By: Corbin Williams, NPTI-CPT
Personal Trainer/Nutrition Coach
When it comes to your training program, nutrition plays a large part in your results. About 50% or more of your program should revolve around your nutritional intake and energy expenditure. Most people get confused by what, how much, and when to eat. Let’s simplify the thought process by focusing on three basic macro-nutrients.
Macro-nutrients are the largest form of nutrient we consume. The three major ones are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins which are the energy sources in order of importance for energy needs. Carbohydrates are the main energy source. Without these your body will eventually shut down. Fats are second to carbohydrates, they store in your body as “ready to use” carbohydrates. Protein is last, as it’s a very small energy source and ONLY a back up for when carbohydrates and fats are depleted.
Let’s start with carbohydrates. They are sugars and starches. Sources of carbohydrates are fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and concentrated sweets. To illustrate how carbohydrates work, think of your body as a car. What makes your car go? Is it the water in the radiator? Is it the oil in the engine? No, it’s the fuel in the tank. When the tank runs dry the car will shut down and not run. Carbohydrates are fuel for your body. Without them your body will eventually shut down. Just like filling your car, you want to fill your body with fuel and make sure to NOT to overflow the tank. It is recommended that 45% to 65% of an adult’s total caloric in-take should be from carbohydrates. The best choices are whole grain cereals, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Limit added sugar to no more than 25% of total calories consumed. Remember to fuel and then “start the car”. Increase your activity level everyday to utilize the energy potential you have provided it.
Next we have fat. A lot of products say “fat free” and “low fat”. Many diets are “No fat” and “Low fat” diets. Fat is a vital energy source. Why do people “cut” it out of their diet? Because it’s FAT, and they are trying to lose FAT!! Fats (aka Lipids) are an essential part of your diet. A diet without fat is just as unhealthy as one who consumes excess amounts of fats. The recommendation is not to exceed 20% to 35% of your total calories in fat and less than 10% should come from saturated fats. A sponge full of water is heavier than a dry sponge, right? Saturated fats are dense, heavy objects that are hard to move around in your system and eventually build up in your body causing blockages. Stick to consuming more un-saturated fats found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. When selecting your fats in proteins, make lean choices such as lean meat, poultry (without the skin), dry beans, and dairy products low in fat. Remember limit the intake of Saturated fats and Trans fats and get more Un-saturated fats into your diet.
The last macro-nutrient is Protein. Why is protein so important if it is not a significant source of energy? Protein helps us to heal and rebuild. The primary function of protein is tissue building. This is important for someone who is training and trying to lose weight and build muscle. During your workouts you are trying to get your body to break down so it can be built up stronger. Protein comes into play when it begins to recover and build and heal. It also acts as a vehicle in which nutrients are carried throughout the body. Without protein, nutrient delivery would not occur and the body would not run. Think back to the car illustration. Protein can be likened to fuel lines. What good is a fuel tank without fuel lines to deliver fuel to the engine? But don’t overdo it. Just because some is good doesn’t mean more is better. Don’t take this as a license to go drinking large protein drinks after every workout. It only takes a small amount of fuel to be supplied at a time. Once the protein needs are met, any additional protein is stored as fat. This is why the “high protein diet” is not recommended as well. It doesn’t work. It is recommended that children and adults should get 10% to 35% of their caloric intake from protein. Protein can be found in both animals and plants. Consuming food from each food group is best to obtain your protein needs.
In conclusion, carbohydrates are the primary energy source, fats are the back up and protein is how the nutrients are delivered. Each of these macro-nutrients is necessary in your diet. If you cut any one of them out altogether then you are asking for trouble. Try to balance them and cut back on your total calories consumed while increasing your activity level. Utilizing those calories sitting in your body begging to be used will keep them from being converted to fat and stored on the couch for another day.
Corbin Williams, NPTI-CPT
Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach
Certified nutrition coach
Graduated from the National Personal Training Institute
Owner and operator of GetReal Training, LLC