Your Basic Introduction to Fitness Nutrition
The following is a series of general nutrition information in the context of exercise and general wellness. None of my statements on nutrition are meant to address any medical
condition including but not limited to diabetes (1 and/or 2), heart dysfunction, etc.
Introduction: Components of Fitness Nutrition
What is a calorie?
Macro vs Micro?
What are Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats and why should I care?
A calorie is a simply a measure of energy. Specifically, the amount of energy it takes to raise 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. In the context of nutrition in general, and fitness nutrition in specific, it is the currency of the human body that allows us to be the catalyst of our own success in terms of gaining vs losing weight, addressing chronic health issues, athletic performance, etc. Everything we consume as has a caloric value and that information guides our dietary decisions relative to our goals and needs.
Foods contain components that fall into two main categories: macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients. A macro-nutrient is a substance that is required in large amounts by the body. Each one is vital to any diet and should be portioned appropriately based on your needs. Macros fall into 3 distinct categories relative to nutritional value:
Proteins - 4 calories per gramWhen beginning any meal plan, especially one that coincides with resistance training, protein intake should be priority number 1 in terms of fitting those calories into your overall meal plan. It is a basic building block of muscle tissue and whether you are leaning out or bulking up, training for strength or running a marathon, protein is essential for building and maintaining quality muscle mass. Primary sources include: Chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, fish, greek yogurt, etc.
Carbohydrates - 4 calories per gram
Carbs are sugar. There, I said it. They are also the body's primary source of energy, especially in anaerobic exercise (shorter, higher intensity exercise focusing on fast twitch muscle fibers during which lactate forms due to lack of oxygen). Don't be afraid to eat carbs just consume them around your most taxing parts of your day whether that is before and after exercise or just 11:00am at work when you are cranking out spreadsheets. Eat an appropriate amount for your lifestyle and the energy demands that accompany it. Primary sources include: breads, pastas, rice, fruit, cereals, etc.
Fats - 9 calories per gram
No... not that kind of fat. Dietary fats are the most calorie-dense macro-nutrients but they are vital for maintaining healthy bodily function including but not limited to brain function and joint lubrication. Fats serve as a displacement energy source for the body. When insulin levels are low in the body, your brain will secrete ketones to serve as an anabolic hormone to prevent your metabolism from breaking down complex tissues such as muscle. A common misconception is that fat = body fat when it is actually quite the opposite. A diet high in healthy (saturated) fats is a very effective dietary strategy for weight loss. Primary sources include: Olive oil, almonds, avocados, peanut butter, egg yolks, certain fish, etc.
Micro-nutrients are substances that are needed in much smaller amounts by the body such as vitamins (A, B6, B12, D, C) and minerals (iron, calcium, magnesium, etc.). Maintaining a sufficient amount of micro-nutrients will lead to greater bodily function and overall health including brain and joint health. Highly nutrient food examples include bright colorful veggies such as spinach, carrots, squash, broccoli as well as fruits and high quality sources of grains and dairy.
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Introduction: Energy Dynamics of Fitness Nutrition
What is a BMR?
Anabolic vs Catabolic
How many calories do I consume?
There is nothing magic happening when you go about changing your body composition (ratio of lean mass to body fat). All it is is a game of energy out versus energy in. How many calories do you burn through the course of the day versus how many calories you take in over that same amount of time. If your goal is to gain weight via building muscle, your goal should be to take in more calories than you burn. However, if your goal is to lose weight your goal should be to take in fewer calories than you take in. To make a plan to change your body composition, first you need a place to start...
Your BMR - or Basal Metabolic Rate - is the number of calories (amount of energy) your body burns per day at rest. This number is determined by a variety of factors including age, gender, muscle to fat ratio, and activity level. Muscle is functional tissue that requires energy from your body to operate and perform so it makes sense that the higher your percentage of lean mass, the higher your BMR is. That is why the more muscle groups you recruit during a workout, the more energy is expended (also why a resistance circuit is such an effective form of cardio (see Cardio 101 blog entry). There are several online calculators that can approximate your BMR but if you have trouble finding one just let me know and I can figure it for you!
So now that you have your goals in mind and your BMR, the next step is to decide how many calories you should shoot for. This will depend on how you want to pace your weight loss/gain and how much muscle you want to hang onto (more detail in future entries). There are a couple rules of thumb when it comes to picking your strategy:
Gain Weight Quickly = Dramatic Increase in Caloric Intake (+30% of BMR)
Gain Weight Slowly = Gradual Increase in Caloric Intake (+10% of BMR every 2 weeks)
Lose Weight Slowly = Gradual Increase in Caloric Intake (-10% of BMR every 2 weeks)
Lose Weight Quickly = Dramatic Increase in Caloric Intake (-30% of BMR)
The faster you lose weight the better the chance that the caloric deficit will lead to your metabolism burning muscle proteins as energy and the flip side of that is the faster you gain weight the greater your odds of gaining body fat. Be gradual and methodical and your energy requirements will increase or decrease concurrently with your lean mass.
Be on the lookout for the dates and times of our next Fitness Nutrition Masterclass where we will expand on a lot of these points! As always, thank you for reading!