Nutrition Science | Understanding Your Diet

Nutrition Science | Understanding Your Diet

Was your New Year’s resolution to become healthier?

Maybe you don’t have a specific goal, but you know you’re not operating at your best. Life is moving fast. Work, family, kids, commuting, bills to pay. It all adds up and it can take a toll on us, both physically and mentally.

Everyone wants to be healthier - but often it seems like an insurmountable task.

In a time where we have to more information than ever, it can be so overwhelming it actually works against us.  With the constant stream of fad diets and articles on quick fixes to lose weight, it’s a very confusing time when it comes to being as healthy as possible.

But it doesn’t have to be.

If your goal is to become a healthier person, you’ve come to the right place because we’re going to simplify everything into 4 steps.

You can’t fall off of this diet, because there is no fad, no trick and no magic.

If you have the drive, we have the way. The right way.

The real way.

Nutrition Science

Keto, paleo, low carb, fat-free … how do you really know what’s right for your body?  

Science.

Nutrition science to be exact. Nutrition is the most important factor in your health, and when you understand the basics of how your body works, you won’t need to mull over choosing fat free yoghurt or margarine instead of butter - you will understand exactly what you should eat, how much, and how to reach your goals. And without sacrificing full fats, delicious breads, or desserts.

First, we’ll review the most fundamental, and most misunderstood part of nutrition - Calories.

What are Calories?

Homemade healthy pizza with lots of veggies on a wooden board

There are 3 types of calories: Carbohydrates, Fats, and Protein. You need all three for your body to function.

Yes, you need fat! Yes, you need carbs!

Calories are energy. The energy is used in different ways depending on the type of calorie you consume, hence why all three are needed to keep you alive and operating in good working order.

If you consistently feel under the weather, fatigued, weak, sleepy, foggy, unfocused or just not yourself, you’re probably in need of an adjustment to your nutrition.

Knowing how type of each calorie works for your body will allow you to make the diet adjustments you need.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of fuel. If you don’t have enough, your body will start to look for fuel in your secondary source - fat. This is mainly where the “don’t eat carbs to lose fat” myth comes from. Yes, your body will burn fat for energy, but your brain needs carbs to function. What’s the trade off here? You temporarily lose a bit of fat, but you sacrifice your ability to focus, you’re exhausted and you’re certainly not going to want to hit the gym or go for a run.

And it’s impossible to maintain. Because your body needs carbohydrates to survive.

What matters is what type of carbs you’re eating.

When your body processes carbs, it breaks the carbohydrate down into glucose - meaning sugar. The sugar in your blood is used as energy. If you don’t use the energy by being active then it is stored within fat cells for future use. This can lead to weight gain if you eat a lot of carbs and do not maintain an active lifestyle.

The more complex the carbohydrate, the longer it takes to metabolize. This gives your body enough to effectively use the energy before it is stored in fat. If you are very active, you need a lot of carbs to keep your energy up.

This is what your body is built to do.

THE BAD ONES | Simple Carbs

Other than milk and honey, there are no natural forms of simple sugars. They are added sugars, typically found in processed and refined foods.

It’s obvious that anything that is not naturally found on our planet would have a hard time being processed by our bodies.

Metabolising a simple sugar means there’s not much to break down. It already is, or is one step away from, glucose. You’re essentially injecting sugar directly into your blood.

This is why your blood sugar spikes after eating simple carbs. The glucose is absorbed very quickly into your bloodstream - unless you’re about to use that energy very quickly, it’s going to end up stored in fat.


COMMON ADDED SUGARS
FOODS WITH ADDED SUGARS
Corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup
Frozen or packaged foods and snacks, pizzas, crackers, cookies, cake mixes, icings
Glucose, fructose, and sucrose
Sauces, spreads, salad dressings, condiments, jams and jellies
White Sugar, Raw Sugar, Brown Sugar
Refined grains, white bread, white rice, white flour
Fruit Juice Concentrate
Fruit Juice, Soda, Punch, Bottled Iced Teas

THE GOOD ONES | Complex Carbs

Complex carbs have a more complex structure of sugars so they digest slowly and will more than likely metabolise properly even if you’re sitting at your desk job. Complex carbs are naturally higher in fibre and nutrients.

These are the carbs you need.

There are two types of complex carbohydrates: Fibre and Starch

Fibre

Fibre is not digestible by the human body - but it’s still very important to your diet because it’s food for the good bacteria in your gut and aids the absorption of nutrients and production of Vitamin K. 

