Nutrition is important regardless of a person’s goal. How important it is depends on the specific goals. Now that might seem odd to you, but understand different goals require a lesser or greater focus on specific areas of health and fitness. For example, if you are going to be a runner, you don’t necessarily need to engage in resistance training, but resistance training can help your running progress.
A few general ideas
As applied to nutrition and exercise in relative terms, you might be well-served to think like this:
- For general weight loss: nutrition, specifically calorie control, is more important than activity, but activity helps
- For fat loss: nutrition and resistance exercise are equally important, cardio is not necessary (though it can be helpful)
- For muscle gain: nutrition and resistance exercise are equally important
- For general health: nutrition and activity, though not necessarily exercise, are equally important
- For general performance improvement: proper training slightly edges out nutrition
- For strength-based performance: proper training edges out nutrition
- For general cardio performance: nutrition and exercise are equal
- For high-level cardio performance: nutrition and exercise are equal
Through blogs, social media posts, and our newsletter, we made it clear that you must reconcile the fact that exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand. If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter (especially Facebook), you know we post regularly about nutrition. This routine sharing of nutrition related topics through social media reflects the importance we place on food. If it were not important, we would not focus on it.
So why are you still eating poorly? Do you think you’re not? Maybe you’re right. However, if you are not at the body weight you want to be, body fat you want to be, or are otherwise not at your physical goal, whether visual or performance based, then there is a good possibility you are eating poorly or at least not eating well enough.
So why are you still eating poorly? If you are working on it, then good, keep going—you’ll get there if you keep trying. However, if you are not working at it, are working on it but not reaching your goal, or think you have it “figured out” but are not achieving your goal, then why are you still eating poorly? This question can be hard to answer, and some people do not realize they are eating poorly, or at least not how poorly they are eating.
Determining Calorie and Macronutrient Need
The following is a quick overview and does not include everything you need to know. However, it offers a starting point for you to become more informed and control your calories and macronutrients.
Some months ago, across a series of emails, we covered the importance of determining and meeting individual calorie and macronutrient needs. We want to revisit that again. Everyone knows what a calorie is, but not everyone understands what a macronutrient is.
Macronutrients are the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in food. The body needs each of these elements to operate properly. For example, proteins are the building blocks of soft tissue, carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for the body, and fats insulate cells. Each macronutrient performs more than these single functions in the body, but to detail each area would go beyond the scope of what you need to understand at this time—just know that you need all the macronutrients daily.
Determining Caloric Need
Determining caloric need is an important part of any nutritional strategy. Eating healthy foods is not enough, though it is certainly a good start. Calories in versus calories out is a theory that has come under fire in recent years but still holds weight. This theory states, quite simply:
- More calories consumed than burned equals weight gain
- Fewer calories consumed than burned equals weight loss
- Equal calories consumed and burned equals weight maintenance
This idea is simplified, of course, as the type of calories consumed and burned is important as well. However, the calories in versus calories out theory is a starting point. Now there are different ways to determine daily caloric need. Different organizations and individuals have their methods. This idea applies to Nathan DeMetz Personal Training as well.
We start with a base caloric intake of 10 calories per pound of body weight. We then adjust for a person’s body fat percentage. Finally, we adjust for an individual’s activity level. For example, if a man or woman weighs 150 pounds, we assign him or her a base caloric intake of 1500 calories. If this person has a body fat percentage over 15 but less than 30, we reduce the number of calories by 10 percent. Also, if this person is marginally active through most of his or her day but works out a few times a week for an hour per session with moderate intensity, we would increase the number by up to 25 percent. This process leaves the 150-pound person with a calorie intake of up to 1688 per day. This figure is a starting point, and we would adjust as needed since the process, and any assessment process, is imperfect at best.
Understand that this is just an example. A person’s individual weight, body fat percentage, and activity level must be accounted for individually when assessing caloric need. There is no one size fits all approach. However, if you would like to try to apply this to yourself, simply start with 10 calories per pound of weight. For example, if you are 200 pounds then begin with 2,000 calories; if you are 150 pounds start with 1,500 calories. Try this for 2-4 weeks to see how you feel then assess if you need to make changes.
Determining Macronutrient Need
Determining macronutrient intake depends largely on a person’s goals and overall caloric intake. However, we must still consider other variables, such as medical conditions. This process can only be completed by looking at a person’s unique situation (you see how that keeps coming back). However, there are a few key points to bear in mind in most situations:
- Fat intake should be lower than carbohydrate or protein intake
- Carbohydrate intake should be higher than protein or fat intake
- Protein intake should equal at least 1 gram per pound of lean body mass
The macronutrient splits might look like this
Fat/Carbohydrate/Protein (percent from each)
In some cases, such as weight loss or bodybuilding, carbohydrate consumption may be lower and protein intake higher. For example:
Fat/Carbohydrate/Protein (percent from each)
The preceding are splits we used at Nathan DeMetz Personal Training, both for clients and ourselves. Since you likely do not know how to determine macronutrient need, you probably need a suggestion on what split to start with. Try the fat/carbohydrate/protein split of 25/50/25 for 4-8 weeks and then change to one of the other provided splits if needed.
