fu·el ˈfyü(-ə)l :
1. a material used to produce heat or power by burning
2. a source of sustenance or incentive, a reinforcement.
I often get asked what kind of diet I follow and my answer is always the same: “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.”
I’m sure you have heard that saying before, but it rings true! Our bodies are meant to be fueled for the long term. This means crash diets, starving ourselves, over-gorging in food, lack of nutrient knowledge, or, to speak plainly, a terrible diet should not be in our lives (period), but especially not as a “lifestyle.”
Most people want quick results when it comes to losing weight and/or becoming healthy instead of having the patience to wait it out and do it the right way. The fact is that time is going to pass regardless of how fast a lifestyle change happens, so we might as well spend it properly on fueling ourselves the correct way instead of continually yo-yo dieting.
Let’s start small: our basic nutrients are broken down into macros which consists of proteins, carbs, and fats. These three macro nutrients provide our body with the energy we need for life! All three of these categories are eventually broken down into sugar in our body, which is our source of energy. They each just take a different amount of time to digest. Carbs digest the quickest and are followed by proteins and fats.
Proteins contain amino acids which are an important building blocks of our muscles. It’s not just enough to take amino acid supplements though, we need the real-deal protein to optimally build muscle. There are four calories per every gram of protein.
Carbs can be broken into two separate categories: simple and complex. The “simple” breakdown of that is this: simple carbs generally do not contain fiber whereas complex carbs do. Complex carbs have a slower breakdown process which keeps us feeling full for a longer period of time. Simple carbs are great for before and after a workout and complex carbs are good for the areas not directly in contact with your workout. Carbs are great for our muscles as they shuttle in glucose (sugar) and water to repair the new tears in our muscles as we workout. Low carb diets typically leave us unsatisfied (unless you prefer fats over carbs!) so rest assure that carbs are not the enemy! There are four calories per gram of carb.
Fats are essential to our hormone system and they provide cushion to all of our organs, BUT they also play an important role in our energy level. While most carbs give us quick energy, fats can give us energy for endurance training. The rumor that eating fats will make you fat is not true! An overabundance of calories and not exercising is the culprit in fat gain. There are 9 calories per gram of fat.
After learning all of this new information I am going to tell you how to put it together to work best with your exercise routine: instead of focusing on an overall calorie intake, lets focus on fulfilling our macro breakdowns:
- For example:
130g Protein + 240g Carbs + 75g Fat = 2,155 total calories
This is typically what a maintenance macro routine looks like for me and can be tweaked at any time to meet my needs. I am a very active person not only in the gym, but I am always on the go and these macros help equip me with the fuel I need.
You shouldn’t model your macros after anyone else’s unless you have a similar build and activity level, BUT a quick tip is to never start out this lifestyle on the low end of calories. The reasoning behind that is once you stall in your weight loss progress, or whatever your desires are, you’ll have no where to go because our body needs a certain amount of fuel everyday or… well we all get hangry without food!
We need a base amount of calories for our bodies to even function… and that means no “one-thousand calorie diets.” It’s just not sustainable.