Your Diet – Knowledge = Power
.YOUR DIET – A REALISTIC APPROACH TO GOOD NUTRITION
Part One – Knowledge is Power
You could quite literally fill a medium-sized warehouse with the thousands and thousands of books & publications on Dieting & Weight Loss in the past 30 years, so it should follow that we all know exactly how to fuel our bodies in the best way possible, and are doing this all the time? …Of course we do.
Unfortunately, because much of this is written from the slant of trying to sell something, a product, or often the book itself, writers are always looking for a new angle or slant, with which to re-hash the same long established facts into another wedge of money for themselves, and this has lead to a large amount of confusion, misinformation and part- truths, all mixed in together. No wonder people struggle with this, even if they did have the time to read it all.
Eating well is actually very simple, in principle, and in practice once you understand the basic facts behind it, and how it applies to you and your own details. It constantly amazes me how many people don’t still understand the very simple Energy Balance Equation or the equally simple maths behind calories and weight management. I personally think it should be taught at school to our youth to address the increasing obesity problem UK & US kids are experiencing.
In this article I will attempt to give a simple overview of the basic and unavoidable facts and maths and then in Part II I will explain exactly how to apply this to what you eat every day, and will also try to show how the rules can occasionally be bent or broken if needs-be to fit in with your real life.
The aim of this is to develop a long-term awareness of approximately how you should be eating, and then how you are eating, which does require a week or two’s worth of discipline initially, but after that you will have a good awareness of your intake levels and I promise that you will be able to more or less forget about calories and get on with your life. …But first we need to get to grips with the basics.
THE ENERGY BALANCE EQUATION
Ok, this is the biggie. As far as weight management is concerned, it’s the bit you have to get right, or none of your other effort in the fitness / exercise area will matter. Exercise obviously does play a part, and is important when it comes to being in good shape, general health, energy levels & well being, but as the figures will show, it’s very easy to undo all your good workouts by getting your nutrition wrong, and also entirely possible to lose weight effectively without doing any exercise at all, although its always better and easier to lose weight if you do include exercise into the plan.
The Energy Balance Equation is entirely common sense and simply states:
If Energy in = Energy Out, Energy is Balanced and Weight is Constant
…Changing energy in levels then gives us:
Energy in < (less than) Energy used = Negative balance (Weight loss) Or…
Energy in > (more than) Energy used = Positive balance (Weight gain)
Clearly there are two adjustable factors that we can affect here.
Energy in is 100% within our control as with a few exceptions we usually choose exactly what we consume, whereas Energy used, whilst it can be increased, cannot be affected as easily or as much, as people’s current lifestyles & jobs tend to dictate their “activity level” factor of this, and it takes quite a lot of exercise to burn comparatively few calories, when compared to how quickly you could eat the same amount of calories.
As an example, I’m 182lb male, and to burn 350 calories I have to run 3 miles at a sub-7minute mile pace. This amount would be even less for a lighter person or most women. I could consume that 350 calories again by the time I left the gym, with an energy drink in the gym, and a large cappuccino and biscuits in the bar afterwards.
So, moving on, you need initially to know, with a reasonable amount of accuracy, your Energy used Figure. This is based on several factors, such as age, sex, weight, activity level and amount of exercise, if any.
The calculations are fairly simple but require different formula depending upon who you are (Age Sex Weight) and for your convenience I have developed an Excel spreadsheet that you can download, fill in the boxes, and it will give you a relatively accurate assessment of your Calorific Requirements, and quite a lot more depth into your ideal Nutrition breakdown if you require.
You can download it here: Calorific Requirements Calculator There is a Readme File available explaining the very simple use of the spreadsheet and will take about 5 minutes from download to completed. Please email me if you need the Readme on email@example.com
You will see that the spreadsheet has a box near the top left called Maintenance .This is the figure that will keep you at the same weight as you are now. Next is Body Fat Reductionand this is usually the box we are working with as shown below.
You can see that this individual (me) is required to consume 2636 calories this and every day. This is engineered to produce a weight loss of 1 Pound (lb) per week. This limit is a LOWER limit, as it is already 15% less than my maintenance figure. This equation is absolute, and as long as the calories are correct, it doesn’t matter when I eat, what I eat, how I eat. The maths works on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis, i.e. …if I slightly over eat one day, but under-eat by the same amount the next day, at the end of the week, the 1lb is still lost. If one week I go 1500 calories over, I would only lose just over ½ lb. If I eat 3500 calories over (1lb of fat’s worth) in a week this will result in no change (and will be the figure given in the maintenance box to the left) However it is also important not to consistently go below this figure as this will affect metabolism and throw the whole thing off-balance …see Are You Eating Enough to Lose Weight for more detail on this. …Yes that’s right, if you have been limiting what you eat as a way of dieting, you may actually have to eat more to lose weight effectively.
You can also see that there is a breakdown of the amounts (Grams) and Calories, to be provided by protein, carbs and fats, in an ideal world. Rarely will you be consuming exactly these figures, and there’s no point trying to swap to a new and unrealistic diet in one go, but over a period of time you can easily make small adjustments to your intake so that you are averaging the right ratios in a realistic way to fit into your lifestyle.
Ok, so we now know where we should be, and need to look at where exactly we are. We do this using Daily Food Diaries, and should do it over the course of at least 3 days, but preferably a week, and need to be completely accurate and honest. Take care to leave out nothing, and be as accurate as possible, but DON’T change your eating habits because you are writing it down. We need an accurate “Before” as a benchmark and Start line.
Templates and examples of the Food Dairy are available from here: Daily Food Diary Template Downloads
From the food diary, we are then able work out firstly our calories, and then the protein/ carbs/ fats breakdown percentages, for reference. These days I do this so much for clients that I use “Personal Trainer 3.6” Software to speed things up, however when I did it for myself 5 years or so ago I did it easily on paper. It just takes 5 minutes a day, and gets quicker daily, the more you do it and if you really cant be bothered, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do the calculations for you, or just buy the program. It’s very useful from the nutrition side of things and comes with free body fat callipers for approximately £14.oo GBP.
So now we have 2 scenarios and just need to look at what is required to move from “before” to “after” in the easiest most pain-free, realistic and sustainable way possible. I will delve deeper into this in Part II of this series, but all the hard work is now all done. The next bit is easy. We will look at types of food, ideal diets and how to bend & manipulate the rules to fit in with your real-life if required.
There is an old saying, “Knowledge is Power” and with this little knowledge you now potentially have absolute power over your body fat levels for the rest of your life. Combine this with an equally realistic & sustainable training program into your daily life and you can more or less forget about weight management and get on with your life. Wouldn’t that be nice?
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