Tag Archives: macros

Protein: How Much and Why?

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Protein.

You need it.  And maybe more than you’re eating now.

If you’re having a strong reaction to reading that, I get it.  But this is an important thing to get right nutritionally.

Food is made up of 3 macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

All foods have some combination of the big 3.  If we purposely avoid one of the macronutrients, and it turns out that your body needs more of that particular macronutrient than you think, there will be problems.

Arguing with that is like saying gravity is a theory and you’re not convinced. 

And there you sit.  Not floating.  (Ok, I’m assuming you’re not floating.  You could be in a hot-air balloon. Gravity is still working, though.)

That said, there seems to be a fear of protein out there lately. Or at least some misconceptions.

I think that’s a backlash to the high protein diets that were popular a few years ago.

The medical profession started throwing up red flags – rightfully so.  I hope they would do that anytime a popular “named” diet is unbalanced.

I’m not getting into food preferences because I strongly believe food preferences need to be personal.  Sustainability is about flexibility.  What I am saying – what I’m not flexible about – is that the human body needs protein.  I’ll explain why.

Humans run on calories.  And we need them from proteins, carbs, and fats in some combination for optimal recovery, energy, hormone health, and mood regulation.

People need micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) from those foods for optimal functioning of – well – everything inside our bodies that has a function.

Protein and the Immune System

Speaking from experience, teachers are on the front lines of the cold and flu season every year.

sick teacher

After I started lifting, I noticed that I didn’t get sick as often as I used to.

Asked around at the gym and the guys said they didn’t catch many colds.

Why?

One reason may be dietary.  Lifters usually make sure they are getting enough protein.

Dietary protein bolsters the immune system.

Did a little research to find out why.

Can’t lie – I’m not a biochemistry major so most of what I found was written in academic language that was a little dense.

I did find several studies that started with a sentence that said something like…

 “We’ve known for a long time that protein malnutrition increases the likelihood of infectious diseases”.

 ~ Dietary protein intake and human health

But why??

Pulled out a nutrition textbook and the explanation there was about the immune response.  Antibodies are blood proteins.  They specifically described how antibodies attack a cold virus.

Protein malnutrition compromises the immune system.  Lifters tend to consume a lot of protein to help us recover from our lifts.  (There are lifters who live full-time in a caloric deficit and they tend to catch colds more often.  That just makes sense.  Fat-loss phases are meant to be temporary because they are hard on the body and the immune system cannot keep up.)

How Much Protein Do You Need?

If you are completely sedentary, the recommendation is 0.8 g per kg of body weight.  That’s about 0.4 g of protein per pound.   So, a 150-pound person who is completely sedentary will need about 60 grams of protein.  If that 150-pound person was maintaining their weight consuming 1800 calories a day, those 60 grams of protein would only be 13% of their total calories!

 

Most people who don’t try to eliminate protein sources from their food choices probably eat enough without trying. 

  • 2 large eggs = 12 grams of protein
  • The peanut butter on two slices of toast = 7 grams of protein
  • Fast food chicken sandwich = 36 grams of protein
  • One slice of pepperoni pizza = 16 grams of protein
  • Added up = 71 grams of protein.  And carbs and fats.  Most foods have all three.

(This isn’t a suggested food list, but just examples for a frame of reference.  These are estimates. The typical American diet, even in a high school cafeteria, probably has enough protein for the completely sedentary human.)

However, if you get up and go to work or school,  walk a bit, do chores around the house, go to the gym a couple times a week – you need more.

 

If you’re not exercising, but aren’t completely sedentary, I’d suggest 0.6 grams times your body weight. 

That same 150-pound person would want 90 grams, or only 20% of intake from protein. 

Some will argue, cite sources, get all upset with me – which is fine.  Really, it’s OK.  What you eat is your choice.  If I’m not your coach, your personal protein philosophy is none of my business. 

But…

  • if your appetite is out-of-control
  • if you get hurt frequently
  • have issues with recovery from your workouts
  • catch every bug that comes floating by

…I’d encourage you to reflect on whether your body-chemistry is actually on the same page as your opinions about how much protein you need.  Just sayin’.

 dumbells

If you lift or exercise regularly with a favorite activity, go for something in the range of 0.8 g to 1.2 g per pound of body weight.

If you’re an overweight lifter, that might be a lot.  In that case, estimate your lean body mass and then multiply that by 0.8 to 1.2 per pound of lean body mass.

