Nutrition Pyramid – Macros

Yesterdays blog talked about the foundation of the nutrition pyramid, the next element of the nutrition pyramid once you’ve mastered the energy balance is macros. In particular if you master one thing here, master your protein intake.

You want to eat protein, carbs and fat every day even on a high protein diet such as Paleo for instance you would not be looking to cut out carbs.

But aiming for a certain macro split can be tedious and mean always thinking about what to eat and trying to balance hings out.

However, a good hack is to know that if you aim to eat enough protein each day and don’t go into a calorie surplus you will generally find that your carb and fat splits take care of themselves. .

With your Protein intake we want to aim for between 1.5 and 2g protein per kg of body weight. So if you weigh 80kg you will want between 120 -160g protein per day.

There’s 4 calories per g of protein so 120-160g would make up between 480 and 640 calories per day (there is 4 calories per g of carbohydrate and 9 calories per g fat).

Ultimately to achieve fat loss you need to be in a calorie deficit – regardless of how you split your macros

And one more thing, should you have protein shakes? Ideally we want to get as much protein as possible from food but shakes are good for topping up your protein especially when you are on the go. Best brand? The one you like the taste of as they do vary.

Finally, a hack to hit your protein intake: Try to eat 50% of your protein goal before lunch.

The Nutrition Pyramid: Energy In v Energy Out

The one aspect of your diet to master before you look at anything else. You want these two things to be equal (to maintain your current weight) or for Energy Out to exceed Energy In (to lose weight).

Whether you eat nothing but crisps or nothing but vegetables if you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight – regardless of what you eat, when you eat it or how you eat it.

Your Objective:

Understand how many calories you should be eating, how to work that out and why that’s important.

To workout how many calories to eat you need to know your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). This gives you an idea of roughly how many calories you burn in a day INCLUDING your normal activity… this means that you don’t need to add on exercise calories to this number. That’s important because who has time to work out a different daily calorie expenditure? You want an overall figure you can use every day.

The equation is

M24/F22 X Bodyweight in KG = BMR

e.g.

24 X 90kg = 2160 calories per day.

This is the BMR – Base Metabolic Rate. The absolute minimum calories the body needs to wake up, do nothing all day except for breathe.

To find how many calories you should eat for your activity levels multiply this figure by 1.1/1.2/1.3/1.4

1.1 – lightly active – moderate exercise but sedentary job

1.2 – moderately – active intense exercise but sedentary job

1.3 – Very Active – Moderate exercise and active job

1.4 – Extra Active – intense exercise and active job

e.g.

2160 X 1.3 = 2808 calories per day

Now…If you are here for fat loss you need to get in a calorie deficit by around 10- 20% the sweet spot!

e.g.

2800 calories X 7 = 19,600 calories per week!

80% of this is 15680 calories per week OR 2240 calories per day.

If you want to lose weight this is the absolute foundation of doing so. Without this anything else you do is a bit pointless as the foundations just aren’t there to support it.

Do the Basics Well

Successful people do the basics well and consistently

Sometimes it’s easy to look at things and think- they’re too simple there must be more to it than that. The reason I’m not getting the results I want isn’t that I’m eating too little or too much it must be how my body responds to certain foods… and so on.

Now the truth is there are lots of variables to our health and fitness. But, you can take account of all these things and yet if you don’t nail the basics it won’t be effective.

Think of your fitness and nutrition like levels in a game- to get to level two you must master level one. Each level acts as a foundation for the next level. You’ll often hear of things like the nutrition pyramid – that’s the same concept, you need to establish a solid base (in nutrition that’s getting your energy balance right as we discussed yesterday) before looking at macro and micro nutrients, meal timings or supplements will be useful- you basically don’t want to build on a shoddy base!

It’s human nature for us to want to look into the specifics, the idea that little tweaks will be the things that makes everything fall into place for us is tempting. But it’s the little tweaks at the basic level that will first make the difference. Once you’ve cracked those then feel free to move onto looking at the specifics of what and when you eat if you still want to- although you might find that you feel less of a need to.

One Small Hack

This week I’m trying a little hack to reduce my calorie intake.

Quite simply I’m swapping breakfast for a Whey protein shake 4 days a week.  I normally have a breakfast of around 400-450 calories a day, whereas a shake is around 90 calories thus reducing my intake by about 300-350 calories a day.

It’s actually easier too because it reduces the amount of meal prep I need to do.  On the days I have more time in the morning I’m still going to make breakfast, because it’s one of my favourite meals of the day when not rushed.

If you’re trying to lose weight not everything you do has to be dramatic or complicated.  

Toxic Diet Culture?

Today I saw a post referring to calorie counting / losing weight (dieting) as toxic.

