Another post on nutrition, what can I say that you haven’t heard before you ask?
Well, often you have to hear things when put in a certain way before you have that ‘aha’ moment when something just clicks. Diet and nutrition is such a hard area to grasp for a lot of people, and i’m constantly trying to explain things in a way which makes it easy for people to understand.
So anyway, here are 5 variables that you need to worry about when it comes to a good eating plan, and it’s pretty much IN this order.
Read on to see if you’ve put some thought into each variable and decide whether you need to step it up a notch in one or more areas to really get your nutrition dialed in.
Optimum Food Choices
This needs to come before anything else, before you worry about calories, how many meals to eat, fat burning supplements or even how often to exercise (from a weight loss perspective), you need to address your food choices in regards to the types of foods you are eating, and the quality of the food you’re eating. You can exercise till the cows come home but if you’re eating bread and drinking soft drink every day, and not putting enough quality nutrients into your body consistently then its going to be very hard to get fit and more importantly…healthy.
There’s plenty of other info on this blog about what type of food we want to be eating so I won’t get into it in too much detail here, but in a nutshell – eat a lot of good quality, organic when possible, free range lean meats/poultry/seafood, eat alot of vegetables (unlimited), include healthy fats from natural sources (and an omega 3 fish oil/krill oil supplement), and eat a moderate amount of fruits.
Avoid any processed, engineered foods that have been ‘invented’ by humans in the last 100 years or so, limit starchy carbohydrates and an excess of wheat & grain based foods, limit any other liquid besides water, green tea, and organic coffee (and good quality protein shakes with water). So this is just a good foundation for most people, within this framework its important to listen to your body and how you feel, open your mind to the fact you may have some degree of allergy or intolerance to common things like dairy, wheat, gluten etc. This can often lead to weight gain, bloating, digestive issues, tiredness, inflammation and a bunch of other less than ideal symptoms.
Total Calorie Intake
Whilst calorie intake is definitely important, it is a very misunderstood area for a lot of people. Many think there is some magic calorie amount where everybody will see results, often in spite of poor food choices, 1200 seems to be popular. Just remember all calories aren’t equal, and 200 calories of donut is not going to have the same effect on your body as 200 calories of spinach. When food choices are good however, then calories do become relevant and it’s the next step in individualizing your food plan.
In reality your calorie range for weight loss will be an individual thing, (affected by your weight, muscle mass, hormones, activity levels, unique physiological makeup etc.) but you can get into the right ballpark with a few simple calculations based on your weight.
This is the formula I like to use, there are other formulas but whichever you use you’ll find it’s very similar. Find your bodyweight in pounds, which is kgs x 2.2, then multiply it by 10 for the first number and multiply it by 12 to get the second number.
Example: 70kg x 2.2 = 154 pounds
154 x 10 = 1,540 154 x 12 = 1,848
1,540 – 1,848 is the calorie range
If you are 70kg, your weight loss calorie level will fall somewhere in this range (give or take), so start at the top and systematically lower the amount till you find the point at which you’re losing a healthy, sustainable amount of body fat. You can download the ‘myfitnesspal’ app to track your food and calories on your phone.
This basically refers to the percentage of your diet that’s made of protein, carbohydrates and fat. There’s plenty of people who have lost weight on a low carbohydrate and higher protein and fat diet, and there’s plenty of people who have lost weight on a lower fat and higher carb diet, so it’s safe to say that both can work (the thing they have in common is they both address total calorie intake). However for the normal person who probably started having issues in the first place due to a high carb diet, who is not doing a ton of exercise and has been sedentary for a while, and is probably eating BAD carbs anyway which need to go, then a higher protein and fat diet, with a lower carb intake will be the best way to go, so maybe something like a 40:35:25 ratio of protein:fat:carbs.
People who can lose weight or stay lean on a higher carb diet tend to be people with comparitively lower body fat percentages already, a decent amount of muscle, and training hard consistently. The way that a fit, lean, muscular, active person who trains hard handles carbs and a moderately overweight, reasonably sedentary, ‘less fit’ person with a sluggish digestive system and metabolic issues handles carbs are a lot different. Where ever you fit in on that continuum will dictate what you’re eating more or less of.
I used to think that eating 6 meals per day was the best way to go, and eating every 3 hours was a golden rule to stick to. But as of late, and as new research and studies come out I’ve changed my mind on this for now. It seems that the frequency of meals, or how many meals you eat in a day doesn’t matter so much as the total calories ingested. So basically if you eat 1700 calories over 6 meals or 1700 calories over 3 meals it won’t make a difference in terms of weight loss. So basically, do whatever is easiest for you to stick to, if eating 6 meals per day stops you from getting ravenously hungry by dinner time and eating anything in sight, or gives you more energy, then do that. If 3 meals per day is a lot easier for you to plan, its less stressful for you to source out good healthy food choices and means you don’t have to struggle to find the time to eat 6 meals a day, then go with 3 because that’s what you can realistically stick to. I wouldn’t go any less than 3 just for the pure fact it’s going to be hard for you to eat enough quality food in a day from 1 or 2 meals.
This is a concept you may not hear about so much, its more in the realm of sports nutrition, but this is one variable that can make a big difference in regards to your recovery from training and the results you get. The timing in which you eat certain types of foods, can play a big role in how your body handles those nutrients. For example after a session of weight training, your body is in a unique physiological state where you’ll handle carbohydrates (and your body’s insulin response) a lot better, and you’ll use protein more effectively. The protein you ingest within about 30 minutes of your training session basically triggers and kick starts the recovery process for muscle repair, strengthening and growth (toning up). Drinking it in the form of a liquid shake means it will metabolise and get into your system a lot quicker, and it’s generally easier to get your hands on a shake within 30 mins of training than it is a cooked chicken breast. If you haven’t been taking a protein shake (with some good carbs) after training to take advantage of this variable then that’s one thing you can do straight away to noticeably improve your results, you’d be mad not to. This also means that you have a bit more wiggle room for carbohydrates like rice, potatoes etc in the couple of hours after you do some weight training – yay!
So there you have it:
1. Optimum Food Choices
2. Total Calories
3. Protein/Carb/Fat Ratios
4. Meal Frequency
5. Meal Timing
There might be one that you haven’t thought about too much and now realise you can improve, or you might improve each one just slightly which could mean a huge difference to your overall diet when added up.
Hope this that helped!