Rules of Nutrition and Exercise

Every individual requires a certain amount of energy (calories) to support their lifestyle and daily activity, optimally. However, most people have no idea how much they need, or, where it should come from. This is the biggest problem to overcome for those that are looking to improve their body composition.

  • Rule #1: Know Your Energy Needs– Determine your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This is how much energy you need to be consuming to maintain your current self without exercise. Men; multiply your body weight in pounds x 11 calories. Women; 10 calories. This will give you a good approximation within a couple hundred calories of your RMR, as if it was calculated by one of the numerous other ways including the Harris-Benedict Equation, Mifflin St. Jeor Equation, My Fitness pal, etc. Now, adjust for activity. Multiply your body weight by 14-16 calories per pound. If you work out three days per week use 14. Six days, use 16. You will now use those two different numbers. Your first; RMR, is your energy measurement you need to hit on your rest days. Your second; is what you need to hit on your training days. If you are overweight, subtract 500 calories from both. If underweight, add 500 calories.
  • Rule #2: Get Enough Protein- 1 gram per pound of *lean body weight is an easy, healthy approximation and generally, there is no need to have more than that. When you have your total, divide over breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, generally in 20-35 gram servings, spaced relatively equally throughout the day. Eat mostly good quality, local, lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs. Remember, there is protein in starches and grains as well…
  • Rule #3: Get Enough Carbs- The more active you are, the more carbohydrates you require. It doesn’t matter if you are doing CrossFit, weightlifting, bodybuilding, pilates, etc. You need carbs! If you train more for strength, 1-2 grams per pound of body weight is sufficient. If you train for endurance; 2-3 grams per pound. Be sure that most of your carb intake is from complex carbs such as; rice, potatoes, grains, legumes, and pastas as well as seasonal fruit and vegetables.
  • Rule #4: Fill In With Fat- Whatever is left after you’ve determined your protein and carbohydrate needs can be filled in with healthy fat choices such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, good quality animal fats, nuts/ nut butters, seeds, etc.
  • Rule #5: Fit In The Sweets- If you don’t do this, you may go mad! Some people crave them and it’s easy to say; “Just don’t cave in” but much harder to do. So, why not just have a little to satisfy that craving. Assuming everything else is in check, a very small indulgence won’t hurt to keep you sane. The problem with overly strict dieting, is that no one ever sticks to it and will always go back, it’s just a matter of time. Secondly, restriction opens one up for periods where they may over-indulge because the opportunity presents itself. A solution, if you MUST HAVE CHOCOLATE for instance, is to buy really good quality 85%-90% (cocoa) chocolate. Have only a piece or two when you feel like it. It is very different as it has 1/2 to 2/3 less sugar than usual chocolate bars (per serving). It will help you to appreciate what good chocolate really is and settle that sweet craving.
  • Rule #6: Eat Local Food- Support the small farms. This will be better quality food, and in many cases organic. You will begin to appreciate cooking for yourself and becoming more aware, and appreciative of what you are putting into your body.
  • Rule #7: Eat With The Seasons- You will have no choice but to eat seasonally by purchasing your food from a local farmer’s market or farm stand. This will help keep you free from un-natural growing methods, additives and overall, give you better quality food.
  • Rule #8: Sleep Enough- Go to bed earlier. Turn off the tv, stretch a little and go to sleep for 7-8 hours. Try to maintain a routine, even on the weekends. The best way to destroy a weeks worth of gains in the gym is to go out drinking all night and not get enough sleep. It only takes that one night…
  • Rule #8: Exercise!- It doesn’t matter what you do, just do it. Don’t come up with an excuse, there are none. Not enough time is probably the most popular. Working too much…excuse. Not enough money…excuse. “Injured”…excuse. Can’t wake up early enough…excuse. The gym is too far…excuse. Exercise to improve your health, not to impress other people. Your body NEEDS it, and your brain needs it whether you think so or not. Do you want to feel better mentally and physically? Work out. Do you deal with a lot of stress? Work out. Do you like what you see in the mirror? Work out. There is no magic pill. Go to the gym, grind it out, lift weight that feels heavy, challenge yourself and your body. Don’t cut corners, do it right. Follow what’s listed above as a template and I can guarantee you will see the results your looking for.

Cooking for Nutritional Purpose

Cooking for fitness goals and cooking for enjoyment are two very different things. Those that have specific performance or body composition goals will, and should have more specific dietary guidelines. At this point, food is fuel, and sometimes will be hard to enjoy. It is generally understood and accepted that protein is the most important of the three macro-nutrients for body composition, maintenance and or improvement of strength, and lean muscle. However, where carbohydrates and fat (the two other macros) fall into place is a different story.

Some people believe that carbs are evil and the diet should be comprised of mostly protein and fat, with most carbs coming from non-starchy, fresh vegetables. For example, there is nothing particularly wrong with a meal that consists of a good quality piece of fish or meat and a heaping pile of fresh, seasonal vegetables tossed with a little bit of butter and fresh herbs. However, throw exercise like CrossFit, strength training, weightlifting, endurance training or pretty much any other form of activity that keeps the heart rate elevated or causes a physiological stressor; the body needs carbs.

The common American diet that’s unrelated to sports nutrition is typically higher in fat and sugar. Common foods, deserts and or snacks like granola bars, cookies, brownies, etc. taste good because of fat and sugar. However, there are ways to improve the nutritional profile of these foods, therefor turning an otherwise poor food choice into an optimal pre/post workout snack.

Quick-breads such as cakes, cookies, brownies, etc. are all the same. They contain the same basic ingredients; flour, sugar, fat, liquid/ eggs and baking soda/powder. The only difference is the percentage of dry ingredients : liquid : fat.  Of course, flavoring and additional ingredients as well. These basic ingredients can be manipulated though, to improve the nutritional profile by reducing the fat and sugar while still keeping the same relative flavor and texture.

Substitutions for fat in some of these recipes, in order to increase the carbohydrate and fiber content, can be starchy fruit and or vegetables. The high starch content will give a very similar, almost indiscernible mouth feel to the final product. For instance, try reducing or replacing the fat in a cookie with white bean paste or mashed plantain. Apple sauce or apple butter can be used to not only replace fat, but also reduce the need for as much added sugar. The same goes for sweet potatoes.

For people who really need to have those “sweets” or snack/ dessert-like foods, these are ways to avoid having too much sugar or fat in your diet that will screw up your macro-nutrient intake, at the same time providing an optimal source of pre/post workout energy. At this point, having knowledge of flavor pairings and compliments such as herbs and spices would be very useful because removing fat and sugar from an already very tasty food, is sometimes hard to make up for. In future posts, I will start to provide a resource for ingredients, herbs and spices that tend to work well together, as well as recipes.