The Basics of Nutrition.
This is Part 1 of 4 Blogs on the basics of nutrition.
Nutrition can be massively over complicated but one of the main principles I believe in is that nutrition should be made as simple as possible.
Because it is really simple. And as soon as you get your head around the bits you need to know, you can ignore the rest of the stuff that just confuses things and crack on to smash your goals.
For the majority of us who just want to be fit and healthy and reach some goals, we don’t need to go heavily into the science behind things. It’s unnecessary. Plus, if we want to go further into it then we MUST have the foundations right first, so it’s all stuff we need to know.
So forget all the things you’ve heard about what to eat, what not to eat, what works and what doesnt work. We are going to focus on the science…
Firstly, some definitions to understand:
A CALORIE: used to measure the energy value of food. Everything we consume contains calories. Calories are the most important part of it.
CALORIE DEFICIT: This is where you would eat less calories than you burn. A calorie deficit is needed to lose weight. If you are in a calorie deficit you WILL lose weight.
ENERGY BALANCE: This is the measure of the CALORIES you eat to the CALORIES you burn. Where your ENERGY BALANCE is, determines how your body is going to respond with regards to maintaining, losing or gaining weight.
If you eat less cals than you burn you will lose weight. Eat more calories than you burn you’ll gain weight. Eat the same calories as you burn you’ll maintain weight.
MACRONUTRIENT (Macros): every food has a macronutrient split which is how much Carbohydrate, Fat and Protein it has in it. Our bodies need all 3 macronutrients to function and each one has its own use.
MACRONUTRIENT GOALS: If you have a specific goal, for example – I want to look lean for a photoshoot. So I will put myself in a CALORIE DEFICIT to 1900 calories. But that’s not enough for me to look as lean as I want to so then I also need to set a MACRONUTRIENT GOAL within that which would be much lower carbs and higher protein. So I may, for the first week be trying to hit less than 20% of my calories to come from Carbs, 45% from protein and 35% from fat. That would be my MACRONUTRIENT GOAL to hit that everyday.
MICRONUTRIENTS: These are vitamins and minerals. Our body still needs these but in much smaller amounts. For the purpose of this, they have no real effect on fat loss or muscle growth directly, but we still need them in our diets.
TRACKING: The term used when we use an app to help us know if we are getting the right amount of calories and if we are hitting out Macronutrient Goals. Going back to my MACRONUTRIENT GOAL setting. I could put all the food I am eating with the measurements and know exactly how many calories I am eating and the MACRONUTRIENT split on each of those. I would be TRACKING my calories and macros.
NUTRITIONAL/MEAL TIMING: For the purpose of this blog, it is unnecessary to go through this in detail. However, this refers to planning your MACRONUTRIENT intake for specific times in the day. For example: pre/post workout, the way your calories are distributed, calorie/carb cycling. If you want to read more into this, go ahead – it is a whole other world! But for general fat loss/healthy lifestyle, the only thing you need to concentrate on is CALORIE intake and possibly MACROS.
FAD DIET: A diet which may encourage you to lose large amounts of weight in a short amount of time, but is not sustainable, terrible for your mental health.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Let me introduce you to my favourite pyramid. (Do you have a favourite pyramid)
This pyramid is everything you need to focus on. In order to reach your goals you MUST get your calories right first. It’s the base of the pyramid, without it, there isnt a pyramid. Once this is right, if you want to you can start looking into Macronutrients. If you have your macros spot on, then focus on micronutrients….and so on. The very last thing you should be worrying about is supplements until you have everything else CONSISTENTLY spot on. So save your money now!
Think about any FAD DIET that you have ever been on. They all have a “unique selling poing”… a reason for you to think that particular diet is exactly what you need to lose weight and you are going to reach your goals because it sounds fancy and different. Sometimes you even end up paying ALOT of money for this idea and concept. Slimming World and Weight Watchers are included in this as well. But the only thing you are ever buying into is the fact that you are going to be in a CALORIE DEFICIT.
And that is it. There is no magic in the Cambridge Diet – you are being told to eat an unhealthily low amount of calories which your body cant actually function on and if you stick to it, you WILL lose weight because you’re in a huge deficit. Same with Keto and Paleo, some people have such amazing results on these but it’s not what youre eating, it’s purely the fact you proberly weren’t being conscious about your calorie intake before and now you are. There is no magic in it.
The only difference between the FAD DIETS and what I am talking about is that if you listen to me and follow my advice, you can create a LIFESTYLE you can maintain and you will reach your goals and be able to stick to them.
Understanding and learning about nutrition is the “diet” you can invest in. But YOU have to believe in that, want it and be willing to put some effort in.
WHATEVER THE GOAL..CALORIES ARE IMPORTANT
This is specific to both physique and performance goals. We have spoken about aesthetic/physique goals but what if your goals are performance based?
For example, if you start training for a marathon, you will need to increase your calories because you will be burning more calories and to keep up with your training plan, avoid injury or getting poorly and to get the most out of every run, you need the energy. Once you’ve got your calories right, you might then decide that you would like to manipulate your macros so that you are eating more carbs pre long run and protein post run for recovery. But there is no point in planning like that until you are eating the right amount of calories to sustain your training.
1. Ensure you are eating the right amount of calories
2. Decide on how is best to split your macros. What are your goals? Do you need more carbs or more protein?
3. Are you getting enough nutrients
4. Could you start planning your meals specifically around training to support that better? Eg. Carbs for energy before training, protein for recovery after training
5. How am I feeling? Am I managing to get everything I need from food? Do I need to supplement?
This is the correct order of making sure you are doing it right and this process could take months. I still play around with mine all the time because I’m a geek and it interests me. But you just have to find what works for you.
Tracking our food take is the easiest and most reliable way of learning about calories and making sure we are hitting our target.
Personally, I hate tracking and I do it as little as I can. BUT I do have a good understanding of how many calories I am eating at any time. I would strongly recommend tracking what you are eating for 2 weeks, just so you can start learning about the foods you are eating. You dont have to be an everyday tracker for life if you dont want to. (I know some people do and they love it and that’s great!) But just learning and understanding food is all you really need to achieve. And if you feel like you need to go back to it at anytime then you can do.
To find out how many calories you should be eating, we can use a Macro Calculator online. There are hundreds and they wont all say the same thing, so do a couple and use the average calories from them all. Getting your calories right is trial and error. It took me years to figure my nutrition out properly. But this is a starting point for you to understanding what your body needs.
There is a direct correlation between how much we eat, the foods we consume and the way our bodies look. There is no getting away from that. We have all heard the sayings:
- You are what you eat
- Abs are made in the kitchen
- You can’t out train a bad diet
Everything we eat and drink (except tap water!) contains calories. So when you’re looking a your calorie intake, if you arent including that glass of wine, or the latte, or those few biscuits… you could be leaving out a few hundred calories which will mean you are no longer in a deficit.
Be honest with yourself.
Everything we DO burns calories. This includes movement, exercise, sleeping and the functioning of our bodily organs burns calories.
Thats the very basics of it. CALORIES ARE THE KEY. Remember that.
To reach our goals, calories are the most important thing. In Blog 2, I will be going through Macros in more detail but for now, your tasks are:
Use Google to search for a Macro Calculator, type in your details and let it give you a rough calorie guide to stick to.
Download a tracking app and start tracking your food. Do this for a minimum of 2 weeks, just to start to understand what it is you are eating and how many calories a day. Start to stick to the set amount of calories each day.
Coach Kellie x