Nutrition – I have wanted to write on this topic for quite some time. I have touched on it before, but getting into the details can be overwhelming. There is so much I want to go into – I am sure it will take a few posts. As I write this I do not have a set outline as to where this will go. Looks like we are all in for a learning experience today.
I do know I want to begin with clearing up a very common misconception. A three letter word has caused a lot of debate and discussion. FAT. When a person is over weight or obese they are called fat. Many “diets” recommend low fat. I see countless people drinking skim milk and eating fat free products thinking it is “better.” Think again. Just about every time I have a conversation with someone about fat – from family members who rarely exercise to people I see daily at the gym – they say the same thing when I tell them at least 30% of the calories in my diet come from fat. “Yes, we’ll look how much you exercise.” Huh? What does a percentage calories in fat have to do with my level of activity? Nothing.
Fat is one of the easiest fuels for the body to burn. Unless you are reading this while exercising, even as you sit your body is burning fuel and most likely 50 to 60 percent of those calories are from fat. The remaining 50 to 40 percent comes from carbs. So if eating at least 30% of calories from fat, just how is that going to cause an inactive person to gain weight?? It isn’t. An excellent reference addressing this myth can be found here.
What matters is the amount of calories consumed AND the breakdown of those calories. There are many ways to determine how much to eat in calories. The most effective way is to take a test to determine your specific resting metabolic rate of burning calories. This test is specific to an individual’s metabolism. It is also an expensive test and not readily available to many. There are formulas for men and women which can be found here. A very basic rule of thumb also is to take your weight and multiply it by 10. I have done all three and my actual test result is 1554, the formula is 1379, and my weight times 10 is 1390. As you see, they are fairly close. Because I am so active I do have a higher metabolism so my fat calories consumed are higher, but the percentage is not. Thirty percent is thirty percent.
Now, I have explained how much to eat to maintain your weight without any activity. Additional activity adds calories, such as working and exercise. How much to add again depends on metabolism, but a helpful chart is found here. Add it all up and you have an idea of total calories. Want to lose weight? Either eat 500 fewer calories each day, increase activity by 500 calories, or a combination of both. There are 3,500 calories in a pound, seven days in a week – you lose a pound a week.
Okay, back to 30% fat. Where does that come from when they say a low fat diet is best? My question back is just who are they? Even the U.S. Government guidelines call for 20 to 35% percent of daily calories from fat. (See page 24 of the report). Saturated fats are bad, clog arteries, we know the drill. For the most part, my rule of thumb is fat from fruit is the healthiest fat to select. Nuts, avocados, olives, coconuts – examples of fruits that are good sources of fat. Limiting saturated fats (mostly found in fat from animals) to a third of total fats is wise. So go for 2% or even whole milk and yogurts, don’t shun bacon (and save the grease!), and if you like dark meat poultry (it tastes better anyway) – eat it. A helpful article on adding fat to a diet can be found here.
Fat is filling. I sometimes have difficulty eating the daily calories I need on lower activity days because I am not that hungry. Take the fat out and the sugar content goes up, satiated feeling goes down, and the munchies hit late in the day. Fat doesn’t make a person
fat overweight. More calories eaten than burned makes a person overweight. Yes, overweight people have higher body fat percentages. Carbohydrates not burned, especially simple sugars, turn to fat. Fat eaten and not burned stores easily. But not eating fat will not lower your fat percentage. You have to burn it.
See how much there is to consider? I have barely touched on the topic of fat. The diet also includes protein and carbohydrates – which will be saved for future posts. This can be more exhausting than reading about my workouts! For now, I think we have plenty to chew on. Now for dinner… with bacon.