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The Importance of Nutrition

We have all heard the saying “you are what you eat” and this could not be truer when it comes to fitness nutrition. What you put into your body determines if you will achieve your goal. Whether you accept this or not, what you eat is the most important factor for both muscle growth and fat loss. If your nutrition, supplementation, and workout program is not optimized then you will make little to no progress and you will become frustrated quickly. However, there is hope for you, after reading this you should be fully ready to achieve your goals! Are you ready to learn about the importance of nutrition? Good, lets get right into it!

 First, we need to make one thing clear, everything that has to do with weight management comes down to one simple equation. We refer to this equation as the “energy balance equation” or simply calories in versus calories out. The ‘calories in’ in this equation refers to the food that we eat, since that is the only way that we human beings get energy. The ‘calories out’ in this equation referes to the amount of energy or bodies output, or simply how many calories we burn a day. The calories burned is usually referred to as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and it is broken into even more subcategories. There are 4 subcategories:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
    • Your BMR is the amount of energy that it takes to keep your body alive. In other words, this is how many calories you burn if you did nothing all day – no eating, moving, nothing! Just breathing. Your BMR makes up most of your TDEE, up to about 50-75%! Your BMR is determined by how much muscle you have, genetics, and how you have trained your metabolism through metabolic adaptation (I will get into later).
  • Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
    • NEAT is just as it sounds, how many calories you burn by moving, but not through exercise directly. Some examples of this is fidgeting, standing, gardening, etc. All these things burn some calories and they add up throughout the day. It is hard to gauge so this is usually calculated through the type of job you have since you spend most of your awake time working. So if you are sitting at a desk all day the amount of neat you do could only be ~6-10% of your TDEE, but if you do physical labor like construction then it can add up to ~50% of your TDEE, but I wouldn’t count on it.
  • Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)
    • Again, just as the name suggests, this is how many calories you burn through exercise. For some athletes EAT can add up to ~15-30% of your total TDEE. However, for most casual gym goers it is only about 5% of our TDEE. This is because we don’t work out hard or long enough to burn THAT many calories. Studies show that if you were lifting light weights for a full hour, we can expect to burn about 500 calories, however when you factor in rest, we usually burn half of that.
  • Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
    • Lastly we have TEF, or the amount of calories we burn to digest and absorb food. This accounts for the calories burned while chewing, swallowing, moving the food through your digestive system, etc. This usually makes up ~8-20% of your TDEE. Some ways to increase this is by eating highly thermic macronutrients like protein. Protein is harder for your body to digest so it takes more calories than fats or carbs.

Now that you know how calories are burned, it comes back to the previously stated energy equation. Weight management is determined by how many calories you take in and how many calories that you burn. As shown in the picture above if you burn more calories than you eat, then you will lose weight, if you eat more than you burn then you will gain weight, if you eat the same amount you burn you will have no change in weight. Did you catch the keyword in all those scenarios? WEIGHT! Calories reign supreme when it comes to numbers on the scale and that is an effective way to gauge progress. However, it become more complicated when it comes down to body composition, or what that weight is made of. Your body composition is based on how much fat and muscle you have on your body and these are mostly dictated by the kinds of macronutrients that makes up your diet. The 3 macronutrients are:

  • Protein
    • As most of us know, protein is the building bocks of your muscle. When you eat protein, it stimulates ‘protein synthesis’ or when your body creates proteins for different bodily functions (making enzymes, muscle, etc.). One gram of protein is 4 calories and should be the focus in everyone’s diet.
  • Fat
    • Although we think of fat as being a bad thing that we want off our stomachs, fat is a good thing! Fat shuttles nutrients into our cells, creates hormones, and makes our cells strong. It is also stored as body fat to be used as energy when we need it. One gram of fat is 9 calories and is usually not the highest source of calories in people’s diet.
  • Carbohydrates
    • Carbohydrates are our bodies main source of energy throughout the day and they usually make up the bulk of our diets. They provide quick energy to our muscles and our brain and is usually more efficient than using fats as energy. Carbs are stored in the muscles, but when there is too much it will be converted into fat. Carbs are found mostly in plants (excluding lactose) and there are different kinds of carbs:
      • Simple
        • These are usually sugars and other quick digesting carbohydrates. These are great for eating before a workout so they can be utilized quickly. These are also 4 calories per gram.
      • Complex
        • These are usually found in whole foods and they take longer for our body to digest. This is good because it will keep us full longer and usually don’t convert into fat as easily because of our bodies response to eating them. This is also 4 calories per gram.
      • Fiber
        • This is indigestible bulk that is found in plants and whole grains. This is crucial for optimal digestion and lowering your cholesterol. Fiber also makes us feel fuller and makes our diet easier to follow. Fiber is special however because it is only worth 2 calories instead of 4 per gram because your body tries hard to digest it and expends more energy doing so.

So, a basic guideline for eating for most people who want to be leaner and more muscular is eating a moderate or high amount of protein, and a moderate to low amount of fat and carbs. An interesting fact though is that it doesn’t matter if you eat more fat or carbohydrates in your diet if you want to lose fat. You will have similar results if you eat the same number of calories and protein in your diet, eating more fat or carbs is all preference.

Now that you know the basic background of nutrition, it is time to get to the importance of it, or the whole point of this article! Eating good is everything when it comes to body composition and weight management. The old saying is true, “you can’t outwork a bad diet”. It is true because as you can see it is a lot easier to control what goes in versus what goes out. If you eat 4000 calories every day when your BMR, NEAT, and TEF is only 2000, you will not work off that 2000 calories surplus. Since there is no easy way to increase your BMR or TEF, your only option is to eat less food. That is why nutrition is important! The way you see good progress towards your goal is by complying with your nutrition program and making sure your body gets what it needs to accomplish your goal.

Next, how important is nutrition to overall body composition. Since weight is only controlled by calories, one could technically eat twinkies and ding dongs and lose weight if they don’t eat a lot of them. However, they will not be muscular and probably not be a lean individual. Therefore, the types of foods you eat matter. To build and maintain muscle, your body needs an adequate amount of protein because those are the literal building blocks of the muscle. Carbs are usually important as well because they fuel our exercise and give us enough energy to do NEAT throughout the day. We can’t neglect fat though! It also helps body composition by making sure we have the hormones we need to build muscles and let go of fat. As a general guideline do everything in moderation and do what feels best for your body. Lastly do what works for you! If you see your body composition getting better by eating less carbs then go that route! Understand that everyone is different and there are many roads leading to the path of weight loss.

Now with all this new knowledge, use it to create smart choices surrounding your diet and achieve your goals. For specific questions make sure to ask your coach and we can help you out.