Healthy Eating Tips

Welcome to Nutrition 101. This is the most important, and also the most difficult part of getting in shape. Your body is going to directly reflect your food choices. Both building muscle and burning fat are heavily dependent on how you are eating. You can still improve both your health and fitness even if you are not eating perfectly, but your diet needs to be spot on if you want an exceptionally lean or muscular body.

This is complicated stuff, but I have tried to simplify it as much as possible, so that anyone can have success with their nutrition. This 8 part article covers the most important concepts in nutrition and shows you how to use those concepts to build an exceptionally healthy diet. Read this article in its entirety if you really want to get an understanding of how your body works in regards to nutrition. You can also skip right to the key points of each topic to get a brief summary. At the very end are some sample meal plans showing you how to apply all of these concepts. Let’s begin by clicking the link below...

QUALITY OF FOOD

For so long I thought it was just about calories. “Calories in vs. calories out! Gotta burn more than your taking in.” But the more I learn, the more I realize that the quality of your food is the most important part of a healthy diet. Someone that eats 2000 calories of healthy foods every day is going to look, and feel, a lot different than someone eating 2000 calories of Snickers bars every day. This is because the foods that we eat have a profound effect on our bodies through various hormonal pathways, particularly the insulin pathway.


Insulin is a hormone in the body that regulates whether nutrients are stored or whether they are used. Generally, when insulin levels are low, the body will use stored nutrients. When insulin levels are high, the body will store nutrients. The foods that we eat have a direct impact on our insulin levels!
To understand this concept better it is helpful to know what the foods we eat are made out of, as this will ultimately determine how the foods affect our body. All foods are made up of the macronutrients carbohydrates (carbs), fats, and proteins, as well as micronutrients.


Carbs are generally what make up most of the “plant foods” that we eat, such as fruits, veggies, and grains. Carbs are the body’s primary source of energy and are typically consumed in greater quantities than the other macronutrients. On a molecular level, carbs are made of various arrangements of sugar, and as such, have the greatest impact on our blood sugar and insulin levels. Blood sugar, refers to the amount of sugar circulating in the bloodstream, and is directly correlated with insulin. That means when blood sugar levels increase, insulin levels increase, and when blood sugar levels decrease, insulin levels decrease. Fats and proteins, although still very important, do not affect blood sugar levels nearly as much as carbs do, so blood sugar levels are primarily dependent on carbohydrate intake. The effect that a carbohydrate has on blood sugar, and therefore insulin, is dependent on the rate of digestion of that carbohydrate. The faster a carb digests, the faster those sugars are moved into the bloodstream, causing a greater increase in blood sugar levels, and greater increase in insulin production, ultimately leading to fat storage (assuming the body is at rest. I will talk about other scenarios later). This is a very powerful concept to understand and is what many popular diets such as the South Beach Diet, and The Atkins Diet are based upon.


So how do you know how fast a carb digests? Luckily the hard part has been done for us and we can just look up this information. Scientists have studied the rate of digestion of various foods and come up with the Glycemic Index(GI) as a way of evaluating rate of digestion. GI is a value assigned to a food based on its effect on blood sugar levels. In the case of carbs, the higher the GI value, the faster that carb is digested and the greater effect it has on blood sugar. For more information on the glycemic index or to look up a food in question go to http://www.glycemicindex.com/
Below is a table with some common carbohydrate sources and their associated GI values.

 

FOOD GI VALUE
SPINACH 15
LENTILS 29
APPLES 38
SPAGHETTI (WHITE) 41
RICE (WHITE) 58
TABLE SUGAR 65
RICE KRISPIES 82


Carbs with low GI values are referred to as “complex carbohydrates” and carbs with high GI values are referred to as “simple carbohydrates.” Regardless of your fitness goals, but especially if you are trying to lose fat, at least %50 of your carbs should be complex carbs. This is because simple carbs dramatically increase your insulin levels, literally signaling your body to store fat (assuming the body is at rest). You are going to have a hell of a time getting lean if you are eating foods that tell your body to store fat.


