Today I’d like to talk to you about nutrition, but first I want to be very clear in stating that I am not a doctor of any kind. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a dietitian. I am not certified to make a plan for you. I am just going to share with you what information I have gathered over the past twenty years of enthusiastically trying to figure this all out in my spare time (I should have a nutrition certification, but I don’t) and I’m going to share with you the approach to nutrition that I will be taking during our National Nutrition Month Challenge!
I strongly encourage you to fact check me and do your own research before simply subscribing to my plan and what I’ll be doing. 🙂
Ah, those PESKY calories. . .
Bottom line is that weight loss, or fat loss which is the better way to put it, is calories in versus calories out – it’s just a matter of how we approach that. The mindset that accompanies your caloric intake is where you get those calories from – You can set your calories at 2,000 a day and get those calories from a nutritionally balanced diet, or you can get those calories from Oreo cookies. What do you think is better?
Take a look at the Nutrition Facts on a box of Oreo’s:
Now that you’ve had a minute to let that sink in, let’s do the math here: a serving size is 2 cookies, which equals 140 calories. (Remember, right now we are simply discussing calories in versus calories out). There’s 15 servings in this container. That’s 2,100 calories total. Now, I don’t know about you, but it would be extremely easy for me to sit down and eat this whole entire box. That’s slightly more than my daily calorie intake (if I’m aiming at 2,000 calories per day). Let’s say I sat down at 1 in the afternoon to watch some Netflix and ate this whole box of Oreo’s. I’m already at my caloric intake limit. Especially since I most likely had at least one BIG cup of coffee when I got up and probably already ate breakfast, and possibly lunch.
Satiety is important. If you aren’t satiated from your meals, it’s going to be pretty impossible to stick to your calorie limits, right? Also – if you only eat Oreo’s, you’re going to be significantly deficient in several areas! If you’re intending to do any kind of exercise regimen while trying to lose weight (fat), you’re going to want proper, balanced nutrition in order to perform your best during your workouts.
That’s the hardest part, in my opinion. So my theory is that as an absolute beginner, just focus on calories in/calories out. That’s tricky enough.
Calories In: A good place to start is to track everything you eat, and that includes portions, and being honest about what you eat and what those portions are. Lying to yourself doesn’t help, right? It’s important to be diligent about tracking and weighing or measuring everything because there is a ton of leeway on what a company can claim for amounts in the nutrition facts. (But don’t let that discourage you! Just take the amounts listed at face value and go off of that, just be accurate with your weights and measures, unless you have a scientist kitchen.)
Calories Out: How do we know this? Well – My best suggestion is to use something like a FitBit or your smart watch. Even the Walmart store has a cheap little version that will track your activity and the related caloric expenditure.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE): Okay. Now we are going to start to add facets to our calorie endeavor. I have talked about TDEE a little bit before. (I’m not going to link those posts because while some of it is good information, some of it I don’t agree with anymore. I’m not taking anything down because I want to show growth, transparency, et cetera. . . So I’ll just reteach the good information.) There are many calculators out there, but right now I invite you to go to https://tdeecalculator.net/. Here they are going to do the math for you and use several factors to determine what your baseline caloric usage is each day. Mine looks like this:
Okay – this is the first half of the information generated, but it’s already a lot to digest – so let’s break that down and then I’ll get into the second half (macros) later.
First of all – I don’t have a way to calculate my body fat percentage, and as much as I honestly don’t want to know that, I probably should figure that out at some point; but I left that blank because I truly don’t know what it is. I’m not too sure how that affects the rest of these results or what other information we would see. If you do have a way to measure that, add it in and see what’s different!
Next – we see the Maintenance Calories broken down by day and week. Let’s look at day first – because this will be the most simple. What this is saying is that for me, personally, to stay at this same body weight and not gain or lose, I need to consume 2,675 calories per day. Easy enough. There’s not much a person has to do to maintain a body weight if they are not very physically active and are not some sort of athlete or towards the end of a fat-loss/weight-loss journey.
Then we see ideal weight and BMI. Oi. . . okay. Right there in the description of ideal weight it states that these are not to be taken too seriously especially if you lift weights; and while I definitely am on the obese end of the BMI scale – I was obese when I weighed 170 pounds because I have giant boobs and muscular legs. So I definitely see a flaw there. That being said, these are both good tools. They give us a goal to reach towards. I personally think that 170 pounds is a really good weight for me, especially if I am lifting weights regularly and working on building muscle mass.
Alright! Now that we have looked at all the information provided regarding where we are at with our maintenance calories, it’s time to determine how to safely operate in a deficit.
Losing a pound a week is a good goal, I personally believe, because the caloric deficit you will have to live in in order to lose more than that is unsafe! You need to be able to function throughout the day as well as have enough energy to make it through your workouts and for your hormones and organs to function properly.
A pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories. Basically. What’s the simple math on that if we are aiming to lose one pound a week? 3,500 (calories) divided by 7 (days) = 500 calories per day. So if I’m applying that deficit to my maintenance calories that is 2,675 (maintenance calories) minus 500 (calories) = 2,175 calories to function in a deficit.
What does that all mean?
