Weight Loss Nutrition 101
First let’s get something straight, nutrition is the primary driver of weight loss and optimal health. Can you lose weight without changing your nutrition habits? Sure, but it takes an extraordinary amount of work to do so and second most people don’t have the time in their life to exercise that much. Professional athletes can get away with it, although they would be better off if they didn’t and instead focused heavily on optimal nutrition. Outside of professional athletes most people don’t have the time nor the dedication to workout enough to counter the excess calories ingested. So, the trite statement, “you can’t outwork a bad diet,” isn’t completely accurate, but it does ring true for 99% of the population in reality. Because although anybody theoretically could outwork a bad diet (depending on just how bad) most people for all intents and purposes can’t. Even so, let’s assume you can outwork your poor diet then what? You may be lean and shredded, but the unhealthy foods you are consuming will soon start to cause other health issues. Your body is quite literally what you are made up. The food you ingest gets digested, absorbed and reconfigured into your very flesh and bone. Thus, the old saying you are what you eat is accurate. Granted, there is some high-level upper division physiology, biochemistry, and biology going to make a donut into something that doesn’t resemble a donut like fat on your human frame, but make no mistake it is still made up of donut molecules.
Second, nutrition is not as complicated as the thousands of books and diet programs would like you to believe. Every time a new diet program or book comes out is simply another chance for somebody else to cash in on one of the world’s biggest money makers—our unquenchable thirst for quick fixes to look and feel better. Jumping from one diet program to the next is the game the weight loss industry wants you to play. Getting results and never buying another book or diet program again would not serve the money-making machine. Stop buying the newest fad diet books, programs, pills, supplements. delivered meals made of fake food that taste like artificially flavored cardboard. Instead learn and more important implement the fundamentals of sound nutrition and health.
Third, consistency is the key to results. If you cannot or will not maintain consistency with a program there is no sense in starting said program. Without consistency you will not succeed. Optimal health and fitness are a lifelong game. Sure, you can do a few sprints here and there to drop a few pounds faster and shock your system, but they need to be based on foundational nutrition principles and you need to master these principles before getting cute with your nutrition. To learn to run you first had to be proficient at walking. Before you could walk you had to be able to stand. Before you could stand you needed the strength to pull yourself up. Before pulling yourself up you had to crawl to something to grab onto. Nutrition is the same way. Start with the first step and ignore the fads. Nail the fundamentals. For most people nailing the fundamentals and implementing them consistently is the only thing ever needed to achieve optimal health and fitness.
I hope I have convinced you of the importance of mastering the fundamental principles of good nutrition for weight loss, optimal health, and fitness. If I have not re-read the last three paragraphs until you are convinced. Mastering these fundamental nutrition principles is the key to weight loss whether you are going to go it on your own or hire a Boise Personal Trainer. Stop wasting your time, energy, and money on anything that is not foundational and fundamental until you have these principles locked in and integrated into your being. Now, let’s get into the fun stuff. Read the weight loss nutrition principles until you fully understand them and then get to implementing them!
Weight Loss Nutrition Principle Number One – Real Food
Eat real food. You may ask, “What is real food?” Which is a great question to ask. Real food is food that has not been significantly altered from its natural form. The more it has been altered the less of a real food it becomes. Let’s look at a few examples. A steak is real food whereas chicken nuggets are not. Eggs are a real food whereas egg substitutes are not. Butter is a real food whereas margarine is not. You are getting the idea. If chemicals or ingredients you can’t pronounce or spell have been added it is not a real food. Generally speaking, grocery stores keep the real foods on the perimeter of the store. If all you get from this article is to eat real food and only real food you will be better off for it. As a matter of fact, it will drastically improve your life. As a general rule if there are ingredients other than what the food is then it it is not real food. If it comes from a box or a bag look at the ingredient list. If it comes from the middle of the grocery story it is probably a fake or highly processed food. If you cannot pronounce or spell the ingredients it is not a real food. Real foods rule!