Starch

Starch is also found in certain foods along with fibre, but some are considered more starchy than fibrous, such as potatoes and bread.

Like simple carbs, starches break down into glucose but the process takes longer because a complex carb has more to break down. This helps regulate your blood sugar, preventing it from spiking, like with simple carbs.


FIBROUS COMPLEX CARBS
STARCHY COMPLEX CARBS
Leafy Greens, Broccoli, Summer Squashes, Peppers, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Carrots
Winter Squashes, Corn, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Parsnips
Fruits
Cereal
Nuts
Oats
Beans
Peas
Whole Grains
Rice

 

Fats

Fats help with the storage of many nutrients and vitamins. They help store and use energy from the carbohydrates and proteins we consume, allow us to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins and fatty acids we need, as well as protect our vital organs and fight off disease.

However, not all fats are equal. Even some fats found in nature should be limited, because they are hard to break down. It’s important to eat the right fats because they control your cholesterol levels.

It’s as simple as:

  • Healthy Fats create Good Cholesterol Levels
  • Unhealthy Fats create Bad Cholesterol Levels

Rule of thumb: Fats that are liquid at room temperature are the healthiest, and fats that are solid at room temperature should be limited. Imagine cooled bacon fat - now imagine that fat inside your bloodstream. You want to limit the amount of solid fat stored in your body to keep your blood clean your heart pumping strong.  

INDULGE: Unsaturated Fats

The healthiest of the fats because they are liquid at room temperature.

As long as you’re eating healthy unsaturated fats, you don’t have to worry about eating too much. Fats make you full and take a long time to digest, you can’t really overeat.

There are two types of healthy unsaturated fats, and both have different nutritional benefits.

  • Polyunsaturated fats contain Omega 3’s and 6’s - the essential aminos you can only get from your diet.
  • Monounsaturated fats raise HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol)

LIMIT: Saturated Fats

Solid at room temperature, these fats should be eaten in moderation, but can still be part of a healthy balanced diet.

Saturated fats are found mostly in animal sources like meat and dairy.

AVOID: Trans Fat

This fat should be avoided as much as possible. Trans fat raises your bad cholesterol and lowers your good cholesterol because your body doesn't know how to process it. 

Check the label on processed foods for ingredients that point out trans fat:

  • Hydrogenated
  • Partially hydrogenated
  • Shortening

INDULGE
LIMIT
AVOID
UNSATURATED FATS
SATURATED FATS
TRANS FAT
Nuts and Seeds
Whole Milk Dairy: Cream, Cheese, Butter
Packaged Foods: Cakes, Icings, Doughnut, Ice Cream
Fatty Fish: Salmon, Tuna
Fatty Meat: Bacon, Salmon, Tuna, Pork Roast, Chicken Skin
Frozen Foods
Avocado
Processed Meats: Sausages, Pepperoni, Salami
Margarine
Extra Virgin Olive, Canola, Corn, Safflower Oils
Coconut and Palm Kernel OIl
Fast Food, Takeaway

Protein

Protein makes up around 15% of your body weight. It’s not just fuel for your body, it’s essential to just about every function that takes place within the human body from mental stabilisation to repairing damaged muscles.

Chemically speaking, protein is made up of Amino Acids - the building blocks of your body.

There are 20 standard amino acids. Your body can synthesise 11 of them, which is why they are considered non essential.

Essential Amino Acids

These aminos are “essential” because they can’t be made by our bodies. You need to get them from a food source or supplement.

When you’re not consuming enough, your cells will start to use their own proteins to get to the amino acids, which can lead to degradation of your muscles and organs.

The 9 Essential Amino Acids include three BCAA’s (leucine, isoleucine, and valine). These are unique in that they are metabolised by your muscle tissue rather than your liver. They are much more effective at synthesising protein needed for muscle growth and repair.

  • Leucine: Helps your body synthesise protein.
  • Isoleucine: Helps your body regulate blood sugar levels and ensure your muscle cells are metabolising sugar (instead of fat cells).
  • Valine: Has a stimulant effect. It’s needed for tissue repair and muscle metabolism.

Protein sources contain either all or some amino acids. Complete Proteins contain all 20 amino acids, including the essential 9. Incomplete Proteins contain some proteins, so you need to eat a variety of sources to cover all the essential amino acids of a complete protein.

Unused protein is not stored in your body, so you don’t have to worry about eating too much - you need to eat enough.

