Raise your hand if you’ve ever been on a diet; ok, you can put your hands down. Personally, I’ve been on every diet known to mankind; some more than once. So as the new year comes into focus, and we start thinking about getting healthy, I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned over the years. Although I don’t hold a degree in nutrition, I have done my fair share of reading on the subject. So as a disclaimer, always consult your physician before starting any diet/exercise regimen. Hopefully, we can all turn a new leaf in 2019. After all, isn’t getting healthy on everyone’s New Year’s resolutions?
How your body uses proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
If we’re going to make healthy food choices, we need to know how our body processes food. The food we eat can be broken down into three categories: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. These are also known as “macros.” Let’s look at how your body uses each of them.
The body needs protein to build and maintain muscle. Muscle is needed to help keep your body lean, and strong. Having more muscle increases your metabolism, which means your body will burn more calories, even at rest. Examples of protein-rich food include meat, seafood, eggs, cheese, nuts, and Greek yogurt.
Carbohydrates, also known as sugars can be broken down into two categories (simple and complex). Of the two, complex carbs, rich in fiber, are preferred. Complex Carbs include fruit, legumes, whole grains, and vegetables. Simple carbs have no nutritional value. These include any food high in sugar or starch: candy, baked goods, white flour, white rice, and pasta. Although both simple and complex carbs turn to glucose in the body, they are not equal. There is a difference in how quickly they are absorbed by the body. Simple sugars spike the sugar level in the body. If that energy is not expended through physical activity, it is converted to fat. Complex carbs, on the other hand, are broken down slower. They give your body sustainable energy and do not cause a spike in blood sugar.
Think of fats as your body’s concentrated source of energy. Fat also insulates your body and protects your vital organs. Another function of fat is to support cell growth and assist proteins to do their job. When people deprive their body of carbohydrates (the body’s preferred energy source) the body turns to fat instead. This is the whole principle behind low carb diets. When you deprive your body of carbohydrates, the body beings burning fat to use as energy. When this happens, weight loss is a natural result.
How to Figure Out your BMR (using the Harris-Benedict Formula)
Another aspect of getting healthy is being aware of your BMR number. “BMR” stands for “Basal Metabolic Rate.” This number tells us how many calories are required to maintain your current weight. In other words, the number of calories our body is burning at rest. Use the calculations below to come up with your personal number. If the formula below is too confusing, you can use this BMR calculator instead.
- Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age)
- Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age)
To get a more accurate number, based on your activity level, you’ll need to figure out your TDEE
Once you’ve calculated your BMR using the above formula, you need to adjust it to reflect the number of calories you burn through your daily activities and exercise. When adjusted, this new number represents your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). We can use our TDEE to figure out how many calories we need to eat based on our activity level. You are allowed more calories if you leade an active life, versus a sedentary one. That makes sense, right? Use the formula below to figure out what your TDEE.
- Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
- Lightly active (light exercise/1-3 days a week): BMR x 1.375
- Moderately active (moderate exercise/3-5 days a week): BMR x 1.55
- Very active (hard exercise/6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
Your TDEE indicates the number of calories you need to consume each day to maintain your weight. The more you weigh, the more calories it takes to maintain your weight. Furthermore, as you lose weight, your body will require fewer calories, so your BMR and TDEE needs to be re-adjusted. A pound of weight equals 3500 calories. In order to lose one pound a week, you need to eat 3500 calories less each week. For example, if your TDEE is 2000, eating 500 calories less a day will help you lose one pound a week. As a general rule, you should not consume below 1200 calories a day.
Combining Diet and Exercise for weight loss
If you don’t have enough wiggle room with your calories, and you feel like it will take forever to lose weight, don’t despair! You can speed up the weight loss by burning additional calories through exercise. Ideally, you should use a combination of diet and exercise. If your goal is to lose two pounds a week, you would have to eat 500 fewer calories a day and burn an additional 500 calories through exercise. This would put you in a 1000 calorie deficit each day (7000 calorie deficit a week) resulting in two pounds of weight loss.
Tracking Calories with MyFitnessPal App
I have tried different apps to track my calories but always come back to MyFitnessPal. You can download the free version from the App Store, or pay for the ad-free version, which has more features. I find it even easier to use their website, myfitnesspal.com. One of the features I love is being able to import recipes from other sites, or manually, and saving the recipes under “my recipes.” You can also save meals that you eat frequently, for easy logging. The app has a barcodes scanner feature, which is very handy. I like to plan my meals online and log any changes with the app. If you want an easy way to keep track of your calories, look no further!
Easy Guide to Getting Healthy
I hope you’ve found this information somewhat helpful, in your quest to get healthy. Although I had every intention of talking about specific diets, I got a little carried away. If you have enjoyed this post, have questions, or would like to see more posts like this in the future, please comment below.
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