In the previous blog, I told you about my friend’s wife putting gasoline in his diesel truck. She did fill the truck with fuel, but it was a costly mistake given the wrong “type” of fuel. We drew a parallel to the way that our bodies need a certain fuel type which is what proper nutrition aims to identify and facilitate. My body is different than yours, as yours is different than those of others. Therefore, our macro-ratios (types of calories: proteins, carbs, and fats) that are optimal for each of our bodies will vary slightly.
Once we have a solid foundation for nutrition, it is easy to build our nutritional goals and roadmaps. The way we identify the nutrition we need is by assessing our caloric intake by way of macros. Ideally, we will burn more than we eat; and we will eat foods that offer high-yielding nutrition to calorie ratio. But I am getting ahead of myself. First, we must fully understand the value and purpose of the denominator—the calorie.
What is a calorie?
A calorie is a unit of energy. As humans, we require energy to move, laugh, love, think, talk, and even pump blood. We acquire this energy from the foods we eat. The number of calories contained in a food item represents the amount of potential energy it possesses.
Daily calorie quota
As we discussed earlier, ideal calorie requirements vary among body types, height, weight, age, gender, metabolism, and activity level. However, the National Health Service (NHS) has determined that males need 2,500 calories and females need 2,000 calories as a rough average for semi-active adults throughout the period of a day. Obviously, when we increase our strength training, aerobic routines, or endurance exercises, we need to consider our additional energy expenditure.
As much as I wish it were a simple math equation allowing us to calculate calories burned and calories eaten, human manipulation of food sources has altered the math through extensive food processing.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a processed food as one that has undergone any changes to its natural state. This may include artificial flavors, colors, or chemical additives. Highly processed foods have degraded the qualitative value of foods, while substituting artificial substances to mitigate the resulting flavor and add to longevity (shelf life) to the foods.
Therefore, we need to understand the quality differences of foods and their effect on our digestive system and blood sugar. The nutritional value of 10g of a certain raw food group does not equate to 10g of the same food group that is pre-packaged. Why not?
Not all calories are digested equally
To understand this, we need to go a step beyond counting calories. It is important to quantify the calories that we eat, but it is also important to understand how effectively our body absorbs the calories that we eat.
For example, 100g of rice pre-packaged and filled with preservatives will not be absorbed in the same way that 100g of rice that requires being boiled and drained. The removal of fiber and replacement of preservatives means that microwaveable ready meals will have a significantly lower absorption rate than their non-processed alternatives. The result leaves you with significantly less energy for the same number of calories.
Stabilizing blood-sugar levels
Keeping weight off or forecasting muscular gains can be incredibly difficult if we allow our blood sugar levels to swing like a pendulum. Unstable blood sugar levels contribute to energy deficits, significant mood swings, or the high-low energy swings that result in a crash.
Brian Kean is a 20-year veteran fitness model and author of The Fitness Mindset. In his book, he stated that stabilizing our blood sugar can improve our energy levels. It can also increase our body’s ability to burn fat, and aid in building muscle. Surprisingly, he also said it can also nearly eliminate cravings altogether.
The value of macros
Just because we are staying within our calorie count does not mean that we are getting adequate value from the calories. Earlier, we learned of the nutrition cost in processed foods. We also learned that our caloric intake should be partitioned into macro ratios that complement our natural body type. For this reason, we need to further understand our macros, which we will learn in the next few blogs. It is imperative to understand our ideal fuel type, so stay tuned!
Today, we learned about energy, where we can find it, and how we can measure it. We also learned that highly processed foods have less energy as compared to their raw state. In the next blog, we will break down macros, starting with protein. You won’t want to miss it!
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