Nutrition and Body Composition
Nutrition and Body Composition
Eating healthy food is good for you, but it does not necessarily equate to weight loss. Let’s take a moment to clear up any misconceptions about how weight loss and weight gain occur, and look at the most effective and sustainable way to keep you on track.
Weight loss and weight gain are all about energy in vs energy out. Every day your body needs a certain amount of energy from food to function, and to maintain your current body composition and weight. When you eat over this amount you gain weight, and when you eat under this amount you lose weight – it’s that simple. We call these states a caloric surplus and a caloric deficit, respectively, because we usually measure food energy in calories. If you consume more calories than your body needs, the surplus energy has to go somewhere – and your body will store it as either muscle or fat. Likewise, if you expend or burn more calories than you consume, the extra calories need to come from somewhere – and your body will burn either muscle or fat to provide you with the energy that you need.
It doesn’t matter where the food calories come from – you can gain weight eating only chicken and broccoli, and you can lose weight eating only fast food. The quality of your food will, however, dictate how well you feel on a daily basis. While you might lose weight eating only a meal of fish n chips once a day, you won’t feel particularly spritely. Similarly, you will feel great eating salads all day, but eating them in excess will still lead to weight gain.
Fitness media will often try to drive home that eating healthy foods means weight loss, but unfortunately this is not necessarily the case. Healthy foods are certainly good for you from a nutritional standpoint, especially due to all the micronutrients in them – the vitamins and minerals – as well as generally slow-releasing energy and good fibre content. Healthy foods are also generally low in fat, and low fat food means relatively low calorie food, because every gram of fat generates 9 calories of energy – as opposed to only 4 calories of energy per gram of protein or carbohydrate. Avocados, for example, are a popular ‘healthy’ food – because they are full of good fats – but what people don’t realise is that means they are incredibly high in calories! When it comes to food and weight loss, we need to look not only at the nutritional quality of our food, but at the energy value as well. The most effective way to track how much energy you’re consuming is by tracking food calories – and despite all the hoodoo, it’s not as difficult as you might think.
Cardio is also a great tool for weight loss because it puts you further into a caloric deficit by expending more energy. It is important to understand that just like eating healthy food, cardio does not magically make you lose weight either – you can do cardio every single day, but if you’re still consuming more food than your body needs daily to function and to do the cardio, you won’t see any results. In fact, you might even put on weight. Energy in, energy out.
With all of that said, let’s not forget that getting into shape is a lifestyle choice – not a quick fix. Therefore your daily diet needs to be sustainable – it’s hard to maintain eating super healthy foods for weeks on end. This is where flexible dieting comes in. If we aim for approximately 80-90% of our food to be from healthy sources – vegetables, fruit, grains, lean protein etc. – and only 10-20% from less healthy foods/treats, we are far more likely to adhere to the plan and reach whatever our goal is. Approaching nutrition in this way means you don’t have to worry about ‘cheat’ meals either. Flexibility is crucial to keeping us on track (and keeping us sane!).
In summary, changing your body composition is all about energy in and energy out – not about how healthily you’re eating. However, the quality of food you’re eating will influence how well you feel in general. Both aspects of nutrition are important when it comes to weight loss, and finding the balance between the two is key.
My client Brett is a perfect example. After calculating his ideal food calories and macronutrients per day to lose weight, I worked with him to get his nutrition on point – and the results speak for themselves:
Contact Kieran at Kieran@gobeyondtraining.co.nz now for a FREE consultation, or to enquire about a personalised nutrition plan.