So THIS Is Nutrition… The Basics

So apparently people are reading this blog and are getting inspired to get up off the couch and get fit and healthy. I have to say, I’m pretty happy about that. That was part of the big picture here, I just wasn’t sure when it would actually start happening. So…yay.

People have asked me to write about a number of things and to review a number of things (there’s even products being sent to me to be reviewed!) and I thought well, if people want to hear about it, why not write about it.

So here we are. Nutrition.
Someone asked me to talk about the Paleo diet but that’d be like trying to go into AP Calc without covering Algebra 1 first – so I thought I’d start with The Basics. Yes, this information is available from other sources, and there’s one in particular I really like, but it’s kind of technical and assumes you know a lot more than you might if you’re just starting out – so I’m going to try to present it in an easy-to-digest way (no pun intended).

What’s Up With The Watermelon dumbbell? 

This whole “fitness” thing, as I found out very early on, is 80% nutrition. Back when this all started I learned very quickly that in order to survive the intense workouts of P90X, and later INSANITY and so on, I had to eat right to properly fuel my body. Because…well…

As it turns out, potato skins and chicken tenders don’t get it done. 

There are a few important things to know in order to meet your nutrition goals.

How Much Should I Be Eating To Gain/Lose/Maintain?

I feel like many people don’t know that there is a magic number of calories to eat to maintain your weight. To keep this simple, we’ll call this your “Caloric Maintenance Level” or “CML”.
There are several formulas out there and a million “calculators” to figure out your CML, but MANY of them are inaccurate. We’ll use “The Mifflin St Jeor Equation” since it seems to be the most accurate one out there for those who don’t know their body fat %. This equation will give you your “BMR” or “Basal Metabolic Rate” which is the base calories your body needs to survive if you were in a coma:

MEN: BMR = [9.99 x weight (kg)] + [6.25 x height (cm)] – [4.92 x age (years)] + 5
WOMEN: BMR = [9.99 x weight (kg)] + [6.25 x height (cm)] – [4.92 x age (years)] -161

Now multiply that number by what I’m going to call “The Fitness Factor” (choose based on activity level)-
1.2 = Sedentary (Desk job, little “real” exercise – sit around a lot)
1.3 – 1.4 = Light Activity (light exercise 1 – 3 days per week, light activity job…walking a bit)
1.5 – 1.6 = Moderate Activity (moderate exercise 3 – 5 days/week, waitress or other “moving” job)
1.7 – 1.8 = High Activity (hard exercise 6 – 7 days/week, physically demanding lifestyle)
1.9 – 2.2 = Extreme Activity (athlete in endurance training, VERY Active physicaly-engaging job)

Odds are you probably fall somewhere between Sedentary or Moderate. So, multiply your BMR by your “Fitness Factor” and that is ROUGHLY your Caloric Maintenance Level. THIS IS NOT AN EXACT SCIENCE but it’s about as close as we can hope to come without some kind of sports performance lab.

That was a lot of math – now what?

So that’s your “caloric maintenance level”. That’s the number of calories you would need to eat in a day to remain the weight you are. Yes, I said that was a magic number of calories to eat to maintain your weight, but that’s only if you eat the right foods (we’ll come back to this).

I’m assuming you’d like to lose weight?  If so, you need to create a calorie deficit. What’s that? That’s eating less than your CML. You generally will lose 1 lb per week if you eat a daily 500 calorie deficit (ex. your CML is 2500 calories per day, you would eat 2000 per day to lose 1 lb per week). If you want to lose 2 lbs per week, 1000 calorie deficit. Note: this works in reverse for gaining weight.

Most sources I’ve seen out there say it’s not safe to try to lose more than 2 lbs per week. I understand your results may vary, but it’s not a good idea – GENERALLY – to go out there on a 2000 calorie deficit because you want to lose 4 lbs per week. There’s also a base level of calories they say you shouldn’t go under – I believe it’s 1200 for women and 1700 for men. I could be wrong.

Another note: EATING TOO LITTLE IS JUST AS BAD AS EATING TOO MUCH. Your body can go into “starvation mode” if it sees you’re not getting enough food – you’ll hold onto fat and may become “catabolic” – which means rather than breaking down fat and food for fuel, it will break down MUSCLE that you’re working so hard to build! (That’s bad). So make sure you keep it to a 500 or 1000 calorie deficit, NO MORE.

OK – I know how much to eat…but what am I eating?

No, the answer is not “Pizza, chicken, veggies and soda”. In order to build a healthy meal plan for yourself you have to understand what exactly your eating. There’s these things called macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients. We’ll worry about micro-nutrients later – that’s some advanced stuff.

Macro-nutrients?

Don’t worry, it sounds WAY more complicated than it is. Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat are the three macro-nutrients. I’m no food scientist, but I’ll be bold here and say everything you eat is, among other things, made up of these macro-nutrients. NONE OF THESE THREE THINGS ARE BAD. Protein is not just for muscle-heads at the gym. Carbs are not bad, no matter what some “diet” programs tell you (diet is a 4-letter word!). Fat is not bad, you need a certain amount of it to survive, but too much can be bad.

It’s all about how much of each you take in. The right balance will take you a long way to getting the results you want. Many sources will tell you to follow a particular ratio – When I was following the P90X nutrition guide that’s where I got this idea from. There are also some sources out there that tell you following ratios are bad. I’ll go into all the specifics on this later, but to get you in the right direction I’ll start you with what I started with:

50% Protein, 30% carb, 20% fat. That’s what one program I did called “fat shredder”.

It’s a high-protein-based diet to help build muscle while burning fat. PLEASE do not take this as “the one true way”. This is supposed to be “The Basics” and this is just one way to get you started. I am going to go in-depth on macro-nutrients in another article, but this is a starter to take you in the right direction. Also, this works best when you’re putting forth some kind of effort to work out. Then again, life works best when you’re putting forth some kind of effort to work out.

NO. It doesn’t. I’ve seen and heard about this “If It Fits Your Macros” thing. That is wrong – it’s an excuse to eat something you want that you know isn’t all that great for you. That’s all I’ll say on “IIFYM”.

There are a lot of things that I stopped eating when I began my journey. I stopped drinking soda, I stopped eating deep-fried foods, I switched to whole grain bread instead of white, I SERIOUSLY dropped my fat intake, etc. I made a LOT of changes, some of them hard. It may not have been easy, but I had a pretty serious motivator (see my story if you need a refresher) so I stuck with it. I’m not saying you have to completely cut all these things out, but you should start scaling back so that, eventually, you can cut it out. Once again, I’ll go into more depth on what’s not all that great and why later on (it ties in with macro-nutrients) but suffice it to say, all these bad-for-you things will take your macro-nutrients out of whack and GENERALLY increase your fat intake.

This isn’t about depriving yourself. This is about teaching yourself how to eat right and give your body what it really needs, not what you’ve been made to think you want. I am super-happy with the things I eat, and people look at me sideways telling me I need to cheat once in a while. I do, it’s just not what they would consider cheating. So many people “diet” then gain it all back, say nothing works because they don’t really learn how to eat right and get better habits. I don’t “diet”, “diets” fail. “Diets” don’t teach you anything – they do the thinking for you. I just follow good nutrition.

You can too.