Why Nutrition Is your SECRET weapon!
Food along with water and sleep are essential to life. Food is a critical component for fueling activities, recovery, and all of the chemical processes that occur in our body. Simply put, if you didn’t eat and drink water, you would die! Now that doesn’t mean all you need to do is eat and drink water and you’ll live a long and healthy life.
Proper nutrition can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and is just as important for someone who isn’t “overweight” as it is for someone who is “overweight”. You can find millions of articles, opinions, and studies on nutrition, but I’m about to give you the basics you need to understand nutrition.
Nutrition and Your Health
Poor nutrition leads to increased chronic disease risk factors for adults and children. Often children learn their eating habits from their parents and carry them into adulthood. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ve always been this size, it runs in the family.” That’s because that person learned to eat from their parents/family. Mom and dad fed them certain foods in copious quantities or didn’t restrict their eating. Some parents truly don’t have a clue about nutrition so they instill these bad habits without thinking about it.
Developing proper eating habits is a life long process that starts with the basics done consistently. It’s never too late to start and it doesn’t mean you have to eat chicken and broccoli for every meal. Nutrition is highly individualized, but one of the best ways to start is to start keeping a journal of everything you eat. Once you become aware of what you’re putting in your body, you can start to see how it affects your health and adjust from there.
What Are Proteins, Carbs, and Fats?
I’m going to keep it simple for you. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which your body uses to build muscle and conduct metabolic reactions in your body. Each gram of protein is equal to 4 calories. For our purpose in fitness and health, we need protein to recover from workouts to support muscle growth. Having muscle is the key to a healthy metabolism. The more muscle you have, the more food you can eat without becoming fat. Sounds awesome right? Well it IS AWESOME! Feed the BEAST!
Carbohydrates are basically sugars, starches, and fiber. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for the body. Each gram of carbohydrate is equal to 4 calories. Our body stores carbohydrates as glycogen in our muscles for physical activity. If you’re training hard, whether your goal is to lose fat or build muscle, you must consume carbohydrates to fuel your training. Do not be afraid of carbs, our brain and nervous system need them to function. If your body doesn’t have any carbs coming in, it can breakdown your muscle to convert the amino acids into glucose. You do not want this to happen. Unless your goal is to become “skinny fat”.
Fats are made up of fatty acids. Your body needs two essential fatty acids; omega 3’s and omega 6’s. Each gram of fat is equal to 9 calories. Since they contain more than double the calories per gram, you should ensure you know how much fat you’re eating as it is easy to go overboard. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and unsaturated are liquid at room temperate. Saturated fats are not going to be the death of you! Ideally you should get your saturated fat from animals that ate natural diets, lived freely, and weren’t injected with hormones. Kerry Gold butter is readily accessible in most grocery stores now and makes for a great choice for a saturated fat. Avoid trans fat at all costs!
Fiber is a carbohydrate that you should know about because of its role in digestion, blood sugar balance, and satiety. The two types of fiber are soluble and insoluble. The difference is soluble dissolves in water and insoluble does not. Fiber, unlike most carbs, does not break down into sugar. Insoluble fiber helps your body move food through your digestive system; it keeps you regular! Most adults should aim to consume 20-30g of fiber a day. Fruits, nuts, beans, and vegetables are all sources of fiber.
Water is a necessity of life. Do yourself a favor and track your water consumption to give you an idea of how much you drink. As a general rule, most people will need around half their body weight in ounces of water per day. I suggest switching over to water, green tea, and coffee to all of my clients instead of the usual coke and sweet tea most people drink. When you’re exercising you’ll want to make sure you replace lost fluids with water containing electrolytes. As my drill sergeant said in the Army, “Hydrate or die!”.
How much should I eat?
Depending on your goals, you will adjust your total calories by manipulating your macronutrients. Macronutrients are your protein’s, carbs, and fats. Simply put, if you want to lose fat, decrease your calorie intake by about 250-500 calories per day. If you want to build muscle, increase your calorie intake by about 250-500 calories a day. A pound of fat contains 3500 calories, so this works out to a caloric deficit of 500 calories a day to lose a pound in a week. You might be thinking, well I want to lose 10 pounds in two weeks. Not only is this unsafe for your health, but this is not something your body can sustain. If you lose that much weight in such a small amount of time, you are must likely losing muscle as well. Remember we want to protect our precious muscle, it is our furnace for burning fat! In the case of fat loss or muscle gain, slow and steady wins the race.