First, I must say, I am not a nutritionist or professional in any way when it comes to your body. What I can offer are things that have helped me better understand how to fuel my body to lose weight. This does not mean that what works for me will work for you but I think everyone needs to understand the importance of eating enough quality calories and drinking water…
Your calorie needs are determined by a number of things – most commonly your height, weight, gender, age, as well as the duration and intensity of your workouts. To calculate my calories needed I used this website: www.freedieting.com/tool
You enter your information and your level of exercise. It gives you a range you can use for calories based on the information you give it. There are all kinds of sites out there that will help you calculate this so try a couple and see where it puts you. I use my BMR as my minimum calories for the day no matter what! After doing my calculations my BMR is 1760 and my maintenance calories are 2400 so in order to lose weight I use the range of 1800 – 2200. It’s good to cycle your calories a bit plus gives you some variety from day to day. Now keep in mind as you lose weight this number will change so you’ll have to calculate this as your numbers change. And don’t forget to divide these up into 5 or 6 meals per day!
Once you’ve figured out how many calories you need you also need to figure out how much protein, carbs and fat you need to fuel your body and lose weight. A few things you should know:
Protein is important for building and repairing muscle. If you restrict calories too much, protein is burned for energy when carbohydrates are low. On the flip side, if you overeat, it is stored as fat. Eating the right amount and balance of foods gives the best results for any training or exercise program.
In muscle, Carbohydrates, are stored as glycogen where they can be used during exercise to provide energy. Carbohydrates are important for anyone training day to day. Eating whole grains (breads, cereals etc.), vegetables and fruit will keep you well fueled for all your activities, especially your workouts.
We all know if you eat too much fat you can increase your risk for heart disease, but too little fat can inhibit performance. It is important to include “healthy” fats like nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, canola oil, avocadoes, and peanut butter, and limit saturated fats such as whole milk, cheese, ice cream, high fat beef.
Now, knowing a little about each nutrient and how important they are, figure out how many grams of each you need. I like the 40/40/20 approach. Note that protein and carbs are 4 calories per gram and fat is 9 calories per gram.
So, to figure out your calories for protein and carbs, you will take your daily calorie need and multiply by .4 to give you 40% and then divide that by 4 to give you grams.
(1800 x .4 = 720 calories, now divide by 4 to see how many grams you need daily. You’ll need 180 grams of each protein and carbs).
Now figure out your grams for fat by multiplying by .2 and dividing by 9.
(1800 x .2 = 360 calories, now divide by 9 to see how many grams you need daily. You’ll need 40 grams of fat).
Another rule of thumb, I’ve heard over and over is 0.8 - 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight for women and between 1-2 grams for men. When figuring my grams I figure both the low and high side so I have my “range”. Again, I’m all for having a few higher calorie days as long as stay within my weight loss range. I find these helpful on intense workout days or leg day!
One final important note is WATER! We hear it over and over to drink water. Water is important for many reasons. It helps to regulate your body temperature, cushion joints, transport glucose in the blood to working muscle, and helps repair muscles after a workout. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water. If you do, then you are already dehydrated. Drink before exercising, during and after to make sure your muscles are getting the fluid they need!
Again, I am not a professional or expert but once I got my head around this I started seeing results. I’m still a work in progress who learned the hard way from not eating and drinking enough! Now it's up to you to log your food and workouts to get it done!