In the first installment of this series I went over the math of calories and macronutrients. (If you missed it, you can read it here: Eating Healthy vs. Eating Fit – part one). Granted, its not stuff we want to think about when we’re about to chow down on a tasty meal, but it is crucial to have a handle on it if you want a healthier and more fit lifestyle. You need to work the macro numbers in some way, at least for a short time to learn how to do it, to make it beneficial to you.
Some of you may view decreasing carbs as a punishment for weight loss. Others see increasing their total calories as an annoying chore for putting on more muscle. And another bunch of you groan that just eating enough balanced meals per day are a nuisance to your already busy schedule. Believe me, I get it because I have done all of those. But I’m here to tell you the truth. So, you can either whine and complain and make excuses as to why you can’t use a little brain power and effort to plan your foods out according to your needs………or you can put your big boy/big girl pants on and take action. Weeks, months and another year will pass regardless of what you think. You might as well take control of your diet in that time and mold yourself into what you want to become.
I understand that it’s a whole lot easier to count calories with processed foods that have the nutritional information on the packaging; as opposed to whole natural foods that are bought most of the time with very little information on the label, if any. We all strive, or at least know we should, include more natural foods into our daily nutrition, but even then it can be difficult to know how much to eat of any particular food.
Let’s go over what some healthy, natural foods may look like with their caloric/macro measurements. Listed are several foods with a sample serving size measurement, and their corresponding grams of fats, carbs and proteins:
Salmon, 4 oz, uncooked: F: 14.6 g C: 0g P: 22.5g
Chicken breast, 4oz uncooked F: 4g C: 0g P: 34.7g
Tuna, 5oz, solid white, canned F: 2.5g C:0g P: 40g
Steak, 4 oz sirloin, broiled F: 15.7 g C: 0g P: 30.2g
One whole egg, large F: 4.8g C: 0.4g P: 6g
Egg white, from large egg F: 0.1g C: 0.2g P: 3.6g
Greek yogurt, non-fat, 4 oz F: 0.4g C: 3.6g P: 11.2 g
Butter, 1 tablespoon/14g F: 12g C: 0g P: 0.1g
Olive oil, 1 tablespoon F: 14g C: 0g P: 0g
Avocado, 2oz F: 8.4g C: 5g P: 1.1g
Milk, 2% reduced fat, 8 oz F: 5g C: 12g P: 8g
Oats, 2oz uncooked F: 3.9g C: 37g P: 9.5g
Kidney beans, 2oz raw F: 0.5g C: 33.6g P: 13.5g
Lentils, 4oz, boiled F: 0.4g C: 22.4g P: 10g
Brown rice, 100g (3.5 oz), cooked F: 0.8g C: 24g P: 2.3g
Quinoa, 100g (3.5 oz), cooked F: 1.9g C: 21.3g P: 4.4g
Bread, 2 slices
White F: 1.5g C: 24g P: 4.5g
Wheat F: 2g C: 26g P: 6g
Multigrain F: 3.5g C: 36g P: 10g
Peanuts, 1 oz/28 whole pcs F: 14g C: 4.6g P: 7g
Almonds, 1oz/23 whole pcs F: 14g C: 6g P: 6g
Cashews, 1oz/16 whole pcs F:12g C: 9g P: 5g
Veggies, 4 oz servings:
Sweet potato F: 0.1g C: 22.4g P: 1.8g
White potato F: 0.1g C: 19g P: 2.2g
Broccoli F: 0.4g C: 7.8g P: 3g
Zucchini F: 0.3g C: 3.5g P: 1.3g
Asparagus F: 0.1g C: 4.4g P: 2.5g
Brussel sprouts F: 0.3g C: 10g P: 3.8g
Apple, medium 3” diameter F: 0.3g C: 25g P: 0.5g
Banana, medium, 7” long F: 0.4g C: 27g P: 1.3g
Strawberries,1 cup (152g) of halves F: 0.5g C: 12g P: 1g
Orange, large, 3” diameter F: 0.2g C: 22g P: 1.7g
As you can see, some of your favorite foods may be higher in fats and carbs, or lower in protein than you are aware of. This doesn’t mean any of them are “bad” or “good” by themselves. One isolated food or meal by itself won’t wreck your nutrition for one day (unless it’s fast food, then you just might as well go paleo for the next two days to burn that crap off!). What counts is the total amount of calories that you consume in a whole day, and the proportions of the macros that will determine which foods you may need to moderate in eating.