Toxic!

In 2022 can we please stop referring to anything we don’t personally like as toxic? Because whilst calorie counting may not be right for everyone that doesn’t mean it’s toxic. same with weight loss.

Now, quick caveat, there are people for whom calorie counting isn’t a good idea, it can indeed for some become obsessive and be damaging. For those people yes calorie counting is not to be encouraged.

But for many calorie counting is the most simple straight forward, cost effective and practical way of creating a calorie deficit – which if you want to lose weight – is what you need to achieve.

So let’s reframe the notion that calorie counting is toxic. Calorie counting is simply a method of tracking energy intake which for some people will work well but whom for some may not be beneficial.

Swimming is a very good way to exercise. Except not for me, because I can’t swim. Does that mean swimming is toxic and a bad way to train, because it doesn’t suit me? Pretty sure everyone reading said no in their head just then.

Very few things in life are in themselves toxic, our relationship with something may well be toxic, that doesn’t mean it is also toxic for everyone else.

Diets get a bad rap, because traditionally they’ve been seen as restrictive and not sustainable. That’s really not the case these days. Most coaches will encourage sensible calorie deficits and won’t suggest you cut out food groups or stop eating your favourite foods.

Diets are just using a bit more energy than you consume each day to create a physical change in your body. Unless you’re doing that to please someone other than you it is not toxic.

Certain things might be a bit triggering to us personally, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically toxic, I think it’s a bit unhelpful to ourselves not to recognise that, as it puts all the responsibility for our reactions onto society, when in reality we can’t control what other people say or do so we have to instead look to control how we chose to react to it.

How Strict Should You Be Over Christmas?

How strict should you be with your diet over Christmas?

A question that is asked every year again and again and will always garner some varying answers. Some will argue you should continue to track, offer ideas for damage limitation. Others will be aghast at this and say this is extreme and Christmas should be enjoyed.

Now let’s be honest here.

If you are happy where you at, are not working to lose weight or towards any specific goal and want to binge eat mince pies from 1st December then go for it.

If you are trying to work towards a goal however that mindset is likely to leave you feeling a little crap by January. What might be a more balanced approach is to decide in your mind when Christmas actually is. Because Christmas is really the days between, say, 24th- 26th December maybe even 24th- 31st December. The rest of December is the Festive season sure, but not actually Christmas.

So a strategy of:

  • Not tracking at all and eating whatever you like between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day (or New Years Day)
  • But tracking for the rest of December so you are aware of what you’re eating
  • Yet also being aware that you might not hit a deficit or even maintenance every week because you’re still going to be going to events and celebrating with friends
  • But being aware that by tracking you probably won’t go madly off track every single day and you’ll feel in control which in itself can stop you from going on a mad binge
  • When you do go out you can then chose whether you just eat whatever you want or if you decide to follow damage limitation strategies (not depriving yourself but substituting full fat mixers for diet, having a small wine instead of a large, lining your stomach or pace yourself so you’re less likely to eat a kebab shop on the way home and so on).

The upshot is in December if you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there are 93 meals. If you eat whatever you want between 24th- 31st December that’s 24 meals. That’s 25% of your month. If you are sensible (not strict just not a dick) for 75% of the month to be honest you’ll start 2022 feeing pretty good.

So how strict should you be over Christmas- the answer is not strict at all but Christmas isn’t 31 days long unless you want it to be!

Do Fad Diets Exist?

I was having a chat about Sliming World today. If you’ve read or listened to any of my content before you’ll know I have both positive and negative views about the club.

Essentially, my view is, that in it’s true form it’s not a bad way to eat. It encourages making food from scratch, eating from multiple food groups ad eating processed foods in limitation. It’s also pretty balanced so you could eat like that well beyond losing weight.

What it doesn’t do is educate you as to why it works, leaving you in a catch 22 where if you leave and stop eating ‘to plan’ you may well put the weight back on. It doesn’t educate you you enough to provide the freedom to maintain weight loss without still subscribing to ‘the plan’. Life changes and if you understand the energy balance equation you can adjust your eating and training habits as life changes and still get results. If you are simply following a plan with no idea of how and why it works, adjusting it as your life changes is difficult and that’s when a way of eating becomes unsustainable.

What might be a suitable way of eating for one person could be a ‘faddy’ way of eating for someone else. By that I mean, if you are using a way of eating (let’s say Intermittent Fasting) as a way of managing your food intake and you understand how and why it works for you then if it becomes unpractical to fast you will likely have the knowledge to adjust how / what / when you eat to a way that better suits but still works. If you are IM Fasting because someone gave you a set of rules (which work but why you’re less sure) what do you do if following those rules no longer suits you?

