that person put on weight, as the excess energy is stored in the form of fat.

Anybody conscious of getting the balance between diet and exercise right in order to maintain - or perhaps even lose - weight should consider when and how they physically exert themselves during a typical day and adjust the calorific value of their diet accordingly.

Breaking it down

It is also important to stagger the consumption of energy throughout the day, depending on when a person is likely to be most active.

A breakdown for the average individual suggests balancing the diet like so:

- Breakfast - 20 per cent of your daily calories
- Lunch - 30 per cent of your daily calories
- Evening meal - 30 per cent of your daily calories
- Drinks and snacks - 20 per cent of your daily calories

Nevertheless, if you are the sort of person who tends to go straight to bed after eating your evening meal, these proportions should be adjusted to accommodate this.

Don't skip meals

It is also important to bear in mind that it isn't really an option simply to cut out meals in a bid to limit calorific intake. Many may be tempted to skip breakfast when they are rushed in the morning to get ten minutes' more sleep. However, all of the scientific research carried out on the subject shows how this is unadvisable, to say the least.

A study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation found that missing out the first meal of the day could actually increase an individual's risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD). Men who confessed to giving breakfast a miss were found to have a 27 per cent higher risk of heart attack or death from CHD than those who sat down to a meal first thing.

Another study published in the February 2010 issue of Nutrition Research revealed that eating a protein-rich breakfast of eggs could in fact reduce calorie consumption throughout the day by 18 per cent.ADNFCR-438-ID-801684252-ADNFCR

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