Complex carbohydrate sources include - oatmeal, brown rice, vegetables (potatoes and corn are two common exceptions that are actually simple carbs), yams, beans, fruits and some pastas. You will notice that complex carbohydrates are usually very high in fiber. These foods’ fibrous nature is a main contributor to their slower rates of digestion. Simple carb sources include - breads, cereals, chips, crackers, and sweets. Even many of the “whole wheat” and “whole grain” products out there that are touted as “health foods,” are actually simple carbohydrates. They do digest a bit slower than their more refined cousins (whole wheat bread vs. white bread), but still much faster than is desirable.


Fats are very calorically dense compared to carbs and protein. This means that just a little bit of fat has a lot of calories (if you don’t know about calories yet, don’t worry. I will be covering that as well). Fats, like carbs, are primarily used by the body for energy. However, they are converted to energy much more slowly than carbohydrates, making them a less efficient fuel source. This means that fats are not the body’s preferred energy source, so getting your body to burn fat can be a bit of a challenge.


Just like carbohydrates, there are different types of fats. For simplicity’s sake, we will break them down by “good” fats and “bad” fats. "Good" fats are labeled as such because they have been shown to increase "good" cholesterol and lower "bad" cholesterol. They are also burned more readily for energy and less likely to be stored as fat than "bad" fats. Good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s). Sources include - nuts, seeds, fish, avocados, oils, egg yolks. Bad fats are saturated fats and trans-fats. Saturated fats are “animal fats.” This is the type of fat stored on our midsections. Sources include – meats, particularly fatty meats (think bacon, sausage, processed meats, ground beef, etc.), cheese, creams, and some processed foods. Although not the healthiest source of nutrients, a little bit of saturated fat is needed in our diets, especially for men trying to build muscle. Trans-fats are the worst of the worst. “Trans” refers to the fats’ chemical geometry. It just so happens that this type of fat packs together well and is much more likely to form plaque in your blood vessels, leading to serious heart problems. Trans-fats are typically only in processed foods and rarely found in nature. Spotting trans-fat can be tricky and is covered a little bit later.


Protein is processed by the body quite a bit differently than either fat or carbohydrates. For starters, the body is relatively inefficient at converting protein into energy. This means that protein is the least likely of the three macronutrients to be stored as body fat. Carbs and fats are used by the body primarily for energy. Protein, on the other hand, can be used by the body to build and repair tissues, particularly muscle tissue. Your muscles are literally made out of protein, so it should make sense that protein is needed by the body to build and repair muscle tissue. Finally, protein can be used to slow digestion and promote satiation (feeling full). A meal consisting of protein + carbohydrate will digest more slowly, and keep you feeling fuller, longer than an equal amount of carbohydrate.


How much protein a person needs is a heavily debated subject. Experts recommend anywhere from .4 grams to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, per day. My personal opinion is that individuals engaging in exercise regularly should aim to get roughly 1 gram of protein, per pound of body weight, per day (A little less for women, a little more for men). For example, I weigh 215 pounds and should be eating roughly 215 grams of protein per day. Try to get a little bit of protein in with every meal. It will help to slow digestion and promote satiation. The most critical time for protein consumption is immediately following a workout (this is covered thoroughly in the Nutrient Timing section). Protein sources include – meats, eggs, protein shakes, milk, cottage cheese, and soy. Beans and some grains, although primarily carbohydrate sources, also have fairly high amounts of protein. That is good news for the vegetarians out there.


Micronutrients are another component of our food. Micronutrients are the non-caloric nutrients obtained through food that are required by the body for optimal function. Vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and antioxidants fall into this category. Having an excess of micronutrients in your diet will not give you any type of benefit, but being deficient can cause an array of problems, some very serious. Lucky for us, micronutrient deficiency is more of a problem in third world countries where food sources are scarce and foods are not fortified or enriched as they are here in the US. That said, it is not uncommon for people to suffer less severe forms of micronutrient deficiency. Fatigue, nervousness, irritability, mental depression, insomnia, muscle weakness and muscle cramps can all be caused by micronutrient deficiency. If you want your body feeling and functioning its absolute best, it is important to eat foods that are high in valuable micronutrients such as meats, fish, fruits, veggies, and other complex carbohydrates.


