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Nutrients, Not Calories

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Since I've restructured my plan for body recomposition rather than weight loss, I've been doing a lot of things 'backwards' to what I was taught about dieting and exercise.

I'm not focusing on calorie consumption or expenditure; I'm focusing on nutrients.

Long time Sparkfriends will recall my old spreadsheets where I diligently tracked the composition of every single morsel I ate. I've reorganized my spreedsheet for lean mass training rather than weight loss. There's now sections where I record strength.

I'm tracking my food and exercise, but I don't necessarily care about hitting target ranges. I have one objective: Do more than the week before.

Here's a sample of yesterday's food and exercise:

Breakfast: 2 hard boiled eggs and 1/2 cup cottage cheese
Lunch: Leftover easter ham, 1 over easy egg, and 2 cups mixed vegetables
Second Lunch: Smoked salmon, herring, hard boiled egg, 1 head romaine lettuce, tomato and a small bell pepper
Dinner: Homemade egg fried rice with ham.
Snack: Smoked salmon wrapped over cucumber wedges, 1 cup cottage cheese, and an apple

Workout: "Ripped in 30 DVD" Level 2; assorted dumbbell exercises; pushups

If this sounds like a lot of food, it was. I ate four meals and a snack.

Am I scared to be eating this much food?

Yeah, sure I am.

I've been conditioned to think that if I want to get leaner, I have to eat less.

To some degree, this is true. Lots of people will disagree, but I do not believe that a calorie is a calorie. 30 days on a Twinkie diet will destroy lean mass and damage insulin receptors. So eat fewer nutritionally devoid calories.

Did any of us get fat overeating freggies and whole protein? I didn't. I've never heard anyone say, "I used to be thin, but then I started overeating salads and grilled fish." Does that make ANY freaking sense?

We have daily protein requirements. Undereat protein, and it will be taken from muscle. That is not due to a calorie deficit, but a protein deficit. We have zero metabolic pathways to synthesize protein. It either comes from the protein we eat, or our muscle.

Here's a woman who weighed the same with different body composition based on how she trained and ate.


Whether the fitness competitor figure is attractive or unattractive is not the point. There IS a difference in body shape depending on how we train and eat, even at the same weight.

I'm at a healthy weight, but it isn't the shape I want.

I was hungry all day yesterday, so I kept eating. It is a leap of faith. I'm trusting that my workouts are stressing my muscles to the point where I need more high quality calories to repair them. I'm trusting that high quality food is going to be used for good, not evil.

If I looked solely at my numbers, my weight gain would be alarming. My body fat percentage hasn't even changed.

However, my lean mass is a net positive.

What is lean mass exactly? It is a combination of muscle, organ tissue, bone and blood. It is calculated by subtracting total weight minus body fat. It is impossible to know the exact ratios without a body composition analysis, but approximately 65% of body weight is water, and 16% is muscle. 70% of the weight of muscle is water.

Look at how incredibly powerful a small amount of muscle is. It comprises a fraction of total weight, and yet is is responsible for moving everything around. Amazing.

Is my weight gain muscle? No, probably not yet. My body is pretty sore, though, which means I have inflammation. When there is inflammation, it means time for rest, even though I am eager to work harder. Water is being retained, and my body is busy at work repairing those tiny, torn muscles. It is really important that I push the protein sky high so there is enough building material to do the job. You can't finish building a house if you run out of bricks.

I pick my food choices based on nutrients, not calories.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • A*L*P*
    I emoticon this blog! You said everything PERFECT!!!! I am at exactly the same point as you. I don't want to be skinny. I want to be strong and have a healthy look. The picture you posted is exactly such a wonderful point!! Thank you!!
    1813 days ago
    I think it's more like to be skinny, you need to eat less. To be lean, you need to eat foods that will fuel your body. Lean and skinny are not necessarily the same thing.

    I've never wanted to be skinny. I could get skinny by crash-dieting or eating diet foods and not exercising at all. But I want muscle. I want energy. I want to push my body to do things physically like lifting weights, rock climbing, and judo. I know that if I just eat carb-rich "diet" food, I am not going to be where I want even if I do hit my goal weight. So I think you are spot on for focusing on nutrients. That plus the ST plan will definitely get you the shape you want!
    1813 days ago
    Very cool!

    So first of all, I want you to prepare me a bunch of meals like yours, they sound double yum!

    It sounds like you're on the right path with the food....most of what I've read says that the way to build muscle is to go heavy on the weights. I think you can get there with lower weights/higher reps, but I'm not 100% sure what the literature shows

    Here's to more muscle!
    1813 days ago
    Woohoo! Unfortunately, I ate a bunch of whoppers, which don't easily convert to muscle... ;)

    You can always assess how you're doing in a month and make changes if necessary. If you gain a couple pounds of fat - which is very unlikely - then you can go back to the way things were. There is nothing to be afraid of! You're in your own body, and you can run it the way you want. :)
    1813 days ago
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