Firstly I hate the term 'lose weight' because it's like telling ourselves that harmless little white lie, which allows us shelter from the uncomfortable truth. We need to focus on losing fat, not weight.
In the second of this nutrition focussed blog series we're going to give you the basics so that you too can learn to laugh whilst reading the latest scaremongering headlines of 'all carbs will make your hair fall out' or 'fat is so bad for you that as soon as you look at it your legs will shrink six inches'. Neither of those things are true, by the way.
This isn't supposed to be super scientific, just be a simple reference or explanation of what's what so you aren't flummoxed next time you're comparing items in Waitrose (other Supermarkets are available).
Mathematics & Macros
Let's assume that you have a body composition goal - i.e. you want to lose or gain weight. There is one thing you need to do to achieve your goal, and that is to be capable of some simple arithmetic. Here's how it works:
If my energy expenditure is 2,000kcal and I consume 3,000kcal I will gain weight, regardless of what I eat.
If my energy expenditure is 3,000kcal and I consume 2,000kcal I will lose weight, regardless of what I eat.
A calorie is 'the energy needed to raise one kilogram of water through one degree celsius'. It is simply a measurement of energy, and the foods (including drinks) that we consume provide us with calories/energy. Whether those calories make us lose or gain weight depends simply on whether x>y or x<y.
So whilst it may be a challenge, and clearly ignores the health element, it is indeed possible to gain weight on chicken and broccoli, and to lose it on burgers and fries.
Macro = large. Nutrient = a substance that provides nourishment essential for life and growth.
Foods are made up of three Macro Nutrients: Protein, Carbohydrate, Fat.
Protein - 4 calories/gram
Made up of Amino Acids, protein is known as the building block of muscle and is required by the human body, as well as being loved in the fitness world as it is believed to aid training recovery (more on that another time.) It also tastes great and if managed correctly will allow you to maintain muscle mass whilst dropping body fat, the ideal outcome.
Non essential amino acids can be produced by the body, essential amino acids cannot and so must be obtained from external sources i.e. food. Some foods have complete amino acid profiles, typically animal products, within which all the required amino acids can be obtained, and others, typically plant based foods, have incomplete profiles.
If you're vegetarian you need to not be conscious of both hitting your protein requirements,and also taking in a complete amino acid profile.
Top Tips: meat, fish, eggs, milk, legumes
Carbs - 4 calories/gram
Carbs are the new Fats (see below). Once loved and now hated, we're one step away from protestors with placards.
Your body changes carbohydrate into glucose which is then used for energy. Some types of carbohydrate based foods are more easily converted to sugar than others such as caster sugar vs cabbage.
Carbohydrates don't provide the satiety of protein and fat so they are easier to overeat, but guess what? If you aren't in a calorie surplus they won't make you fat.
Top Tips: Leafy Green Veg, More Veg, Quinoa, Fruit
Fats - 9 calories/gram
Fat got a bad press until recently but is on the comeback trail. There are 'good fats' and 'bad fats', but the only fats that will make you fat are the ones that put your calories into excess.
Healthy fats are not only beneficial in lowering bad cholesterol, but they also aid satiety so including some can help you feel full on a calorie deficit, although at more than double the cal/gram of protein and carbohydrate, you don't want to go overboard.
Top tips: Avocado, Oily Fish, Nuts, Olives
...okay so it isn't quite that simple BUT, it doesn't have to be complicated.
Everywhere you turn, from 'health' magazines, to celeb gossip weeklys, to adverts online and on television, there are promises upon promises of 'six pack abs in six minutes', drop 'two dress sizes in two days', and similar. Big promises are laid on weak foundations and the hopes and dreams of millions are shattered when one of the following things happens. 1. They swear they followed the diet to the letter but didn't get anything like the promised results, or 2. They got mind blowing results in an incredibly short time, went back to real life and ended up back where they were or even worse, worse.
The second option happens with great regularity and is what we affectionately refer to as 'yo-yo dieting'.
Which brings us on to our award.
The Best Diet In The World (Without A Doubt) Is....the one that is healthy, balanced and sustainable.
What does that even mean?
I believe that for anything to be classified as healthy there is a responsibility to psychological as well as perceived physical health. If you're completely obsessing over your food, worrying and stressing about it, avoiding social contact with friends, but dropping body fat is that healthy? We're going to explore 'healthy' foods in more detail but safe to say that making your entire diet up of cheeseburgers and chocolate isn't healthy. I've met grown adults, real people, that literally eat NO vegetables. Seriously.
Balance comes from doing the right mix of what you could, should and want, and the exact formula that works will be different from person to person. What is a constant is that you will have a goal in mind whether it's related to how you look, wanting to feel better about yourself, standing taller in the office or being able to walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath. You don't have to go all out to achieve this - you'll get there more quickly granted, but it could and likely will blow up in your face. Taking a balanced approach means allocating enough 'units' to pursuits that you enjoy, whilst not at the cost of achieving your goal in an appropriate time frame.
The sustainability of anything comes down to its intensity. It's impossible to work, play, diet with 100% intensity 100% of the time without eventual spontaneous combustion in whatever the relative context is (not literally). Stress, binge eating, physical injury can all be side effects of overloading intensity. I define being sustainable as moving you towards your goal, at a speed that you're happy with, and a rate that you could maintain without undue stress indefinitely.
That's about it for now...
That might not be what you wanted to read, or maybe it doesn't come as any huge surprise, but no matter what pot of gold anyone tries to sell you, that is the truth. There is more to it than that and over coming blogs we're going to cover things such as calories, macronutrients, eating for purpose and explore some solutions to potential challenges you might be facing, but for now simply have a think about whether your 'diet' is really all it's cracked up to be.
As always if you have any questions send me an email or get in touch through the site. If you're that way inclined you can also follow on instagram.