So far, we have gone through the following phases of the nutrition kickstart:
1. Tracking our food – Just looking at our general diet and getting some idea of our regular calorie intake and macros
2. Planning our food – We then looked at getting into the habit of planning your food in advance. Starting with just a couple of meals a day.
3. Hitting our calories – Our most recent element of the challenge saw us planning the entire week in advance and trying to hit a calorie target. In addition, I talked about measuring your body metrics to measure the effectiveness of our diet.
Protein – The Essential Macro for Performance and Fat loss.
Protein is the second most abundant compound in the body following water, it is present in all our cells and tissues. When we talk about protein intake, we often only discuss muscle growth, but adequate protein intake is essential for all of our body’s growth, repair and maintenance.
Protein Deficiency can cause:
Swelling – Especially around legs, feet, hands and abdomen
This is because some of our proteins that circulate through the blood help prevent fluid build up in tissues.
Mood swings and Depression
Amino acids make up some of the neurotransmitters in the brain. If you are deficient in protein you cannot make enough of these and this can change your brain chemistry.
Hair, Skin and Nail Problems
All of these are made of proteins so if you are lacking you may see dry skin, brittle nails and thinning or weak hair.
Weakness and Fatigue
It has been shown that just a week of protein deficiency can affect the muscles. If you are training and not eating enough protein you may struggle to get stronger and may even lose strength in the long run.
Lack of protein not only affects your recovery from exercise but also from cuts, bruises, sprains and strains and also recovery from illness. Protein is one of the main nutrients the body will use to repair and grow.
Amino acids help the immune system make antibodies. These building blocks of protein are essential for our immunity and also gut microbiome.
Protein for Fat loss
In addition to the above protein intake is essential in fat loss. When the body consumes protein, it releases a hormone called Glucagon. One of Glucagon’s many functions is to breakdown fatty tissue to release fat stores into the blood stream to be used as energy. This is only possible in the absence of insulin however, having large amounts of protein with large amounts of sugar or starchy carbohydrates will prevent the body from breaking down fats.
What is the right mix of macros?
All of this may seem confusing, but we are still going to keep it as simple as possible. For the next phase of the challenge the focus should be on two things, your daily protein intake and your mix of macros.
Daily Protein Intake
For people training and looking to get leaner I like to see an intake of around 1.5g of protein per kilo of bodyweight. That means for a 70kg athlete you require 105g of protein. This will provide you with 420Kcal of energy. Some of you may already be at this number but for a lot of people getting sufficient amounts of protein requires some dramatic changes.
As you know proteins are made up of amino acids, 9 of these cannot be produced within the body so are classed as essential aminos. These essential aminos are all present in meat and dairy products which is why these foods are classified as containing complete proteins. However, in plant-based proteins some of these are missing. Although soy does contain all 9 essential aminos, two of these essential aminos are present in too small quantities to be adequate. Therefore, if you are vegan you need to build your protein intake through a wide variety of sources to consume all of your essential amino acids. In addition, the amount of protein you need to consume is greater, this is because not all amino acids are present in all sources of plant-based protein. If you consume 100g of plant-based protein you will be consuming less of the essential aminos than if you consume 100g of animal proteins.
Studies on vegan protein powders show a 50% lower rate of protein muscle synthesis for the same amount of protein as whey-based protein powders.
This means you still can get your protein needs from plant-based sources you just need to consume more. I would recommend 2g per kilo of bodyweight. Ensure that this comes from a wide variety of sources. Do not rely on soy protein for all your needs, it is not a complete protein as some may claim. I believe that there may be some genetically modified soy produced that gives a more complete profile, but it depends how you feel about GMO foods.
Once you have established your required protein intake by multiplying your bodyweight in kg by 1.5 (2 for vegans) then we look at the rest of the macros.
A good way to balance your macros is to look to get a 1/3 balance of all three. That means I would like to see 1/3 of your calories from protein, 1/3 from carbohydrates and 1/3 from fats. Remember that fats are more than twice as calorific so do not match up in grams!!
This means if you are eating 1500 calories a day you will be looking to consume
500 Calories from Protein – 125g
500 Calories from Carbohydrates – 125g
500 Calories from Fats – 54g Fat
Ideally this would come from 3 balanced meals each day. Each meal containing that same 33% mix of macros.
This obviously may not be an exact number and there may of course be cases where this does not happen but the closer we can stay on each meal and definitely for each day the better. A simple daily meal plan could look like this
Daily Meal Plan
Greek Yoghurt (With 5% Fat) – This gives our Fats and Proteins
Fruit – For our carbohydrates.
I personally add some peanut butter to bring my fat levels up for this meal.
Beef – Proteins
Butter – Fats
Slice of bread and salad – Carbohydrates.
I realise that most foods contain a mix of macros, but I like to keep it simple by defining the food by their main source of calories.
Fish – Proteins
Roasted Vegetables – Fats and Carbohydrates
Using MyFitnessPal will help you to get the portion sizes balanced and your macros in order. Remember we are looking at planning all these meals in advance and not just hoping and wishing once we have made our shopping list. If you have not tracked these macros before then you may be surprised by what you need to change.
If your calorie requirements result in the 1/3 mix of macros leaving you deficient in protein then simply work out what percentage your protein needs to be (say 50%) and then split fats and carbohydrates (25%/25%). If you are looking to gain weight and therefore your protein numbers on this hugely exceed 2g per kg of bodyweight then switch the ratio to whatever percentage the protein number that gives you 2g per kg of protein, add the 33% for carbohydrate intake and then make up the rest of the calories with fat. For example, this may look like 20% protein, 33% carbs, 47% fat.
If this is confusing then please drop me a message and I am happy to help!!
Carbohydrate Monsters – The Comedown.
If you have been living on a high carb diet for years then dropping down the carbs can result in a feeling of lethargy and weakness for the first week. You may have experienced this in the no booze, no sugar challenge in January. It is simply your body learning to adapt to the change. Ride it out.
What you need to do now.
The process for this phase is as follows.
1. Establish or guess bodyweight in kg
2. Multiply by 1.5 (or 2 for vegans) to calculate minimum protein requirements).
3. Work out your 33% for each macro.
4. As long as this 33% fits your protein then start meal planning around these numbers. See exceptions if not.
5. Make shopping list
6. Stick to the plan!
This will be the process for the remainder of the challenge. I will be adding some more information to think about and apply in future weeks, but this is the basic structure of a good balanced diet. Remember to measure and assess results and adjust accordingly.
There is a lot to take on board this week so please feel free to message me email@example.com with any questions you may have. I really am happy to help.