Everything you need to know about the basics of nutrition - Matt Guilfoyle

Everything you need to know about the basics of nutrition. 
The internet means it has never been easier to access information at the tip of your fingers. Although due to the sheer quantity and variety of conflicting information on nutrition it is difficult to identify what is right and wrong, which to implement and which to ignore/
The one thing that is apparent is that it has become over complicated and thanks to all the supplement marketing certain aspects of nutrition have become wrongly prioritised. For example a lot of the general consensus is that you need to drink protein shakes as soon as you train when you should be focusing on eating enough quality protein in whole foods throughout the day. That you have to buy the best pre workout in order to smash through a high octane workout when maybe you should address the fact you are getting only four hours sleep a night. The level of importance of each of these factors is best illustrated in the Eric Helms nutrition pyramid below.

It illustrates that the foundation tiers such as sleep and energy balance are crucial to to get right before you start to worry about when to eat and which supplements to buy. The goal of this blog post is to provide all the information regarding nutrition and dieting, what to prioritise and how to eat healthy to meet your specific needs and lead a sustainable healthy lifestyle.

You may ask why am I writing about lifestyle when it comes to nutrition?! Your daily habits can have a massive effect on how many calories you burn and the food choices you make. If you have more energy you are likely to be more active and have better daily productivity. You are more likely to have the energy to cook nutritious food than snack on convenience junk food. You can make quick and easy changes to your lifestyle that can have a major impact on your day to day energy levels. I’ve listed my top 5 daily habits below, how many of them do you do on a consistent basis?!

1.       6-8 hours quality sleep.
The more sleep you have before midnight the better quality sleep you will have. The better quality sleep you have the more energy you will have and ultimately more active you will be. As with most of these daily habit changes it has a knock on effect which in the long run have a drastic impact on you body.

2.        Aim to be more active
This doesn’t mean you need to go to the gym and go out for a run more often, simply aim to do more of your day to day activities you enjoy like walking, cycling, gardening, yoga/stretching etc. A good goal is to complete 10,000 steps a day which you can track with fitness watches or by using an app on your smartphone.

3.        Stay hydrated by drinking more water  
Hunger is commonly misunderstood for hunger and you end up eating more than you need. Next time your hungry and haven't had any fluids for a while have a drink and see if your hunger disappears. Also the more hydrated you are the better you will be able to concentrate and function mentally as well as physically. Aim to drink 8 glasses of water a day with the majority being earlier on in the day especially first thing in the morning. Eight hours without a drink overnight your body will be dehydrated and you don’t want to play catch up if you haven't drank much water throughout the day otherwise you will be up in the night needing to go to the toilet.

4.       Eat vegetables each meal  (½ plate)
Vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories and help you feel full reducing the likelihood of overeating. They are also packed with micronutrients which are your vitamin and minerals which have an important role in variety of the bodies functions. An easy guide is to make sure half of your plate consists of veg.

5.       80/20 rule eat whole foods - 1 ingredient foods (even better)
Look at the ingredients list on the foods you eat. If they have a long list including a variety of ingredients you have never heard of they are probably not the best choice. Whole foods ideally single ingredient foods found around the outside of the supermarket will give you the most nutrients for your body to utilsie along with a whole host of other benefits. They will help you feel fuller for longer as opposed to processed food which provide your body with little in the way of nutrients and plenty of “empty calories” making you feel just as hungry than before.
Start implementing these lifestyle habits consistently and you will notice not only a change in your body composition but also your energy, mindset and work output.

Calories in vs out - Approaches (portion, macros etc) types of diet

Energy Balance & Calories
Energy balance is simply calories in via the food you eat vs calories out. Calories in food vary with carbs and protein producing 4 calories per gram, alcohol producing 7 calories per gram and fats 9 calories per gram. The way you can burn calories also varies and the overall amount of calories you burn on a daily basis is referred to as your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). This includes:

·  Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) - the rate at which your body uses energy when you are resting in order to keep vital functions going such as breathing.

·  Non Exercise Thermogenesis Activity (NEAT) - the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting.

·  Thermogenic Effect of Food (TEF) - The number of calories burned in the process of digesting food you eat

·  Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT) - The number of calories you burn exercising or anything higher than usually energy output.

·         As you can see exercise has small impact on the amount of calories you burn and being more active throughout the day can have a bigger impact in burning calories.
·         Energy balance is the major deciding factor in weight gain and weight loss. The more calories you eat and the less you burn will result in a calorie surplus and therefore weight gain. In contrast the less calories you eat and the more you burn will result in a calorie deficit and you to lose weight. The bigger the deficit the more weight you will lose to a certain point. This is best conceptualised by the scales image below.
·         Despite all the differences in the various diets from ketogenic to paleo, they all work the same way……. to help create a CALORIE DEFICIT

·         The table below explain the different type of diet, how they differ in their approach and their pros and cons….
Unsustainable and rebound soon as you eat normal calories. Deficient in nutrients. No long term benefits most weight lost is water weight.. Contains appetite suppressants which have long term health factors

·         So if they work on the same premise - to create a calorie deficit…….
·         …… the the best diet is the one you can follow in the long run.
So if you enjoy carbs in the form of bread, pasta and rice etc then eating a diet including these foods will be a lot more enjoyable than a ketogenic diet where you cannot eat any carbs. If you enjoy your diet then it no longer becomes a chore and more of a lifestyle as it sustainable.
·         REMEMBER - Calorie balance is the #1 factor for losing / gaining weight

