September 13, 2010

Basic Nutrition Info That Everyone Should Know To Help Them Accomplish Their Goals

As it relates to nutrition, you get out of your body precisely what you put into it which is why nutrition is just as important as strength training if you want to maximize your return per investment of time. While training is the catalyst to which there’d be no results if you didn’t train, if you don’t provide your body with what it needs recover from the training then you’re selling yourself short. If you put in quality nutrients on a daily basis your body will function optimally and you’ll more than likely live a stress free, healthy life, disease free and look and feel just the way you want. On the other hand, if you put in processed garbage and trans fats then you’ll more than likely see negative changes start to take place to your physique and health profile.

A lot of people think that simply ‘eating right’ is enough to make positive changes to their physique, and generally it is, but at a much slower pace than if a few basic principles were adhered to. Nutrition is one of those things in which just a little attention to detail can go a long way, much further than simply eating right if, or when, you decide to eat.

The first thing anyone needs to know when personalizing a nutrition protocol is to find out what their Basal Metabolic Rate is (the amount of calories you would burn in a 24 hr time period while doing absolutely nothing).

This is the calculation for MEN: 66 + (13.7 x weight in KG) + (5 x height in CM) – (6.8 x AGE)

This is the calculation for WOMEN: 655 + (9.6 x weight in KG) + (1.7 x height in CM) – (4.7 x AGE)

To give a practical idea of where to go from here, I’ll use my own statistics for the remainder of the article, which are: 80 KG, 170 CM, 26 yrs old. These numbers would then be plugged into the formula above, which would look like this: 66 + 1096 + 850 – 176.8 = 1835.2

This means in my current state that I burn 1835.2 calories per day if I don’t move for an entire day. Therefore, if I want to stay in the same shape I’m currently in I need to consume 1835.2 calories per day. If I fail to do so I will lose weight, primarily in the form of muscle, by default of not taking in enough calories to maintain the foundation I’ve built. If I want to gain I need to take in more than that. If I fail to even come close to getting the calories that I need each day for a prolonged period of time, when I do eat my body will hold onto more of what I ingest in the form of fat as it anticipates that I will continue to deprive myself of the daily required amount.

Now, because that number is based on not moving for an entire day, it’s not necessarily accurate because my life requires that I actually get out of bed and do things.

Because of the fact that I do get out of bed every day, go to work daily and also put myself through rather intense training sessions, I need to multiply that by my daily activity level. Therefore, the next step after calculating your Basal Metabolic Rate is identifying your daily activity level.

Activity levels will vary for different people as well as the same people on different days, so simply use the scale below to figure out your activity level and multiply it by your Basal Metabolic Rate to get an idea of how many calories you’ll burn on a given day, or simply average it out over the course of a week and go with that.

X 1.0 (means you do not move all day, and since no one does this for multiple days in a row, your average number should be greater than this)

X1.2 (means you barely move all day ex. Work at a desk, and consider walking to the bathroom a form of exercise)

X1.4 (not at the level where you actually work out, but maybe you move around a lot on a daily basis or even walk to and from work)

X1.6 (this is the average person who works at a desk but does work out, typically 3 or 4 days a week and actually uses weights, not just saunters along on the treadmill)

X1.8 (give yourself a 1.8 activity level if you work out regularly plus you live a rather active lifestyle ex. Play on a local sports team on a weekly basis or more as well as having a physically demanding job)

X2.0 (this is the other end of the spectrum, and unless you work out two or more times a day, while playing professionally or semi-pro sports that require daily practice at the very minimum as well as have a physically demanding job and a highly active lifestyle, don’t bother giving yourself a 2.0 average activity rating)

For me, being a strength coach that works out intensely on a daily basis and trains clients during the day as well, along with walking my dogs for an average of an hour a day, I give myself a 1.7 activity rating. So my average Basal Metabolic Rate becomes 1835.2 x 1.7 = 3119.84.

From here the goal of wanting to gain weight, in the form of muscle, or lose weight in the form of fat needs to be decided. If you want to gain muscle without adding fat, you want to take in 10-20% more than your Basal Metabolic Rate per day and if you want to reduce body fat you would adjust your daily intake to 10 or 20% less than your Basal Metabolic Rate. Anymore than 10-20% could lead to unnecessary fat gain, and under 10-20% could easily result in less fat being burnt as the body tries to prevent from losing too much too quick.

Using myself once again, with wanting to gain muscle I need to take in at least 3119.84 + 10% = 3431.824 per day. At the very most I’d take in around 3119.84 + 20% = 3743.808 calories per day comfortably without risking additional body fat from being stored.