So what is the take home message from all of this? Hopefully you have learned that not all foods are created equal. Some carbs are better than other carbs because they digest more slowly and keep insulin levels low, promoting fat burning. Some fats are better than other fats because they are more likely to be used as energy and have a positive impact on health. Finally, protein and micronutrients are very important and useful nutrients that should be consumed in adequate quantities. But how does the average person know what foods are “good” and what foods are “bad?” I will give you one simple distinction between the two that will help you to make good food choices 95% of the time. Good choices are generally “whole foods.” Poor choices are generally “processed foods.”


Honestly, when I first heard this I dismissed it as hippy mumbo jumbo trying to convert me to their holistic, organic way of life. However, the more I researched the subject, the more I saw those hippies were really on to something, at least in regards to eating whole, natural foods.


Whole foods (or natural foods) are foods that have been processed as little as possible, preserving their natural state. Examples would be an apple picked from a tree, or a chicken breast cut from a chicken. Whole foods are not the same as organic foods. Organic refers to how the food was grown, produced, or raised. Foods do not have to be organic foods in order to be whole foods, so don’t think you have to “go organic” to eat healthy. Processed foods are foods that have been altered, or “processed,” into a non-natural state. Corn flakes are made by grinding corn into a powder, then shaping that powder into flakes and baking them. You can find organic corn flakes, but you would be hard pressed to find a corn flakes growing anywhere in nature.


It just so happens that most whole foods are going to have all of the good stuff we just talked about, and very little of the bad stuff, whereas processed foods are just the opposite. That means whole foods are going to be higher in complex carbohydrates, good fats, protein, and micronutrients and even lower in calories compared to processed foods. Processed foods, especially the really bad stuff like chips, candy, soda and kid’s cereals, are going to be very high in calories, simple carbs and bad fats, and very low in protein and micronutrients. Whole foods are considered “nutrient dense” where processed foods are considered “calorically dense” or “empty calories.” Essentially, with whole foods, you are getting much more bang for your caloric buck.
All of this means that you should be eating whole foods, and avoiding processed foods, as much as possible. Just this one change to your eating habits will have a profound effect on the way you look and the way you feel. In fact, many popular diets, such as the “Caveman Diet,” are based on this one concept.


Yes, it is possible to find relatively healthy processed foods in some health food stores. However, it is a much more simple and effective approach to just eliminate processed foods altogether from your normal diet. This is not an easy thing to do. Most of the foods we encounter on a day to day basis are processed foods. So even if you are trying your best to avoid these processed, they will still sneak their way into your diet from time to time. Just remember, the more you can choose whole foods over processed foods, the better your results are going to be, no matter what your fitness goals. Just because it is so important, I will say it once more: THE MORE YOU CAN CHOOSE WHOLE FOODS OVER PROCESSED FOODS, THE BETTER YOUR RESULTS ARE GOING TO BE, NO MATTER WHAT YOUR FITNESS GOALS!!!!

 

Below is the FORCE ONE FITNESS ULTIMATE FOOD LIST. These 25 foods were selected because they are the best of the best. They provide you with all of the right nutrients and none of the bad ones. Most are also tasty, convenient, and fairly inexpensive. If you ate only foods from this list, you would be a lean, mean, fat-burning machine in no time. A more complete list of healthy whole food options can be found at http://www.whfoods.com/foodstoc.php


See the Force One Fitness Ultimate Food List


As good as those foods are, there are other foods out there, I call them “fat bombs,” that are on the opposite end of the health spectrum. Fat bombs are a terrible mix of nutrition gone wrong. They are typically high in simple carbohydrates, which we have learned increase insulin levels telling the body to store fat, and also high in saturated or trans-fats, the types of fats that are easily stored. So, a fat bomb signals your body to store fat, and then provides your body with fat to store. See the problem? There are too many of these foods to list them all but a few examples are: candy bars, doughnuts, nachos, hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, cake, potato chips, and ice cream (my personal favorite). You will notice that most of these foods are considered, well, just flat out delicious. That is because the human body craves these “high energy” foods all the time. Remember, storing fat is a “good thing” from a survival perspective, but not so good in the 21st century world that we live in today.


