Nutrition 101

The point of last week’s article was that what you do outside the gym is even more important than what you do inside. This includes nutrition and recovery. Nutrition is a HUGE topic, and a small series of blog posts could never cover everything. There are general rules, and exceptions to every rule. The bottom line when it comes to nutrition is that everyone is different, and it must be taken on a case by case basis. In order to find what works best for you, you need to have an understanding of basic nutrition. This article is the first step in getting there. It covers basic terms, descriptions of the macronutrients, and so on. I hope you find it helpful, especially as a reference for future articles talking about nutritional strategies.

calorie (lower case c):

What is it?

  • A calorie is a unit of energy. More precisely, it represents the energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere.

Why do I need it?

  • See “Calorie”

Where do I get it?

  • See “Calorie”

How much do I need?

  • See “Calorie”

Calorie (capital C):

calorie

What is it?

  • Also called a Kilocalorie (kcal), these are the Calories referred to on Nutrition Fact labels
  • 1 Calorie is equal to 1000 calories
  • Like a calorie, a kcal is a unit of energy – specifically, the energy found in your food.

Why do I need it?

  • You need Calories to survive. Our bodies burn Calories to fuel all cellular functions that keep us alive.

Where do I get it?

  • Calories are found in all food

How much do I need?

  • This depends on your goals. For weight loss, you need to be in a caloric deficit. For weight gain, you need to be in a caloric surplus. To maintain, you need enough Calories to sustain your current bodyweight.
    • Caloric deficit – consuming fewer calories than you burn. This is necessary for weight loss.
    • Caloric surplus – consuming more calories than you burn. This is necessary for weight gain.

Weight

  • A measurement of mass, including lean body mass and fat mass
    • Geek speak: theforce that gravitation exerts upon a body, equal to themass of the body times the local acceleration of gravity:

Lean Body Mass

  • Mass including bone, body water, muscle mass, and organ mass

Fat Mass

  • Mass including adipose tissue (body fat) and intra-tissue fat deposits

Body Composition

  • Ratio of fat mass or lean body mass to total weight (e.g. 15% body fat)

Macronutrient:

What is it?

  • A type of nutrient (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrate) required in large amounts in the human diet for survival

Why do I need it?

  • Each macronutrient has a specific purpose in the human body. See each section below for more information

Where do I get it?

  • All food is comprised of macronutrients
    • 1g protein = 4 Calories
    • 1g carbohydrates = 4 Calories
    • 1g fat = 9 Calories

How much do I need?

  • A basic diet should be comprised of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. These percentages change based on activity level, type of activity, and specific goals, but they represent a good starting point.

macros

Protein

What is it?

  • Protein is a macronutrient comprised of long chains of amino acids
    • Geek speak: an amino acid is a simple organic compound containing both a carboxyl (—COOH) and an amino (—NH2) group

Why do I need it?

  • Build muscle
  • Burn fat
  • Boost recovery and immune health
  • Make peptide hormones (e.g. HGH, insulin, etc.)
  • Improve digestion

Where do I get it?

  • Lean red meat such as beef, pork, wild game
  • Poultry such as chicken or turkey
  • Fish & seafood such as shrimp, scallops, salmon
  • Eggs & egg whites
  • Cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
  • Plant proteins such as lentils, beans, tempeh, and tofu
  • Protein powder such as whey, casein, egg, vegetarian blends, etc.

protein

How much do I need?

  • Somewhere between 1 gram per pound of lean body mass, and 1 gram per pound of total weight (~.75g per lb of total bodyweight is a good starting point) depending on goals.

Carbohydrate:

What is it?

  • Any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose.
    • Geek speak: a biological molecule consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) atoms, usually with a hydrogen–oxygen atom ratio of 2:1

Why do I need it?

  • Maintain low stress hormones (cortisol)
  • Ensure healthy thyroid function
  • Keep sex hormones healthy (testosterone and estrogen)
  • Build/maintain muscle
  • Preserve high intensity performance
  • Sleep well and recover more efficiently

Where do I get it?

  • Good carbs are minimally processed, have lots of vitamins and minerals, and digest slowly
  • Fruit
  • Starchy tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, etc.)
  • Less processed whole grains (barley, buckwheat, brown/wild rice, oats, quinoa, whole wheat, etc.)
  • Beans, lentils, and legumes

carbs

How much do I need?

  • Enough to fuel performance and goals
    • Anywhere from 1-1.5 times as much protein, depending on fat loss/muscle gain goals

Fat:

What is it?

  • Anyof several white or yellowish greasy substances, forming the chiefpart of adipose tissue of animals and also occurring in plants
    • Geek speak: also called a triglyceride, a fat molecule is comprised of 3 fatty acids and a glycerol. Fats can be saturated or unsaturated depending on the number of double bonds in the molecule between carbon atoms

Why do I need it?

  • Burn body fat and build muscle (FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT)
  • Ensure proper cellular function (in skin, brain, and organs)
  • Build a strong immune system
  • Absorb fat soluble nutrients (including vitamins A, D, E &K)
  • Provide satiety between meals

Where do I get it?

  • Healthy fats are naturally occurring and minimally processed
  • Nuts, seeds, avocados, pressed or ground nuts (butters)
  • Also in egg yolks and fish/red meat

fats

How much do I need?

  • After determining protein and carb intake, enough fat is needed to hit your caloric goal

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