Nutrition planning is determining when, what and how much food an individual must consume to stay healthy. Eating meals and snacks every 2.5 to 3 hours is essential to a healthy metabolism. Foods are made up of energy units called Calories; calories come from proteins, fats and carbohydrates (these are called the macronutrients).
In this section we will discuss what these macronutrients are and how to determine how much of these in calories and/or grams your body needs to be healthy!
Note: Always check with your medical practitioner for allergies or contraindications to certain foods or medications!
A calorie is how energy is measured in foods or how it is used for energy by the body. The calories referred to in diet and exercise are also called kilocalories (kcal).
A pound of fat contains approximately 3500 calories (kcal) of energy. To lose a pound of fat in a week a person must either eat approximately 500 fewer calories or expend (exercise) an additional 500 (kcal) per day (while sparing muscle mass). This is 500 calories per day X 7 days = 3500 calories. This doesn’t mean starving yourself, fat loss is accomplished through eating healthy foods that have a higher nutritional value with less empty calories (junk food)!
A person wanting to gain weight would have to eat more food (calories) than they expend. This means if a person who requires 1800 calories a day to maintain their current weight, they would need to eat more than 1800 calories per day to be able to gain additional weight. Conversely, the same person looking to lose weight would have to eat a little less than 1800 calories per day.
Once your coach has determined how many calories you need to gain, lose or maintain a particular ideal body weight, you also have to know the ratio of each macronutrient (proteins, fats and carbohydrates).
To find your ideal body weight use the chart provided: Click here.
Proteins are the macronutrients your body needs for the structure, function, and regulation of your body's cells, tissues, and organs. The energy produced by proteins is approximately 4 calories per gram. Each protein is made of different sequences of amino acids and has many unique functions. Proteins are essential components of your muscles, skin, bones and the body as a whole.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients used as an energy source by the body (but using them for energy should be the body’s last resort), the other two being carbohydrate and fat (the fuels of preference). Without all the essential amino acids that come from proteins the body cannot build all the necessary structures to maintain life. So proteins must be in the diet to maintain the body’s construction and function.
Carbohydrates are mainly sugars and starches, together constituting one of the three principal types of macronutrients used as energy sources (calories) by the body. The energy produced by carbohydrates is approximately 4 calories per gram. Carbohydrates come in simple forms such as sugars (the ones that are bad for you in large amounts) and in complex forms such as starches and fiber (the ones that are essential for optimal health).
Carbohydrates give our cells immediate energy to perform tasks that take a high level of energy up to about 3 minutes in duration. Unlike fats, carbohydrates can give us instant energy without the need for oxygen. This comes in pretty handy especially if you have to get out of the way of an oncoming automobile.
Carbohydrates, such as fiber do not actually get digested by the body and used for fuel, instead they are essential for regulating the health of our digestive systems. Typically 25-30 grams of fiber per day are recommended for gastrointestinal health. Diets high in fiber have shown to reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the occurrence of colon cancer.
Along with proteins and carbohydrates, fats are one of the three macronutrients used as fuel and stored by the body. The energy produced by fats is approximately 9 calories per gram. Our bodies store our energy as fat. That’s why when we eat too much our bellies, hips and thighs become larger.
Today we find too many foods that are rich in calories but lacking in nutrients. With all these additional calories our bodies tend to place them into storage for future use. While having a little extra fat storage is healthy, having too much causes many of the conditions we have discussed earlier.
The total fat you see on a food label is the sum of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in that particular food for a given serving size. But not all fats are bad. In fact, the intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help reduce blood cholesterol when substituted for saturated fats in the diet. Foods such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.) all contain healthy unsaturated fats.
Saturated and trans fats are the types of fats you want to minimize or exclude from your diet if you want to maintain a healthy body. These types of fats are found in many processed foods like potato chips and cookies, and in foods found at fast-food restaurants. Beware of the word, hydrogenated, this means bad fat.
To summarize, calories are the measure of energy within foods. This energy comes either in the form of a protein, fat or carbohydrate. Each one of these macronutrients is essential to achieving a lean and healthy body.