Breaking Through the Nutrition Chaos

I bet diet gets searched more often on google than Kardashian or The Bachelor.  (I checked; on google and diet is searched more than the two combined).  There are so many diets and everyone has an opinion.  Some are realistic and others, well they are just stupid (I won't name names but I am looking right at you Pinterest). If you are looking for the perfect nutrition plan for yourself it may or may not be the one that your best friend is using to give her amazing results.  It seems counter intuitive I mean it worked for her, right?  It helped her go from what she was to what she is now and you want that.  That is the problem.  Did she look just like you in her before picture and did she have the same goals as you?  If the answer is no, then don't do what she is did; it will not get you to where you want to be. Each person has a specific goal in mind and how they want to achieve that goal.  Do you have a lot of weight to lose?  Are you wanting to put on more muscle?  Do you want to increase your endurance?  Do you have less than 10 pounds to lose but very little muscle and want to change both? Each one of those fitness goals requires a different nutritional and exercise plan. When someone asks me how many calories I eat a day my response is always - It depends on what I am trying to achieve.  This is not me being vague nor not wanting to share my calorie consumption.  It is me being honest and not leading you to believe that if you eat the same way I do you will have the results you want.  This is the most misunderstood aspect of nutrition. Today, I want to help you figure out how to start a  nutrition plan that will help you achieve whatever fitness goal you might want. There are two common methods for making a nutrition plan.  Here is a basic explanation for the two.

Calorie Counting:

This is the number one way people start to lose weight.  They get their food journal or app and start plugging in every calorie that went in their mouth, calorie and calorie out.  Is it effective? Yep, most of the time. Calorie counting can be beneficial to weight loss but it can also be done in ways that won't benefit you.  Sometimes calorie counting can make someone think that it doesn't matter what they eat; as long as they stay under their daily caloric intake they will lose weight.  If only that were really true, all my dreams of being able to eat cookies, ice cream and kettle corn for every meal would come true! Like when I was in Europe for 2 weeks...Every. Single. Day. 

Just because you have 500 calories to spare for the day doesn't mean that at 9 o'clock at night it is OK to eat the maple glazed doughnut (delish by the way!).  Yes, this delicious doughnut may follow the rules of calorie counting but how much of that is fat are you consuming late at night.  How are you going to use that fat and sugar as energy to burn while you are sleeping? You won't.  Those calories will stay fat. Your body's metabolism has already slowed down for the day so all that energy you get from those fats and sugar will be stored for later use.  Most of the time in area's you don't want it. Imagine it like this: We all like having extra cash right?!? Think of the food as money and your body as the one who controls the money (we all hate that person!).  For example, after your bills are paid and the money has been spent you get to the end of the pay period and you can't think of anything else to spend your money on (like that would every happen...), Then by some crazy surprise you get an extra $500! Sweet, right?!? Now what do you do? You work all week with no time to spend it so you put it in savings. Dang, you are so smart!!  That is exactly how your body works.  You most likely don't need the energy through the night so your body breaks it down and stores it for later.  That is not the desired effect. To make this easy to understand here is an example of what it would look like for a client trying to lose weight:

Calorie Counting Example

Betty is a 160 pound, 30 year old female, 5'6' and wants to lose 20 pounds.

To lose this weight at a quicker pace she would want her net daily calorie intake to be around 1600 calories with 5 days of workouts. This number is calculated based on her Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) with a 20% decrease in calories. The more weight she loses the less calories she can consume daily because her TDEE number will change because her weight has decreased (remember a calorie is a measurement of heating water, so less mass means less energy required for the same result).  If she stays within her daily caloric intake and eats wholesome foods she is bound to lose weight; especially in the beginning when there is more weight to lose.  If she chooses to eat small amounts of high calorie/unhealthy foods it won't help her get to her goal. I am not saying this method won't work.  At times I have used calorie counting for many clients to help them get started and I have seen results.  I have also seen the reverse affect where people have not lost weight or even gained weight.  The body can be very fickle if you are not fueling it correctly.  Counting calories does however have its virtues for people who just need an idea of where to start when it comes to weight loss.  This isn't a complicated and tedious nutritional plan that requires a lot of extra planning. However, it does not encourage a complete understanding of the nutritional value of food.

Counting Macro-nutrients

First off, what is a macro-nutrient or what us fitness peeps call a Macro?  Simply put, they are your three components of the everyday diet.  Carbohydrates, fats and proteins.  This method allows you to play with the total amount of grams per macro in your daily diet versus the amount of calories consumed.  It can easily be adjusted and easy to find where the flaws in your eating are. You are given a lot variety on what you feel you can eat throughout your day.  Nothing is off limits if...