So essentially, I’d argue, there aren’t bad and good ‘diets’/ ways of eating. It isn’t that Slimming World is evil and tracking in MFP is the way forward for everyone. It’s a case that without knowledge of why something is working almost any way of eating could be viewed a fad.

How much damage did you do this weekend?

It’s generally accepted now that to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit, but how often do your weekends derail your progress?

The thing is that you could be in a deficit all week but if you go too big on the weekend that will all go to waste.

If you eat a salad one day you aren’t going to immediately lose a stone or if you eat a massive cake one day you aren’t immediately going to gain weight.  Your body doesn’t reset every day and bank a deficit or surplus, your energy levels are a continuous thing.  This is why coaches will often suggest clients track across a week rather than day by day.  Not only does it allow for flexibility, as some days your plans may mean you’re going to eat more and others less, it also helps adjust your mindset to avoid panicking after a big calorie day or going mad after a low calorie day because you need to ‘reset’ or because ‘you deserve it’.

So say you calculate your TDEE IS 2,500 a day so you want to eat 2,000 a day to be in a 20% deficit.  That’s creating a deficit of 3,500 calories across the week.

You do really well Monday to Friday and actually only eat 1,800 each day so you’ve built that deficit of 3,500 calories already.

But then on Saturday and Sunday you eat 4,000 calories each day,  you did well all week and deserve it right?  Only thing is that’s 3,000 calories more than your TDEE across two days, 4,000 calories more than your goal to remain in a deficit. 

And there we have it- your surplus over the weekend has suddenly cancelled out your deficit from the week.  Do that every week and you might not put weight on because you’re pretty much coming out even but you’ll struggle to lose weight.

So the solution?  Well you don’t need to not eat more at the weekend, I think naturally we all do (or at least all of us who work Monday to Friday tend to).  What you can do is be more mindful.  Keep track of the calories, make sensible choices where you can to avoid unnecessary calories (do you really need a full fat mixer when a no calorie one is available?)  By not letting the weekend be a crazy ‘time off from tracking’ you will probably find you end up consuming less just by being more aware. 

So now if you’re back in that same situation above and you’ve hit a deficit of 3,500 Monday to Friday you still have an extra 1,000 calories to play with at the weekend whilst remaining in a deficit, so you could actually have 2,500 calories each day and still hit your target.

Or you could even reduce your deficit target to 10% for those two days, then you’d have 2,750 calories each day to play with.

Or you could even aim for 10% deficit across the whole week.  Now the same Monday to Friday would leave you a whopping 6,750 calories for your weekend to remain in a (smaller) deficit.  Slower progress but you would still see progress.  

The point being whilst YOLO is a tempting attitude for your weekends or any time off if you really do want to make changes to your body you need to understand how being really good in the week doesn’t automatically counteract a crazy weekend.  It can certainly be used as a tool to help balance out your energy deficit, but if complete abandon is applied and you find you frequently aren’t getting the results you want a little more awareness could be your first step in changing that.

Calories are fact

There’s been lots of content around calories and calorie tracking in the news and on social media recently (at least there has on my feed).  The announcement that restaurants will have to display the calorie content of dishes in an effort to tackle rising obesity levels in the UK has been met with a variety of reactions.  Notably anti dieters have argued it could have a negative effect on some people, those with or recovering from eating disorders for example.  Others have argued that, much like the super skinny waif super models of the 90s, the emphasis could have a negative impact on young people (mainly female it is generally assumed) perception of themselves.

I struggle with the anti calorie counting movement if I’m honest.  That’s a slightly against the trend thing to say but hear me out.

Of course there are people for whom calorie counting is not beneficial and if your doctor or any medical professional you are seeing advises against it you should follow their advice.  Nor do I advocate obsessively tracking every last morsal of food nor restricting youself in the amount of type of food you eat.  I don’t believe you need to be a certain size or weight to be happy and I think you should eat what you enjoy eating, and be a meat eater, vegtarian or vegan for whatever reasons you so choose.

The fact remains however that being aware of the energy values of what you consume daily is useful.

People who are at a happy healthy weight for them probably consume about what they expend on an average day, either without thinking or conciously.  People who want or need to lose or gain some weight for their health probably do not. Yes there are exceptions, but generally the majority of us are not genetic marvels, the majority of us who wish or need to change of current mass are simply eating either too much or too little.

Again, I’ll say that anyone with any form of disordered eating should seek professional advice and follow that, not what someone on the internet says, but if you are an average Joe, then being aware of the energy balance equation is likely all you need to make any changes you either need or desire.

