The next chapter of my weight-loss “blog to eBook” I know this one looks a bit lengthy, but I had a lot to cover on this topic.
The calories in food come from 3 different types of Macro nutrients, or for short, Macros. Each one has a different purpose. While it is possible to lose weight by focusing solely on the calories, even a basic understanding of macro nutrients can make your weight loss experience much easier. If you know your macros, you can make sure that your breakfast keeps you feeling full throughout the morning work day, or that your afternoon snack adequately gives you energy for your after work run.
The first major macro nutrient is Carbohydrates. If you’ve tried dieting in any of the 2000’s you’ve probably been told that carbs are bad. Like all myths, there is a nugget of truth. Carbs are calorie dense, and they don’t leave one feeling very full. This makes it very easy to consume too many calories from carbohydrates. You’d be amazed how quickly you can work through an entire bag of chips by just mindlessly snacking in front of the TV, without ever feeling full. They also are quickly metabolized into blood sugar, which if not used through activity, can cause a ‘sugar crash’ making one feel less than ideal, but carbs are also great for just that, readily available energy. A small snack rich in carbs is recommended before a workout, and very active individuals may find that they need lots of carbs to power them through their day.
Next is Protein. Muscles right? Yup, aside from water, we’re mostly made up of protein. Our skin, nails, and yes, muscles. Now, can you just eat a lot of protein and get lots of muscles? Not quite. It’s helpful to think of protein like bricks, and your body like a house. Now, if you tear a wall down (by say, lifting something very heavy) and give your body some bricks, it’s going to rebuild that wall. Except it will build it back a little stronger than before (this is a very simplified example of how bulking works). But let’s say you give your construction workers lots of bricks, but don’t tear down any walls? Then the same thing happens to all the other types of excess calories. They get stored, unfortunately, as adipose tissue.
I kind of went off on a tangent, but circling back, let’s talk about what protein means to people who want to get smaller, not bigger. Aside from being needed by the body, protein has the added advantage of making one feel full. Compared to fat, which come in at 9 calories a gram, protein only has 4 calories per gram. Making it a less calorie dense macro. It’s also more satiating than carbs. 160 calories of beef jerky can make one considerably more full than 160 calories of cookies.
Lastly, there is Fat. Like any child of the 90s, I was inundated with all sorts of advertising telling me fat was bad. Low-fat this, Low-fat that. But our bodies need fat. It’s essential for proper hormone production. While there are some fats, like Trans fats, that are harder on our body than others, fat should not be a part of our diet that we eliminate, and like protein fat is filling. Now even though you might here something different, I suspect that the “filling”-ness of fat, is what powers the ketosis diet. If you starve your body of carbohydrates, there is some biochemistry going on where your body goes through ketogensis, and starts burning fat directly instead of converting it to glycogen first, however this doesn’t present a significant change in metabolic rate. It’s my hypothesis that keto diets which are rich in fat, fiber, and leave room for an adequate amount of protein, and almost no carbs, simply help people eat at caloric deficits, because everything they eat is so filling.
And then there’s Fiber. I know right? I said three, and this is number four. Well fiber isn’t actually a macro nutrient, but in the same respect I feel like it needs to be mentioned here for two very important qualities that are super helpful for people looking to lose weight. Fiber is filling, and low calorie. Oh and it’s cheap. The absolute best way to pad a meal with filling food, that is low in calories (oh, and cheap) is High Fiber vegetables. Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, etc. Many a meal I have eaten half a bag of frozen green beans, and added only 90 calories to my dinner. Okay, so what if you don’t like vegetables? You can still eat less than you burn, and not eat vegetables, but if you want to feel full from your meals, my advice is to embrace them. Body builders have a saying when it comes to their supplements, and I think it applies very well here: “Disregard taste, acquire results”
A major appeal of caloric restriction is that nothing is taboo, but in the same way that high fiber vegetables are one of the best things you can add to your diet, there is (in my opinion) a worst thing. That is liquid calories. Soda, Juice, Milk, Alcohol, et cetera. Now by all means you don’t have to give this stuff up 100% but next time you pick up a can of coke, look at the calories in it. Then think about how full it makes you feel. Probably not at all right? This is why liquid calories are so dangerous when it comes to losing weight. You can slam back 4 cans of cola during your workday, and without feeling any more satiated, have consumed 600 calories, nearly all of which is processed sugar. By the same token, it does little good to meticulously log your food all week, only to go out and drink like an alcoholic fish on the weekend. So my tip to you is: Beware of liquid calories.
Quick sidenote here. Some of you are probably thinking about diet sodas. Most diet sodas come in at zero calories a can. But there’s a catch right? aspartame (The sweetener used in place of sugar) will give you cancer, right? I mean if something sounds too good to be true… am I right? Well, not really. In fact, the verdict has long been settled on Aspartame. Aspartame is one of the most rigorously tested food ingredients, and a report released in 2013 which extensively examined of the evidence, ruled out “potential risk of aspartame causing damage to genes and inducing cancer”. TL;DR? Diet soda is a perfectly fine way to restrict calories.
Now, if you’re like me, there will be exceptions. I myself am a home brewer, and love sampling all sorts of craft beer. So I still do consume liquid calories from time to time. So if you like to kick back after a rough work week with a glass of wine, or you just need a glass of milk with your cookies, then by all means go for it, as long as it’s in your budget it’s fine, which leads us right into the last section of this chapter.
Can I eat this?
So I’ve talked about foods that you’ll want to embrace, and foods you’ll want to avoid, but some of the more careful readers will point out that I mentioned this wasn’t really a diet book, because it doesn’t matter what the food is, and yeah, that’s still true.
If your calorie goal is 1700 and you fill it with nothing but cookies and soda, I stand by my claim that if you are eating less than you burn you will lose weight. So here’s the rub. Nothing is taboo, all things in moderation. You want pizza? Fine, log it. Chinese? Punch it in and enjoy. Is it biscuits and gravy for dinner? No problem, cut a little back on breakfast and lunch and find yourself with 1000 calories to use all on dinner. How you make room in your budget for the foods you want to eat is up to you.