Weight Loss Nutrition Principle Number Two – Vegetables
If there is one thing our Boise personal trainers at Kvell Fitness and Nutrition have to remind clients of, it is to eat vegetables or fruit at every meal. Think of fruit and vegetables as your multi-vitamin. The majority of the US population falls abysmally short in getting the recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables. If you are eating, no matter what or when, you need to have a vegetable as part of the meal, snack, treat, or whatever else you want to call shoving food in your face. Vegetables need to make up the bulk of the food you consume. In fact, our Boise personal trainers challenge you to eat twice as many vegetables as you do any other food group (protein, carbs, fats, alcohol). A necessary note here, consuming powdered greens, multi-vitamins, or anything else that promises to replace your fruit and vegetable servings does not replace your need to consume copious amounts of real vegetables and fruits. They may be a good addition to the fruits and vegetables you consume, but nothing can replace them. The fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants from natural foods cannot be replaced with man-made supplements EVEN IF they come from “natural” foods. The action step for veggies is to eat at least twice as many vegetables as you do all other foods combined. Said another way at least 50% of your diet should be composed of vegetables. Focus on non-starchy vegetables like green leafy lettuces, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, microgreens, and the like. Starchy vegetables are a part of a healthy nutrition plan as well, but they fit into a different category.
Weight Loss Nutrition Principle Number Three – Protein
The second most frequent issue our Boise personal trainers at Kvell Fitness and Nutrition have to coach clients on is protein intake. The majority of people trying to lose weight and get in shape are consuming far too little protein. In fact, the body will continue to give you a signal to eat if you are low on protein. Specifically, if you are low on amino acids which are what proteins are composed of. Thus, if you are not getting enough protein your body will tell you to eat, but if you continue to eat low protein foods like breads, pastas, and the like then you will overeat calories and undereat protein. If you increase your high protein food intake and by doing so increase your portion consumption your body will no longer give you hunger signals because your protein quota is being met. You may ask, “Okay, how much protein do I need to eat? Based on cold hard science.” Great question my friend, let’s get into how much protein you need to eat based on your physical activity level and goals.
Let’s look at some examples of protein intake based on physical activity level and goal with a 200-pound person so we can see how the math is done.
A person who is sedentary (little to now physical activity) with the goal of optimizing health and body composition will need do use the following numbers to calculate optimal protein. Based on this person’s lifestyle and goals we want them to consume 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Doing the math for a 200-pound person equals 109 to 145 grams of protein per day to achieve their desired outcome.
Now let’s look at a two-hundred-pound person who is physical active and wants to optimize body composition. This person will need to eat more protein than our sedentary person between 1.6 grams and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Let’s do the math. 2.2 multiplied by 91 kilograms (200 lbs.) equals 145 grams to 200 grams of protein per day. The addition of physical activity increased protein synthesis and tissue damage leading to an increased need for protein. (This is a good thing as I will talk about when I discuss FLUX.)
Next up we have our already lean physical active person who wants to get even leaner. This person needs to increase protein consumption to maintain muscle mass as they decrease calories to lose body fat. The protein requirements for this person are 2.2 to 3.3 grams per kilogram. So, let’s take our 200-pound person (91 kilograms) and multiply it by 2.2 and 3.3. Our lean physically active two-hundred-pound person looking to lose body fat will need to consume 200 grams to 300 grams of protein per day to maintain their lean mass and lose body fat.
Now let’s take a look at somebody who is overweight and has a goal to lose weight while being physically active. This individual needs to consume between 1.2 and1.6 grams of protein per day. Same as our sedentary person at 109 to 145 grams of protein per day if they weigh two hundred pounds.
What about people trying to gain muscle mass? Do they need to eat more protein? Yes and no. They will need to eat more protein than the sedentary or overweight person, but the same amount as the lean person trying to get leaner. Studies have not shown conclusive evidence that anything over 3.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to have increased effects on muscle growth.
Lastly, what about pregnant women? Pregnant sedentary women need to consume between 1.8 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. They are building a baby which is composed of none other than lots and lots of proteins.
The two questions you need to ask yourself EVERY time you eat is where are my veggies and where is my protein. If all you do is ask yourself these two questions and make sure they are part of your meal you will be well on your way to a healthier, leaner, and more energetic you.
