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Understanding Food and Calories

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When it comes to diet and nutrition we assume everybody has heard of calories, however, a lot of people know little more than this and obtaining maximum results from efforts in the gym requires more in depth understanding of what you eat and drink.

Food = Energy

Calorie = Measure of amount of energy

So food is broken down into energy and a calorie is a measure of how much energy a food can provide us.

Weight gain and loss is then a result of consuming more or less energy than your body requires to function.

So we have now established what calories actually are and how they determine our weight. What we will now touch on is how you can control this to obtain your goals.

The next element we will analyse is what the different food types (macro nutrients) are, again the groups will probably appear familiar but not always the understanding.

Food is simply broken down into three main groups: protein, carbohydrates and fat.

These different groups link into calories in different ways.

1 gram of either protein or carbohydrate source = 4 calories

1 gram of fat = 9 calories

Therefore you can see the calorie density of fat, but this does not mean it should be feared or avoided on a weight loss programme and even less so on a bulking.

Protein = Protein provides the amino acids which are used to build muscle and repair damage caused during exercise.This is why athletes and weight training individuals place a high emphasis on higher than normal protein intake in their diet. You can train as hard as you like but without providing your body this essential resource to recover you will be wasting a lot of time.

Carbohydrates = This is the body’s preferred and primary choice of energy/fuel. Consumed carbohydrates are processed and converted to glucose, the fuel we use for everything we do.

Carbohydrates probably require the most understanding of the three food groups and we will expand with a simple overview of this. For simplicity sake we will say that carbs fall into slow release (complex carb) and fast acting (simple carb) categories. Your choices of which foods/type of carbohydrate, therefore how fast it impacts on the body’s insulin levels, should be considered tactically.

Simple and fast acting carb sources are best saved for immediate post workout use as this is the best time to create an insulin spike (rise in blood sugar levels) as it replenishes glycogen levels depleted during intense training. Good food choices during this time are sweet fruits or supplements such as dextrose, maltodextrin or waxy maize starch.

Pre Workout a slower (complex) carbohydrate source is better used. Oats are a favourite, wholegrain bread, rice etc. are alternatives.

Elsewhere in the day carbohydrate sources which are rich in fibre are a good choice.

A great resource for educating yourself further on foods and where they sit in terms of complex or simple carb is: http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/diet/gi_diet/glycaemic_index_tables.htm

Fats = Fats form an essential part of a diet, they serve as a backup energy source, contain essential nutrients and play a vital role in regulating core temperature. Fat intake is required for optimal health. Dietary fat provides the essential fatty acids (EFA) that cannot be synthesized in the body.

Your fats should be from natural food choices and an emphasis on unsaturated fats. Great options for this would be:

Lean red meat, Oily Fish, Natural Peanut Butter, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Flaxseeds, Raw Nuts, Eggs, Avocados.

AVOID Trans Fats which are man-made and cannot be processed by the body.

The very simple rule to live by (sorry any Vegetarian or Vegan readers) is only eat food that has not been processed in any way what so ever and is in natural form and if it has not walked, swam or been grown then leave it alone.

Our next article will elaborate and help give some guidelines on how to structure your diet in respect to how much of each food group you might want for achieving your goals.

  • weight loss
  • calories
  • glycaemic index
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