Thursday, October 8, 2015

Eating For your Fitness Goals

This post is not about bodybuilding or strength training or power lifting. It’s about getting healthier. No matter what your fitness goal is you need to get stronger.


No matter what your goal, strength, Hypertrophy (gaining muscle), increase stamina or lose weight, you need to add muscle. How do you plan to do that without fuel for your body. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, young or older, over weight of underweight. Eat!

How much fuel? What kind of fuel? In what proportions? When do I need to fuel up? How often do I need fuel?

Lets start with “How much?”

You have what is known as Basil Metabolic Rate.(BMR). Your BMR is the number of calories it takes to keep you alive. It is the fuel your body needs to fuel heartbeat, respiration, brain function, other organ function, digestion, keeping your body temperature at 98.6 F and all other bodily functions while at rest. Everyone’s BMR will vary (Remember, you are unique. Just like everyone else) but BMR can be estimated using your body weight, height, age and sex. It can be accurately measured but the estimate works just fine for our purposes.

If you want to know how to calculate BMR manually you can us this link:  (Men or women)


An automated calculator can be found at:
 All you need to have handy is your weight, height, age and sex.

For example, let’s use a male, 6 feet 0 inches, 200 pounds, age 65.
The BMR for this person would be 1784.4 calories/day.

Now, to get your total calorie needs we need to calculate additional needs based on activity level.  To get a fairly standardized estimate of activity we use The Harris Benedict Equation.

Harris Benedict Formula
To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity 
factor, as follows:
·         If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
·         If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = 
BMR x 1.375
·         If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation
 = BMR x 1.55
·         If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation
 = BMR x 1.725
·         If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) :
 Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
Let’s continue using our previous subject:
Call him “moderately active” using the definition above.

BMR (1784.40 x1.55=2765.82 is his caloric need just to maintain his current weight.

Note: As your weight increases or decreases with your plan or if your activity level changes or if you are Bruce Jenner you’ll need to recalculate your calorie needs periodically.

Calorie Needs to gain weight
If you want to gain body weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn. One pound of body weight is roughly equivalent to 3500 calories, so eating an extra 500 calories per day will cause you to gain one pound a week.
But we don’t want to just gain weight. We want to gain muscle. We’ll go in more detail about this later.
Calorie Needs to lose weight
There are approximately 3500 calories in a pound of stored body fat. So, if you create a 3500-calorie deficit through diet, exercise or a combination of both, you will lose one pound of body weight. (On average 75% of this is fat, 25% lean tissue) If you create a 7000 calorie deficit you will lose two pounds and so on. The calorie deficit can be achieved either by calorie-restriction alone, or by a combination of fewer calories in (diet) and more calories out (exercise). This combination of diet and exercise is best for lasting weight loss. Indeed, sustained weight loss is difficult or impossible without increased regular exercise.         

But we don’t just want to lose weight. We want to loose fat.
If you want to lose fat, a useful guideline for lowering your calorie intake is to reduce your calories by at least 500, but not more than 1000 below your maintenance level. As a guide to minimum calorie intake, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that calorie levels never drop below 1200 calories per day for women or 1800 calories per day for men. Even these calorie levels are quite low.
So now you know how much you need to increase calories to gain weight and how many calories you need to cut calories to lose weight. It sounds simple enough. Maintain a calorie deficit and you lose weight. Maintain a calorie surplus and you gain weight. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie…right?  Not quite.

