YOUR NUTRITION CHECKLIST
1. Cut out the junk
2. Make healthier choices
3. Count calories
5. Nutrient timing
Weight loss and changing body composition takes time, but when is the right time to take the next step in nutrition?
STEP 1 – Cut out the junk
The simplest step that most people avoid is cutting out junk. It’s the point in a “diet” where you have to give up a particular food or beverage that you enjoy. We all have a vice, and if yours is one that you eat or drink then here’s where your journey begins.
This step is often the most overlooked and difficult to stick to because it’s a matter of disconnecting from the relationship you have with this food.
Don’t expect to go cold turkey and cut it out immediately, give yourself a chance to stick with it long enough to see a result and progressively reduce your intake over time.
STEP 2 – Making healthier choices
Most cafes and restaurants today have plenty of options to suit different dietary requirements. Choosing healthy items from a menu has never been easier. Step 2 is about being able to go out into the world and make the right choices. For example instead of the burger and chips, you choose a grilled chicken salad.
Eliminating the attachment you have with food in social settings will give you more confidence to make healthier choices which makes it easier to stick to long term.
STEP 3 – Calorie counting
Counting calories is simple. If you want to lose weight go in a caloric deficit and eat less than you burn. The most accurate way to calculate this number is by getting a DEXA scan or some type of bioelectrical impedance analysis that can work out your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Your BMR is the energy (calories) your body burns at rest. As soon as you add training into the equation your daily BMR increases depending on the type of activity you’re doing. Figure 1 shows estimates on calories you’d need to consume on specific days for different goals.
Figure 1 – Estimates for a BMR of 2000:
Counting calories can be time consuming because you’re weighing and measuring what you’re eating. This step will take your results to the next level but if you live a busy lifestyle and don’t have time to count your food, there is nothing wrong with staying at step 2 if it’s working for you.
STEP 4 – Macros
Counting macronutrients is taking it one step further because now you’re counting the grams of carbohydrates, proteins and fats you consume daily. If calorie counting was hard for you then you’re not ready for this step as it requires more specificity in the types of foods you’re eating.
How to calculate macros:
- Work out how you want to distribute your macronutrients by allocating a percentage of daily intake for each.
- Calculate how many grams that totals for each nutrient per day:
- Carbohydrates – 4 calories per gram
- Protein – 4 calories per gram
- Fat – 9 calories per gram
3. Weigh your food so you can calculate how many grams and calories you’re getting from each.
If you find counting calories easy and you’ve reached a ceiling in results achieved, counting macros is the step and a good way to make body composition changes (reducing fat and increasing muscle). It can take some time to work out but once you understand the density in different foods, it gets easier to manage.
STEP 5 – Nutrient timing
When is the right time to eat specific macronutrients?
Figure 2 is a basic guide as to the best time to consume different macronutrients in conjunction with training. If performance is your focus, timing your macronutrients around training hours will take your performance to the next level.
- Carbohydrates are fuel for training – consuming more around training hours will allow you to train harder for longer.
- Protein repairs and regenerates muscle tissue – it is best absorbed steadily throughout the day so aim to distribute an even percentage into each meal of the day.
- Fats slower the absorption rate of carbohydrates and protein:
- Eating less around training hours will allow the other nutrients be absorbed at a higher rate and improve recovery time
- Eating more at times away from training will offer more satiety and continue to fuel the body in times of rest.
Whether your goal is weight loss, body composition or performance, each step is just as important as the next.
First find consistency at step 1 before jumping to another, and work your way through each step progressively until you’re consistent. This will make your chances of staying on track greater and reduce prevalence of yo-yo dieting.