NUTRITION MADE SIMPLE
Most people know they need to have “good nutrition” to build a great physique and be healthier from the inside out but some are not quite sure where to start, Some people tell me that they think it is quite complicated – Well it’s not!
Balanced nutrition is really quite simple if you use a top-down approach. A lot of the confusion people have is that they hear “you should do this” and “you should do that” only to find that all the advice seems to conflict and doesn’t seem to fit into a bigger picture.
Think of a nutritional plan very similar to a personal ‘financial budget’. Both are about making difficult choices and then sticking to the budget – in both cases, if disaster strikes, if you blow the budget. ‘If we are talking about your financial budget’, you end up in debt. If you blow your nutritional budget you end up fat, weak or ill.
In a financial plan you start with your income and then subtract out the non-negotiable expenses like bills and rent find out how much spending money is left. For the nutritional plan you should start with amount of calories you can eat per day, then subtract out the things you need for lean muscle growth then see how many foods off plan you can have. Let’s look at how easy the top down approach to nutritional planning really is.
How to make a basic nutritional plan
- Determine how many calories you need per day. This is the key starting point. I can help you with this, you need to work out how much energy your body needs on a training day and a non-training day, this is called your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure).
- Decide on your caloric goal. Do you want to cut (get leaner), bulk (gain muscle mass), or maintain what you have, If you are cutting then your daily caloric goal will be less than the amount of energy your body needs to maintain weight (your TDEE). If you are bulking (adding weight) then your daily caloric budget will be greater than your TDEE. If you are gaining muscle and loosing fat at the same time, then your caloric budget will be exactly your TDEE.
- Decide on your macros. The word “Macro” is short for “macronutrient ratios” and it means one of three nutritional elements: Protein, Fat & Carbohydrate. So what you have to decide is what percent of your caloric intake do you want from Protein, Carbs, and Fats. Carbs and protein are 4 calories per gram whereas fat is 9 calories per gram. Let’s now look a few common macros:
1. 30% protein/40% carb/30% fat (probably the most common)
2. 40% protein/50% carb/10% fat (used to be more common, now out of favour)
3. 50% protein/20% carb/30% fat (low carb diets)
To maximize muscle gain, the recommended amount of protein is 1-1.5g protein per pound of bodyweight per day. This means a 200llb person consumes 200-300g protein per day
- Calculate your budget. Now using those percentages, figure out how many grams of protein, carbohydrate, and fat you get per day. I’m just showing you how the thought process works here. If your daily caloric goal was 2000 calories & your ratios 30P/40C/30F then daily you would get 800Kcal calories of protein, 600Kcal of carbs and 603Kcal of fat. That is 150g Protein, 67g Fat, 200g Protein
- Use this as your budget, your nutritional budget and you *must* live within this. Never again do you have to ask someone: “Is XYZ a good snack?”. You now have the knowledge to figure this out for yourself! If the food fits into your nutritional budget without blowing it, its a great snack!
- Are we done now? What if you decide to meet your macros above with a big scoop of white sugary carbs, a knob of margarine for your fat, and a big bowl of isolated soy for your protein?
The above meets the macros but it’s obviously not healthy and it won’t work well for gaining muscle. Let’s look at what else is important other than the macros and total calories. There are a number of things that are very important in addition to carbs, protein, and fat
- Vitamins and Anti-oxidants. Vitamins are important for building muscle. Yes, you can get vitamins from a pill but in my view, they are not nearly as good as what you get from natural sources. Many people tend to use multivitamins as an excuse not to eat vegetables, bad idea, there are other very important things in them besides vitamins – namely fibre.
Fibre fills you up without lots of calories so that you can lean down without being hungry, not to mention the cancer protection. So start your daily nutritional plan by choosing 3 pieces of fruit and 4-6 cups of vegetables. Try choosing colourful fruits like prunes, grapes, or berries or vegetables like kale, spinach or red bell peppers to maximize anti-oxidants too.
- Fibre – As mentioned above, fibre is important because it can help you lose fat! Fibre has minimal calories but fills you up so you feel satisfied with fewer calories. The fruits and vegetables have fibre but that’s not enough. Next we need to add whole grains and legumes (beans) to get 40g of fibre for the day.
- Omega III fatty acids – Essential fatty acids are good for you! They oils are “essential” because your body cannot make them from other sources. The two primary essential fatty acids are called linoleic acid (an Omega-6) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) (an Omega-3).
What can you eat that has these important omega III fatty acids? Foods like salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and flax are good sources. These omega-3 fatty acids seem to improve cardiovascular health and brain function as well as help with depression. What’s most interesting is that omega 3 fatty acids seem to help you gain muscle mass. My basic recommendation is 5g per day. Again, I prefer the real food sources listed above to pills or manufactured oils, So start add your omega-3 rich food to your weekly food plans.
- Quality Protein – Next up, protein. You might wonder why I didn’t add protein first because of its incredible importance to athletes. The reason is that many of the foods suggested above already have lots of protein. If you add the chicken first, you may have ended up blowing our daily protein budget and your daily calorie budget. What you also need to insure that in the process of getting enough protein you don’t blow the other macros!
You need to stick to lean proteins. Even meat that *looks* lean can have a lot of fat in it, you got to take it into account. Good choices for lean cuts of meat are athletes favourite – skinless, boneless, grilled chicken breast! It’s not just the grams of protein that are important. Many people mistakenly assume that beef has the best protein quality, it doesn’t! Believe it or not, even quinoa has a higher protein quality than beef! If you want to maximize your ability to gain muscle and get stronger, it needs to be quality protein.
- Good Fats – Add in your good fats now. What other fats are good for you? MUFAs (MUFA=monounsaturated fats) and PUFAs (PUFA=polyunsaturated fats) are good for you! When in oil form, these are liquid at room temperature. I suggest eating nuts, olives, or avocados for example. Get a minimum of 10% of your daily calories from these good unsaturated fats.
- Eggs are a great example but be careful, it’s very easy to exceed 5% of your calories from saturated fat if you eat eggs and you will most likely be limited to a few a day with the 5% max recommendation. If you are using eggs as a protein source, you will need to use egg whites and not whole eggs.
- Cheat Meals What’s left after you have had all the good food you need as an athlete is available for your cheat meals! Good news, bad news. If you are bulking or at any caloric surplus over your TDEE then you will have a fair amount of discretionary calories for your cheat meals. A beer, a piece of cake, a Chocolate bar. All fine if they fit in your daily nutritional budget. You will find that if you are cutting that you have very little leeway nutritionally after you have satisfied all your nutritional needs. In this example where we are at a 20% caloric deficit for cutting, our “cheat meal” is a pathetic half a bar of chocolate! That’s why they call it a budget, you have to make tough choices. What’s more important to you, Cake or abs?
So you get the idea. Rather than having a snickers bar for a snack (empty calories), choose instead an apple (fibre and vitamins) and a hand full of nuts (good fats). Nutrition is about making small choices, this versus that, and they all add up. Still not sure where to start? Feel free to get in touch I can help you get started!
What about snacks?
So what is a good snack? You can figure it out yourself, its anything that fits within your daily nutritional plan! Your plan shows how many grams of carbohydrates, how many grams of fat, and how many grams of protein you can have each day. If your snacks don’t cause you to exceed any of those numbers, then they are excellent snacks! It’s that simple!
Contact me if you need more information or help with food prep and IIFYM (If it fits your macros) Plans.
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