2020 had been hard on most of the people around the world. The pandemic brought our lives to a standstill, but it also taught us the importance of nutrition for good health.
Now I am sure you would have received at least one WhatsApp forward on how to boost your immunity. No, or are you the normal one?
From trying weird hacks to watching 100’s of YouTube videos on how to lose weight, how to get fit, improve health, boost immunity, and more, in the hope to find the magic pill that will solve all our problems. Since you are here, I would like to believe that your search is still ON. Don’t worry, I promise not to disappoint you.
Continue reading and you will soon unearth the scientific way to solve most of your problems…
Before we get to weight loss/fat loss, let’s understand why is nutrition important?
Understanding nutrition and what’s the first thing to look at on a nutrition label will help you plan your diet in a better way and achieve the results that you so desire. Just like enjoying the journey is as important as reaching the destination, in the same way, understanding why is nutrition important in our daily lives is important for good health and fitness.
You might have read or heard terms like quantified nutrition or calorie deficit for weight loss/fat loss. Don’t get confused, quantification is nothing but measurement and quantified nutrition is measuring what you eat. Just like how you measure liquids in litres and distance in metres, we measure the energy retrieved from food in the form of calories. Calorie deficit is nothing but eating less than the amount of calories you burn everyday.
Now how do you get the calorie information of the food you eat?
You get the calories of all the packaged food on the packet itself in the form of a Nutritional facts table but how about the unpackaged food like fruits, vegetables, etc. You get the caloric information of these foods too from Google.
Now that you know how to get the caloric information of all the common foods, let’s understand how our body functions.
Our body functions on the basic principle of energy balance. Energy balance is based on the law of thermodynamics that says energy neither can be created nor destroyed, it only changes from one form to another form. It means our body requires certain calories on a day to day basis, this is called Maintenance Calories. If you eat exactly as much as your maintenance calories, you will maintain your body weight, but if you eat more than your maintenance calories, you will add weight but if you eat less than your maintenance calories, you will lose weight.
So, if you are planning a diet which is aiming to gain weight, you want to put yourself in a calorie surplus, which is above the maintenance calories. But, if you are planning to make a diet chart, which is aiming to lose weight, you want to put yourself in a calorie deficit, which is less than maintenance calories.
This is about energy balance, but where do you get this energy from?
You get this energy from food but from the nutrients which are present in that food. These nutrients are generally categorized into macronutrients and micronutrients.
Now let’s understand what are macronutrients and micronutrients:
One of the major parts of understanding nutrition is understanding what are macronutrients and why are they called macronutrients.
Macronutrients are the nutrients which we need in large quantities and it’s generally measured in grams. They provide us with energy, whereas micronutrients are nutrients which we require in very very small quantities generally measured in mgs, mcgs or international units and they don’t give us any energy (think multivitamins).
Now, what are the different macronutrients which we have?
While most people when they talk about macronutrients are usually referring to carbohydrates, proteins, and fats but there are other macronutrients such as water, fiber, and alcohol too.
Here are some macronutrients examples:
Carbs: Bread, pasta, cereal, rice, fruit, oats, potato, sugar
Protein: Whey protein, chicken, fish, egg whites
Fats: Nuts, nut butter, olive oil, chia seeds, ghee, avocado
Now you may be wondering, “but what nutrients should we eat every day?”
So, let me try and explain macronutrients and their role in our diet, so that you know which ones to add and how much to achieve you target goal.
The first macronutrient which we are going to discuss is Protein. Protein is an essential macronutrient and when consumed, it gets converted into Amino acids. The amino acids carry out a lot of body functions, and one of the major functions it does in muscle protein synthesis, which is responsible for your muscle growth.
Now, this would have surely piqued your interest, because who doesn’t love that lean, ripped physique. Am I right, or am I right?
There are about 20 different kinds of amino acids that we get from different protein sources and these amino acids are further categorized into essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. The quantity of the protein required for a person depends on the activity of that person.
For example; there is a sedentary individual who required very little protein can keep his/her protein intake at around 1.2 gm per kg of lean body weight per day, however; as soon as the activity levels increase and he is playing a sport or something, the requirement will increase to 1.4 gm per kg of lean bodyweight per day. But, if you are a person who goes through a lot of resistance training or maybe weight training and does a lot of damage to your muscles, the requirement further increases and it is optimal to keep your protein intake between 1.6 gm to as high as 2.2 gm per kg of lean bodyweight per day.
Please note that even protein has calories! 1 gram of protein gives you 4 calories and this total protein that you consume has a lot of calories which needs to be accounted for in your total calories intake. This was about protein and its dosage requirements. Now, let’s talk about the next macronutrient which is fats.
If someone asked me what is the most important nutrient in our diet, I would say Fats.
Fats is also one of the essential macronutrients and is responsible for a lot of body functions including secretion of certain hormones and absorption of fat soluble micronutrients.
Fat is an energy-dense macronutrient. What I mean by that is 1 gm of fat gives you 9 kcal. For example, if you take a tbsp of oil, which is about 14 gm of fat gives you about 126 calories from it. Fats are further classified into saturated fats and unsaturated fats and of course, there is an unhealthy form called Trans fat, which you need to avoid.
However; I would still like to point out that we don’t have strong evidence that saturated fats are going to cause cardiovascular diseases. So, it is a personal preference for you to include saturated fats as part of your diet.
Now let us discuss one of the most popular macronutrients is Carbohydrates.
Carbohydrate is a non-essential macronutrient which means that human beings can survive without consuming a lot of carbs or maybe just consuming a negligible amount of carbs for the rest of their life. But if you are looking at the essentiality aspect, you need proteins and fats to survive but you might also want to look at the optimality aspect where you want to perform better in activities which you perform and the quality of life to be improved, then you need to have a certain amount of carbs as a part of your diet.
Carbohydrates can be categorized into monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides, but let’s not get into that. Lets understand that 1 gm of carbohydrates gives you 4 kcal and whatever carbohydrates you eat as a part of your diet will give you a lot of calories which needs to be accounted for in your total caloric intake.
Before we move ahead, let’s talk about the rest three macronutrients that is water, fiber, and alcohol.
Water and fiber are essential macronutrients and have their own body functions. However; these two don’t yield any meaningful energy for you to account for in your caloric intake. On the other hand, alcohol has calories and it has a lot of negative effects on your fat loss or muscle growth journey and it is better to be avoided as part of your diet.
Now that we have understood the different macronutrients, comment below and let me know how does lack of nutrition would affect our body.
If you would like to learn more about weight loss, resistance training and quantified nutrition, follow me on Instagram. My username is @andbeactive
Until next time, eat healthy, drink health…. and be active.