I was flicking through some recipes the other day, there were purposefully no nutritional values given because the author wanted to promote a non diet culture.  I respect that, it goes with their ethos and fits in with their values (and the recipes look lush), but I couldn’t help thinking, man it would be easier if they were provided so I didn’t need to add each ingredient into MyFitnessPal.  Because for me, knowing what I’m eating is useful, it’s like knowing how much fuel is in your car rather than just driving with blind hope you’ve enough to get to your destination or paying for things without knowing how much cash is in your bank account.

I almost feel like being so against calorie counting is as much of a red flag as obsesively calorie counting.  If the idea of knowing how may calories is in your food on a menu really does trigger something and stop you eating it (as opposed to heping you making an informed decision) then perhaps that is also a sign you need to look at your view of food.  Because eating what the fuck you like because you enjoy food is great, but if the idea of knowing the energy number attributed to that freaks you out there’s still an issue.  The goal is surely to know that sometimes you’re eating higher calorie foods but you’re just aware of your overall energy balance so allowing yourself to mainatin your energy levels, feel good and remain nurourished and healthy.

For every person who has struggled with an eating disorder where calories are a trigger word there are plenty of people that just aren’t really sure how the energy balance works.  All the media coverage around diet clubs like Slimming World attest to this.  Fitness professionals argument against these clubs is that they don’t properly educate people, bringing the notion of calories more to the forefront of people’s conciousness could help change that.  There will be people for whom calorie counting is not beneficial, they can ignore those numbers.

In fact that’s the issue isn’t it.  Almost every policy in the world will not benefit some people, but will benefit others.  We need to know how to ignore things that don’t help us, to learn how to not get affected by things that we may see as opposed to be outraged that something that could benefit someone else but doesn’t benefit us is visible to us, even if it upsets us.

That isn’t saying not tracking calores is wrong or that you should track every day.  It’s saying that for some people who want or need to make a change undertsanding and being aware of their consumption is vital and clouding a realtively simple process of tracking with intuitive eating, mindful eating, anti diet ideas doesn’t help them.  Those concepts all work, they are all valid but if you are eating intuitively and not happy with the direction you are going in you need to retrain your intuition.  When you learn something new you follow rules and methods and don’t follow intuition, eating isn’t much different in this case.  If you are happy and feel your energy levels are great you can crack on with what you are doing.

The crux of the matter is calorie counting isn’t the thing that causes disordered eating.  Deciding you wat to lose some weight because you’d like to or because you’ve been advised I would help isn’t the sign of disordered eating.  Caloires in v. calories out is a simple fact, like gravity.  The issue isn’t that it’s all the stuff we have constructed around it. 

Listening v. Learning

Listening to your body / eating intuitively / being kind to yourself. All buzz words and phrases in recent years. And as I’ve written many times before, a perfectly valid way to eat if in doing so you are in a position where you are happy with your body and your energy levels.

I can eat and stay on track without tracking quite easily. I do track, largely as a habit that I don’t find particular cumbersome or triggering, but I could not track and still roughly know how my week’s food intake was likely to affect me. I maintain, as I have written previously, that is largely because I have mastered tracking, got an idea of what I need in terms of food.

But to move beyond the arguing what works best to lose body weight thing for a moment, you know what I personally could not do via intuitive eating. Listen to what type of food my body wants.

Because the idea of feeling like I need xyz so that’s what I’ll give my body allows me too much freedom to eat things that will derail my goals and in portions that at no point would my body actually intuitively be asking for. All I’m saying is my body rarely screams at me in needs vegetables.

Perhaps I need to be more in tune with myself. Maybe I could teach myself to think hmmm I feel fatigued my body is craving carrots instead of god I’m knackered I really need a tub of ice cream. Point is though I do know what my body needs. Over the years I’ve learnt what my body needs, what works, when, what actually makes me feel sluggish even though I think it won’t, what times of day I prefer exercising on an empty stomach and when I need to be fed first and so on. That was by trial and error and planning and tracking rather than eating when my body told me and what it old me. I mean apart from anything else I think with my brain how would I even plan my shopping eating intuitively! I’m flexible of course I am, sometimes I don’t feel like whatever I’ve planned, sometimes I need extra food than what I planned, or more sugar or more carbs.

The fact remains I think by understanding my body by seeing what works and then sticking to the systems that have worked and suit me and my taste buds and make me feel good when I train, I mat not be listening to my body but my body is probably more grateful that I’m doing that over eating what it thinks it want (it seriously only ever think it wants cake I tell you now). Is what I do more onerous that intuitive eating? I really don’t think it is.

Ultimately I don’t think we need to get caught up in the idea that tracking and planning and eating mindfully is bad. It may not suit some, there may be some it isn’t a good option, that’s the case for most things though. Like anything intuitive eating might not be the solution to all diet problems.