THERE ARE four important principles to understand when it comes to altering your weight and your body. Everyone has different goals, and they are all equally valid, but the important part is that you know what you are trying to achieve. This makes it easier to take the right steps in order to realise that goal. Whether you want to lose fat, build muscle, bulk up for a cold-water swim or anything else, these principles always apply.
This article is designed to help you understand the ‘why’ behind losing or gaining weight, and the principles that are at work. You can then build upon these foundations by introducing methods and habits to make them work.
Wild Swimming and Weight Loss
Wild Swimming is an excellent activity to take part in if you want to lose weight. Immersion in cold water forces your body to work much harder to stay warm, and this requires a fuel source (calories you have consumed or pre-existing fat) to burn in order to provide you with energy.
Swimming itself is an excellent activity for strengthening the body and building cardiovascular endurance without any significant stress to the joints and ligaments. The actual act of swimming itself requires fuel that will be taken from the same sources mentioned above. Combine the two, and you can see why wild swimming can help you to shed a few unwanted pounds.
Wild swimming nutrition tip: Cold water swimming can also help to reduce cellulite.
Four Important Principles of Weight Loss/Gain
The first two in this list, calorie balance and macronutrients, make up the vast majority of the success or failure of any nutrition plan. Try to get these two right first before you progress onto the rest. They have been ranked in order of importance.
1. Calorie Balance
3. Nutrient Timing
4. Food Composition
1. Calorie Balance
There are three states that you can be in when it comes to calorie balance. These are mutually exclusive, you can only ever exist in one state at a time.
• If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight (hypocaloric diet)
• If you consume more calories that you burn, you will gain weight (hypercaloric diet)
• If you consume the same number of calories as you expend, your weight will remain stable (eucaloric diet)
These states demonstrate how it may be possible for an advanced swimmer that trains for four to five hours a day to still gain weight and muscle despite the high number of calories that they burn if they are in a hypercaloric state.
Or at the other end of the spectrum, someone that does absolutely no exercise at all, drives everywhere but eats next to nothing can still lose weight if they operate in a hypercaloric state. No prizes for guessing which person will be healthier though.
The simple principle here is that depending on what you want to achieve, weight loss or weight gain, you must adjust your caloric intake accordingly.
It’s important to remember that the human body also has a basic daily requirement for calories in order to maintain vital bodily functions such as keeping your heart beating, your lungs breathing or your brain operating.
Macronutrients are what you eat, and they consist of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. It is important to find the right balance of these three components in order to support your diet and lifestyle.
Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human organism. They are essential for growth and regeneration, help to regulate sleep and fulfil important signalling functions in the neural system. They can be found in all meats, eggs, fish and seafood, soy, beans, broccoli and chick peas for example.
Carbohydrates are fuel for your body to perform and function. They provide your muscles with energy and allow you to swim well and train hard. They also supply the nervous system with its preferred fuel, refuel glycogen stores and help the body to secrete insulin – all important functions.
Try to aim for complex carbohydrates such as oats, whole grain bread, sweet potatoes etc over simple carbohydrates. These will offer slow burning energy that will last for a much longer time and bypass the spikes and crashes in insulin and blood sugar levels that can result from simple carbohydrates such as processed sugary food.
Fat sources heavy in monounsaturated fats are some of the healthiest calories you can take in. Foods high in monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils, avocado, natural nut butters, and almost all raw nuts including peanuts and almonds. Fresh fish and seafood is a great source of healthy fats as well.
Monounsaturated fats and the foods that contain them are exceptional for general health. There is a conventional myth that you should cut all fats out of your diet if you want to lose weight. This is a spurious idea, as healthy fats are essential for hormonal health and effective brain function, alongside many other benefits.
• Protein is the most important macronutrient for muscle gain and retention
• About 1g of protein per pound of body weight is best for most people
• Healthy fats are needed for health and hormonal function
• Carbs are secondary to protein but very important to fuelling and recovering hard workouts
• Higher carbs should be eaten with higher workout volumes and daily activity levels
3. Nutrient Timing
This means that there are times of the day when it is more beneficial to eat certain meals and food types (macronutrients). Here are a few tips to help you out:
Eat smaller meals more frequently, rather than fewer, largermeals throughout the day. This will help to maintain a fat burning metabolism and is less likely to result in spikes and dips in energy and concentration.
Make sure to always eat some form of protein during breakfast. This will help your body to recover and fuel itself for the day ahead. This is also a great way to satiate hunger.
Always incorporate herbs into your meals for taste and health. For example, ginger is great for gut health and turmeric for your joints. Small additions can make big differences over time.
Eat some form of protein and carbohydrates after longer or more intense swims and workouts. This will help you body to recover and replenish energy levels.
4. Food Composition
This refers to the quality of the food that you eat, and how you combine it into meals.
For proteins this relates to the bioavailability of the nutrients, for carbohydrates it refers to the fibre quality and the glycemic Index. With fats a good rule of thumb is to try and stay away from tran saturated fats (fast food etc) and consume monosaturated (avocado, nuts and their butters, olive oil) and healthy saturated fats (Coconut/macadamia nut oils, grass fed animal fats) wherever possible.
Fat Burning tip: Drinking green tea after a meal can help your body to reduce the absorption of fat and increate your metabolism (burn fat as a result).
Wild Swimming Nutrition: Putting it all Together
Its always important to remember that altering your body takes time. Small, incremental changes will manifest themselves in results over a long enough timeline. Don’t rush and don’t entertain the concepts of short term diets or detoxes.Make meaningful changes that will improve your health and fitness for the rest of your life. Slowly implement healthy habits and you will eventually get the results that you want, whatever they may be.
If you would like to learn more about how Wild Swimming can positively impact your life and health, check out our first book “Swim Wild”. It’s written by youngest brother Jack with contributions from Calum and myself.
Big brother Robbie (31) is the eldest of the trio. He was the proverbial canary in the cage, sent down to test the gloomy caverns of adulthood before the other two. An artist and writer, some of his swim-inspired VARC paintings were recently shown at a solo exhibiton at the Kendal Arts Centre. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of BOXROX Magazine, the world’s most widely read magazine for fans of functional fitness and Crossfit with 2.5 million monthly page-views from over 150 countries.