Two other “foods” you want to look out for are high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. Luckily these are ONLY found in processed foods; so simply avoiding processed foods will keep you safe from these two monsters. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a modified form of regular corn syrup. There has been much debate about the health implications of HFCS, mostly between the corn industry and just about everybody else. The Corn industry has even started airing commercials claiming that there is no difference between HFCS and any other form of sugar. However, the most recent research is starting to show that HFCS does behave differently in the body, and not in a favorable way. One such study compared HFCS to sucrose (table sugar) in mice. The mice that received sucrose showed little change at the end of the study, but the mice that received HFCS got fat, every single one of them. Humans aren’t mice, but we are more similar than we are different. HFCS is in almost all processed foods nowadays, even condiments like ketchup and salad dressings. Check the ingredients list if you want to know whether a food has HFCS in it.


Hydrogenated oils are oils, such as vegetable oil, that have gone through a hydrogenation process, giving them a solid, creamy texture. Hydrogenated oils are also in many of the processed foods available today because they have a taste and texture that most people find pleasing and because they greatly extend the shelf life of foods. Just the fact that not even bacteria want to eat this stuff should be enough to scare you away. Hydrogenated oils are bad because they contain trans-fat, a type of fat associated with many health problems, including obesity. Many foods that say “no trans-fat” or “trans-fat free” have these hydrogenated oils in them, and thus have trans-fat. There are a variety of loop-holes in labeling regulations that allow food production companies to put these misleading labels on their products. If you really want to know what is in a food, check the ingredients list. You will be surprised at what you find.


These 3 foods, fat bombs, HFCS, and hydrogenated oils are the worst of the worst, and they should never, ever be part of your normal diet. Even small amounts of these foods will make it very difficult to lose fat. Large amounts will make it nearly impossible. Does that mean you can never again eat a burger, or a cupcake, or an ice cream sundae? NO! It just means that you should save these types of foods for special occasions, or what I like to call “cheat meals.” After a week or two of eating right (one week if looking to maintain weight or build muscle, two weeks if trying to lose fat), it is ok to treat yourself to one meal where all bets are off and you eat without restrictions and without guilt. It will be much easier to stay on track with your food choices for long periods of time if you have something like a cheat meal you can look ahead to. A cheat meal will also help to keep your body from adjusting to a decrease in caloric intake if you are restricting calories (more about calories in the QUANTITY OF FOOD section). Whenever you get those cravings just remind yourself that you can have that food later, guilt free, after you have earned it. It is very important not to let a cheat meal snowball into a cheat day, or a cheat week. It is one meal. That’s it.

 

Key Points from QUALITY OF FOOD:
• The more you can choose whole foods over processed foods, the better your results are going to be, no matter what your fitness goals. Whole foods are nutrient dense, providing your body everything it needs to look and feel its best. Processed foods are just the opposite. Remember that whole foods are foods that have been processed as little as possible and are still in their natural state. A simple test, ask yourself “was this food around 1,000 years ago?” If not, it is probably processed.

• The distinction between processed foods and whole foods is particularly important when it comes to carbohydrates due to their effect on insulin levels. If you are happy with your weight and just looking to improve your health and fitness, try getting at least %50 percent of your carbohydrates from whole foods. If you are trying to lose fat, avoid processed carbohydrates all together until you have reached your fat loss goals.

• Protein is an important and useful nutrient. It is required by the body to build and repair muscle tissue and also helps you feel fuller for longer. Aim to consume 1 gram of protein, per pound of body weight, per day. Also make sure to spread that out, getting a little bit of protein with every meal or snack.