Now that we have some numbers to work with we have to divide them up amongst different macronutrients, as all calories are NOT equal. Based on the fact that I would need 3119.84 calories per day to stay in the shape I’m currently in, if I were to eat my favorite Kit Kat ice cream to make up the over three thousand calories, I’d likely lose some muscle mass and pile on unwanted bodyfat!

The 3 types of macronutrients/calories which account for the calories that should make up your diet are: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.


The word protein comes from a Greek word meaning first or of primary importance. The body breaks down protein and turns it into muscle through a process called protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is also called muscular anabolism which comes from another Greek word meaning to build up or ascend. Protein synthesis (converting protein you eat into muscle on your body) is dependent on your hormone levels as well as gene expression.

Hormones are basically messengers running around the body, making the body do things. Protein synthesis is one of those things. The higher your anabolic hormone levels are, like testosterone, the greater ability your body has to use protein to build muscle. This way, the more protein you take in, the more muscle you’ll be capable of building. However, there is a point where too much in relation to other macronutrients becomes a problem.

If you were to take in all your daily calories from protein, you run the risk of your body adapting to protein as its main energy source, and burning it off which will lead to less of it being used to build muscle. Therefore the recommended amount is generally around 1.5 to 2 grams per pound of bodyweight per day.

For me this would fall somewhere between 264 to 352 grams of protein per day. Now, ONE GRAM OF PROTEIN IS EQUIVALENT TO 4 CALORIES so if I took in 352 grams of protein per day that would take care of 1408 out of the 3743.808 calories per day I’d need to gain muscle. 3743.808 – 1408 = 2335.808 calories would be left for me to take in over the course of one day if I really wanted to build muscle.


Carbohydrates are what the body would prefer to use as its source of energy for physical and mental work, but if you take in a high percentage of carbs your body will not decide to use fat for fuel.

What happens when you eat carbs is your body breaks them down into sugar. The main differences between different types of carbs, is how quickly your body converts them into sugar. The faster the conversion, the greater the insulin spike will be.


Insulin is basically a double edge sword of a hormone, and is said to be the most anabolic (muscle building) hormone in the body. Aside from being extremely anabolic, which is good, it also increases inflammation and accelerates aging. Insulin can be thought of as the hormone responsible for transporting the building blocks that are macronutrients to the cell, and acts like a flow of keys running around your body looking for doors to unlock, the latter referring to muscle, fat and the liver as storing facilities with locks on them.

Basically those three storing facilities have locks on them to which insulin unlocks them when it comes in contact with them allowing nutrients to flow in. If a facility (muscle, fat, or liver) has more locks to unlock, then insulin will unlock them and more nutrients will be stored in them. Insulin also prevents mobilization of stored nutrients, which means it doesn’t allow what’s already been stored (muscle or fat) to be taken out and broken down and used for energy, which is a good thing as far as conserving muscle mass is concerned, but bad if you are trying to burn fat. Insulin basically promotes muscle gain and diminishes muscle breakdown. Insulin is released into the blood in response to an increase in blood sugar from eating carbs.

On the other hand, if you fail to take in enough carbs, your glucagon (insulin’s antagonistic hormone) levels elevate. Glucagon is released if blood sugar levels are low, and it promotes the mobilization of stored nutrients (muscle or fat), which basically means it may potentially take proteins from muscle and break them down for energy, but it also may use carbs or fat which can be seen as a positive thing.

Insulin sensitivity

Insulin sensitivity refers to how well a tissue or structure responds to insulin. Tissues with a high degree of sensitivity to insulin need less of it to unlock it, and will respond better than tissues with a lower sensitivity to insulin.

Your cells sensitivity to insulin depends on several factors including genetics, activity level and current physical condition. Sensitivity will also vary depending on what time of day it is. Your body basically adjusts itself based on current demands.

For example, after a workout or some sort of strenuous activity, your body’s priority becomes restoring expended energy and repairing the damage to the muscles. If you are relatively inactive, your muscles don’t need to be repaired and your body goes into survival mode and therefore stores energy for future needs in the form of fat. Not good!

Also, if you have a lot of muscle mass, your muscles will have a high sensitivity to insulin. On the other hand, if you have a high level of body fat, your fat will have a higher sensitivity to insulin. Basically the fatter you are the more fat you’ll store, and the fitter you are the less fat you’ll store and more muscle you’ll build.