Now, let’s determine “What kind of fuel”

There are several things the human body needs to thrive including a myriad of vitamins and minerals. But the three main nutrients are called “Macros”. They are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. You need all three to remain healthy and strong.
·         Protein- Protein is the major building block for muscle and other tissues making up your body. Most protein comes from animal sources including beef, pork, fowl and fish and dairy.. Although some vegetables contain protein ( Legumes being the highest vegetable source) Animal protein is usually considered the highest quality source.
·         Carbohydrates-Carbohydrates are your body’s primary and preferred source of fuel.”Carbs” are contained in almost all food sources (animal and vegetable). But the primary sources are grains and grain products, potatoes and other root vegetables, fruit and other vegetables. Depending on the source of the carbs, they may be either slow digesting-producing a slow but steady source of fuel) or fast digesting-producing a rapid but shorter lived source of fuel. Carbs are not the enemy. Excess carbs are the enemy. Excess carbs are converted by the liver and stored as fat.
·         Fats- Fats are just as necessary as protein or carbs. Fats are required in several important functions. Many vitamins cannot be absorbed by the body without fats including A, D, E and K. Fats are part of the membrane that surrounds all your cells including brain and nerve cells .Fat s also responsible for making hormones and regulate the production of hormones. Fat is also where the body stores fuel it doesn’t need in the short term. The body considers these stores the fuel of last resort. It’s there in case of famine, brutal winters and starvation. The body does not want to give up these emergency stores easily! Let’s get one thing out of the way right now; In their unprocessed form, fats don’t make you fat. Over eating and inactivity make you fat!
There are “good” fats and “bad” fats. Good fats are high in Omega- 3 fatty acids and are found in avocado, cold water fish, some nuts and olive oil. and actually lower bad cholesterol. Bad fats are high in Omega-6 fatty acids and are fats that raise bad cholesterol and, in excess, lead to clogged arteries and heart disease.

“In what proportions?”
A few facts:
·         1 gram of protein contains approximately 4 calories
·         1 gram of carbs contains approximately 4 calories
·         1 gram of fat contains approximately 9 calories ( 2.25 x as many calories) You have to burn 2.25 times as many calories to burn fat as protein and carbs.
·         Fats are more easily converted to body fat than protein or carbs (carbs are second)
·         The body tries very hard to hold on to its fuel of last resort (fat)
·         Carbs are the body’s preferred source of fuel
·         The body will break down protein (muscle) before fat if there are not enough carbs to provide fuel (Less muscle means lower metabolism)
·         Protein takes much more energy to digest than carbs or fat. (raising your metabolism)
·         Muscle tissue burns several times as much energy as fat tissue even at rest (raising your metabolism)
·         Protein makes you feel more satiated. (you eat less)
·         Fat is digested very quickly and efficiently and, in many forms, makes you crave more.

·         You need fuel that the body can use immediately for it regular functions and reasonable short term reserves.(carbs)
·         You need building material to add muscle to help raise your metabolism,(protein)
·         You need the catalyst material to allow your body to function properly, absorb vitamins and produce the hormones you need and to maintain healthy cell structure. (fats)
But in what proportions?

Protein-A reasonably active person should consume +- 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day to provide the necessary materials for building lean muscle mass.
Carbs-To provide sufficient fuel for everyday activity, including exercise, carb inake should average approximately 2.0 grams per pound of body weight per day
Fats- Fats should make up between 25% and 30% of total calorie intake.

When should I fuel up?
Remember, this post is about getting stronger. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to lose weight or gain; you still need to get stronger. With that in mind, what follows relates to someone who is moderately active and trying to get stronger.
You are working out, aren’t you???

Breakfast is the only meal I’m going to discuss in a lot of detail. I do this because only about 31% of Americans eat breakfast and that’s a huge mistake.
Eat breakfast! No matter what your fitness goal, you are sabotaging you progress if you don’t eat breakfast! You have been fasting for 6 to 9 hours. Your glycogen stores are depleted (glycogen is the end product, a form of sugar, your cells use as fuel) 
If you skip breakfast several things happen. Your body starts looking for sources of fuel to maintain itself. It looks first to muscle (not fat!) tissue and begins breaking down muscle tissue to convert to fuel. It also looks for ways to conserve energy by slowing all bodily function, including brain function, and lowers you metabolism. Next, hunger sets in. What do we have to eat at the office? Oh yeah, the snack machine!
So, your metabolism slows to conserve energy, Muscle tissue gets catabolized for fuel (slowing metabolism even more) and for the rest of the day you are losing muscle and burning less fat. Later, when you get hungry you go to the snack machine and eat some fat or maybe some donuts someone left in the break room. Yep, that will get you far in your efforts to get healthy!