• Avoid “fat bombs,” high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils at all costs. Fat bombs are foods that combine simple carbohydrates and high amounts of fat such as a fast-food, pizza, and most sweets. HFCS and hydrogenated oils are unhealthy additives found only in processed foods. You must check the ingredients list to know whether or not a food contains these additives. Eating these 3 foods makes it nearly impossible to lose fat.

• It is ok to treat yourself to a “cheat meal” every once in a while. A cheat meal is one meal where all bets are off and you eat without restrictions and without guilt. A cheat meal has to be earned. If your primary goal is to build muscle, or improve health, allow yourself one cheat meal after one solid week of healthy eating. If your primary goal is fat loss, allow yourself one cheat meal after two solid weeks of perfect eating.

QUANTITY OF FOOD

The last part of healthy eating involves the amount of food that you should be eating. The first thing that most people do when they are trying to lose weight is cut calories. However, cutting calories is not a good long term approach to fat loss. Calories are the units used to measure the energy we get from the foods that we eat. Calories = Energy. Energy is not a bad thing! Energy is what powers our bodies. You need energy to workout with any type of intensity. A starving body is not going to perform very well and will not benefit much from exercise. Long term caloric restriction also decreases metabolism, the body’s primary ability to burn fat. One of your long term fitness objectives should be increasing metabolism, thus increasing caloric intake over time. Not reducing it!


I highly recommend addressing the quality of your food and your nutrient timing before reducing caloric intake. Also make sure you are regularly engaging in intense exercise that burns fat and build muscle, such as the exercise promoted on this page. Most people can achieve very good results without even worrying about calories, so long as they are training hard and eating good healthy foods at the right times.


We still need some idea of just how much we should be eating. Believe it or not, your hunger is actually a very, very good indicator of how much and how often you should be eating. The only problem with your body’s own ability to regulate appetite is that it can easily be thrown off. Processed foods, particularly “fat bombs” can throw off your appetite by being extremely high in calories but very low in total volume (the amount of space the food takes up in the stomach). Because a large part of appetite is determined by the volume of food in the stomach, these foods essentially trick your body into eating way more calories than you need. Some studies have also shown that many of these foods also have addictive, craving inducing properties which can also trigger unnecessary hunger. Your appetite can also be thrown off by being deficient in a particular micronutrient or macronutrient. This is most likely to occur when there is not a lot of variety in the diet, or when the person is consuming a large percentage of “empty calories” (calories with little nutritional value). Another common thing that can interfere with hunger is poor sleeping habits. The body performs a lot of its hormone regulation during sleep. Some of these hormones are responsible for regulating appetite and if you are not getting enough sleep, or poor quality of sleep, your hormone levels can become out of balance, making you feel hungry when you shouldn’t be. Aim to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night (alcohol can interfere with the body’s natural sleep cycle reducing the quality of sleep).
Despite these problems with our hunger, if you are eating a diet consisting mostly of a wide variety of whole foods (and getting enough sleep), your body will be able to tell you how much and how often you should be eating. Simply eat when you are hungry and stop eating when you are full. Not stuffed. Full.


If you do want to know how many calories you “should be eating,” there is a pretty simple way to get a decent estimate. The Harris-Benedict formula is a formula that estimates daily caloric expenditure. Knowing roughly what you burn on a day to day basis, you know roughly how many calories you should be eating. A calculator that uses this formula can be found on the side bar to your right. Just plug in all your information (height, weight, age, activity level) and the calculator will tell you roughly how many calories you burn on a daily basis. Do not overestimate your activity level. The average person is sedentary. Even if you are exercising regularly, your activity level is probably only light or moderate. Very few people have high or very high activity levels. If you are using the exercise guidelines found here at Force One Fitness, select moderate activity.