There are certain circumstances when having an elevated level of insulin can be a good thing. Those times specifically are first thing in the morning, and post workout. When you wake up you want to shuttle nutrients into your muscles and break the 8 hour fast, or however many hours of sleep you get, and after a workout when you want to deliver nutrients to your muscles to initiate the recovery and building process immediately.

Any other time, consuming carbs is not necessarily a good idea for body composition, although before bed may help with sleep due to the calming effect that the neurotransmitter serotonin has, which is bumped up in response to eating carbs. insulin levels stay elevated for about 4-5 hours after eating carbs, and when insulin is running through your body, your body is in storing mode, and makes it nearly impossible to mobilize (take out and break down for energy) fat.

Not only will carbs promote storing, but they also prevent fat burning and if looking the way you want means being lean, then carbs need to be consumed accordingly. Even though carbs are the body’s preferred source for energy, they aren’t essential and you could definitely manage without them. Your body would simply adjust and use other resources for energy.

ONE GRAM OF CARBS IS EQUIVALENT TO 4 CALORIES just like protein is, and the amount you should take in is goal dependent. If gaining weight is the goal then 1.5 to 2.5 grams per pound of body weight is sufficient. If losing weight is the goal then anywhere from ½ a gram to 1 gram would be effective. Depending on how your body reacts, you would simply adjust the total amount higher or lower based on your goals and progress. Over time your body will adapt, and the amount you are taking in would no longer be effective.

Going back to the example using myself, this means I would need to take in 1.5 x 176 = 264 grams of carbs per day, divided over 3 meals (breakfast, post workout, and an hour or so after my workout). Ideally you want to take in 25% of your carbs at breakfast as well as the meal an hour after your workout and 50% of your daily intake immediately after your workout.

For me that would be 66 grams when I wake up, 132 after my workout and another 66 an hour after my workout. 264 grams of carbs is equivalent to 1056 calories bringing my daily total up to 1056 + 1408 = 2464 calories meaning I would have 3743.808 - 2464 = 1279.808 calories left to consume, and they would have to come from fat.


ONE GRAM OF FAT IS EQUIVALENT TO 9 CALORIES so that means I would need to take in 1279.808 ÷ 9 = 142.2 grams of fat. Depending on how many meals I would have, let’s say 6, 3 with carbs, 3 with fat, that would be 142.2 ÷ 3 = 47.4 or 48 grams of fat per meal.

When I say fat I mean essential fats, which means fats that the body cannot produce itself and needs to function optimally. There are 2 main categories of essential fats: omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-6 comes in the form of animal protein sources and omega-3 come in the form of fish.

Your body uses fat to produce certain hormones and if you don’t get enough, your testosterone levels will drop. About 0.4 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day are needed to maintain adequate hormone levels.

Omega-3’s in particular, have several other benefits. They increase insulin sensitivity, which means, as you may already know, that your body will transport nutrients to your muscles as opposed to fat. Omega-3’s also promote healing and recovery, and reduce inflammation. They improve neural recovery, which takes longer than muscular recovery, and they also increase the mobilization of fat, which means it takes fat out from where it’s stored and burns it for energy.


1 gram of PROTEIN = 4 calories

1 gram of CARBS = 4 calories

1 gram of FAT = 9 calories

Once you know your BMR, decide whether you want to gain or lose weight. Add 10-20% to your BMR to gain without getting fat and reduce 10-20% to lose weight without losing muscle mass.

Protein is essential and should be eaten at every meal. NEARLY EVERYONE DOES NOT EAT ENOUGH PROTEIN! When people start to take in the right amount, changes start to take place rather rapidly.

Carbs should only be eaten in the morning upon waking up, and post workout.

Carbs put the body in storing mode and put a halt to the fat burning process.

You can decide to go without carbs in your diet as long as you take in enough fat to compensate.

Essential fats are healthy and necessary. Your body needs energy from somewhere, if you cut carbs and aren’t taking in enough fat, your body will use the muscle that you have for energy. If your body burns muscle for energy your lean mass will deteriorate and will slow down your metabolism. A slower metabolism will lead to less fat being burned and more being stored.

The more muscle you have, the higher you muscles insulin sensitivity will be, meaning when you do have carbs, nutrients will be driven into your muscles, not your fat. The opposite will take place if your body fat is high.

Essential fats like omega-3’s promote burning body fat. Consuming the right fats will burn fat off your body.

If you have any questions about nutrition, or would like help with a personal nutrition plan, feel free to contact me at I'm available for online consulting and personalized program design, as well as one on one training if you are located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

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