Basic Nutrition 101
Pre-warning – I can be a bit brutally honest when it comes to food, don’t take offence. Honesty is the best policy.
A mistake that I made myself for many years when I was trying to lose body fat from my physique was that I’d be perfect through the week, train resistance and include intervals at the end of my session as to cover weight resistance and cardiovascular training.
I was working as hard as my body would allow but nothing was changing. Was I over training? Should I cut out carbs? Does fasting work? Did I have bad genetics? Was my body temperature/thyroid letting me down?
No. My calorie intake was.
My issue was that id worked hard all week and deprived myself of treats. I’d get to the weekend and knock in a Domino’s or some other form of cheat food and why lie, id more than likely add some chocolate and milkshake.
Without getting to technical about things for the simplicity of this post. 1LB of fat is 3500 calories (can create a potential reduction via daily calories and exercise). Which I would suggest is a sustainable weekly deficit.
So, in one meal I’ve consumed more calories than I’ve output that week and lost my calorie deficit and will more than likely gained body fat that week, especially if carried on.
A few tips I’ve picked up along the way
1. Your calorie goal is 7 days per week- this includes food and drink. (Alcohol isn’t calorie free) so for example, your calorie goal is 2000 Cals per day and you’re going for a meal later.
Fine, most restaurants can tell you the calories of their meals. Call ahead, divide that between 7 days and compensate.
If that seems like too much effort, then your goal can’t be that important to you, you can treat yourself. You just need to be within the calories.
2. For body fat loss, if you stay within your calories, you can treat yourself.
So, if you feel like eating chocolate on a Wednesday afternoon, then do it. Depriving yourself or rewarding yourself with food creates an unhealthy relationship and promotes overeating.
This allows you to enjoy food, if you starve yourself of ‘bad food’ then you’ll crave it, this often leads to a reward relationship with food and usually ends with a binge or a blowout, which is fine every now and again. (Every weekend isn’t now and again).
3. Don’t diet, Enjoy- Too many ‘diets’ are made up with chicken and broccoli, are you a competitive athlete? Fair enough, go for it.
Are you just trying to reduce your body fat? Then make sure you are eating the foods you enjoy, making sure you track the calories. It’s a calorie deficit that we are trying to achieve.
By eating the foods, you enjoy, it becomes a lifestyle change not a diet.
Aim to eat foods that are better for you 95% of the time, we need to keep protein, fiber, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals within out diet.
Make it sustainable, picture that I write you a week of food, it contains chicken and veg. I tell you to eat that for the rest of your life. You’ll tell me to jog on (polite version).
You need to enjoy your diet, or quite simply, you’ll not stick too it. Its about enjoying food, exercise and life and removing the pressures of food.
4. There’s a difference between the foods you eat- if you’d like to eat 4 bags of Maltesers (nom) and nothing else that day to stay within your calories, then carry on, you’ll still lose body fat.
The downside is, you’ll feel sluggish, tired and lethargic. The foods we eat matter and have a direct relation to our performance. So, treat yourselves. But try to eat for function, not flavor.
5. Eating too little- Everyone is different, some of us require a lower or higher level of calories than others, however, reducing your calories too low can not only damage your metabolism, but can also derail your fat loss. You’d not put £10 in your car for a £20 journey. You’ll run out of fuel.
What eating too little will do to you, takes a long time to come back from. For example, some companies (Juice plus, Cambridge diet, Herbalife to name a few) drop the calories down to 1000 and below, some use shakes, some use whole food, the principle is the same.
If you eat/drink 600-1000 calories for a period of time, OF COURSE you will lose body fat, you will also lose muscle tissue, your breath with smell you’ll look gaunt and feel tired. Getting headaches? (If this sounds familiar, get in touch with me ASAP).
But hey, 6 weeks have gone by and you’ve dropped 20Lbs and bought a new wardrobe.
Here’s the bad news, what you have done is adjusted your bodies calorie maintenance level to 600-1000 calories.