The number that the calculator gives is the estimated amount of calories needed by your body, per day, to maintain weight. Again, make sure you are eating mostly nutritious whole foods and have really gotten down your nutrient timing before reducing calories below maintenance level. If you have done both of these things and still are struggling to lose fat, subtract 250-500 calories from your maintenance calorie total. So if you had been eating roughly 2500 calories per day but not losing weight, reduce your intake to 2000-2250 calories per day for a week or two and see how your body changes. If you still do not lose fat, you may have overestimated your caloric needs or you may have a metabolic disorder that makes it difficult for you to lose fat. Talk to your health care provider if you think this might be the case. Most metabolic disorders can easily be regulated with medication.


So now you should know roughly how many calories you should be eating per day. Next you should figure out roughly how many calories you should be eating per meal. Taking into account that you should be eating every 2-4 hours, most people find themselves eating about 5 times per day. If this is the case, take your daily caloric intake and divide by 5. That will give you an idea of roughly how many calories are in each meal. If you are eating 7 times a day, divide by seven. If only 4, divide by 4. So someone with a daily caloric target of 2500, eating 5 times a day, should be eating roughly 500 calories per meal. Remember to take into account your nutrient timing as well. Some meals are going to be larger than others depending on your activity levels. Also, on days that you are exercising your total intake should be higher than on days that you are not exercising.


Knowing how many calories you should be eating is not even half the battle of calorie counting. The more difficult part is knowing how many calories the foods you consume have in them. Most whole foods don’t have nutrition labels on them, so you need to have a way of measuring how much you are eating as well as a database that tells you how many calories are in that amount of food. If you are counting calories I highly recommend buying a food scale. It is the only way of really knowing exactly how much you are eating. After a week or so of measuring you will then be able to “eye-ball” your food portions pretty accurately and you will always have that skill at your disposal. There are many calorie counting databases on the internet where you can look up how many calories are in the foods that you are eating. One of my favorites is http://www.calorieking.com/ They have a huge database that even includes foods served at most chain restaurants.


KEY POINTS from QUANTITY OF FOOD
• Make sure you have got your exercise, quality of food, and nutrient timing down solid before you reduce your caloric intake. Most people will be able to get great results without having to worry about calories so long as they are doing everything else right.

• Your hunger is actually a very good indicator of how much and how often you should be eating. Your hunger can be thrown off by eating by eating fat bombs, and other processed foods, as well as by poor sleeping habits. If you are getting plenty of rest and eating mostly nutritious whole foods, your hunger will be the best way of knowing how much and how often to eat.

• If you do decide to count calories you need to know how many calories you should be eating per day, per meal, and also how many calories are in the foods that you are eating. It is a pain in the butt, and that is why I recommend strict calorie counting as a last resort.

• Use the Daily Calorie Calculator to your right to get an estimate of how many calories you should be eating on a daily basis. Divide this number by the number of times you are eating per day, to get the number of calories you should be eating per meal. Remember that some meals are going to be larger or smaller than others, but try to stay in the neighborhood. You would never want to eat two meals worth of calories in one sitting.

• Figuring out how many calories are in the foods that you are eating requires measuring to find the amount that you are eating, and also a way to look up how many calories are in that amount of food. Using a food scale is really the only way to accurately measure calories. http://www.calorieking.com/ is a great, simple site to help with calorie counting and has an awesome food database showing you calories and macronutrient breakdowns of most any food you can think of.

NUTRIENT TIMING

Now, quality of food is without a doubt the most important part of healthy eating, but it is not the entire picture. Nutrient timing refers to “when” you are eating, and is probably the area that people are most unfamiliar with. In this section I will show you how to use nutrient timing to get the most out of your food choices.


The first part of nutrient timing is pretty straight forward. You should eat a moderate sized meal or small snack, every 2-4 hours, depending on hunger. The main reason for doing this goes right back to insulin. We have already learned that the rate of digestion of food, particularly carbohydrate, directly affects our insulin levels. The other main factor that influences insulin levels is the amount of food that we eat (covered more thoroughly in the next topic). The more you eat, the more blood sugar enters the bloodstream, and the greater the increase in insulin levels. Remember that for fat loss, and for good health to some extent, you want to maintain relatively low insulin levels throughout the day. Eating medium or small, frequent meals is one of the simplest and most effective ways of keeping your insulin levels under control. Eating frequently also helps to prevent overeating. If you know you are going to eat again soon, there is no need to gorge. You can just eat until you feel satisfied and save any leftovers for later.


