I have this odd feeling that this is where I lose some people. Rather than beat around the bush, I’m just going to drop the bomb and get it out of the way: You will have to count and track your food.
I know what you’re thinking and trust me, I’ve been there.
Doesn’t it seem ridiculous and time-consuming to be one of those
spreadsheet-carrying idiots people who are running around logging Weight Watcher points? Ever been out to eat with someone on that program? They’re like, “I only ate three carrots for my snack today instead of seven so I can take those five points and get one extra ladle full of ranch with my salad for dinner!”
I promise you, this won’t be like that. While you do have to track food intake, it’s done in a different way.
Calories are not counted, macronutrients are.
And it’s much simpler than you think. It might take a little bit of getting used to, but once you’re good at it, it quickly becomes second nature. You will have three very good friends if this is done in the right way:
1. A small, electronic kitchen scale.
These will run around $15 at Target. They are quick and painless to use and stow away easily so your mom doesn’t see you measuring how much ham goes on your sandwich.
2. Nutritional Labels.
Read the side of the box. And learn what the numbers mean. I will give you a general idea of the things you should be looking for. You should be able to tell right away from a simple glance at the box if the food is something you should ingest or not. And honestly, if it’s in a box, you already know chances are good you shouldn’t ingest it.
Ever hear the phrase “Google that”? It’s a good phrase. And for good reason. Be sure to “Google that” if you’re not sure. Then weigh it with your first friend.
So, you ask, what exactly are we looking for when it’s time to decide what to eat.
First off, a primer on your three macronutrients and what they do. I will discuss what happens when you eat too few, too many, give you how many you should eat per day, and give you good examples of quality foods containing just what you’re looking for.
Macronutrient #1 (for a reason): PROTEIN
Protein is the undisputed king of all macronutrients. Protein is single-handedly responsible for your diet’s success or failure. (Okay, maybe not single-handedly, but it’s pretty important.)
Protein is obviously the building block of muscle, but it’s honestly much more than that.
Most diets that actually work do so because of an increase in protein intake.
Each gram of protein has 4 calories in it. However, it takes the body around 25% of the calories in protein just to break the food down inside your body, so it’s actually more like 3 calories. Plus, it’s easily the most filling macronutrient.
Which would fill you up more? One cup of Frosted Shredded Wheat, or one pound of chicken?
Because they have roughly the same number of calories. Difference: One is comprised almost completely of carbs, and the other of protein.
If you eat too much of it:
Not too much happens. Extremely large amounts have been known to spike blood glucose levels, which isn’t a good thing. But for the most part, there is no danger to eating high amounts of protein. You might run across nutritional studies which will tell you the dangers you expose your kidneys to if protein is eaten in high amounts. These studies are flawed due to the subjects having predisposed medical conditions. If you are a generally healthy person, there is no reason to skimp on the protein.
If you eat too little of it:
You risk losing muscle when trying to lose fat. When your calorie intake goes down, your body still needs fuel. You want your body to tap into your fat stores. The increased protein amount will help your body take its energy from the fat instead of the muscle. Also, you will be much hungrier if you short change your protein requirements. Since (unless eaten in massive quantities) protein doesn’t effect blood glucose, it helps to promote a steady supply of energy to your body.
How much you should consume:
Choose your ideal weight. Make that your amount of protein intake, in grams, daily. For example, if you weigh 240, but you think you would be “ripped” at 180, make your daily protein intake 180 grams.
Error on the high side, if you’re going to be off. However, keep in mind studies show there is no extra muscle-sparing benefit to having a protein intake any higher than 1 gram/pound of LBM (lean body mass, or the part of your body that is not comprised of fat.)
And if you’re looking to lose weight, remember: Chew your protein. Don’t drink it.
Good choices: Meat (unprocessed; think ham, turkey, beef, salmon, chicken, etc.). Eggs. Nuts (in moderation).
Bad choices: Protein shakes. Protein bars. Processed meats. (salami, prosciutto, etc.)
Macronutrient #2: FAT
Fat gets a bad rap. A really bad rap.
Think about it: We cut the fat off of our meats, we drain the fat from our pans of beef, and we are always searching for the lowest-fat yogurt we can possibly find. (Which is totally counterproductive. If you have “Light and Fit” yogurt in your fridge, go throw it away NOW! You’re better off eating some Skittles………….).
Fat, especially saturated, is mostly derived from animal products. Saturated fat is your friend, especially if you’re a man. Eating a low-fat diet can mess with your hormone levels, namely testosterone.
You know how lots of 16-year olds don’t get fat no matter how much food they eat? Ever see a kid go from being a 14-year old skinny guy on the football team to a 18-year old chiseled adonis with a 6-pack? How do you think kids like that gain so much muscle without being fat?
Simple: During puberty, the male will produce an insane amount of testosterone. This hormone makes it very easy to burn fat, gain muscle, and have tons of energy.
Unfortunately, our testosterone starts to decline after the age of 25. One way to keep it up is to be sure you consume enough fat. Namely, saturated.
This is also where you get to have some fun.