So, when you return to normal eating, and you will, as you’ll either not be able to afford the shakes or your doctor/body. will make you to stop (normal daily calories is around 2500Kcal GDA for an average male) you’re now in a 1500 calorie surplus.
What happens? You’ll put the majority back on, and often a few extra. Where do you go? Straight back to the people that sold you this lie in the first place; this is how they make money. They don’t care about the consumer, what’s worse, when they are held accountable, they blame you. Its madness.
6. Its all about quality of life, enjoying the food you eat. Do you spend too much time thinking about food, what you can eat, what you can’t, feeling guilty for the tiny square of chocolate?
STOP, enjoy food, it’s all about balance. So how do you work out that balance? Like I said, We’re all different. You will have 3 levels of calories, and for simplicity, I’ll use myself for example based on my goal at the time. I call this;
The rule of three-
Bodyfat loss (calorie deficit) – 2500Kcal and below.
Stay as I am (calorie maintenance) – 3400Kcal
Strength and muscle gain (calorie surplus) – 6000Kcal +
How do you work this out? Well, you can ask me, and ill do it for you.
You can also use online calculators that can be very accurate, one of the best I’ve found is www.iifym.com (don’t pay them anything, their free service works just fine)
When you have an idea of your suggested calorie intake, you then begin to track your calories. (I know what your thinking, it’s not fun).
You can use my fitness pal (downloadable from your relevant app store, again the free version is fine).
Put in EVERYTHING you eat and drink, even the cheeky biscuit at work. You may surprise yourself. Also ignore or change the calories that my fitness pal suggests for you. This is often too low and not bespoke.
Make sure what your typing into your app is to the gram, for maximal benefit.
If your thinking it sounds a bit of a nightmare, at first, it is. When you get into the routine of it, it gets easier – when you see the results. You can bet it gets easier and trust me, you’ll be happier... Or just starve yourself and be miserable. Your call.
The important thing to note is that everybody’s calories are different, we all have different jobs, some expend more calories than others daily, some people have more muscle tissue and burn more, so we all have different levels when it comes to the rule of three.
7. SCALES MEAN NOTHING TO YOU - sorry. That was a bit harsh. But really they don’t, if your GP wants your weight, great. Use them.
In my case, need to use a weight restricted elevator? Fine again
Other than that.
If you lose a pound of fat, and gain a pound of muscle, you’ll look and feel better, be stronger and have more energy. The scale will tell you that you weigh the same. This is a mental trap which often leaves you demoralised.
Ditch the scales - use measurements, body fat calipers (not electric scales) and pictures. Same room, same lightning, same underwear every two weeks. This way you’ll be able to see changes via the proper statistics. When you have a bad day (we all do) you can look back and see how far you’ve come.
Also, unfortunately. You can’t spot reduce where you lose body fat. So if your going mad on sit ups and triceps exercises to get rid of your ‘bingo wings’ or ‘spare tyre’ it won’t do anything to hit that area. An overall reduction of calories and body fat will target those areas. Annoyingly, you’ll probably find it’s the last places to go.
You also need to remain active outside of the gym. We have something called NEAT - non exercise activity thermogenesis. If you’ve been to the gym that day, you feel good, so you decide to take the elevator instead of the stairs. These small choices outside of the gym stack up, and we expend less calories throughout the day. Always chose moving more over moving less.
If you need help working out how many calories you should be on, how to track them and ultimately lose body fat.
Then please get in touch for a free consultation. I have touched somewhat briefly here on a few different aspects and factors relating to nutrition, mental health and well-being. These subjects will be covered individually over the coming weeks.
Am I a registered dietitian/nutritionist? No. Have I done a few courses in nutrition? Yes.
In fact, what I have that’s most valuable, is personal experience gained through making mistakes and correcting them through trial and error.
Ps. I don’t do food plans- however I do educate you on how to manage nutrition yourself, so you’ll never need one.