What to eat for breakfast.(and some warnings)
 Healthy cereal? Good luck with that. Most “healthy” cereals like Raisin Bran or Cheerios contain as much sugar as “Fruity Pebbles”. Granola bar? Look at the nutritional information. Many are just candy bars in disguise.  Yogurt?  Watch for added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Fruit juice? Most have the same sugar and calories as an 8 ounce can of soda. Don’t get discouraged. I just do this to get you to pay attention to the fact that a label that says “healthy” or “all natural “should be treated as a big flashing warning sign!
You need carbs to replenish glycogen stores and protein to help keep you satisfied. Try oatmeal or Greek yogurt with fresh fruit. Eggs in almost any form are better than most prepackaged breakfast food.

Other suggestions about when to fuel up:
·         If you workout in the morning eat a pre-workout meal to break your fasted state. Preferably 30 minutes to an hour before your workout. You need carbs that digest rapidly to fuel your workout and provide the necessary energy, prevent fatigue and allow you to work harder. You’ll also need protein pre-workout so your body has the material necessary to start the recovery process of building new muscle. Opinions vary as to amounts but my personal preference is a minimum of 50 to 60 grams of fast digesting carbs and around 20-30 grams of fast digesting protein. And a minimum of 16 ounces of water.
·         Post workout meal-You have hopefully worked hard enough in your workout to need to replenish your glycogen stores. My post workout meal consists of an additional 50+ grams of carbs and around 80 grams of protein. My post workout meal usually consists of eggs,40 grams of whey protein in milk and an English muffin. Try to eat your meal within one hour of finishing your workout.
·         Keep healthy snacks within reach. Nuts, seeds, peanut or almond butter, protein bars (don’t forget to look at the nutrition data).Don’t let yourself get hungry! When you feel hungry you are more likely to reach for unhealthy snacks and eat far more than you need at meals.
·         Drink lots of water. When you first begin to feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. When you get dehydrated your body slows down to conserve, lowering your metabolism.
·         If you are trying to build mass 20-30 grams of slow digesting protein before bed will keep the hunger and catabolism away. Casein protein, cottage cheese or Greek yogurts are good choices.

Other suggestions

·         One of the most important jobs in your efforts to get healthier is grocery shopping. If you don’t buy junk and bring it home you are far less likely to eat junk. Stock up on healthier foods. If you can’t find something you like that’s healthy in the pantry you’ll reach for the junk.
·         Pre-plan your meals and buy accordingly.  If there’s nothing in the freezer or fridge that’s healthy you’ll eat junk.
·         If you are single (or even if you’re not) and you don’t feel like cooking, you’ll eat junk. To avoid this prepare some meals ahead of time. Buy a whole roast, or the large pack of pork chops or the 2 pack of steak, or 4 pack of salmon or the 3 pack of chicken breast and cook it all! Eat what you want for that meal and put and put the rest in the fridge and/or freezer. Take away the excuse that it’s too hard to cook for one. That excuse is invalid.
·         Buy fresh foods when possible. Make a special effort to buy whole foods.
 (“Real Food” not prepackaged, hydrogenated, artificially colored, genetically altered, fortified, dehydrated, rehydrated, evaporated, artificially flavored, artificially sweetened, dyed, dried, MSG’d, BMO’d, oxidized, butylated, mutilated or preserved.)
·         Allow yourself a “cheat meal” once a week. Just don’t let it turn into a “cheat week” It will satisfy your cravings and help keep you on your plan. Get too strict on your nutrition plan and you simply will not stick to it.

SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO  If I don’t have an answer I’ll find someone who does. 


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