Welcome to the penultimate part of this guide in which we will cover macro-nutrients. So let's start with a basic breakdown of what a macro-nutrient is and why they're important. Nutrients are environmental substances that are needed by organisms for growth, energy and bodily functions. The ones needed in the greatest amounts are called macro-nutrients.
Humans require three main macro-nutrients: carbohydrates (carbs), fats, and proteins. These provide energy in the form of calories.
Each of them have a value of calories per gram:
So for example; a food that has 10g of protein 10g of carbs and 0 fats, would have 80 calories. 40 from protein and 40 from carbohydrates.
Your macro-nutrient needs will vary greatly from other people’s, based largely on your activity levels and goals, for example; a sedentary 48 year-old female with a goal of weight maintenance would have a very different macro-nutrient profile to a 21 year-old male looking to add muscle, and training to do so five days a week. Let's instead look at some of the variables to consider when working out what your macro-nutrient amounts should be.
To begin with, it’s important to understand the relationship between carbohydrates and sport performance. Carbohydrates play a big role in any physical activity since they get broken down into glucose, which is the main source of energy for all anaerobic activity. So if you are training towards a competitive sporting goal, it's safe to say you will 100% require carbohydrates to fuel your performance in training and in competition. Does this mean that people who don't share these goals can't have carbohydrates? No, of course not. They will just need to consider the fact they may not need as many as someone who, through hard training, will have a higher demand. As a rough guide, you will be looking for approximately 1-3g of carbs per pound of bodyweight each day, depending on your training demands.
Next let's look at proteins. Proteins break down into amino acids which are the building blocks for the vast majority of our cells, muscles and tissue. So it stands to reason that if you are looking to maintain or increase your muscle mass, you are going to need to consume some protein - but how much? Approximately 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. Protein is also great when cutting weight, due it being very satiating, which can help curb feeling of hunger.
Lastly, let's examine fats. These are broken into two sub-categories; saturated, and unsaturated. Due to the findings of a number of more recent scientific studies, it is still very uncertain if both sub categories are equally beneficial as fat sources, so I would recommend that you stick with what has worked great up till now, which is to keep the majority of your fat content made up of unsaturated fats. As for recommended daily intake, there is a lot of variance past the minimum amount, ranging from 10-25g per day.
That pretty much covers the basic outline of macro-nutrients, with some practical information to use in conjunction with the last two parts of this series. I hope this all helps. In the final part of this series, we'll put all of this info together in a practical guide with a full step-by-step breakdown. If you have any comments or questions please leave them below or find me on social media @ATSapproved.
Following on from Part 1 of this guide (which you can find *here*) we continue onto Part 2, where we will discuss what we can now do with our established practice of body weight measurements and calorie tracking.
Firstly, let's briefly talk about caloric states; whether you are in caloric maintenance, deficit, or surplus. Maintenance is when our total calories consumed over the day is equal (normally within the nearest 10-50 calories) to the amount we need to keep our weight the same. Deficit is when our total calories consumed throughout the day is less than the amount we need to remain the same, and conversely, a surplus is when our total calories are greater than our maintenance number.
So, how does this information apply to us? Well now we have a good idea of our caloric intake needs, we can start playing around with them and do some really neat things. If we want to lose weight, of any kind, we're going to have to be in a calorie deficit. We're going to need to spend more than we're taking in. A good number of calories to cut out is 200 per day, because with smaller amounts measuring accurately becomes difficult, and cutting more than that to start with may be too much. You really want to cut out as little as you can get away with. For gaining weight, we simply apply the same idea but in the other direction. We add 200 calories to our daily amount!
This information is important, but how do we know if we're losing, gaining, or staying the same weight? Well we touched on it in the first article, we're going to weight ourselves – ideally three times per week or more and immediately upon waking up. Weight loss/gain will ultimately depends on starting weight, however; approx. 0.5kg of bodyweight per week is generally considered to be a healthy rate of change. These changes in weight are what we are going to monitor, to make sure we’re on the right track.
What do we do if weight changes stop? Well initially, it’s best to be certain that weight change has definitely stopped. One bad day is nothing to freak out about, and an objective approach will serve you best when making these decisions. To continue making weight changes though, all we're going to do is to add or subtract another 200 calories from our previous daily amount. You can repeat this process several times.
If you have been in a deficit for close to 3 months however, I would recommend spending at least 1 month maintaining weight (by working out and consuming the maintenance calories appropriate for your new weight). A 3 month cut off is important because changing your weight is hard, both physically and psychologically, whilst the process also suffers from diminishing returns. You can't continue to change at the same rate indefinitely. Doing so will not only give you a mental break, but also allow your body to become more responsive to changes you wish to make in the future.
Hope all this information helps and please let me know if you have and questions about the content or anything in general. If you think you know someone that might benefit from this info please feel free to share it! It helps us out a lot.
The following is a basic introduction to what you need to know to manage what you eat, and make changes to your bodyweight and composition. It is designed for people who have little to zero experience tracking what they eat.
What you will need:
If you clicked on this article, curious as to what 'structured eating' was, great! This is for you. Structured eating is when you actively track and plan what to eat, normally towards a goal of some sort.
To get started, you will need certain bits of information that you'll use to monitor changes. Those changes will let you know if you're on the right track or not.
Firstly, you'll need your own bodyweight. This is the main thing that will let you know if you are heading where you want to go. This can be daunting for some, however; no one needs to know this information bar you. You need to come to terms with the fact that it is merely a number, it doesn't define you as a person. It is simply a numerical value. One we're going to use to determine if we are moving in the desired direction with our eating plans.
Secondly, you're going to need to work out the amount of calories you need to eat.. It's normally based around a few factors like sex, age, height, and basic activity level (9-5 office work isn't as demanding as 9-5 manual labour, for example). Here is one that's straight-forward to use.
We now have everything we need to make a start with the basic planning of food intake!
The plan for now is:
2. Weigh yourself on your scales in the morning as soon as you get up, three times throughout the week. Ideally, spaced out (Mon/Wed/Fri, for example).
That's it. All we're looking to do is build the process of regularly weighing yourself, and logging information about your food. The weigh ins are three times weekly so we have a good spread of data points to look at, any less and it would be a little too inaccurate, any more can get tedious.
What we do with this information will be covered in the next part of this series. For now, just get used to the changes in routine and see what numbers you get! Do you weigh what you thought you did? How many calories do you actually eat? Does that number change day to day or are you fairly consistent? If it does change, why do you suppose that is? Have fun, and let me know how you get on.