You may be wondering what foods you should be getting your protein from and that is another great question (you are full of great questions today, keep it up!). Animal proteins are the most bioavailable source, meaning a larger amount of the amino acids will be digested and put to use in the body. Plant proteins are less bioavailable and thus if the bulk of your protein is coming from plant sources (vegans and vegetarians) you will need to eat larger quantities of the plant proteins to ensure adequate amino acids for optimal tissue repair and body function. Either option, animal protein or plant protein sources, is fine as long as you are consuming adequate protein for your body weight, activity level, and goals.
Weight Loss Nutrition Principle Number Four – Meal Frequency
You do not need to eat multiple small meals per day. In fact, studies show that doing so may be slowing down your progress, albeit ever so slightly. Constantly digesting food is not a recipe for metabolic success or optimal gut health. Your digestive tract just like nearly every other part of our body needs rest. It needs time to digest the food you have consumed, put it to work, and get ready for the next onslaught of organic matter that you throw at it. Second, it has been observed that the body signals muscle growth with the change in amino acid concentration in the blood, not the amount of amino acids in the blood. in other words, if we have the same amount of amino acids in the blood all of the time there is no change in amino acid concentration and thus no signal for muscle growth. This is not what we want. Thus, we must eat and thus spike the amino acids concentration in the blood and then allow the amino acid concentration to drop again before eating and repeating. We allow the amino acid concentration in the blood to drop by simply not eating again for three to five hours. This allows the body to process the amino acids ingested from the previous meal and put them to work out of the blood stream. This process generally takes three to five hours depending on the food ingested, stress level, and your digestive system. The number of meals consumed should fall between two and four per day with NO snacking. When our Boise personal trainers at Kvell Fitness and Nutrition tell people to stop snacking you would think they killed their puppy, peed in their cheerios, and abducted their first born child all at the same time. We most often snack because we are bored, anxious, stressed, or simply just are in the habit of it. Do your body a favor and stop snacking.
How do we arrive at the number of meals to eat? Yet again, another great question. You never cease to amaze me with your question asking abilities. Well let’s jump into the next principle so we can do the math. (Who knew there was so much math involved with eating?)
Weight Loss Nutrition Principle Number Five – Meal Timing
When should you eat? Great question and thanks for asking. Let me tell you. Our circadian rhythm is altered by our eating pattern. Thus, if you eat at weird times like the middle of the night or you eat on a variable (inconsistent) schedule your circadian rhythm will be off kilter which will lead to issues with sleep and ultimately optimal body composition and health. So, make sure you are eating when the sun is up and on a regular and consistent schedule.
Next up is your feeding window. Your feeding window is a fancy way of saying the period of time during the day when you will be consuming food versus not consuming food which is your fasting window. For example, if you eat breakfast at 8:00 am then 8:00 am is when your feeding window starts and it ends when you consume your last meal for the day at which point your fasting window starts. We want to have a larger fasting window than we do a feeding window. We want this for a few reasons. Remember the whole “our digestive system needs to rest” thing? Yeah, that is one of the reasons. The second reason is the less time we have to stuff our faces the fewer calories we are likely to consume. Now, don’t get it twisted and think it is ALL about uber low calories. I will talk about calories in the FLUX principle, because it is not all about lowering calories as low as possible (in fact quite the opposite), but for now just remember eating for fewer hours in the day equals eat less food. The feeding window should be between six and ten hours for most people. So, let’s go back to our three to five hours that it takes to properly digest food and do the math with our six to ten hour feeding window. If we are going to eat for six to ten hours per day that gives us time to eat two to four meals. Voila, you have your meal frequency and meal timing dialed in. Remember what our Boise Personal Trainers say, “NO SNACKING.”