Foods to Eat
At Nathan DeMetz Personal Training we talk about caloric intake and macronutrient balance quite a bit. However, it is necessary not to lose sight of the importance of food choices. While a person can, arguably, make positive changes to his or her body by eating any foods if the person meets his or her macros and calories, a person will have better results when he or she eats quality foods.
What foods should you eat? That’s a broad question with no specific answer, aside from stating you should consume lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains when possible. If you are a vegan, substitute the meats for plant-based proteins, making sure not to consume excessive amounts of fat or carbs in the process. If you have food allergies, you will have to adjust based on the allergy.
Quality foods are micronutrient dense substances that come from natural sources and are unprocessed or minimally processed. Fresh lean meats, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains are good examples. These foods generally have higher amounts of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients) and fewer additives, than their less healthy, highly processed counterparts.
We do not subscribe to the idea that you can never have fatty foods or eat out. It is okay to have a fat burger, French fries, ice cream, or other mouthwatering delicacies (okay, maybe they’re not delicacies, but they sure do taste good). Instead, we are noting that most of the time you should eat quality food sources and keep the lower quality options to a few meals per week.
Meal Prep Can be an Intimidating Task for Many People
Meal time can be a source of annoyance and/or intimidation for many people, especially those folks who are trying to eat a proper diet. Some people feel they do not have the time to cook a nutritious meal, that cooking a nutritious meal is hard, or both. These folks are wrong.
A nutritious meal is not hard to make. Lean protein foods, quality carbohydrate sources, items rich in healthy fats, and nutrient rich vegetables/fruits are the edible items a person needs. You can find all these food sources at Meijer, Martin’s, Kroger’s, Walmart, Sav-a-Lot, and other grocery stores.
Beans, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products can all be good sources of protein. Brown rice, whole grain or multi-grain breads, and beans can be good carbohydrate sources. Nuts, beans, and lean meats can be good sources of healthy fats. Corn, broccoli, and bananas can be good fruit and vegetable sources. You can go out today and pick these items up.
While cooking can pose a time problem for some people, a quick and easy way to fix it and forget when it comes to meals is to use a pressure cooker or slow cooker. For example, if you throw four servings of beans, four servings of rice, four servings of ground beef, a large tomato, an onion, a large bell pepper, and some salt and pepper into a pressure cooker with 3-4 cups of water, you can hit the beans option, set the pressure cooker for 45 minutes, and forget it. Prep should take you 15 minutes or less if you do it alone. You can then hit the showers, put clothes away, workout, or do any other task you need to do. Forty-five minutes later you have a pot of chili that serves four people. It is nutritious, rich in protein and carbs with moderate amounts of fat, and flavorful.
This process can be repeated for creating stews, steamed vegetables with meat, chicken and mashed potatoes, and a number of other dishes. A slow cooker can be used in much the same manner, although the cook time will be longer. The type of slow cooker or pressure cooker does not matter, the result is the same, although some variances in time and capacity will occur. You simply need to familiarize yourself with the specifications for the given device. And do not think that a pressure cooker or slow cooker is expensive. You can buy a good one for under $100.00, but they will last for years. Clearly, you can cook items on the stove or in the oven as well and still make meals in a time-friendly manner.
Comprehensive Nutritional Spreadsheets
Nutritional tracking is a necessary part of the health and fitness process. Yes, you can refrain from tracking and have results, but those results may be less than ideal. Even worse, you may not have an accurate idea of what you did to get where you are, which can affect the way you adjust moving forward.
Much like knowing the workouts you previously completed helps you adjust and continue moving forward in a progressive manner, and moving closer to your goals, so does a nutritional record provide a rearview image of your eating habits and allow you to ascertain the positives and negatives therein.
To this end we have clients use MyFitnessPal in conjunction with our training app to track their nutritional information. This step is a great start. It helps people gain insight into their eating habits and helps us make suggestions. From this record, we can create nutritional recommendations or specific nutritional strategies. However, tracking can prove time-consuming and annoying.
In the end, the goal we have for all our clients is for them to have a comprehensive nutritional spreadsheet or a “cheat sheet” to use as a guideline and to not need to use tracking programs (for the record, this does not work for workouts—you can ask us why). For example, we do not track our nutrition with a program or written record; we use a cheat sheet. This sheet can be adjusted as your needs change.
The cheat sheet of which we speak is just an Excel spreadsheet printed out and placed on the fridge. It considers our macronutrient and calorie need and how much we should consume at each meal (i.e. how many carbs, etc.) All we do is look at the sheet, select foods that meet the numbers, and make a meal.
This cheat sheet is our end goal for all our clients—it makes the process easier. If you are a client, we’ve likely talked with you about this. If not, let us know, and we can discuss it with you. If you are a subscriber only and are curious about the cheat sheet, shoot us an email—we can send you an example.
More content related to nutrition can be found on our social media profiles, other newsletters/blogs, and our YouTube channel. To review our playlist titled “Simple nutrition information,” visit this link https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLrLOVjuleNFqvlb5fMyas46imt3m31J01. For other content, such as weekly recipe ideas, follow us on Nathan DeMetz Personal Training on Facebook or Instagram.
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, and the International Sports Sciences Association. Nathan has 17 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.
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