Knowing what to do in order to improve your body composition, health and appearance has to start with knowing basic terms about your body, food, and exercise. This includes basic physiological terms that must be understood in order to communicate correctly and efficiently. Oh and by the way, physiology means the scientific study of the normal functions of living organisms and their parts. This is where mainstream media can twist things, try to make it difficult and confusing with opinions, conflicting advice and just flat out lies.
Here are a few example phrases you see and hear today:
“Counting calories isn’t necessary and doesn’t work”
“The right exercise(s) is all you need to lose weight”
“To much protein will damage your kidneys”
“Foods that spike insulin will make you fat”
“Eating mostly healthy fats will make you burn more fats and lose weight”
None of these are completely true and at best are half truths. They are opinions or attention grabbing headlines on social media but none of them are based on science. That is why a little knowledge will go a long way in your transformation. Knowing all the science isn’t necessary but knowing some of the key terms (or at least be familiar with) will help you understand how this program is going to help you get the body you always wanted and be as healthy as possible. One of my key philosophies is that education drives compliance. What I mean by that is, how can you possibly gain a full and proper understanding of a subject when you don’t understand the most basic words used to discuss its most important concepts. You can’t, of course and you’ll reach your own distorted conclusions. We don’t want that, we want clear communication every step of the way. That is why this first part of the program involves education of not only terminology but it will inoculate you against the constant and overwhelming barrage of false information and opinions on social media. Once you understand the ideas that form the underpinning of health, fitness and wellness, you will have a lot better BS detector. I’m not saying you have to know all these definitions word for word but being able to use them in context and even explain them to someone else will take you a long way in your transformation. Example: do you really know what a calorie is? What is the microbiome or metabolism? Lets define these terms and basic parts of the digestive and musculoskeletal system.
What is your metabolism? The series of physical and chemical processes that occur in an organism in order to maintain life. It involves the production of energy as well as the creation, maintenance, and destruction of cells and tissues. So bones, organs, blood vessels, muscle, etc..
What is metabolic conditioning? Metabolic conditioning describes exercises that vary from moderate to high intensity. “Metcon” exercise routines are intended to be completed anywhere from 7-30 minutes and specifically use certain energy pathways. The goal of metabolic conditioning is to improve both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. HIIT exercises are a form of metabolic conditioning — but not all metabolic conditioning is HIIT. The benefits of metabolic conditioning include:
Spending less time at the gym. Most programs are intended to be completed within 20 minutes. This means that you can get an effective workout without spending hours at the gym.
Burning calories more effectively. Metabolic conditioning exercises are designed to be performed at a moderate to high intensity. A higher heart rate during these exercises allows the body to more effectively burn calories.
Improving lean muscle mass. Studies have shown that both moderate- and high-intensity interval training can reduce body fat percentage. In addition, regular weight training exercises can help to build more muscle and further support fat loss.
Improving metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, which is one of the many benefits of a regular weight-training routine. Using metabolic conditioning to tone your body can help improve your metabolism.
Anabolism: is a metabolic process in an organism by which energy is used to make more complex substances(such as muscle tissue) from simpler ones (such as proteins). Also known as constructive metabolism.
Catabolism: the metabolic process by which more complex substances (such as proteins) are broken down into simpler ones (such as amino acids), together with the release of energy. Also known as destructive metabolism.
Organism: a single living thing, such as a person, animal or plant.
Cell: the basic unit of all living organisms. Some living organisms exist only as a single cell, and according to the most recent research, your body is made up of approximately 37.2 trillion cells. Cells produce energy, exchange information, multiply, divide and eventually die.
Tissue: a group of cells in animals and plants that forms a definite kind of structural material with a specific function.
Muscle: a tissue in the body, often attached to bones by tendons, that can contract and relax to produce motion in joints.
Tendon: a strong, fibrous connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone.
Ligament: a short band of tough, flexible fibrous connective tissue which connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint.
Digestive system: includes the mouth, pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. It also includes the salivary glands, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, which make digestive juices and enzymes that help the body digest food and liquids.
Digestion: involves the breakdown of food into smaller and smaller components, until they can be absorbed and assimilated into the body.
Human microbiome: is the aggregate of all microbiota that reside on or within human tissues and biofluids along with the corresponding anatomical sites in which they reside. The entire digestive system houses the gut microbiome and is vital to our digestion, immune function, and overall health.
Calorie: The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 KG of water by 1 degree Celsius. Also called a kilocalorie and is a unit of measurement of energy value of food.
