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Every Bite Counts

Beth Colucci

March is National Nutrition Month®. Created annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the theme for 2017 is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” which reminds us that every bite counts. If every bite counts, what should all those bites add up to? What does proper nutrition, especially for those of us who weight train, look like?

Before we dive into what proper nutrition looks like, let’s go back to “Every bite counts.” This statement holds true whether those bites are “good” or “bad.” Most people convince themselves that only a handful of or a couple pieces of a “bad” food don’t matter in the grand scheme of things…but those handfuls add up and a couple become a lot over time. Others believe throwing in a “good” food here and there, i.e. eating a salad once a week, can undo all the bad from every other bite. Proper nutrition is obviously neither of these things. It’s finding a well-rounded, nutrient-filled, and balanced program that works for you, your beliefs, and your life.

No matter your belief on nutrition, your body needs three macronutrients to function optimally – fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Here’s a quick look into what each of these macronutrients does for your body, especially if you are weight training:

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Protein: Protein is broken down into amino acids and used for energy. Every (1) gram of protein is 4 calories.

Carbs: Carbohydrates provide an immediate source of energy during workouts. Every (1) gram of carbs is 4 calories.

Fat: ensures carbohydrates are slowly released for long-lasting energy. Every (1) gram of fat is 9 calories.


Protein is an essential nutrient responsible for building muscle tissue, cellular functions, making hormones and anti-bodies, and more. High quality protein contains branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are key in supporting muscle recovery. Everyone needs protein in their diet; to find out the amount your body needs, schedule a nutrition consultation and get your body composition done. This is specific to you and no one else. The following are great sources of complete protein to incorporate into your diet:

-Eggs

-Fish/Seafood

-Lean Beef and Pork

-Mik -Tofu

-Beans and Legumes

-Yogurt -Chicken and Turkey

One of the main issues with a Western diet is a low-protein, high carbohydrate breakfast and lunch, with a protein-packed dinner. Instead, aim to spread your protein intake out throughout the day.

Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy, and our brains, in particular, need carbs to maintain alertness and concentration. The source of carbohydrates you consume will make a huge difference in how you look and feel; always aim for complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates.

Simple carbs are just what their name suggests – simple – meaning they are typically made of one or two sugar molecules. These carbs are rapidly digested and quickly release sugar into the bloodstream. They often cause energy spikes and dips. Consume them as minimally as possible.

Examples are:

-White Bread

-Pretzels

-White Rice

-Pastries and bagles

Complex carbs are made of many simple sugars joined together. The more complex, the longer they take to break down in your body, providing a longer, steadier release of energy. Complex carbs help you feel full and satisfied between meals. Examples are:

-Whole grains

-Oats

-Brown rice

-Spelt, Rye and barley

Fat is often demonized, but is necessary to life. Fat provides long lasting energy for your body, but is also essential to your health, supporting a number of bodily functions. Like carbs, the source of fat you consume will have a large impact on your health; always aim for healthy fats over unhealthy fats.

Saturated and trans fats are considered unhealthy. These fats increase total blood cholesterol, risk for cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. These fats are typically found in:

-Red Meat

-Full fat dairy products

-Butter, shortening, margarine

Unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids make up heart-healthy fats. These fats can improve blood cholesterol and lower heart disease and type II diabetes risks. These fats are typically found in:

-Salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel

-Flaxsed and chia seed

-Nuts and seeds

-Avocado

So, what does proper nutrition look like? It is a balance and combination of properly-sourced and healthy protein, carbs, and fats that adds up to 100%. As Mike mentioned, there are countless ways to combine these macronutrients. No matter which method you connect with, your macros must add up to 100%. If they exceed 100% you will find yourself in a calorie over-load and end up gaining body fat and weight.

Here’s an example.

Say your diet consists of 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat. (50+30+20 = 100)

If you increase calorie intake from fat, you must decrease calorie intake from another macronutrient to maintain a percentage of 100.

Ex: 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat (40+30+30 = 100)

You would also decrease calorie intake from protein, and therefore make it up elsewhere, still maintaining a percentage of 100.

Ex: 50% carbs, 20% protein and 30% fat. (50+20+30 = 100)

No matter how you pair your macros, make sure they add up to 100% and you are eating the healthy version of each macronutrient. Avoid simple carbs, unhealthy fats, and consume complete proteins. Make each “bite count.”

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