However, it can be very tedious and time consuming.  It makes you become the "nutrition fact checker" at the grocery store. You really have to plan ahead and figure out what your whole day will be before you even start eating. All this time and effort can make a huge difference in achieving very specific fitness goals.  If you really want to bulk up or get extra lean, counting your macros is the only way to go. Let's look at what the same example above would look like with a macro lifestyle.

Macro Example 1

Betty is a 160 pound, 30 year old, 5'6" female and wants to lose 20 pounds.

There are two ways to calculate your macro amounts. First, her macro-nutrient ratio could be something like 40P, 40C, 20F (proteins, carbs, fats).  To figure out how many grams per macro she would consume daily here is the math to find out:

= 4 calories per gram
= 4 calories per gram
=9 calories per gram


40% of calories are for protein
1600 x .4
= 640 calories
640 / 4
= 160g


40% of calories are for carbohydrates
1600 x .4
= 640 calories
640 / 4
= 160g


20% of calories are for fats
1600 x .2
= 320 calories
480 / 9


Her macros would be 160g P, 160g C,36g F

Macro Example 2

The second method doesn't use ratios based on macros themselves but instead a ratio of your current body weight to gram. Betty  wants to lose weight so she should consume a higher lean protein diet.  To do this, it is best to make the protein intake a ration of 1:1, 1g protein to 1 pound of body weight. Sometimes this can be a lot of protein for someone to consume when just starting out.  Starting a little lower will help introduce high protein into her every day diet. So we will start Betty at a .8g per 1 pound of body weight which will encourage weight loss and be easier to incorporate. Protein 

.8g per body weight
160 x .8
= 120g
120 x 4
= 480 calories

Next we move onto fats.  This should be the lowest consumed macro. Because she is on a weight loss plan, this ration will be on the lower end of .25g per 1 pound of body weight.  This can vary depending on your fitness goal: Fats

.25g per body weight
160 x .25
= 40g
40 x 9
= 360 calories

Whatever we have leftover is going to be used towards her carbohydrate consumption. Carbohydrates

480 + 360
= 840 calories
1600 - 840
= 760 calories
760 / 4
= 190g

Her macros would be 120g P, 190g C,40g

Here is where macro's can be really effective. If Betty lost the weight and now wanted to lose a little more fat and increase her muscle mass she would only need to tweak her macros.  If she was just counting calories her calories wouldn't change and she likely would not see a difference in her muscle mass.  Here is what her new macro's would look like. Her TDEE would change from 1600 to 1900

Betty's new weight is a 140 pounds


1.2g per body weight
140 x .1.2
= 168g
168 x 4
= 672 calories

Next we move onto fats.  Because she is still wanting to lose a little, her fats will only increase a little. This ration will be .30g per 1 pound of body weight. Fats

.3g per body weight
140 x .30
= 42g
42 x 9
= 378 calories

Whatever we have leftover is going to be used towards her carbohydrate consumption. Carbohydrates

672 + 378
= 1050 calories
1900 - 850
= 850 calories
850 / 4
= 212g

Her macros would be 168g P, 212g C,42g

I know what you are all thinking.  She should be a math teacher! Ok, maybe not. Chances are you were probably thinking how different her macro's changed based on her fitness goal. Your fitness goals determine your nutrition.  It is never a one size fits all.  Counting macros can be a lot of numbers to think about every day.  If  you can break it down by meal everything looks much more manageable.

Now that you know your options how do you apply it? That's the trick.  You need to figure out YOUR  fitness goal and then you can establish a nutrition plan that is going to help you achieve YOUR goal.  After some trial and error you will get the hang of it and it can become second nature. Nutrition is only as complicated as you choose to make it.  Have fun with it!!   Enjoy the idea of trying new foods and finding recipes you love. Own up to your food weaknesses and do not eliminate them but find how they can make you stronger, happier and healthier!  Because life isn't sweet without a little sugar. ;)

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Hey friend! I am a wife to an amazing and dedicated Air Force Pilot, as well as a mom to three very beautiful, yet sassy girls. I started my own fitness journey 10 years ago when I knew that being a new mom was not meant to make me feel the way I did.  I knew I was better than the lies I was letting the world tell me.  I set out to change myself for the better and in the process I gained a passion to help other women experience the same joy! I may love to pound out the heavy weights but I also started with simple home workouts that I know work. I have a love for the outdoors as well as traveling. I want to make sure you find that same joy, living a life you love!