Inevitably, every time I post a pic of my breakfasts (lunches, actually, but we’ll get to that later), some genius comments “YOUR ARTERIES WILL EXPLODE!!! YOU JUST ATE 10 EGGS AND 6 STRIPS OF BACON!!! YOU’RE GONNA DIE!!! AAAAHHHHHH!!!” It’s really annoying.
Read a book. Become educated. Go against what “everybody knows”.
The study which showed the relationship between saturated fat and poor health was done by Ancel Keys in the 1960’s.
The dude cherry picked information to fit his hypothesis. He’s a terrible scientist who used shady practices to further his own agenda and make himself famous. And for some reason, everyone bought it. Same with cholesterol.
Zero link between high cholesterol in your diet and high cholesterol in your blood. I have a cholesterol level of 148, if you’re wondering.
And I smash shit-tons of fat and cholesterol every weekend. There’s also a very weak link between high cholesterol and having a high mortality rate.
If you eat too little of it:
Messed up hormones. Lethargy. Lack of energy. Loss of sex drive. Your food tastes bad. Sounds awful, right?
If you eat too much of it:
You may get fat. Here’s the only reason you must be mindful of fat at all: It has a lot of calories in it.
There are 9 calories for each gram of fat. That’s more than double the other macronutrients.
If there were only 4 calories per gram like the other two, I’d say eat to your heart’s content.
But having insane amounts of fat will give your diet an insane number of calories. Keep in mind the USRDA for fat is 65 grams for a healthy male adult. Not that I put much stock in our government’s nutritional advice, though………..
How much you should consume:
For a healthy male, I would suggest around 60-70 grams per day on average, assuming you aren’t working out. On workout days, perhaps you should eat slightly less. But just slightly. Maybe 40-50. If you’re gonna go over on fat, do it on a rest day. On those days, in general, you have more room for extra fat calories since you will be consuming less carbs. ***Keep in mind these numbers often fluctuate based on height and weight.
Good choices: Eggs, bacon, sausage, coconut oil, olive oil, butter, t-bone steaks, ribs (hold the sauce).
Bad choices: Any processed oils (corn, vegetable) and trans fats. Trans fats are, honestly, terrible and will kill you. Steer clear.
Macronutrient #3: CARBOHYDRATES
Okay, I need to make sure everyone understands this: Carbohydrates are not bad, inherently.
However, they are widely misused in today’s society. This is a MASSIVE reason why, as a society, we look the way we do.
With 4 calories per gram, carbohydrates don’t have a high caloric intake. However, they way your body uses them promotes a substantial amount of unhealthy fat gain. Most of us pound carbs all day, every day.
The phrase “healthy whole grains” gets tossed around so frequently that we assume just because it says “whole grain”, we should consume it by the barrel. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Also, there is an indirect relationship between the amount of fat and carbohydrates in processed food. Remember that “Light and Fit Yogurt” comment from earlier in this post? Food has to taste good or nobody will eat it. If a food has the fat removed, guess what gets added? Yessir, sugar.
If you’re like I used to be, you think a healthy breakfast is a Special K bar and a banana.
This was my standard for years. However, after reflecting back on my old diet, I now realize what that breakfast did for me: NOTHING.
It didn’t satisfy my hunger, it didn’t provide me with much energy, and it didn’t really taste all that great, either.
All it did was spike my blood sugar, which resulted in an increase in hunger and irritability once my blood sugar went down.
This goes for all you “smoothie” makers out there, too. Smoothies are nothing more than glorified sugar-bombs.
Especially if you throw in an apple, a banana, and a scoop of whey. BAM! 800 non-filling calories to start your day which will leave you starving by 10. Congratulations, you lose. You are literally better off eating nothing. Which we will get to eventually………
If you eat too little of it:
Not too much for a long while. After prolonged carbohydrate restriction, your leptin levels could drop. Especially if you really start shedding fat. This will be addressed. After 3-4 days of no-carb dieting, your body goes into a state of “ketosis”, which means it stops tapping into carbohydrates and begins using fats for fuel. Which is good. Because I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but your enormous belly is largely comprised of fat.……………..
If you eat too much of it: You become a fat slob.
Your appetite increases. Say it with me: “If I eat too many carbs, I become hungrier for carbs, and the carbs that I do eat will fill me up less. It creates a nasty cycle of caloric intake that will mess me up, cause me to gain fat, and makes it generally impossible to be a lean, sexy man-beast.”
Your insulin sensitivity will decrease, which is bad. The more sensitive you are to insulin, the better you are at burning off your carbs, burning fat, and gaining muscle. Basically 99% of all health problems in this country can be attributed to high carbohydrate consumption.
The Food Pyramid is a complete joke. 6-11 servings of carbs per day is super if you produce diabetic medical supplies. But terrible if you’re trying to remain lean and fit.
How much you should consume:
Here is where it gets tricky. The leaner you are, the more carbs you can handle.
Carbohydrate consumption varies GREATLY based on the individual. If you have lots of fat to lose, I would aim for less than 50 per day, every day. This isn’t much.
One baked potato will put you over that number. Ideally, if you’re starting out, try to eat zero carb. The trace amount of carbs in various foods will ensure you have a few. (~50 or so are unavoidable).