Here’s a cool diagram to show how foods line up with their macro proportions:
In the blue section are foods are almost pure protein, in the yellow are high in fats, and the red section are high in carbs. Since blue and yellow mix to make green, the green area shows foods that are higher in proteins and fats. Yellow and red make orange, so that area shows high fats and carbs. Blue and red combine to make purple, so foods high in protein and carbs are in that section. The black area in the middle are foods that have moderate percentages of all three macros
As stated in part one, each macro has a specific function for the body:
-Carbs are necessary to be converted into the basic sugar known as glycogen to provide that energy to your working parts.
-Proteins (amino acids) are the ‘building blocks’ in the production of ‘new’ proteins for growth and repair of tissues, essential hormones and enzymes and supporting immune function.
-Fats supply fatty acids that the body needs but cannot make, assist with absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids, and are essential for hormone production.
And keep this in mind – your body only stores fats and carbs, but does not store protein. It breaks protein down to the amino acids, takes what it needs to rebuild, and pushes the rest out. Many weight-loss hopefuls and fanatics for a ripped six pack make the mistake of eating too much protein, and not enough carbs. When that happens, the protein is broken down for energy because there aren’t enough carbs to make glycogen. This is known as gluconeogenesis. When the aminos are broken down, nitrates are released and makes your system more acidic. All those extra nitrates in your system explains why protein farts smell so bad. Yeah, some of you have ripped a few of those……admit it!
When the carbs are converted to glycogen, it is then stored in the muscles and the liver. But if you consume more carbs than your body needs, the excess is then converted to fat. And that’s how too many carbs make your tummy get bigger.
With all this in mind, I have a few suggestions on some ways you can take control of your nutrition:
-Strategically plan which higher fats and carbs to eat on a particular day. Avoid eating multiple combinations of good fats like fatty animal meats (beef, salmon, pork), nuts, avocado, oils and dairy in the same day. Likewise, don’t serve multiple high carb foods in the same meal. It may not be a good idea for you to have the pasta with bread, or rice with the beans (I know I just made enemies of the Italians and Hispanics saying that). Or even……..wait for it…………..That smoothie with 3-4 different fruits in it, and/or oats, and/or honey. Even though there’s just a little bit of spinach and kale in there, that one little smoothie winds up being the source of one-third of the carbs you need for the whole day. Know thy carbs!
-If you’re aiming to lose weight, then limit your higher carb foods in the evening. You need to digest your food at least 2-3 hours before going to bed. Unless you regularly go for a workout between dinner and bedtime, its likely you will be sedentary in the evening. You don’t want unused carbs in your body before your metabolism slows down during your sleep mode. Those carbs then get converted to fat.
-Cut yourself some slack. If you’ve been obsessing about cheesecake for the last few days, then eat the damn cheesecake. Savor each bite and reset the next day. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re depriving yourself of a treat. Deprivation is no way to maintain nutrition. Human Nature 101 tells us that we want what we cannot have. The moment you tell yourself that you “shouldn’t” eat a particular good, that’s when you want it the most. It’s the forbidden fruit, almost quite literally. You should also be aware that the first three letters of “diet” spell DIE.
HOWEVER, if you are working towards weight loss then don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of “accidental” snacks. You know when you plan to have to steadfast, disciplined day and then you walk into the office and some demon at work left an open box of Krispy Kremes for everyone to enjoy?
Walk away from the donuts. Be diligent that day. Or, as I stated above, obsess about it for another 2 days, then have one, but make sure you hit 15-20 sets of leg exercises after.
Relax, I was just kidding.
Or actually, I’m not. Until you’re in a maintenance or bodybuilding mode of working out, earn that donut!
I do want to leave you with this thought: Food is crucial to life. You should not feel bad for wanting to eat, as you shouldn’t feel bad for wanting to breathe because your body needs oxygen. Both are necessary to keep you alive. Eating is good, it’s natural, it’s fun, it’s a staple of culture and ethnicity, a common thread of social gatherings, and for crying out loud – you were born with taste buds – so why deprive them?
However, take a balanced approach of using food to fuel your body properly. Some of you may have to eat a little less, and some of you a little more. But view food food as fuel for your developing muscles and to sustain all your lean tissue. Not as a chore, a punishment, or a nuisance. Because you can’t and never will “out-exercise” poor nutrition, and you can’t ever use enough supplements to fix an unbalanced diet. To clarify – when I say diet, I mean it in the most general sense as it was intended: the regular and daily intake of food to sustain your health. Not as a weirdo fad food plan, a cleanse, or avoiding to eat.
Now you’re probably thinking ”so how do I make this work for me?” or “how many calories and macros am I supposed to be having?” So if you’ve come along this far, then hang in there for just a little bit more. In the next and final installment of this series I will show you suggestions for different daily macro ratios to adhere to according to your fitness goals and activity levels. This is where the rubber meets the road.