If you followed my nutrition 101 series on Instagram you will have a rough idea of some of the content involved in this blog already, all the same rather than piecing all the posts together this series of blogs should give you a great understanding in relation to the correct steps you should take when considering making nutritional changes.

After studying applied nutrition, sports nutrition and even more advanced holistic approach’s to nutrition, I soon came to realise that some of the most practical guidelines in relation to nutritional interventions are given from applied nutrition, most importantly the nutritional pyramid.

Now, before you get confused this isn’t the pyramid in relation the eat well plate, this is the nutritional pyramid in relation to where you should focus your efforts first and foremost before moving onto more complex nutritional strategy’s. The general idea is that rather than trying to jump the gun and risk the whole pyramid collapsing, you build a strong foundation before moving up and working towards the peak.

As I’m sure many of you are aware, regardless of the goal, whether its weight loss, weight gain or even maintenance, your energy balance should be your number one priority. Your bodyweight, height and age in relation to your total energy expenditure should be equated to then advise a calorie calculation which works towards your desired outcome.

Now, historically, body builders and fitness fanatics have promoted the idea that regardless of what the food is, as long as the calorie intake is what’s recommended to be you will get the results you want. In terms of mass on the scales this may be correct, but in relation body composition and ensuring fat loss (rather than muscle wastage) I couldn’t disagree more. As important as energy balance is, what this fuel is made up of is also extremely important.

Logically if you make tired and boring nutritional choices, you’ll feel tired and boring too, if you fill your tank with cheap petrol and oil the economy and function of the engine will also decline, the same applies with the body. As we move up onto the next level of the pyramid and make considerations towards your macro nutrients you’ll start to understand why.

Before going into some of the different benefits of different macronutrients and giving you a brief description of what they are, I want touch on one of the components of energy expenditure, called “the thermic effect of food”. This is basically the amount of a foods calories which are used to help burn the food. Although this is generally estimated to 10% each individual macronutrient has a different percentage. Protein can be up to 30%, carbohydrates up to 10% and fats up to 5%, this alone shows you that not only your total calorie intake is important in relation to fat loss but what you make those calories up from is too.

Macronutrients get their name as they need to be consumed in bigger quantities. Hands down protein is the most important especially in the context of health and fitness, so much so that depending on your goal and the outcome you want, or even in relation the kind of exercise you’re doing, specific recommendations must be made.

After doing calculations of calories in relation to your age, height and weight you must then calculate your protein intake in relation to the training stimulus you’re creating adaptations towards.

A huge benefit of protein is that it helps your muscles repair and recover allowing them to grow and adapt, without adequate levels of protein you wouldn’t be able to perform as well during workouts, increasing fatigue rather than performance, let alone hindering results.

Additionally, protein has high levels of satiety making you feel fuller for longer, this can not only help adherence to a calorie deficit it can so help prevent unnecessary snacks which may not be particularly nutritious.

The other two macronutrients are fats and carbohydrates. Although you may have heard of numerous splits between fats and carbohydrates having different benefits and miraculous influences over one another, throughout all the literature, in terms of weight loss there is actually no valid or reliable information that indicates truth behind this. It is literally all down to calories.

There are lots of theories, the fact that as fat can help burn fat higher levels of fat are better for body composition over carbohydrates, but nothing solid in terms of reliability. In regard to ketones helping increase fat loss and improving other body functions, unfortunately once again there are nothing more than hypothesis and nothing yet to have shown any validity.

The only research that has shown higher benefits of fats over carbohydrates or carbohydrates over fats would be in relation to sports performance. Fats have shown to help improve endurance activity due to the slow release and oxidative properties, contrast to this a higher level of carbohydrates have shown to fuel the body better in faster and more explosive sports.

With this in mind, surely if you are using body building to help increase muscle mass, incorporating higher levels of protein within a calorie deficit to change your appearance, carbohydrates would be the better choice to fuel your workouts. The fact that glycogen from carbohydrates helps keep your muscle cells full of energy giving the tissue’s a better appearance would also nudge towards using more carbohydrates over fats.

As biased as I may be towards higher carbohydrates to help complement protein intake and make up your calorie intake and as appealing as the rationale above may sound, with the right mindset and intent towards performance you could achieve the same results from a high fat diet.

Check out next week’s blog where I’ll continue to keep working through the nutritional pyramid, giving you a little more insight on macronutrients before introducing you towards the benefits and importance of micronutrients.

Hope this helped!

Nutrition 101