Weight Loss Nutrition Principle Number Six – Don’t Drink Your Calories
Soda pop, soda pop everywhere. We ALL know that soda is liquid sugar mixed with chemicals. The no-sugar kind is just liquid chemicals. It is not good for us in any way, shape or form, but it is not the only beverage doing you damage. Sports drinks are no better. Do you really think those neon orange, blues, yellows, and greens should go into your body? Come on now, you know better than that. They are not healthy for you no matter what famous sports star is promoting them and frankly they are a far cry from the original formulas. One beverage that most people think is healthy but is nothing but a Trojan horse is fruit juice. For starters many fruit juices have sugar added to them to make them more palatable, often along with preservatives to lengthen their shelf life. Yet, even without the added sugar and preservatives fruit juice by itself is nothing by fructose (sugar) and water with all of the beneficial fiber stripped away. The amount of fructose (sugar) you consume in an eight-ounce glass of orange juice is the same amount you would get by eating four to five medium oranges. When was the last time you sat down and ate four to five medium oranges in one sitting? Probably never, because that is a lot of oranges. Yet, we think nothing of consuming eight ounces of oranges juice to wash down our eggs, bacon and toast. Can you say calorie bomb! Come on, say it with me now…”CALORIE BOMB!” Not only is it a calorie bomb, but it is a high sugar calorie bomb. Now, fructose is not the devil or the devils spawn like its step brother high-fructose corn syrup. You may say, but there are so many good vitamins and minerals in the juice. Yes, you are correct, but there are better ways to get those vitamins and minerals than drinking a shot of sugar especially when weight loss is the goal.
Drinking calories is usually mindless and happens in a short period of time or alternatively we sip on something all day lending itself to overconsumption and ingestion of excess calories (not to mention an environment ripe for calories and tooth decay). Meaning, even if the beverages we are consuming are uber healthy we need to be cognoscente of the caloric load we are putting into our bodies by consuming them. In other words, if you are going to drink calories it needs to be considered as a food, which most people find hard because they don’t fill us up like food because they lack bulk and they are digested rapidly.
What about smoothies you may say. Well, smoothies can be a good addition to your nutrition if they are treated as a food and you pay attention to the amount of calories you are dumping into that Vitamix or Magic Bullet or Ninja blender of yours. It is very easy to create a 2000+ calorie smoothie and think nothing of it. Since the blender is doing the first part of digestion, the mastication bit, it is easier and more convenient to slurp down more food than you would if you were the one having to chew up all that kale, protein powder, frozen blueberries and what have you.
Okay Debbie Downer thanks for taking all of the joy out of my life, but what about workout nutrition drinks like pre and post workout drinks? I am glad you asked. As long as they are treated as a food and considered as part of your overall calorie load then you are good to consume them.
The bottom line is this, if you are wanting to lose weight do not drink your calories unless it is with a well-controlled meal replacement smoothie or pre/post workout nutrition drink both of which need to be included in your total caloric load.
Weight Loss Nutrition Principle Number Seven – Eat More and Less: Introducing FLUX
Most nutritionists, Boise personal trainers, doctors and the like will tell you that you need to reduce calories to lose weight. They are only half right. Why is it that an overweight person and a lean person can eat the same number of calories but have a different result, a different physique, and a different overall level of health? Because it is more complicated than simply looking at total calories.
If you reduce your calories to 1200 per day you are on the verge of underfeeding your body the vitamins and minerals it needs as well as the macro nutrients to function optimally. If you don’t feed your body what it needs to thrive you may survive but you will not thrive. So, we want to work on increasing the total calories we eat over time by increasing the number of calories our body metabolizes. This is FLUX. As we increase the number of calories our body burns we can then create a calorie deficit while still providing our body with enough food to get all of the required vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to for optimal functioning. Not only do you provide your body with the the what it needs to be healthy but it is also easier to maintain because you do not feel deprived.
So, the name of the game is to increase the number of calories your body burns through in a day. How do you do that? You have three options. Option number one is to increase your non exercise activity thermogenesis, NEAT for short. The simpler way to say this is find ways to move more throughout the day. The more your body is moving throughout the day the more NEAT you have going on and thus the more calories you are metabolizing because your body needs energy to move.
The second way to increase metabolism is through exercise. When you exercise you burn more calories. The more you exercise the more calories you burn. What is the best type of exercise for weight loss? Weight lifting is the foundation of exercise as it will increase muscle mass leading to a higher calorie need even at rest.
Lastly, increase your food intake. By increasing the amount of food, you consume your metabolism increases to process the higher caloric load. (Don’t do this for too long without adding more activity or you will gain weight). Once you have increased the number of calories your body burns through on a daily basis then you will create a caloric deficit to lose weight by decreasing the amount of food consumption. Cycle through periods of increasing calories to speed up your metabolism and periods with a caloric deficit to lose weight or lean out.
