Diet and nutrition are huge determining factors in overall health, well-being, and in the success or failure of a training program. If what you’re putting into your body isn’t in line, you’re just not going to get the results that you want.
As important as they are, diet and nutrition are very tricky. Whatever question you have will generate a million different responses on Google, a million different opinions depending on who you ask, and will leave you more confused about things than when you initially started doing your research.
I’m going to attempt to make things a little simpler for you.
Here are answers to 4 of the most commonly asked questions about nutrition. The answers come from Marie Spano.
Spano is a sports dietician for the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Braves, she works with NFL, PGA, and NHL athletes through her company (Spano Sports Nutrition Consulting, LLC), she’s a regular guest on CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS, she’s the co-editor of a major exercise and sport nutrition journal (NSCA’s Guide to Exercise and Sport Nutrition), and she’s a freelance journalist.
All this to say… Spano really knows her shit. The answers to these questions come from a talk she gave at a National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) event.
For weight loss, which should I pay more attention to, calories or macros?
We all know what it means to count calories – you look at the nutritional information on the back of whatever you’re eating and add together the total calories of everything that you’ve eaten over the course of a day.
Counting macros is a little different. Macros is short for macronutrients – your fat, protein, and carbohydrates. These are nutrients required in relatively large amounts by the body (hence, “macro”).
Within the weight loss community, there are two views regarding which is more important for weight loss: counting your calories or counting your relative intake of fat, protein, and carbohydrate (“counting your macros”).
With regard to this question, Spano says there is no real definitive answer. The research is split.
And, in her opinion, which one you pay attention to doesn’t matter all that much. The more important thing for weight loss is adherence.
So, do whatever you’re more comfortable with as long as you’re going to stick with it for the long haul.
Counting calories has the advantage of being easier to keep track of. But, there are some things you should keep in mind in terms of your macros.
For one thing, make sure you’re getting enough protein. Enough protein in your diet is going to ensure your muscle is spared while you’re in a calorie deficit and it’ll make sure you can actually gain lean muscle mass while you lose weight.
How do you maximize weight loss and avoid getting stuck?
The first thing you need to learn about to answer this question is a little thing called metabolic compensation.
It’s a biological phenomenon that describes how your metabolism changes as you gain or lose weight. And it’s quite simple. It says that if you lose weight your metabolism slows. If you gain weight, your metabolism increases.
This makes sense if you think about it. Smaller bodies require less energy and less calories to live or move around during exercise. Bigger bodies require more work to move around, thus they’ll burn more calories supplying the energy to do so.
To maximize weight loss and avoid a plateau, you need to account for metabolic compensation. You need to consistently adjust your caloric needs as your body weight changes.
Other strategies Spano mentions for maximizing weight loss include transitioning to better food sources, putting yourself in environments conducive of good choices, and dealing with life factors that have nothing to do with nutrition or diet.
Better food sources, such as those high in fiber with very little processing, will contribute less calories to your intake than food sources that are highly processed.
Things like nuts are more difficult to digest and they aren’t completely broken down before they are passed from the body. That means that if you eat a serving of nuts that contains 100 calories, your body may only absorb 80.
Processed foods, on the other hand, are almost completely absorbed. You intake 100 calories of a McDonalds’ cheeseburger and your body is going to absorb all 100 of those calories.
Good environments for weight loss and healthy eating mean surrounding yourself with other people that are making healthy choices as well. It’s much harder to maintain your discipline when you’re eating a salad and a huge plate of nachos are being passed in front of your face.
The last point is the most important: life factors that have nothing to do with nutrition.
People don’t just eat because they’re hungry. When asked why people fall off a good run of healthy eating, the most common responses have to do with things like divorce, I lost my job, things aren’t going well for me right now, etc.
These unfortunate life things have to be dealt with first if you want any chance at success with weight loss.
How do you maximize weight gain?
Gaining muscle is a lot simpler. Cover your basic nutritional requirements to make sure you’re healthy and your body is getting everything that it needs. Then, maximize your caloric intake by eating calorie dense foods.
What are two changes I could make right now that will have the biggest impact for me?
Drink enough water and get enough sleep.
The vast majority of us are walking around in some state of dehydration. Even short-term dehydration is associated with:
- Memory impairments
- Moodiness and anxiety
- Lower motivation
- Attention deficit
- Decreased athletic performance
If you’re dehydrated you can’t perform as well in the gym, which means your going to burn less calories and make less muscle gain. And when you have all of the cognition deficits, you’re not going to make the right choices when it comes to your diet.
We are also chronically under slept. Sleep, like dehydration, is also associated with a ton of mental and physical performance deficits. Plus, we rely more on things like coffee and food to keep us going when we have no energy.
These are answers to the most common nutrition questions out there; hopefully you find them helpful.
If you’d like to learn more, contact me. I’d love to help you out.
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Have a great week!