Nutrition can be extremely complicated, so we are going to try our best to simplify it as much as possible, in this brief explanation.
First, let’s talk about, the three sources of energy our body uses; proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. You do not want to neglect one or the other. The trick is to understand that our bodies need a balance of these sources to ensure proper function. So let’s get started!
Protein is the simplest form of energy to explain. Amino acids bond together to form protein. If we do not have all those pieces (amino acids) of the puzzle then protein won’t form, plain and simple. So what are some foods that are considered complete proteins (proteins with all amino acids)? Chicken, eggs, beef, pork, etc. Basically, protein is muscle, and protein builds muscle. There you have it!
However there is protein in other sources of food such as some grains, beans and what not. However these sources of protein do not contain all the amino acids to form muscle. This is a problem (very sad). No worries there is a simple solution. We can combine certain foods that do not contain all amino acids by themselves and we will get all amino acids because they complement each other. An example of this would be rice and beans. ( Yay! For The Home Fry!!!)
Carbohydrates are the body’s most preferred energy source. If we do not intake enough carbohydrates our bodies are going to turn to proteins and fats for energy sources. “So eliminating carbohydrates from our diet will burn fat and give me that dream body I’ve always wanted?!?!?!”….. WRONG!
Think of your body as an energy saving machine. It’s all about survival. If we eliminate carbohydrates, the most preferred energy source, the body is going to break down whatever it can to survive on (like protein) while not resorting to the reserve tank (fat). So why doesn’t the body go straight to burning fat? Think of fat as an energy reserve. Fats hold the most calories per gram of all three energy sources. Carbs contain 3.8 calories per gram, proteins contain 4 calories per gram and FATS 9 CALORIES PER GRAM!!!! That’s over double! So given that our bodies are designed to survive, it naturally wants to save and store fat for emergency situations, where food is not readily available.
Fat… it’s a one of the good guys… really! Read on.
Why do we need fats? Well, fats help support a number of functions in the body, such as hormone function and production. Hormones trigger all body processes. So we need fats! But we can do without certain one’s like trans fat, and too much saturated fat is not good either.
“Golly, it sounds impossible to get rid of this extra fat stuff!!!.” No it’s not impossible; we just have to make sure that our body recognizes that it doesn’t need to store fat. We are no longer living the lives of cavemen, going days without eating. Eating a snack every 2 to 3 hours will prevent your body from reaching a fasting state. Also, eating right before bed will help shorten the fasting state while you’re sleeping. This does not mean have a pasta dinner before bed. Remember, we said that carbohydrates are the most preferred energy source for the body. If we do not use those carbohydrates, they will eventually get stored as fat, just in case you turn into a caveman while you’re asleep. It’s all about survival. So what should you eat before bed? A lean protein to help shorten that fasting period and promote recovery. Some veggies are also lower in carbohydrates and high in vitamins and minerals which would make a great choice before bed. With this healthy dinner, you’re telling body, “Chill, no need to store energy (as fat) right now.” Now that food is readily available to us, it’s very easy to plan your meals. The easiest way for you to balance out the necessary fuel sources for proper body function is through proper planning.
So let’s think about this.
- We need protein at just about every meal for continuous repair.
- We need a little bit of fat in every meal to ensure proper bodily function.
- However, we do not need carbohydrates at every meal. Like I said earlier, carbohydrates are the most preferred energy source for the body. You are most active during the day but not so much at night when you’re sleeping.
We absolutely need carbohydrates for breakfast. Don’t eat breakfast? Whaaaat!?!? This needs to change! The brain functions off carbohydrates and I’m sure every now and then many of you wake up not knowing where you are. This slows down your ability to get ready for the day. Try drinking a glass of orange juice and be amazed at how you can all of a sudden think clearly. Continue to eat carbohydrates for lunch because now you’re preparing for the second half of your day. The only major meal of the day when you really DO NOT NEED carbohydrates is dinner. After dinner you will be slowing down and preparing for bed. Stick with a lean protein and veggies for dinner.
OK, meals are out of the way, but let’s not forget our between meals SNACKS! It’s extremely important for the body to recognize that food is readily available which also helps control hunger, cravings and over eating. Here a few our favorites:
- Granola bar- earlier in the day (yay, carbs!)
- Yogurt- midday (a little bit of everything)
- Almonds- evening (Yay, fats! Good for the hair, skin, and the night time cravings)
Now we have discussed what the sources of energy are, their function, and the ideal times to take in these sources. But how much should you eat? This answer is going to be different for everyone. We all have different speeds of metabolism and caloric demands so this is going to be something that you need to figure out on your own. But don’t worry; we are going to help you figure this out.
Take the next couple days and count your calories. There are applications (cell phone or computer apps) that help calculate your daily calorie intake by inputting your weight, the type of food, and servings. Take the time and measure out your food for these two days, it’s not that time consuming.
Would you rather continue living this sedentary life style or are you ready to make a change? If you’re not so enthused with weighing your food for only two days, try to estimate the serving size but chances are you’re going to be way off. These apps will actually tell you what percentage of carbs, proteins, and fats you are ingesting each day. This is valuable information to make sure that you are taking in enough of each source, to get the most out of your workouts. Ok, so after figuring out that you are taking in “X” amount of calories while maintaining a steady weight, let’s say 2,500 calories a day. Now it’s time to reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories a day. When you begin to take in 2,000 calories a day instead of 2,500, you will lose 1 lb. a week. It’s all about creating a calorie deficit. That’s it, that’s the secret. It’s really not rocket science. Well…actually… nutrition can be extremely complex but like I said in the beginning, this is the basic, general version.
DO NOT neglect any of the three energy sources. The fat free diets are not healthy, and cancelling out carbohydrates from your diet all together is not healthy either. Keep a balance and you will achieve a healthy lifestyle that is manageable. Select healthy food choices and you will perform better, look better, and most importantly feel better.