Nutrition is a complex topic and everywhere you go, you will see experts or gurus preaching that one way of eating or dieting is better than the other. One says to cut your carbs out of your diet and the other one asks you to eat more of carbs and very less fat. One says eat before evening and the other says do not eat in the morning.
It is very confusing and often misleading with that black and white categorization.
Here are a few basics of nutrition that everyone who goes to the gym should know:1. Calories Are The King
A calorie is a unit of energy and in terms of your bodyweight regulation, it is the intake vs. the output that makes all the difference.
a. Eat less, expend more -> you lose weight.
b. Eat more, expend less -> you lose weight.
c. Eat and expend the same -> you maintain weight.
It is all about energy balance. You can eat all of the trash foods (not that I recommend it) and still lose weight if you eat lesser calories. You can eat all of the clean food and still gain weight if you eat more calories.
Find your maintenance calorie using an online calculator and then start eating more or fewer calories based on your goals.2. Faster Is Not Always Better
Now based on point #1, you may start thinking that if I want to build muscle, I will eat a lot of calories. Or you think that if you are to lose fat, the fewer calories you eat, the faster you will lose fat.
You will gain weight faster if you eat more, yes. But going very fast, you will gain a lot of fat.
If you are to lose fat and you eat very little calories, the weight loss will be a bit faster, yes and you will lose a lot of muscle. For muscle gain, eat around 10% more calories over maintenance calories and for fat loss, eat 15-25% lesser calories than maintenance.3. Protein Is Your Best Friend
During a fat loss phase, your need for protein is higher as your body breaks it down for energy. If you do not eat adequate protein, there is a higher chance of your body breaking down lean tissue for the energy needs.
In a muscle gain phase, you need protein as you are trying to build more muscle protein.
Diets lower in protein always perform badly when pitted against diets higher in protein. Try to get at least 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight.4. Embrace Flexible Dieting
Flexible dieting means that you see food for the nutrition it provides and you eat a variety of options to meet your daily nutrition requirements. You evolve from the good food vs. bad food mentality and see food for the nutrition it provides.
This way, dieting won't stay boring for you and the focus is still on nutrition-rich foods for a majority of the times with little treat food every now and then. The 80:20 rule.
With this, you do not even fall into that cheat food mentality by going on all-out binges and wrecking your progress.5. Carbs Are Not Bad
A lot of undue demonization of carbohydrates has happened with zealots giving it a bad rep. There are studies which have shown that diets, when matched in calories and protein, have the same fat loss results, irrespective of it being low in carbs or high in carbs.
Carbs are the primary source of fuel and if you are hitting the gym, performance should be one of your goals than being a zombie trying to just finish a session off.6. You Do Not Have To Eat Carbs Only Certain Times Of The Day
At the end of the day, it still comes down to calories consumed vs. calories expended so the carb timing does not really make sense at all.
If you are struggling with your diet and the main reason for it is consuming no carbs after 6 pm, go ahead and eat the carbs you want.
Just watch your calories and you will be just fine.7. You Do Not Have To Eat Frequent Meals To Boost Metabolism
The calories in part are the foods that you eat and the calories out part has four components. One of them is called the 'Thermic Effect of Food or feeding (TEF)' which accounts for 10% of the calories you eat via food.
So say you eat 6 meals of 300 kcals each, it will be 30 kcals burned per meal via TEF. This will total to 180 kcals burned in the day. The same food, if you eat in 3 meals of 600 kcals each, it will be 60 kcals burned per meal accounting to 180 kcals.
So 3 meals or 6 meals or 10 meals, that is totally up to your personal preferences. As long as your calories for the day are accounted for, the number of meals will not matter.8. Your Body Can Digest More Than 30 Grams Of Protein Per Meal
There is a notion or a wrong conception promoted in the industry that you cannot digest more than 30 grams of protein per day. There is no scientific literature that suggests or supports this idea.
If you eat more protein per meal, your body will take a longer time to digest and absorb it. Protein, like carbohydrates, when consumed in excess can be converted to fat but it almost never happens as the pathways to do the same are very inefficient.
Your body will rather store it as amino acids or burn it for energy.
For those wondering if they can eat 200 grams of protein in one go? The answer will be yes. Will it be utilized optimally? No, it won't.
Rather it is a better idea to split your protein intake into 4-5 servings for the day.
Pratik Thakkar is the co-founder and director of GetSetGo Fitness, an online fitness company and the founder of Mars Nutrition, a nutrition supplement company. Both his companies are geared towards providing you with the right information and products without any false or fake claims. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Instagram.