Nutrition and physical activity

Published on: 11/12/2014

Changes in society means that the lifestyles of people have changed. These changes are mostly in the food culture where precooked foods, an increase in carbohydrates and saturated fats have become popular. And at the same time, we have adopted a more sedentary way of life, using cars, lifts, doing less physical work, etc.

1. Introduction

On one hand, we eat more calories with a higher energy intake, and on the other hand, we have reduced our energy expenditure. The energy scale has been reversed. We do not expend all the energy that we consume, and as we know, the energy that we do not use is converted. This energy that we do not consume is converted into fat deposits and carbohydrates in our body, causing overweight and obesity.

A varied diet, rich primarily in vegetables, whole grains, pulses, fish, white meat, nuts and crude olive oil, accompanied by regular physical exercise, provides a balance.

As it says the appointment “you should eat to live, not live to eat”. Our body needs energy to live and this should be quality energy.

We are not always to blame. There are genetic factors and diseases that cause food disorders and obesity.

Scientific evidence has proven that a bad diet and sedentary lifestyle are risk factors for a high number of chronic diseases.

2. Diet and nutrition

Diet and nutrition are not the same thing. The diet is the act aware of eat, conditional upon senses of the view, olfato and taste. It consists of the process of finding, modifying, cooking, chewing and swallowing.

The nutrition is an unconsciousprocess, in which our organisation transforms and it uses chemical substances that contain foodstuffs. It is the process necessary to live. Without the chemical substances that we get from food, our body would not be able to repair itself nor obtain other products from chemical reactions, necessary for life.

These chemical substances contained in food and used by our body are nutrients.

  • Hydrates of carbon: They provide energy
  • Lipids: Essential for life, they intervene in many functions.
  • Proteins: Formed by amino acids, they are fundamental for life
  • Vitamins and minerals: The body cannot synthesise them. They intervene in metabolic reactions and regulatory functions.
  • Water: The human body is formed by 70% of water. Wthout water, there is no life.

A healthy diet means eating healthy food with beneficial nutrients for our body.

Our body needs approximately 40 different nutrients in order to be healthy. Nutrients are found in food but not in the same proportion. They are distributed differently in the different foods. This is why it is essential that we have a varied diet so that our body can obtain all the nutrients that it needs.

3. Energy expenditure

The human body needs energy in order to live and it obtains it mainly from carbohydrates and lipids/fats. Energy is quantified in calories. A calorie (cal) is defined as the amount of energy (heat) needed to increase the temperature of one gram of water by 1ºC. As it is a very small unit, we tend to talk about kilocalories (Kcal), 1000 calories. On food labels, we can find the content of Kcal per 100gr.

The amount of energy ingested needs to equal the amount of energy expended. A normal person expends between 1,600 and 1,800 Kcal/day, while a professional athlete can expend up to 12,000 Kcal/day. That is why the amounts and types of food must be different.

Relationship between physical activity and energy expenditure:

  •          Light activity: Pasear=2.5 – 5 Kcal/minute
  •          Moderate activity: Walk rápido=5 – 7.5 Kcal/minute             
  •          Intense activity: Tennis, pádel, fútbol=7.5 – 10 Kcal/minute          
  •          Very intense activity: Maratón= more than 10 Kcal/minute                 

Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the energy/day that the body needs at rest and is the minimum energy required to live. It can be calculated in different ways, one of which is the Harris Benedict method:

  •          Male: GER = 66 + (13.7 x weight) + (5.0 x carving) – (6.8 x age)
  •          Female: GER = 655 + (9.6 x weight) + (1.8 x Carving) – (4.7 x age)
(Weight in Kg, Height in cm, Age in years)

To calculate the Total Energy Expenditure (TEE), BMR + physical activity must be multiplied by a correction factor:

  •          Sedentary: x 1
  •          Light activity: x 1.3 at least 3d/week
  •          Moderate activity: x 1.5 at least 5d/week
  •          Intense activity: x 1.7 about 6d/week
  •          Very intense activity: x 1.9 2 times a day 3-5d/week

A person should eat approximately according to their BMR with quality nutrients.

4. Mediterranean Diet

World Heritage since 2010. It consists of a balanced diet primarily of food grown in the Mediterranean area of mostly cereals, fruit, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, fish and white meat.

It has been observed that Mediterranean countries have a lower rate of cardiovascular diseases than non Mediterranean countries, such as the United States.

Scientific evidence has demonstrated a series of common characteristics in the diet of Mediterranean countries:

  •          High content of fish and white meat
  •          Rich in cereals and pulses
  •          Plenty of fruit and vegetables
  •          Use of olive oil in cooking

Which were proven to be healthy for the body

  •          Low in saturated fats
  •          High in unsaturated fats
  •          Low in animal protein
  •          Rich in antioxidants
  •          Rich in fibre

It is currently a model of a healthy diet, which protects against cardiovascular diseases, cellular aging and cancer. The Mediterranean lifestyle is also highly considered as it incorporates physical activity, eating together, traditional food and rest.

One of the elements of the Mediterranean diet is the product of vine cultivation, red wine, which has healthy properties for the heart as long as people drink conscientiously and have no more than two glasses a day . People that do not drink wine will not obtain more benefits for drinking.

The Oldways organisation, Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization introduced the concept of the Mediterranean Diet in 1993.

5. Physical activity


  • Physical activity: any muscular movement that produces energy expenditure.
  • Fiscal year: programmed physical activity carried out to improve or maintain physical form.
  • Sport: exercise carried out following some rules and with a competitive spirit.

The human being is not for nature a sedentary animal, our body is ready for the physical exercise.

A sedentary lifestyle is considered to be a risk factor in itself for many chronic diseases.

The people physically active develop a finest quality of life and great life expectancy . Additionally, it has been proven that exercise releases endorphins that increase our psychological well-being, self-esteem, control and self-confidence.

Some benefits:

  •          Reduces mortality by 30%
  •          Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease by 20-30%
  •          Prevents diabetes
  •          Maintains weight
  •          Reduces fat deposits
  •          Decreases the loss of bone mass (osteroporosis)
  •          Reduces the incidence of breast and colon cancer
  •          Reduces depression
  •          Improves sleep
  •          Improves lung capacity and oxygenation
  •          Reduces smoking habit

6. Annexes

Cholesterol HDL| To download entire document (PDF)

Diabetes| To download entire document (PDF)

Allowance cholesterol| To download entire document (PDF)

Mediterranean diet| To download entire document (PDF)

Allowances| To download entire document (PDF)

Omega 3| To download entire document (PDF)

Physical exercise| To download entire document (PDF)

Table for the weight control, blood pressure and Body mass Index (BMI)| To download entire document (PDF)