What is Nutrition?
Quite simply, nutrition is the food and nutrients we consume. Therefore, it is essential that we provide our bodies with the correct nutrition for optimal health and body composition. If you want to live longer, be fitter, leaner, faster, stronger and feel great then it is paramount that you have a basic understanding of nutrition and how you can utilize it to fit your goals and lifestyle.
What Foods Should I Eat?
The bulk of your diet should consist of whole, fresh, unprocessed foods which are high in vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre. Without these, our bodies wouldn’t be able to function optimally; it would increase the risk of illness as well as reducing performance both in and out of the gym. To determine what is considered a whole, unprocessed food you need to question each food you consume;
- How much processing has the food gone through to get where it is now? How far is it from its original state?
- Can you name every ingredient in the food? Or do you need to look at the packaging?
(Hint: Most unprocessed food doesn’t have packaging)
The best sources of unprocessed food are fruits, vegetables, pulses, lentils, fish and lean meats. These are all single ingredient foods that have gone through minimal processing and should make up the majority of your food intake. They will help to provide your body with all the nutrients you need.
What are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are the collective term for protein, carbohydrates and fat. We need a balance of all of these to obtain optimal health and performance as cutting any macronutrient completely (i.e low carb, low fat) increases your risk of further health issues. Whilst we need a balance, the amounts will differ depending on your age, gender, lifestyle and goals amongst others.
What is Protein?
Protein is often referred as the “building blocks” as the help facilitate the growth and repair of tissue in the body. Therefore it is particularly important for those who are participating in regular exercise and lead active lifestyles to have a sufficient protein intake as our bodies are being put under consistent strain.
|Good Sources of Protein|
|Non Veg Only||Veg and Non Veg|
· Protein Powder
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates often make up the bulk of peoples diets and are the bodies preferred source of energy for the brain, heart and central nervous system. Carbohydrates are found in many of the food we eat on a daily basis from fruits and vegetables to sweets and confectionary; however it is important to distinguish the difference between each. For example, fruits and vegetables contain relatively low carbohydrates per gram whilst offering plenty of nutrients and fibre whilst sugary foods such as sweets, biscuits and chocolate offer very little nutrition and aren’t beneficial for health or body composition. We need to make sure we are fueling are body with the right nutrients to maintain consist energy levels throughout the day.
|Good Sources of Carbohydrates|
· Green Beans
· Sweet Potato
· White Potato
· Brown Rice
· Basmati Rice
· Bulgur Wheat
What is Fat?
Contrary to popular belief fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat, in fact we need dietary fat to maintain vital bodily functions such as the regulation of hormones and the transport of fat soluble vitamins. However, we do need to consider portion control as fats, particularly oils and butters, are very calorie dense. Not a problem if you are looking to increase your weight but can be detrimental if you are looking to lose fat.
Similarly to carbohydrates fat can be both good and bad, it all depends on the type in question. Fats can be broken down into 3 main categories; saturated, mono unsaturated and poly unsaturated and it is advisable to get a combination of all 3 in your diet to reap the benefits of each.
|Good Sources of Fat|
|Saturated||Mono unsaturated||Poly unsaturated|
The fats that we do want to be avoiding are trans fats or hydrogenated fats. These fats have been highly processed taking them far from their original state, often to give them a longer shelf life. Trans fats are not beneficial for the body and have been linked to potential health risks including heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Fats such as soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, safflower oil and other processed vegetable oils are all highly processed and contain unhealthy balances of fat.
What are Essential Fatty Acids?
As I mentioned before, fats are important for optimal health and body composition, particularly essential fatty acids. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids must be obtained through diet as our bodies are unable to synthesize them. Ideally we want a ratio of anywhere from 4:1 to 1:1 or Omega 6 to Omega 3 respectively. Unfortunately, due to changes in food production and habits, this ratio has been skewed in favour of Omega 6, creating a deficiency in Omega 3. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to have many health benefits such as reduced inflammation, reduced triglycerides and blood pressure. Some good sources of Omega 3 to help increase your daily intake are oily fish such as salmon, Omega 3 enriched eggs and fish oil supplements.
What is Fibre?
Technically speaking fibre is a carbohydrate but as it serves slightly different functions to starches and sugars it deserves its own section. Due to the way fibre is bonded our bodies are unable to break them down in the digestive tract as we don’t possess the enzymes to do this. However, fibre can play an important role in digestive health by regulating bowel movements and maintaining a steady flow of nutrients through the digestive tract.
Fibre can be broken down into 2 main categories of which we want a good balance of both. Insoluble fibre makes stools heavier and speeds their passage through the intestines, maintaining regular bowel movements. Soluble fibre attracts water to form a gel to slow digestion and delay gastric emptying, This can help you to feel fuller for longer whilst and allow your body to absorb nutrients before they are passed. Ideally you should be aiming for at least 25g of fibre per day, up to 60g for those on higher food intakes.
|Sources of Fibre|
|· Most Dark Leafy Vegetables
· Whole Grains
· Whole Wheat
· Brown Rice
· Root vegetable skins
Meal frequency should fall in line with your lifestyle as well as used to maximize training performance. Your pre workout meal is arguably the most important meal of the day as the better your performance in the gym then the better your results. Try experimenting with different amount of foods at different times before a workout. You may feel you perform better having eaten an hour before, 2 hours before or even longer. This is completely individual and will take a degree of experimentation to find out what works best for you. For the rest of the day I recommend a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats (dependent on you total intake) every 3-5 hours.
Constructing a Diet
It is extremely difficult to give out generic plans as everyone has different body make ups and different lifestyles, it is a case of constant monitoring and tweaking based on your results. However, the below chart can give you a guide as to where you start your journey.
|Fat Loss||Muscle Gain|
|Calories||10 – 14 x bodyweight in lbs||16 – 20 x bodyweight in lbs|
|Protein (4 calories)||1 – 1.2g x bodyweight in lbs||1 – 1.2g x bodyweight in lbs|
|Fat (9 calories)||20-25% total calories / 9||20-30% total calories / 9|
|Carbohydrates (4 calories)||Fill remaining calories||Fill remaining calories|
As an example, let’s take the above calculations and apply them to a fairly active 170 lb man looking to lose some fat. Your activity level should determine total calories as a starting point, so for those who are active go for the top end, whilst those less active aim for the middle to bottom end.
|Fat Loss Calculations||Calories / Macronutrients|
|Calories||14 x bodyweight in lbs||2380|
|Protein (4 calories)||1.2 x bodyweight in lbs||204g|
|Fat (9 calories)||25% total calories / 9||66g|
|Carbohydrates (4 calories)||Fill remaining calories||242g|
From this starting point we should be looking to make adjustments based on our results. Here is an example of the results you should expect to see on a weekly basis.
|Fat Loss||Muscle Gain|
|Weight||Lose 1-2lbs||Gain 0.5-1lb|
As you can see, muscle gain is slightly slower than fat loss as our bodies only have a limited capacity to build new tissue. If you find you are increasing weight too quickly then it is advisable to reign in your calorie intake or get more active to reduce fat gain. Similarly when looking to lose fat, any more than 2 lb lost per week and you risk losing lean muscle which is not beneficial and you may need to increase calories slightly or reduce exercise volume to fall within the 1-2 lb per week range.