Calories can be a significant number of our lives these days. We even have apps to track calories as you go and It would not be surprising if in the near future you can scan your fork with your smartphone before it gets to your mouth like some kind of check out/barcode system at a supermarket. This is a basic DIY guide to nutrition and diet creation so if you have been training regularly for, have hit a plateau or want to take your performance and body composition to the next level, continue reading and you will learn:
What a calorie really is and how to effectively use calories to create and manage your diet or nutrition plan The diversity of energy density in relation to food types within a macronutrient group. How to choose the right foods to suit your goals. Where to start.
What is a calorie?
A Calorie (short for kilocalorie) is a unit of energy within the metric system, which can be applied to food as a measurement of energy that the food produces. We can also treat calories a limit for food consumption during a day (daily intake). A kilojoule is also a common internationally used unit relating specifically to food energy.
Each type of food produces a specific amount of energy, which will contribute to your overall daily caloric intake.
Just as blank canvas would set the parameters of an artwork for an artist, the most convenient way to create a foundation for a diet is by using calories. To establish a baseline or maintenance level of calories, you can use simple online calculators such as this one: http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html
Calories and macronutrients
Now that you understand the role of calories, priority must be given to the actual food itself and in particular the quality and quantity of it.
The following amounts noted are considered the standard amount of calories for each macronutrient:
1g of protein = 4 calories 1g of carbohydrate = 4 calories 1g of fat = 9 calories
Please note that these amounts are generalised. To build on the foundation of your calorie limit, you can set the structure of your diet by applying percentages to each macronutrient group.
Based on a daily calorie limit of 2000 (example), the table below demonstrates a balanced structure with the percentage of calories allocated to each macronutrient type, the number of calories calculated and actual weight of each macronutrient in grams.
|Macronutrient||% of Calories||Calorie Amount||Macronutrient value|
Using the table above to show how this translates to actual food quantity and volume, the chart below lists nutrient dense foods vs. processed foods all set to 200 calories. The food weight is significantly higher on the left compared to the right.
As you can see, nutrient dense food will allow you to consume more without exceeding your daily calorie limit. This allows for more variety and room for alterations or manipulations to your diet. Processed foods produce higher calories due to being highly refined, they also lack quality nutrients and typically contain high amounts of unhealthy fats, sugars, preservatives and possibly other harmful substances.
The aim should be to include mostly natural and nutrient dense foods in your diet.
To further demonstrate the importance of quality food and how the quantities effect your diet in terms of calories and food volume, here is an example of the difference in certain foods from within each macronutrient group.
Even foods that are considered ‘healthy’ within their macronutrient group can nutritionally vary significantly at the same weight on the scale. It is important to understand this when choosing the sources of food to fit within your diet.
Yes, you can still gain fat eating healthy food!
You can use this information when considering food volume, i.e. if you are reaching your daily calorie intake but want to eat more food without increasing your daily intake, by looking into substituting certain foods that produce a lower amount of calories to weight, you could increase the volume of food you are eating without raising the amount of calories you are consuming, whist still keeping it healthy of course!
Nutrition tip: Vegetables are the best option when looking to increase your food volume as they are nutrient dense and produce very low calories keeping you fuller for longer (as well as many other health benefits).
You may be thinking ‘How the hell do I figure all this out’, well, fortunately; there are many programs, software and apps available that can do this automatically for you.
Try using ‘myfitnesspal’. This program is very easy to use and they have a huge library of foods with accurate nutritional values. You can also set your calorie limit and macronutrient percentages within the app which will calculate the parameters for you automatically. You can create an account for free here: http://www.myfitnesspal.com
Whether your goal is fat loss, maintenance, lean muscle or weight gain, you can achieve this by simply altering your daily calorie limit accordingly. This is basically either increasing, maintaining or decreasing the amount of food consumed within a day but can be applied to a week/s in phases. By keeping a weekly record of your progress i.e. body weight, photos and girth measurements as well as your exercise or work out progress or PB’s, you will then have sufficient data to guide your progress nutritionally.