Nutrition is the most important part of any fitness or sports performance goal. Without eating right, you’ll never make optimal progress. Why waste all those long hours of effort spent in the gym, only to get poor results? For many people it’s because they don’t understand what to eat, when to eat it, and how food affects their bodies. I’m going to address all of these basic issues, plus discuss supplementation, in my 5 part series “Nutrition 101”. Stay tuned, and each week I’ll post a new installment in the series. To follow the whole series and read older posts, become a member today.
Part 3- Macronutrient Balance and Portion Control
Simpler is better. Albert Einstein once said “Make everything as simple as possible, and no simpler.” This is a philosophy I try to live by, and it’s the approach I take to nutrition as well. I’m trying to give you just the bare essentials here. Many articles on nutrition will quote research articles, encourage calorie counting, and ask you to track your macronutrient intake. I’m not going to do any of that.
Hopefully, by now you’ve read parts 1 and 2 of my Nutrition 101 series. So, you’re eating whole and natural foods. You’re eating as soon as you wake up, and about every 3 hours throughout your day. Now, how much should you eat at each meal? How much of your food should be from protein? From carbohydrate? Fat?
Part 3 A- Macronutrients:
Many people have a basic understanding of macronutrients. These are protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Eating the proper proportions of these is HUGE for feeling, looking, and performing your best. Some people will measure their intake of each macro and be sure to maintain certain levels (ex: 40% protein/40% fat/20% carbohydrate). The problem is that everyone is different. Some people can eat more carbs that others while maintaining high energy levels and low body fat. Others can barely look at a piece of bread without getting fat!
So, let’s make things simpler. You don’t have to measure. Every time you prepare some food, just make sure that about 50% of your meal/snack is from a protein source (meat, fish, eggs, soy, etc.). Then make the other 50% of your portion meal/snack fruits and vegetables and/or naturally occurring starches (potatoes, barley, oats, etc.). You may have to do some individual customization from there, but things will even out. How do you make those little adjustments? Good question…
First, find out how your body reacts to carbohydrate. An easy way to do this is to eat all carbohydrates for breakfast a few times. Then, monitor your energy levels in during those mornings. The more energy you have, the better your body metabolizes carbohydrate. If you crash quickly and feel tired, you can’t have as many carbs (for you- the ½ of your meals/snacks that is fruits/veggies and/or starches should be mostly vegetables). Simple, right?
Part 3 B- Portion Control
So, how much should you eat at each meal or snack? Let’s keep it simple. First, start by eating until you are satisfied but not STUFFED. As you perfect your diet, keep track of your weight and body composition. Make adjustments according to your goals. If you’d like to lose weight, you’ll need to eat a bit less. If you’d like to gain muscle mass, you’ll have to eat a little more (try adding protein first).
Simple enough? Great. Get working on your macronutrients and portion control, and stay tuned for part 4 of Nutrition 101: Supplementation.