Nutrition for Beginners: The Basics of Fueling the Body
With so many opinions and suggestions in regards to nutrition and meal plans, where does one even begin to get on the right track of eating properly?
If you are looking for a set meal plan telling you exactly what to eat and when, then you are out of luck. You are not going to be able to search the internet and find a popular nutrition print out that is guaranteed to work for you and thousands of other people as well. It just isn’t realistic. Everyone has different goals and therefore require specific science and planning to come up with an individualized meal plan.
Many weight lifters and competitors invest in a nutrition expert to write them out a detailed plan which changes regularly depending on their current goals, stats, and time out from a competition. Others, including myself, spend valuable time researching proper nutrition guidelines and formulating plans for themselves depending on what their goals are. These plans change on a weekly or monthly basis based on results or lack thereof. It is a constant learning process to see how each person’s body reacts and adjusts differently to their nutrition plan.
With all that being said, it is still crucial for people to know some of the basics for “dieting”. So, what should a person who is ready to combine workouts with nutrition look for? It is important to understand your macronutrients and what foods fall into these categories.
- Carbohydrate provides 4 calories per gram
- Protein provides 4 calories per gram
- Fat provides 9 calories per gram
You will find countless articles discussing what the proper macronutrient ratio should be for specific goals, but again, each person is different and these should be adjusted according to your goals and results.
Here is a basic example based on a 2900 daily calorie intake with 30% Protein, 50% Carbs, 20% Fat
- Protein: 30% of 2900 = 870 calories / 4 = 217.5g per day.
- Carbohydrates: 50% of 2900 = 1450 calories / 4 calories = 362.5g per day.
- Fat: 20% of 2900 = 580 calories / 9 = 64.4g per day.
So, to work the above amount of grams of food per day you use the following calculation:
- Total meals per day= 6
- Protein: 217.5g / 6 = 36g of protein per meal
- Carbohydrates: 362.5g / 6 = 60g of carbohydrates per meal
- Fat: 64.4g / 5* = 13g of fat per meal
Easy website to calculate macros:
Now that you know what percentage of macros and how many grams you need to consume each day, what should you eat?
The most cost-effective protein sources for our purposes are chicken, eggs, fish, and beef. Whey protein is another great way to get high-quality protein quickly. Protein is necessary to help in the recovery and rebuilding of muscle. Immediately post workout is essential.
There are four types of dietary fats: Trans fats (found in processed desserts), Saturated fats from animal-based foods, monounsaturated fats found in cooking oils, and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated are good fats and should be consumed, in moderation. Fats are an energy source just as carbohydrates are. However, stay away from the trans and saturated kinds.
Carbs are vital when training demands energy for intense, long-duration exercise. Some common sources should consist of sweet potatoes, bananas, raw oats, black beans, and fruits. Carbs should be not looked down upon. These are the primary fuel sources for the body to get you through a workout and to help repair after. For those looking to grow and build muscle, experiment with consuming a carbohydrate before workouts, and definitely after.
Greens and vegetables are high-fiber foods that help to suppress hunger and stabilize your blood sugar. Because these foods are easy to digest, increasing the amounts you eat will allow you to avoid the “food comas” caused by carb-based diets. Vegetables are essential to any person’s diet and for the most part, require very little consumption monitoring. They provide the body with vital nutrients, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants, so eat up!
Timing It Right
To optimize your meal planning, it is important to understand how the body’s hormones respond to specific food choices at specific times. This may take some “trial and error” but discovering which macronutrients your body needs and when is vital.
Here is an easy list of some popular lean muscle-building foods:
- Grass fed beef
- Whole grains
- Brown rice
- Cottage cheese
- Organic milk
- Greek yogurt
- Ezekiel bread
Give yourself about two weeks on a set meal plan routine before making any changes. Make adjustments to your plan according to the results are you seeing or expecting.
If you aren’t gaining weight, begin by slightly increasing the amount of carbs and protein you consume daily.
If you are gaining fat, eliminate carbs that are either at night or not around your workout time
If you are gaining muscle mass and dropping body fat, continue the meal plan and perhaps increase protein and carbs slightly to continue to improve your muscle mass development.