Weight Loss Nutrition Principle Number Eight – Carbohydrates
If you pay attention to many of the gurus you would think that carbohydrates were the worst thing to happen to humans since World War II. In fact, carbohydrates when from good food sources and in the correct quantities are an excellent food. In other words, do not fear carbohydrates. Processed carbohydrates (see weight loss nutrition principle number one – eat real foods) are not a good option for most people wanting to lose weight. The more processed a food is the more of a bad idea that food it and this includes carbohydrates which make up the bulk of processed foods.
If your idea of a healthy carbohydrate is Cheerios or Frosted Mini Wheats then we have some room for improvement. Good carbohydrate choices include sweet potatoes (especially cooked and then cooled for the beneficial fiber), wild rice, legumes, beans, and root vegetables. Here I will remind you of weight loss nutrition principle number two – vegetables. In principle number two our Boise personal trainers at Kvell want you to eat non-starchy vegetables for at least half of your total food consumption.
We will get your carbohydrates from plant sources as well with the differentiator being starchy versus non-starchy. (Animal proteins, with the exception of milk, have inconsequential amounts of carbohydrates.) We want to consume less starchy carbohydrates than we do non-starchy vegetables.
The second piece about carbohydrate consumption is timing. The body is the most primed to digest and store carbohydrates as glycogen in the muscles either the first meal of the day or post workout. The reason for this is because we are in a state of glycogen deficit or depletion in the muscles at these times. The muscles are similar to a sponge when it comes to storing glycogen. During a workout we use our intramuscular glycogen stores by converting them into glucose and mobilizing them in the blood stream to use for energy. Thus, post workout our body is ready to convert glucose in the blood stream into glycogen for storage in the now glycogen depleted muscles for the next time we need to run for our lives from a saber tooth tiger. However, once the muscles are full of glycogen, they will no longer accept any more and the excess glucose will then either be used for energy or stored as fat. To sum up carbohydrates you want to eat minimally processed real food carbohydrates from plant sources post workout or first meal of the day. A post workout protein shake with carbohydrates will also work here as will milk if that is your thing, but I recommend the only people drinking milk are babies and people trying to gain weight. Milk is an excellent weight gain food.
Weight Loss Nutrition Principle Number Nine – Fats
Fats are seeing a revival. However, they have been and still often are demonized in the same fashion as carbohydrates. Similar to carbohydrates as long as they are consumed in the right quantities from good sources there is nothing to worry about and in fact, they are a necessary part of the human diet. So where should you get your fats from? Say it with me, “REAL FOODS.” I hope you are starting to get this real food thing. Real foods that are good sources of fats are egg yolks, avocados, extra virgin olive oil (yes processed, but still good for you), macadamia nut oil (again, process and good for you), cold water fish, nuts, and seeds.
Fats do pack a caloric punch and they are satiating. However, one issue that our Boise Personal trainers deal with on a regular basis is with people overeating things like nuts. Somewhere along the line a well-intentioned nutritionist, dietitian, and even one of our very own Boise personal trainers (gasp, shock, horror) suggested nuts as a good snack and the next thing you know people are eating three handfuls of nuts per day adding hundreds of calories to their diet without realizing it and wondering why they aren’t losing weight. Remember weight loss nutrition principle number five on meal timing and not eating snacks? Keep the snacks out and the nuts and seed consumption down and you should have no issues with overconsumption of these delicious micro-pint-sized power houses. A good way to control this naturally is to add one fat source to your meals. If you go with one fat per meal you will have no issues eating too many fats to lose weight.
Weight Loss Nutrition Principle Number Ten – Foods to Avoid
Some nutrition experts including dietitians, nutritionists, and Boise personal trainers will tell you that there are no evil or bad foods. I disagree with this. here are definitely foods that we should not consume. You can label them however you choose, just don’t eat them. Let’s look at the broad categories of foods to avoid.