·         Macronutrients
·         Macronutrients “macros” are the three main nutrients your body gets its calories from which are fats, protein and carbs. Protein helps with repair and growth of tissue, carbs are the prefered source of energy and fats have numerous roles including protection, warmth, energy and a role in testosterone production. Calories may determine if you lose, build or maintain your weight however, it's your macro ratio that determines what type of weight you lose or gain. The easiest way to remember how your macros add up to your calories is the 4-4-9 Rule with both protein and carbs equating to 4 cals per gram and fat 9cals per gram.
·         There are a number of factors that determine how much of each you have and in what ratio however, the main factor is down to preference and how well your body can utilise carbs or how much body fat you have, generally the leaner you are the more carbs you can ‘utilise’. The one main rule is to eat an adequate amount of protein to support your lifestyle and training volume with a target of 0.8 - 1.2g per lb of bodyweight. A minimum of 0.3g of fat per lb of body weight and the rest coming from carbs. However, if you prefer fat sources of food then that number can be increased which would lower the remaining calories from carb sources. For more in depth explanation on protein, carbs, fats as well as micronutrients check out the Macronutrients and Micronutrients blog post.
·         Micronutrients
·         These are the nutrients you require in lesser amounts and include fiber, vitamins, minerals and water intake. The main role of fiber is to help push waste products through your digestive system to be excreted. A general guideline is to get 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories in your diet. The function and amount required for the different vitamins and minerals will vary on each one however, as long as you are eating a variety of fruit and veg you should reach your recommended daily amounts. There are a variety of apps you can use to track your macros and micros and the one i personally use is myfitnesspal.
·         http://www.myfitnesspal.com
·         For more in depth explanation on the variety of vitamins and minerals as well as the 3 main macronutrients check out the Macronutrients and Micronutrients blog post.
·         Hydration - health & performance benefits
·         Water makes up the majority of your body. Staying hydrated improves health, reduces the risk of illness and diseases, regulates body temperature and improves your ability to exercise, impacts your metabolic rate and reduces body fat.
·         If you are firsty you are already dehydrated as it is symptom of your brain recognising your blood pressure and volume has fallen due to dehydration and signals to drink more water. The more regularly you drink the better your body can recognises when you are dehydrated.
·         How do you know if you are dehydrated?! The effects of dehydration include dry mouth, lightheadedness,  decreased response time, decrease pain recognition, your brain size shrinks and takes more effort to complete everyday tasks, urine should be clear not yellow or have any odour
·         How much water to drink and how to build up
·         2 litres for women 3 litres for men or ½ bw in ounces for me works out 3 litres
·         However factors that affect daily water intake are:
·         Exercise, activity levels, weather and temperature amount of muscle mass

Effects of alcohol:
·         Alcohol has been proven to stunt muscle growth and as a result slows down metabolism, so it’s not just the act it's the continual damage thereafter. (3 glasses of wine stops fat burning for up to 10 hours)
·         Alcohol isn't stored in the body however, what it is mixed with is the problem. The majority of alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine contain fermented starch and sugars. It’s toxic therefore your body wants to get rid of it as fast as possible. The organs responsible for converting stored body fat for energy to be burned which, is what the fat loss process is all about, no longer performs this job as it is trying to get rid of the alcohol instead.
·         It inhibits absorption of nutrients and those that are absorbed are not used efficiently.
·         There is limited space for protein storage, medium reserves for carb storage and unlimited storage for fat, so what do you think everything is going to be converted into and stored as?!
·         It reduces testosterone and growth hormone so you can't build muscle which reduces the amount of calories you can burn.
·         How often you drink depends on how many of these factors you can control
·         If you can't drink in moderation then it may be best to avoid all together.
·         Nutrient timing and meal frequency
·         One of the most debated topics in the fitness industry is whether you should eat small frequent meals every 3 hours to maintain positive nitrogen balance or eat 2-3 big meals as its the daily amounts that matter not the frequency which fits in with those who preach the intermittent fasting lifestyle. As you can see from the nutrition pyramid frequency and timing isn’t as important as the amount of calories you consume a day and your macros therefore stick with what suits your lifestyle. If you are busy and known to binge eat in the evenings then 2-3 bigger meals may suit you. If you struggle with eating large meals and get bloated then maybe grazing on smaller more frequent meals throughout the day is best for you. Ultimately the one you enjoy and can stick to on a regular basis is the best for you. Focus on the fundamentals discussed in this blog and once they are in place then you can focus more on the pros and cons of both sides of meal frequency.
·         This is the same for nutrient timing which refers to when is best to eat certain nutrients. One of the biggest myths which was debunked along time ago is not to eat carbs after 6. The thought was that you would soon be going to sleep and therefore not active so the carbs eaten that late would be stored as fat which has been proved not to be the case. Another which holds a bit more weight is referred to as the anabolic window. This concept is that you should eat the majority of your carbs within an hour of exercise. This is because your muscle glycogen stores are depleted and will soak up the ingested carbs and support muscle repair and growth. There is research to support this however, not as important as originally believed. Again this area is complex and contradicting research has been published so focus on the basics and what suits your lifestyle. If you know you snack at night save more of your calories for later on in the evening. If you cannot function without a good breakfast eat most of your calories in the morning. Play around with different approaches and stick with the lifestyle that is best for you.
·         Supplements
·         The tip of the iceberg and often the area most people focus on as they believe it has all the answers. I’m  not going to go into too much detail here as the basics discussed in this article far outweigh the need for any supplement. Supplements are exactly that too “supplement” your diet not replace food. Therefore if you struggle to eat enough protein in your diet buy protein shakes. If you don’t eat enough healthy fats and fish buy a good fish oil or omega supplement. If you are dead set on knowing all about supplements I suggest checking out my blog on supplements.
·         Alternatively you can check out all the supplements and review there effectiveness at (https://examine.com) I’d highly recommend checking out any supplement on there before purchasing it

Matt graduated BSc (Hons) in Sports Science and now provides personal training in Basingstoke, UK. Matt’s blog can be found here: www.trainedbymg.cf

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