Nutrition for Fitness – A Start
Most of us know that the food we eat plays a huge role in how we look and feel. Regular exercise is very important for our overall fitness at any age. Research has shown that nutrition has even more significant impact than exercise on fitness. Eating healthy foods can help us reach our fitness goals. The purpose of this post is to help you get started with a foundational understanding of Nutrition for Fitness.
Begin with Your Goals.
I addressed goals and their importance in fitness in my previous post. If you don’t know what you’re aiming to achieve in fitness you will limit your progress. Is your goal to reach a certain weight? Or, are you trying to attain certain goals with weight training? Are you hoping to run a particular distance within a certain time? Are you aiming to grow muscle? The kinds of food and the amounts will change significantly depending on what your goals are. In this post we will address macro nutrients, aka. Macros. Those are the amounts and proportions of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. We’ll also address the types of Macros that best support health and fitness.
There are 3 Macros that supply you with energy.
- Protein: 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
- Fat: 9 calories per gram
Most of us think of calories as things that make us fat. Actually, a calorie is a unit of energy. We burn them as fuel which provides us with energy. When we ingest more calories than our body requires for energy it stores the reserves in the form of fat. We’ll have a later post just about many facets of calories.
To determine if you are becoming more fit, you’ll need to measure some things:
- Body weight
- Fat % *
- Lean muscle %
*Most Health Clubs have instruments to help you measure these. Or, you can purchase Skinfold Calipers for as little as $10.
You will also want to measure what your daily intake of:
There are 2 tools to enable you to measure your intake:
- A food scale (You can get one for $20)
- An internet search engine, (like Google, or Yahoo or whatever one you like).
Let’s say you are eating a chicken breast a yam and a cup of broccoli. You look on the internet to find what the nutritional make-up of each is. You will easily see:
- Protein per oz.
- Carbohydrates per oz.
- Fat per oz.
- Calories per oz.
If you want to make the fastest and consistent progress toward your fitness goals, you’ll want to keep a notebook or file on your computer to keep track of these things every time you eat or drink. It gets easier and quicker to get these measurements before long. For example, if you eat eggs every morning, after 2 or 3 days you will know what the nutritional makes up of an egg is.
Muscle is made up of protein, so it makes sense that if we are going to do some regular resistance training build muscle, we’ll need to increase the amount of protein we intake. Many research studies have shown that to maximize the results from resistance training, daily intake of protein should be 1.5 grams for every pound of body weight.
There was a study published in the “Journal. Of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” had two groups of men. Both groups
followed an 8-week training program. One group ingested 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day. The other group took in 1.5 grams of protein. The group in taking the additional protein consumed about 500 calories more per day because of that extra protein.
Some of the best high protein foods for building lean muscle are lean meats and low-fat dairy. Chicken, fish and lean beef are great choices. It is also good to supplement your food sources with protein powder and/or bars. In a future post I will address protein sources in much more detail.
Protein is 4 calories per gram. If you are a 180-pound man and you are going to intake 1.5 grams per pound of body weight, that will be 270 grams per day. That translates to 1,080 calories per day.
There are healthy fats and unhealthy fats. For the purposes of this post I’ll limit our focus to healthy fats. A couple of decades ago the craze was for low-fat and non-fat. Fat was seen as unhealthy and fattening. If someone eats unhealthy fats and too much of them, they will become unhealthy and unfit.
Following are 10 examples of healthy fat: avocados, cheese, dark chocolate, whole eggs, nuts, fish, chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and full fat yogurt. I consume every food on this list on a regular basis.
Ingesting proper amounts of healthy fats each day benefit you in many ways. They increase hormones and metabolism and lead to greater gains in muscle from resistance training. Eating enough fat and reducing carbohydrate consumption increases metabolism and contributes to weight loss. Good fat even contributes to increased libido and lower body fat. Omega 3 and 6 help improve brain function and improved mood and better bone health, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Healthy fats increase healthy cholesterol and reduce unhealthy cholesterol and, strengthens the immune system. Last, but not least, the good fats help improve eye and skin health.
Fat is 9 calories per gram, and you are going to want to consume .5 grams per pound of body weight. So, if you were a 180-pound man, you would want to ingest 90 grams of fat daily. That will produce 810 calories.
Carbohydrates are naturally occurring sugars, starches and fiber in food. All carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules. Simple carbs are made up of one sugar molecule. Sugar molecules linked together make up starches and fiber. Simple and complex carbs eventually break down into glucose. Complex carbs take much longer to do so and offer benefits to the body along the way. Fiber does not digest
Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body to provide energy. If the body doesn’t need any immediate, additional energy, the simple they will be stored as fat. There are few health benefits from simple carbs.
Simple carbs are found in nature in many fruits and honey. They are also found in processed white sugar, white flour and other processed grains.
Complex carbohydrates offer many health benefits that contribute to fitness. They aid digestion, contribute to lower risk of diabetes, and good source of overall nutrition. Complex carbs help you stay full longer, keep your mood stable and lower your risk of heart disease. Additionally, they improve brain function, help you sleep better and give you energy.
For the purposes of becoming more fit and losing weight, I recommend that you slowly reduce your daily carbohydrate consumption while maintaining your daily levels of protein and fat.
I recommend you start out eating 2 grams of complex carbohydrates for every pound of body weight. For a 180-pound man that would be 360 grams. With carbohydrates providing 4 calories per gram, that would mean consuming 1,440 calories per day of complex carbs.
If one of your fitness goals is to lose weight, I recommend you begin to reduce your daily ingestion of carbs by 0.5 grams per pound of body weight. So, for a 180-pound man who has been eating 2 grams per pound of body weight, he would reduce his daily consumption. After a week if the hasn’t lost any weight, he could reduce another 0.5 grams.
Dietary Fiber does not digest. As it passes through the stomach and intestines it absorbs water. That, in turn, promotes regularity and reduces constipation. Fiber traps cholesterol and helps eliminate it from the body. It’s been linked to reduction in heart disease. Because fiber expands in the stomach and intestines, a meal rich in fiber makes someone feel fuller. Because of that it reduces the amount of food someone eats, resulting loss. It slows the digestion of sugars which can reduce glucose levels, helping to prevent diabetes.
According to the Institute of Medicine adult men need 38 grams of fiber daily. The USDA also recommends 38 grams per day.
For a greater understanding of the science of fitness nutrition click on the following link: Nutrition for Fitness
The most successful people in most endeavors in life have written goals and then they plan and measure their progress. There is an old truism, “Winners Keep Score”. Please let me know if I can help you in any way.
I hope you have found this article helpful to give you a foundational understanding of Nutrition for Fitness.
 Schwingshackl L, Dias S, Hoffmann G. Impact of long-term lifestyle programmes on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors in overweight/obese participants: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Syst Rev. 2014;3:130. doi:10.1186/2046-4053-3-130
 Ellerbroek, A., Peacock, C.A., Orris, S. et al. The effects of heavy resistance training and a high protein diet (3.4g/kg/d) on body composition, exercise performance and indices of health in resistance-trained individuals – a follow-up investigation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 12, P37 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-12-S1-P37