COMPLETE PROTEINS
INCOMPLETE PROTEINS
ANIMAL SOURCES
VEGETARIAN SOURCES
VEGETARIAN SOURCES
Lean Red Meats
Soybeans
Nuts & Seeds
Lean Poultries
Quinoa
Rice
Eggs
Buckwheat
Legumes
Milk
Rice and Beans
Beans
Whey Protein
Hummus and Pita
Whole Grains
Casein Protein
Ezekiel Bread
Spirulina (nearly complete)
Beef Protein  
Soy Protein Supplement
Pea Protein Supplement (nearly complete)

 

How Many Calories Do You Need?

Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the rate of energy your body burns at rest - which is essentially the amount of calories you need just to breath and keep your organs working. If you did no activity whatsoever you would still need to consume enough calories to live.

Even if you’re not very active yet, you’re still doing something.

You need to take a few things into account to find how many calories you should consume in a day to stay the same weight.

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Height
  • Current weight
  • Activity level

Use an online calculator like this one to find out how many calories you need.

An average person needs 2000 calories a day.

Once you determine your required needs, you can use an app like MyFitnessPal to help you keep track of your calorie consumption if needed.

Determine Your Body Type

Depending on additional goals you have, for instance weight loss, muscle gain and so on, you may have to make adjustments to your calorie intake.  

Your Body Type will indicate if you should be using a different ratio of calories.

Everyone falls into one of three categories of Body Types which directly correlates to how many calories you should allocate towards carbs, fats, and proteins.

Body Type Traits
Metabolism
Calorie Intake
Easy to gain fat
Hard to lose fat
Low Carbohydrate Tolerance
Low Metabolism
Eat more fat
Eat less carbs
Easy to gain fat and muscle, Easy to lose fat and muscle
Moderate Carbohydrate Tolerance
Moderate Metabolism
Eat a balanced diet
Hard to gain fat and muscle
Easy to lose fat and muscle
High Carbohydrate Tolerance
High Metabolism
Eat more carbs
Eat less fat

 

Learn about how to determine your body type here.

Since our goal today is talking about improving overall health, we’re going to focus on a balanced diet.

A balanced diet just means you’re taking in your calories equally.

Scitec Playlist on Spotify for Weight Lifting 1 Hour Workout e

 

As you can see in the diagram, You need more than twice as much protein as fat despite allocating the calories equally at 30%.

This is because Fat is more calorie dense, containing 9 calories per gram, whereas Protein and Carbs have 4 calories per gram. Another reason why fat fills you up.

How To Break Down Your Meals

Without getting too deep into how many grams of protein, carbs and fat are within every food item you eat, there are few easy ways to decide how to break down your meals.

The plan is to eat enough calories in the right ratio, to put your body in peak performance.

  • Try to space out your meals every 2-3 hours
  • Have larger meals every 4-5 hours with your snacks in between
  • Load up on fibrous vegetables if you’re still hungry
  • 1 Serving size can be determined by the size of your handful
    • 1 palm full of oil or fats for cooking
    • 1 fist size scoop of rice or potatoes
    • 1 slice of bread
    • 1 fist sized portion of meat or fish
    • 1 egg
    • 1 piece of fruit
    • 1 handful of vegetables, nuts or seeds

Divide Your Plate 

  • 2+ Servings of Vegetables take up the bulk of your plate because they are extremely nutritious yet very low in calories.
  • 1 Serving of Whole grains like brown or wild rice, or starchy vegetables like potato
  • 1 Serving of Complete proteins like meat, fish, eggs, or a combination of incomplete proteins like rice and beans.
  • Fats are not included on the plate because you will be getting enough fats from cooking oils, meats, dairy and so on, and do not need to allocate a spot on your plate towards it.

pie chart showing healthy plate

Cliff Notes for a Healthy Diet

This is a lot of information to absorb, we know. But taking the time to really understand what’s in your food and why you need it - or don’t - means you won’t have to think about it again. It will come second nature.

It’s easy to spot the difference between good foods and bad foods. It’s just a matter of having the discipline to choose the right ones.

  • Indulge in Fibrous Complex Carbs, Unsaturated Fats and Protein
  • Limit Starchy Carb Sugars and Saturated Fats
  • Avoid Simple Carbs and Trans Fats
  • 50% of each meal should be fibrous vegetables, or fruit for snacks
  • 25% of each meal should be whole grain or starch carbs
  • 25% of each meal should be protein
  • Determine your body type so you know how to adjust your calorie ratio if needed
  • Don’t avoid all carbs just because you heard they are bad. The same goes for fats.
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