Everyone loves food. However, when it comes to food in regards to health and weight loss, we all differ. Everyone thinks that their fad diet is superior to everyone else’s. Nutrition isn’t as complicated and confusing as everyone tries to make it out to be. We’re just going to scratch the surface and go into the basics here today. All of our food, no matter what it is, are a combination of macronutrients and micronutrients. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals in foods, which are just as important, but make sure you’re taking a quality multivitamin and eating some veggies and you should be good there. Now the macros. There are three main macronutrients that we need to be concerned with: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Both fats and carbs have been demonized by the media over the years, but no one macronutrient is better than another. Weight loss is simple, but true fat loss gets more complicated, and all macros help to aid in fat loss.
Above is a high protein snack or post workout meal that can also help satisfy sweet cravings: one cup plain Greek yogurt, one scoop chocolate protein powder, one serving (32g) of Life cereal, and 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds. 46g carbs, 2g fat, 47g protein.
Protein, and the amino acids that make up protein, are the building blocks of muscle. One gram of protein yields 4 calories. Protein sources can be complete or incomplete, depending on the amino acids they are comprised of. Essential amino acids are ones that need to be consumed, since the body does not create them, and non essential amino acids are ones that the body naturally produces. Complete protein sources are ones that contain all essential amino acids, and can be found in meats, fish, dairy, eggs, and soy. Incomplete sources contain a few of the essential amino acids but need to be combined to create one complete source. Incomplete proteins tend to be plant based, and include foods such as peanut butter, rice and beans, and lentils. Some plant based complete proteins would be combining peanut butter and bread or rice and black beans.
Though all macros are important, protein is especially crucial when it comes to fat loss. As we enter into a calorie deficit, which means we’re eating below our maintenance calories (we’ll go into this more in a future post), we need to make sure our body is burning fat and not muscle. Eating sufficient protein, which is more than you needed when you aren’t in a deficit, helps to ensure that your body spares your muscle stores for energy and uses fats and glucose (carbs/sugar) to supply energy. After a workout, if consumed within about an hour, protein helps to repair and rebuild the muscle that was damaged during resistance training.
Above is a higher carb meal that still has protein in it. 2.5oz chickpea pasta (measured raw), one cup sautéed mushrooms, one cup broccoli, 1/2 cup green peas, 1/2 cup portobello and wine Publix pasta sauce, and one tablespoon nutritional yeast. 67g carb, 7g fat, and 33g protein.
Carbs are simply enough, they are body’s main source of energy. One gram of carbs yields 4 calories, just like protein. And just like protein, there are multiple different sources of carbs. The easiest way to distinguish carbs is how easily and quickly they’re digested. Simple carbohydrates are easy to digest, and digest quickly, causing a quick burst of energy, but also causing an equally quick decrease in energy, aka a sugar crash. Simple carbs include foods such as sugars and refined grains, such as white bread, rice, and pasta.
Complex carbohydrates are more difficult to digest, allowing for a slower release of energy into the body that lasts longer. Complex carbs include vegetables, sweet potato, and whole grains. Complex carbs also tend to be higher in fiber, which is the indigestible portion of whole grains and fibrous veggies, and helps to slow down the absorption of carbs. Since fiber slows digestion, foods high in fiber help you feel fuller for longer, helping keep appetite in check, helping to keep overall calories. Even though complex carbs have more fiber and nutrients than simple carbs, neither carb is bad, as they have the same calories, as long as there is balance.
Above is a higher fat breakfast or snack of one slice of Italian bread, one whole avocado, and one tablespoon chia seeds. (24g carbs, 23g fats, 7g protein)
“Why would I eat fat if I’m trying to lose fat?” Fats are an essential part of any diet. One gram of fat yields 9 calories, so they also contribute to satiety, which is the feeling of being full and satisfied. However, some fats are better than others, just like carbs and protein sources. Polyunsaturated fats are the ones we want the majority of fats in our diet to be from and include fish, nuts, and plants, such as avocado. Fats are also essential to brain and eye health and function, as well as joint health. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are two fats we need to consume, since our body doesn’t naturally produce them, and they are vital to brain and eye health. They are found in foods such as fatty fish (salmon) and nuts, or in a quality fish oil or flax seed oil supplement. Other types of fat include monounsaturated and saturated (butter, coconut oil, any fat that is solid at room temperature) should be limited, since they contribute to high cholesterol. Though all fats shouldn’t be avoided, since they are part of a balanced diet, trans fats should be avoided, as they can clog arteries and contribute to heart disease and obesity. Also, beware of low fat foods. Foods, such as peanut butter or yogurt, that are advertised as low fat tend to be higher in sugar to make up the minuscule difference in fat. You’re better off indulging in some real fat than loading yourself up with additives.
There are many ways and styles of tracking nutrition. Some people do really well with the structure of a meal plan, that includes options of what to eat and when, while others do well with a more flexible approach, which involves keeping track of your macronutrient amounts in a set ratio. No matter how you go about tracking nutrition through your journey, the important thing is that you track. You’d be surprised how much you underestimate you’re eating, while overestimating the amount you’re burning.
If there’s anything we discussed that you would like more information on, feel free to reach out to me, either here through the site or facebook/instagram!