Macronutrients (Macros): They are the nutritive components of food that the body needs for energy in larger (macro) amounts to maintain the body's structure and systems. There are 3 macros, protein, carbohydrates, and fat and larger amounts we need minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. There are arguably 2 more with water and alcohol. Since water doesn’t contain calories it’s not technically a macronutrient and although alcohol contains calories it has no nutritional value so it’s not technically a macronutrient.
Protein: A naturally occurring compound that’s composed of one or more long chains of amino acids.
Amino Acid: the building blocks of protein and a naturally occurring compound found in proteins.
Essential Amino Acid: An AA needed by the body to maintain growth and health that must be obtained from food.
Carbohydrate: a type of macronutrient found in certain foods and drinks. It’s composed of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Sugars, starches and fiber are carbohydrates. All carbs are broken down into glucose, which is the main energy source for the body. There are two types of carbs, simple and complex. Complex carbs require more energy to break down than simple carbs and usually contain fiber.
Fiber: A mostly indigestible type of carbohydrate found in many types of foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and includes plant pectin and gums. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. It includes plant cellulose and hemicellulose.
Fat: an oily or greasy substance found in animal bodies, especially when deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs. When derived from animals and plants it can be solid or liquid in form and often used in cooking for flavoring.
Fatty acid: An acid found in the fats and oils of animals and plants.
Essential Fatty acid: vital for proper bodily functions and must be obtained from food because the body cannot manufacture it.
Saturated fat: Solid at room temperature and found in many animals and some plant sources, including meat, cream, cheese, butter, lard coconut oil, cottonseed oil, and palm kernel oil.
Unsaturated fat: liquid at room temperature and found in many plant and some animal sources including avocado, nuts, vegetables, oils and fish.
Trans Fatty acid: type of saturated fatty acid that’s uncommon in nature and usually created artificially. “Trans fats” are often found in highly processed foods like cereals, baked goods, fast food, ice cream, frozen dinners, and anything that is fried like french fries and breaded chicken fingers. Anything that contains “partially hydrogenated oil” contains trans fatty acids. These are proven to be extremely bad for you so avoid them at all costs.
Cholesterol: A soft, waxy substance found in most body tissues. It’s an important part of the structure of cells and is used to create different hormones.
Vitamin: a substance that an organism needs for cells to function, grow, and develop correctly.
Mineral: a carbonless substance that forms naturally in the earth. We need various minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and zinc for many different physiological functions, including building bones, making hormones, and regulating our heart beat.
Hormone: is a chemical that’s transported by the blood or other bodily fluids to cells and organs, where it causes some action or has some specific effect.
Diet: the food and drink that a person usually consumes. A special course of controlled or restricted intake of food or drink for a particular purpose such as weight loss, physical performance, maintenance of another primary therapy in the case of disease, and direct treatment of disease.
Blood sugar: glucose in your blood. Blood sugar refers to the concentration of glucose in your blood, measured in milligrams of glucose per 100 milliliters of blood.
Insulin: a hormone produced in the pancreas by the islets of Langerhans, which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Insulin causes muscles, organs, and fat tissue to absorb and use or store the nutrients from food. The lack of insulin causes a form of diabetes (Type I) from pancreas dysfunction. Type II diabetes is from desensitization to the hormone insulin from a combination of poor diet, genetics and lifestyle.
Glycemic Index: a system of assigning a number to carbohydrate-containing foods according to how much each food increases blood sugar. The glycemic index itself is not a diet plan but one of various tools — such as calorie counting or carbohydrate counting — for guiding food choices. Two foods with the same amount of carbohydrates can have different glycemic index numbers. The smaller the number, the less impact the food has on your blood sugar.
55 or less = Low (good)
56- 69 = Medium
70 or higher = High (bad)
Gram: (g) a unit of weight in the metric system. One pound is about 454 grams. This is what most macros are measured in.
Kilogram: (kg) a unit of weight in the metric system equal to 1,000grams or 2.2 pounds. When you lift weights they are usually measured in kg.
Ounce: (Oz) is the name of several different units of mass, weight or volume. An ounce is 1⁄16 of a pound. This is how most foods are weighed.
Ok, that is a lot of information so I hope you don’t feel too overwhelmed and I hope you feel enlightened like I did when I first learned about the human body. I still remember thinking how many of these terms I had slightly wrong or some odd preconception of what it meant but clarifying them really helped me begin to communicate clearly.
If it seems daunting then read through this list 4 or 5 more times and see how these terms relate to you. By knowing these keywords and understanding how they build on each other you are miles ahead of most people and you will have a great common base of communication.
Education drives compliance