The next part of nutrient timing is a little bit more complicated. Your body is constantly burning calories. Those calories come from the carbs, fats, and proteins that we eat and that we have stored in our bodies. Whether the body is burning carbs, fats, or proteins depends primarily on the energy expenditure of the body at any given moment. Carbohydrate is almost always the primary fuel source, but fats and proteins are being used also. The higher the energy expenditure, such as during running, the higher the percentage of carbohydrate used as a fuel source (if it is available). The lower the energy expenditure, the higher the percentage of fat being used. Protein is used at a relatively constant rate as long as carbs and fats are available. That is an extremely rough cut of “substrate utilization,” but enough to help us with our food choices.
Knowing that our bodies have a preference for carb or fat depending on energy expenditure, we should make food choices that reflect our energy expenditure. When energy expenditure is high, eat a higher percentage of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein, small amounts of fat and more total calories. When energy expenditure is low, eat a small or moderate amount of carbohydrate, a moderate amount of protein, a moderate amount of fat and less total calories.


So if you just going to be sitting at your desk all day, a sandwich with chips and soda is a pretty terrible choice. WAAAYYY too many carbs (simple carbs) and calories for what you are doing. You are asking your body to store fat. A better choice would be a salad with some beans and eggs, or an apple with peanut butter and a protein shake (my all time favorite low energy snack). If you are more active during the day (doing yard work, hiking, physically demanding job, etc.) you should eat more carbs and more total calories. Rice, beans, oatmeal, fruits and veggies, even potatoes and pasta (one of the few slow digesting processed carbs) are good choices if your expenditure is high enough.


Exercise is another circumstance when your expenditure is going to be high (it should be anyway!). This is also the most important time to make good food choices. Your workouts, and ultimately your results are dependent upon how you fuel your body when it comes time to workout. To make sure you are getting the best possible results it is critical to eat both a “Pre-Workout Meal” and a “Post-Workout Meal.”


Your pre-workout meal is going to fuel your training session. This should be eaten 1.5-2 hours before a strength training session or an intense cardio session. It should consist mostly of complex carbohydrates and also some protein. Avoid eating a lot fat for this meal. Because fat digests slowly, it may still be in your stomach by the time you start working out, which can cause nausea. In addition to eating, caffeine should be taken 30-60 minutes before your workout. Caffeine has been shown to improve performance and increase the percentage of body fat used as a fuel source during exercise. Nice. I recommend green tea for the added benefits of EGCG and other anti-oxidants.


Your post-workout meal is without a doubt the most important meal on days that you will be exercising. This meal is going to be what triggers your body to start recovering from the exercise and is absolutely critical for building muscle, burning fat, and improving performance on your next workout. After intense exercise, muscle cells are hyper-sensitive to insulin. Insulin doesn’t just make the body store fat, it drives nutrients into cells, including fat cells. But, if our muscles are hyper-sensitive to insulin, meaning insulin is going to have a greater effect on those muscle cells, we can use insulin to drive carbs, protein, water, and micronutrients into cells, precisely when they need it the most. To take full advantage of this, your post-workout meal should be eaten as soon as possible after exercise. It should consist of a large quantity of simple carbohydrates (the one and only good time for simple carbs) and fast digesting protein in roughly a 4:1 carb to protein ratio. Hydration and electrolyte balance are also an important part of exercise recovery.


Taking all these things into account, the best post-workout meal that I have come across is Gatorade powder mixed with vanilla flavored protein powder (preferably whey, soy, or a blend). It covers all your bases: simple carbs, fast digesting protein, water, and electrolytes. It is also convenient in that you can bring it with you to the gym or wherever you are working out to ensure that you are getting your post-workout nutrition as soon as you are done exercising. I recommend buying some Gatorade powder (cheapest at Wal-Mart) and mixing a shake each time you workout. Remember to keep in mind the 4:1 carb to protein ratio. That means 4 grams carbohydrate for every 1 gram of protein. You will have to do a little math and measuring, but the results are well worth it. You do not NEED to have Gatorade and protein powder after your workouts, other carb and protein sources can be almost as good. But to put it in perspective, there are a few supplement companies out there selling almost this exact same formula and they charge an arm and a leg for it.