The first on the list is foods or meals that are high in both fats (above 15 grams) and carbohydrates. When we combine high fats with high carbohydrates into a food or meal, we have created a food that his hyper-palatable and also a food or meal that the body does not have the capacity to digest properly. Basically, eating too much fat with carbohydrates inhibits the body from the use of either one. This is not good. Foods or meals that contain high fats and carbohydrates are just about anything that the American diet has made popular. Some examples of high fat foods and meals are hamburgers with fries and pizza. Fun fact, there are no super high fat and high carbohydrates foods in nature. We were not designed to consume high fat and high carbohydrates foods, but we were designed to crave them. Therein lies the problem. They are hyperpalatable and short circuit our brain to eat more of them than is necessary so we can make it to the next time we get food which back in the day may be a few days. This leads to gorging and weight gain in today’s excess food climate.
Okay, next on the list is soda and other sugary drinks. Remember in weight loss nutrition principle number six – don’t drink your calories where we talked about eating instead of drinking calories? Well, it goes beyond that when it comes to these sugar and chemical concoctions which include Starbucks Frappuccino Crappucino. These foods are providing nothing in the way of vitamins and minerals (except maybe some protein from the milk) and on top of that that are pumped full of chemicals which we have yet to fully understand the ramifications of with a heavy dose of highly processed sugar. Stop drinking these poison cocktails.
Let’s see, what other foods can I demonize. Oh yes, breakfast cereal. Breakfast cereals are nothing more than highly processed junk food with a good hype man (hello Wheaties you marketing genius using professional athletes as spokespeople for your overly processed sugar and honey added junk food “Breakfast of Champions” slogan. You are to be commended for your marketing efforts turning junk food into healthy food in people’s mind, not in reality. In reality they did just the opposite. Good old General Mills took a healthy whole grain and turned it into an unhealthy sugar snack . Bravo!)
You know how the cereal companies lament on the cereals being fortified? The reason they say they are fortified is because all the natural goodness was stripped away in the process of making them and they had to put some of it back in (sometimes by government regulation). So now the food has synthetic vitamins and minerals instead of the natural vitamins and minerals that mother nature intended it to have. To go a step further nearly all fortified foods have this same issue, not just cereals.
Why are we fortifying foods, again? Let’s cover it again just for good measure to make sure you understand the absurdity of it all. Companies fortify their products because either they stripped them of all of their natural vitamins and minerals during manufacturing (I don’t know about you but I don’t feel like “food” and “manufacturing” should be in the same sentence together) or because we created a franken-food that didn’t have anything worthwhile in it in the first place so we had to artificially inject it with something to sell to the public.
Speaking of franken-foods, be wary of processed foods created for vegans (highly processed), gluten free (usually loaded with sugar and chemicals), dairy free (chemical laden), and any other boxed or packaged food promoting how healthy it is. This category is the overly processed “health foods” that are preying on the people buying into the latest diet and nutrition fad. Whenever, there is a new fad the food manufacturing companies start to salivate at all of the profit they can make from a new food that is low-fat, no-fat, low-sugar, no-sugar, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy free, vegan, keto, paleo, and the list goes on and will go on for eternity until we are like the Jetsons ordering our food in our houses and it is made on the spot for organic like food products. Now, with all of that said I do have to admit there are some good options out there that even though they are franken-foods and are highly processed they do hit the spot when you are craving something unhealthy. These healthier options are okay to have every now and again, but as per weight loss nutrition principle number one ensure that at least 90% of your diet is composed of real foods. When eating these franken-foods get really good at reading the ingredient list, knowing what the ingredients are, and knowing how the ingredients affect your body and goals. If you don’t eat them too often (less than 10% of your entire diet) and are picky and choosy with which ones you do consume based on the ingredient list then you should be okay and it may even help you stay on track instead of totally depriving yourself when you are getting a craving for something sweet or salty or desserty.
To sum it up, the easiest way to avoid these bad, evil, or whatever word you feel is relevant for something that is literally killing millions of people’s food is to focus on eating whole real foods at least 90% of the time.
There you have it. If you follow these ten weight loss nutrition principles consistently for the rest of your life you will achieve optimal levels of health and body composition. Do not try to implement them all at once and do not bite off more than you can chew, pun intended, of any of the them.
Start with the nutrition principle you feel will be the easiest to implement and build momentum with it. Once you have good traction with one of the nutrition principles increase the amount you are implementing that principle until it is mastered. Once you have mastered one principle then and only then move on to the next easiest nutrition principle. Keep doing this until you are nailing all ten principles. If you need help from one of our Boise personal trainers let us know by filling out the contact form.