That means that if I keep my activity level the same (which for me I probably will since I already go to the gym almost every day, and that was factored in when calculating my TDEE) I will be spending 2,675 calories by just living, breathing, and going to the gym and everything else I do in my daily life. I will be taking back in 2,175 calories by fueling my body. The ONLY way I am getting those calories back in is by what I am putting in my mouth – food or drink. Rubbing coconut oil on your skin does not add to your calorie intake. It just doesn’t. You don’t metabolize that way. You’re not an amoeba.
NOW – to maybe kick that up a notch, or personally, I think it’s easier – especially when factoring in weekend diets and how they derail all of your hard work, is to, yes, pay attention daily, but focus on what you’re taking in in a week. That number for me was 18,722 in maintenance calories, so subtract the full 3,500 calories from that and I’m looking at 15,222 calories. Okay cool. Why does this help? Because on Tuesday at the office there is birthday cake, and you can bet your bippy I’m not going to be torturing myself while everyone else eats cake and I have carrots. I’m going to have cake. Well, that sky rockets my calories for the day. Instead of giving up on my “diet” because I’ve “messed up”, ultimately I can make up for it by eating veggies instead of pasta at dinner on Friday. On the flip side Monday and Wednesday maybe I want to lift a lot more, or run longer at the gym. Most likely on Tuesday and Thursday I’m going to be super hungry in response to that, so those days I’ll eat a few more calories, but maybe I don’t have time to hit the gym on Saturday at all, I’m not spending as many calories and I’m likely going to be able to make the choice to eat less, calorically, because I won’t be as hungry.
Any questions so far? Have I lost you? Comment your questions below.
WTF is a Macros?
Okay – we are not plants, so what do we take from this definition? A type of food required in large amounts in the diet. Fat. Protein. Carbohydrate.
Fat, protein, carbohydrate. The big three. Ultimately these are the most important focus when talking about balanced nutrition. We were taught in school an antiquated food pyramid that put fats in a tiny little spot at the top and cascaded down from there, over the years things like fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy changed places in amounts and priority.
The truth of the matter is that if you can just balance those macros, you’re doing good. Marcos are especially important if you’re on a specific diet or targeting something. For example, the Keto diet macros are heavy on fat, medium on protein, and light on carbohydrate. I’m not going to go into specifics of Keto here, because that’s not what we are talking about today and it’s not an area I feel well versed enough in to educate someone else.
Referring back to our TDEE calculator, the second half of the page gives you a Macro Breakdown Chart. Mine is as follows:
Here you see three different options in each category for how to map out your daily Macros: maintenance, cutting, and bulking.
Macros can be really confusing when you start out so I really love that this site breaks down what you specifically need for each, depending on what you are trying to do and what sort of diet you are focusing on.
I personally feel that these charts take all the guess work out of what you need for your Macros without much explanation, if you disagree and/or still have questions please PLEASE comment below so we can talk about them as a group!
Before we move on, I would like to address some very basic information that is important to keep in mind when considering macros.
Protein – it’s very hard to store protein as fat; therefore you feel fuller for longer if you get a good source of protein with each meal. This is why a high protein diet is touted so often. It took me years of research to realize and understand the actual why when discussing high protein. Remember protein does NOT necessarily mean meat. Meat is a complete source of Amino Acids and that’s why everyone immediately thinks “meat”, but there are many many sources of protein found outside of meat, a lot of the time those sources are also less calorically dense. Again, try to get some protein in with every meal and snack. This will help with energy and satiety.
(Dietary) Fat – Fat in terms of Macros is not the same thing as the fat (adipose tissue) stored inside your body. Dietary fat does not store in your body as adipose tissue. Dietary fat is what helps you process hormones and regulate bodily function. You need dietary fat. Low fat and non-fat options are okay as long as you don’t completely eliminate fat from your diet! Yes, go for the low-fat sour cream if you want, but put some olive oil on your salad! Just keep in mind what the calories are when you do this. Your dietary fats will always be the most calorically dense foods.
Carbohydrates – You can use things such as the fore mentioned Oreo Cookies for your carbs, but if you instead use whole grains, oats, sweet potatoes, et cetera, you will, again, feel more satiated and benefit from micro-nutrients and fiber. Carbohydrates are what your body stores as adipose tissue after they are converted to sugars. Do not take this to mean carbohydrates are bad, because this is your primary energy source as well. Fibrous vegetables are also a carbohydrate. Fiber is important for your gut health – your body doesn’t actually use fiber, but your gut flora flourishes with fiber. Sugars effectively poison your gut flora, fiber combats that. Tip: If you over do it on sugars don’t beat yourself up! Just eat a healthy serving of oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow!
Another thing I do at almost every meal, to fill me up and guarantee some micro-nutrients, is put a big handful of spinach on whatever I’m eating.
Remember that your calories have to also factor into this! Keep your Macros and calories in check and you’ll be just fine!
In a future post we will discuss more in depth about Macro-nutrients and Micro-nutrients, and what to do next, but this post is already getting long, I have much more to discuss, and I don’t want to overwhelm you!
I probably have this much information for you again in the next post, I’ll put some effort in this weekend to get really concise with it and get it out to you soon!
Thank you for being so patient in waiting for this post! Like I said before, if any of this confuses you, or you have questions, let me know below so I can address it in an upcoming post!