Key Points from NUTRIENT TIMING
• You should eat a moderate sized meal or small snack, every 2-4 hours, depending on hunger. This is one of the simplest and most effective ways of keeping your insulin levels relatively low and stable throughout the day. Eating frequently also helps to prevent overeating.

• Try to match your intake with your expenditure. When energy expenditure is high, eat a higher percentage of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein, small amounts of fat and more total calories. When energy expenditure is low, eat a small or moderate amount of carbohydrate, a moderate amount of protein, a moderate amount of fat and less total calories.

• To make sure you are getting the best possible results from your workouts, it is critical to eat both a “Pre-Workout Meal” and a “Post-Workout Meal.” The pre-workout meal should be eaten 1.5-2 hours before a strength training session or an intense cardio session. It should consist mostly of complex carbohydrates and also some protein. Avoid eating a lot fat for this meal.

• Your post-workout meal is without a doubt the most important meal on days that you will be exercising. This meal is going to be what triggers your body to start recovering from the exercise and is absolutely critical for building muscle, burning fat, and improving performance on your next workout. It should consist of a large quantity of simple carbohydrates (the one and only good time for simple carbs) and fast digesting protein in roughly a 4:1 carb to protein ratio. Hydration and electrolyte balance are also an important part of exercise recovery. Gatorade powder mixed with whey protein powder is my favorite.

HYDRATION

I couldn’t call it Nutrition 101 if I didn’t talk a little bit about water. Water, along with the macronutrients, is what your body is made of. Similar to micronutrients, having an excess of water in your system will yield no benefit, you will just need to pee more often. But not having enough water can lead to a wide range of problems. Everything in the body will run more smoothly if you are properly hydrated, because everything in the body is dependent on water to some degree. Unlike hunger, thirst isn’t quite as good of an indicator of when you should drink. This is because thirst doesn’t kick in until you are already dehydrated. It is better to take a pro-active approach and just plan on drinking X amount of water throughout the day. Experts recommend drinking about 2 liters (9 cups) per day for women and about 3 liters (13 cups) per day for men. Hydration is particularly important around your workouts because of the amount of sweat lost. Experts recommend weighing yourself before and after exercise to see how much fluid was lost, and then drinking 4 cups of water for each pound lost. You really only have to do this a couple times as your fluid loss will be similar from workout to workout, assuming you don’t make any significant changes, such as exercising in the heat or exercising for much longer than you normally would.

Health-Related Calculators
  • Target Heart Rate (THR)
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Body Fat Percent (BFP)
  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
  • Caloric Usage
  • Summary
Target Heart Rate Calculator

Maximize the benefits of cardiovascular activity when you exercise in the zone of your target heart rate (THR).

Resting Heart Rate
Age

Lower Limit

Target HR

Upper Limit

Body Mass Index Calculator

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women.

Imperial (lbs, inches)
Metric (kg, cm)
Height
Weight

BMI

Body Fat Calculator

Calculate your Body Fat as a percentage (lbs or kg - inches or cm).

Imperial (inches) Male
Metric (cm) Female
Hip
Height
Abdomen
Neck

Body Fat Percent

Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator

Basal Metabolic Rate Calculation.

Imperial (lbs, inches) Male
Metric (kg, cm) Female
Height
Weight
Age

BMR

Caloric Usage Calculator

Calculate your total energy expenditure in calories using your calculated BMR.

Sedentary
Lightly Active
Moderately Active
Very Active
Extra Active
Calculated BMR

Calories Burnt

Health Summary

This is your calculated health summary.

Target Heart Rate:
Body Mass Index:
Body Fat:
Basal Metabolic Rate:
Calories: