Beginning a healthy meal plan can be scary and overwhelming especially if you don’t know the nutrition basics. Here we are going to focus on three major points of nutrition basics – thermodynamics, nutrient timing, and the makeup of the nutrition that you are ingesting, which is known as nutrition partitioning.
The first of these basic terms is thermodynamics. Thermodynamics is the process that the body uses to change the food we ingest into energy that can be used by the body to fuel daily activity.
This system is easy to manipulate to meet your goals of either healthy weight gain (increasing muscle mass) or for weight loss. The basic equation of the system is easy – calories ingested minus the calories that are expended equals resting metabolic rate, or the number of calories your body will expend with zero activity.
This is where your exercise comes in to play. The more activity you do throughout the day, the more calories your body expends, resulting in faster weight loss.
If you’re looking to lose weight, then you will have to decrease the calories you ingest daily or increase the number of calories you expend. Make sure you are not decreasing your calories so much that you’re not getting your required nutrients. Slightly lower your caloric intake and increase your expenditure to find the right balance for your goals.
The second part of the equation is nutrient timing. This is the planning of giving the body the proper nutrients the proper time of the day to aid the body with fuel and keep the body in a metabolic state. A metabolic state is where the body is using the food ingested for energy.
The key to nutrient timing is to try to ingest the bulk of your carbohydrates in the early morning and prior to your workouts. This gives the body the most fuel during those peak periods when it can use the carbohydrates in the most efficient manner.
This does not mean that carbohydrates post workout or later in the day are not good for you. In actuality, the right carbohydrates are great for you in the later part of the day as it helps fuel the body to keep your energy levels up.
The last piece of the equation is the nutrient partitioning. This is where you will hear the term macros (macronutrients) most often. This is the breakdown of the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the food you eat. This breakdown will change based on the goals that you have for yourself.
Once you figure out the number of calories you need per day you can then break them down into the “types” of calories you need. The basic guideline can be 40:40:20 which breaks down to 40% carbohydrates, 40% protein, and 20% fat. These percentages are then broken down by the calorie amount of each macros nutrient per gram. The numbers are 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates, 4 calories per gram for protein, and 9 calories per gram for fats.
This means based on an example of 1700 calories a day, you would ingest 170 grams of carbohydrates, 170 grams of protein and 38 grams of fats. These numbers can be moved around based on your goals.
With all of the information available on the subject of diet and nutrition it is important to focus on the key points that will really make the difference in your training goals. If you master these three points, you will be able alter your nutrition to the point that you can either add mass or lose weight when you need to and be able to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to reach its full potential.