As you lean out, you can begin to increase your carb consumption while tracking a few variables to ensure you aren’t gaining back any weight. We will discuss all of this.
I guess I didn’t totally give an answer. I guess the right answer for carb consumption should be………………it depends.
This is where the objective decision making comes in. Personally, I consume around 50 grams of carbs on my rest days and 200 grams (150 of which is post-workout) on my training days. I am on a fat-loss protocol.
Soon, I’ll be done with fat loss and will move towards muscle gain. So, my carb number will increase. For starters, I would suggest consumption of 100 or less, mostly eaten post-workout, on training days and as close to zero as possible for rest days. Then we can monitor progress and change that number if necessary.
Good choices: Rice, potatoes, pasta, bread, etc.
Bad choices: Skittles, soda
Once you become lean and your body can handle more carbs,
you can eat dinners like this.
2 footlongs with double-meat,
6 cookies and 2 bags of chips.
Eat your heart out, Jared.
So, let me give you a summary:
1. Protein and fat amounts should remain fairly constant on all days. Pick a number for both and stick to it. Slightly more fat on rest days than on training days, generally.
2. Carb amounts vary based on a number of factors: Your goal (fat loss v. muscle gain), your current body composition (fat v. lean), your workouts (heavy lifting v. endurance activities), and what type of a day it is (are you training or not).
3. DO NOT SKIMP ON PROTEIN OR FAT. Look at #1. Read it. The number for both should be CONSTANT. If you want to cut something out, cut out more carbs. Don’t think you’re doing yourself a favor by eating low carb AND low fat. You will do awful things to your hormone production – the opposite of what you want.
There are a few side notes:
Bad news, gents. Beer is bad for you. Really bad. Limit your beer consumption greatly. If you do drink beers, make it a beer with a super high alcohol amount (think heavy IPA’s) and have one or two.
Not only does it have empty carb calories, it will lower testosterone production if consumed in very large amounts. If you want to imbibe, have a few glasses of red, dry wine. Or a couple scotch and diets.
But there will come a time in your life when you need to ask yourself, “What would I rather have? A pyramid of empty beer cans to clean up on Sunday morning, or a flat stomach?” I know what I chose…………..
If I really need to tell you to stop drinking regular soda, then you need to find a new blog. What a total waste of calories.
Here’s some good advice: Stop eating like a five year old and grow up. Be an adult. Drink some water or coffee. Stop drinking pop.
Along the same lines as B, stop eating garbage. Chips, cookies, candy, etc. Just stop it already. You are all grown up now.
Stop pounding Dora fruit snacks like my daughter does.
Be mature. You know it’s not good for you. Just stop. Have some self control.
We are going to discuss ways of improving self-control next and how to make sure you’re not hungry.
You eventually will stop craving these foods if you stop shoving them into your pie hole. When your coworkers tell you it’s “Bagel Friday”, tell them to leave you alone. Or simply say, “I’m good” and drink your coffee. That’s what I do.
Most chains have nutritional information on their website. Most non-chains don’t.
When in doubt, you can never go wrong with a steak/chicken/fish, etc. and veggies.
Be careful of the carbs at those restaurants. If you get a burger and fries, you’re looking at probably 150 grams of carbs or so. And that means you’re already over your allotment for the day.
That goes for sauces, too. Ribs with no sauce have almost no carbs. Ribs with sauce have around 200 grams of carbs. So be smart and educated and eating out will be a breeze.
And now that you have some nutritional basics, the next topic will cover how exactly to eat foods in these numbers in a way that will…
-Keep you feeling full
-Promote fat loss
-Promote muscle gain
-Maximize your hormones
-Improve autophagy (how your body cleans out “bad stuff”- like cancerous cells…….)
-Improve your lipid panel, blood pressure, heart rate, etc.
-Improve your immunity to sickness
………and basically make you begin to feel superhuman.
Let it all sink in, ladies and gents. And have somma this on me……………..
Breakfast. Actually, more like lunch.
8 eggs and a half pound of bacon.
Roughly 70 grams each of protein and fat.
Enjoy your dinners, kiddies.
****Edit. It’s been brought to my attention I’ve neglected the females. I did say Anyman Fitness will work for anyone, didn’t I? I’m sorry I overlooked the ladies.
Here’s the skinny:
1. Protein – Same rules apply. If you think 120 is your ideal weight, make your protein intake 120 grams, daily. This is the one macro you can error on the high side. If it’s easier to comply at 150 grams, then so be it.
2. Fat – Same rules apply. But for reasons other than testosterone. Due to lower caloric requirements, instead of having your intake 60-80 grams, lower that slightly to 50-60 grams on rest days and 30-40 on days you work out. Gotta work out intensely, though. We will get to training later, but there is no reason why a woman’s strength training program should differ from a man’s.
3. Carbs – Set ’em lower than men. But again, just slightly. If starting out, I would still aim for zero carb if possible. Once leanness becomes a reality, you can tinker. If you train intensely, go for no more than 100 grams of carbs, all consumed post-workout.
Hope that helps! Jason