If you’re new to the health/fitness/lifting scene you’ve probably heard loads of terms being thrown around on social media such as ‘macros’, ‘clean eating’, ‘keto’. I’m here to show you all your options, so you can get the most out of your nutrition and by default, get the most out of your training.
First things first; No specific food group will cause you to gain weight, and cutting out one food group is not a shortcut to losing weight. It is the overall equation of: calories in VS calories out that determine weight loss or weight gain. Calories out is achieved through metabolism and exercise. There are many different approaches to creating this calorie equation, which I will discuss in this post.
For example: if you want to lose weight, you need to be eating in a calorie deficit (approximately 10-20% calories less than maintenance). So, if your maintenance calories are 2000, to lose weight safely you want to be eating 1800-1900 calories to make your calories in LESS than calories out. In the body-builder world, this is called ‘cutting’.
If you want to gain weight, you need to be eating in a calorie surplus. This means eating more calories than you’re burning (calories in > out) so these extra calories can be used to build muscle. You’ll want to increase your calories gradually by 100-200 per week to minimise body fat increase during this process (although some is inevitable). In the body-building world this is called ‘Bulking’.
What are macros?
Nutrition can be broadly divided into:
• Macronutrients (“macros”)
‘Macros’ are the carbohydrates, protein and fat in your diet. Carbohydrate and protein sources each contain 4 calories per gram, whilst fat is more energy dense, containing 9 calories per gram of fat.
All 3 macronutrients are essential for optimum physical and mental functioning and the NHS recommends having a portion of each in your meals with 40% of your plate being carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat.
Carbs get bad press; but eating the right carb source, in the right amounts, and at the right time, is crucial for getting the most out of your training. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which is used by our cells for energy. The brain preferentially uses glucose for energy (that’s why sometimes if you haven’t had enough carbs you can feel tired, lacking concentration and irritable). Carbs can come in different forms, and each have different roles in our diet:
Simple carbohydrates: Quick release carbs that are excellent sources of energy to fuel your pre-workout, and replenish your muscle stores quickly post-training to enable maximal muscle recovery/growth. Examples include: sugar, fruit, honey, cereal.
Complex Carbohydrates: Slower releasing carbohydrates that keep you fuller for longer. These are a good source of energy but take longer to digest so are good to have around 2 hours before training to aid better performance. Examples include: oats, bread, sweet potatoes, pasta, rice, (root) vegetables.
Refined Carbohydrates: These are the reason carbs have a bad name! They are processed and have had many of the goodness removed and added preservatives and colourings making them energy dense, but lack the dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals so you get all the calories without the satiation. Examples include: white bread/pasta/rice, cakes, biscuits, pastries, chocolate bars.
Protein is digested into amino acids, which are used by almost every single cell in our body for growth and repair. The amount of protein you require depends on your activity. If you’re exercising, aim for 1-2g/kg bodyweight as you are giving your muscles a stimulus that they need to grow bigger and/or stronger and therefore require protein to repair themselves. Proteins are also needed to produce enzymes and some hormones (such as insulin) to make sure your body functions properly.
The immune cells which help fight infection and disease are also made of protein. Lots of food sources are rich in protein, so that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to eat chicken with every meal!
Some good lean sources of protein included:
• Chicken breast
• Turkey mince
• White fish
• Whey protein powder
Some good vegetarian sources of protein include:
• Eggs (especially the whites)
• Soya protein
• Pea or hemp protein Fats
Fats are broken down into fatty acids, needed by our body for energy, growth, insulation, protection and absorption of vitamins from the diet (A, D, E and K). Fats do not make you fat. It is an overall calorie excess that can leads to energy storage in the form of adipose tissue (aka belly fat!). Like carbs, Fats are grouped based on their chemical structure: saturated vs unsaturated
• Unsaturated fats – liquid at room temperate e.g. olive oil. Unsaturated fats can either be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. These fats help protect against heart disease
• Saturated fats – solid at room temperature e.g. butter and lard. These should be consumed in small amounts
Some good sources of fat include:
• Extra virgin olive oil, rapseed oil, coconut oil
• Nuts and seeds (avoid roasted/salted nuts)
• Peanut butter, almond butter (+ loads of funky varieties!)
• Cottage cheese
• Eggs (Especially the yolk)
Check back next week for part two of Francesca’s beginners guide to nutrition!
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