For example, when my body fat was estimated to be 40%,  that meant my lean mass was 60%.  I would take my scale weight times 0.6 to estimate my lean body mass in pounds,  then take that number times 0.8 for a minimum protein intake.  Use 1.2 for a maximum protein intake.

Personally, I like 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of actual body weight because it’s easy.  I train hard, so I don’t feel it’s necessary to worry about whether I’m getting a little too much protein by not calculating my lean mass weight.

Regardless of math and philosophy, if you’re not giving your body the amount of protein it needs, the reality of that will present itself if you start to feel beat up by your workouts. 

If you’re not recovering, look at that protein intake.  That might not be the reason, but it’s a variable that needs to be considered.

A Tiny Bit on Protein and Fat-Loss

If you are in a fat-loss phase, those calories from protein are helpful. 

Protein helps regulate hunger.  After eating protein, you may feel fuller longer, which is nice when you’re living in a caloric deficit.

When you exercise, you want to burn fat, right?  

If there is sufficient protein in your diet, the body is more likely to use stored fat as an energy source. 

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “muscle-sparing”, that’s what they mean.  When protein intake is high, the body won’t metabolize muscle for energy instead of fat.

Balance First

I know there are different opinions on the issue of protein intake.  However, the majority of adults are busy, don’t have time to research it, and rely on trusted resources.  I hope I’m a trusted resource, and I take that responsibility seriously.

I’m all about balance and am prone to be suspicious of any source telling me to eliminate a macronutrient for an otherwise healthy human’s nutrition.

Coming soon!  

I’ll put together a post about alternative protein sources for people who do not want to eat meat.  There are a lot more options out there than there were just a few years ago. 

I need a little time to research because I’m mostly plant-based eater who gets most of my protein from poultry and animals with hooves.  The animals ate plants – but I’m pretty sure that’s not what you meant, right?  😉 

 

Need more?  You don’t have to figure it out on your own.
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How to Not Need “Cheat Days”

vegetables italian pizza restaurant

I don’t have “cheat days”.

I’m not THAT dedicated.

Hahaha!  Probably not what you expected to hear from me.

Nutrition supports your fitness goals in two ways…

  • Calories determine whether you are gaining, losing, or maintaining.
  • Macro and micronutrients help your body work optimally and help you feel better.

Food preferences are individual.  (I really dislike strawberry ice cream.  Go ahead – judge. But I’m going for the chocolate.  Or my recent new favorite – orange cream sherbet.  Must a summer thing!)

person holding ice cream with cone

Once you get used to using food as fuel, it’s like seeing the matrix.  Sort of.  You’ll still drop into the illusion and enjoy your favorites.

But those favorites are part of the matrix – they are a combination of calories and nutrients.  In the matrix, pizza has no value judgement – it’s just calories, carbs, protein, and fat.

That said, when I’m in a fat-loss phase (which I’m not this year), what someone else might call a “cheat day”, I call a refeed day.

On a refeed day, I’ll bring my calories up to maintenance – which means my goal is to eat the same number of calories that I estimate I will burn in that 24 hours period.

Usually, I do that by increasing portion sizes of foods I’m already eating.  But if I’m psychologically needing something I haven’t had in a while, that will come in on a refeed day.

It’s all logged.  It’s not a “cheat” anything because I’m not cheating by choosing “forbidden foods”.  No foods are forbidden for this purpose. 

Food choices are individual.  Yes, there are plenty of medical, philosophical, and ethical reasons why people have certain food preferences.

 That’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about controlling the amount of food you choose to eat – whatever that is going to be.

Actually, I do the same thing when I’m NOT in a fat-loss phase.  The difference is that I’m either at maintenance or in a controlled surplus with calories.

matrix

Not everyone likes the matrix.  I do.  I like the flexibility of choosing foods I like instead of using food lists.  I like how it changed my relationship with food by adding some structure and science.

Now the questions are do you do a refeed day, a refeed meal, and when? 

That’s another post…


If you’d like me to teach you how to do this for yourself, or to figure it all out for you  – a customized nutrition plan with live, weekly, support to make it all work when life gets busy – learn more here.

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Guest Blogger, Colin DeWaay: How to Set Your Macros

Colin BannerIn my first blog for Tammy I discussed why the majority of people who lose weight struggle to keep it off long-term and gave some tips on how to keep the weight coming off by avoiding plateaus. In the second blog we talked about flexible dieting and the importance of avoiding super restrictive diets. If you missed those articles I do recommend going back and reading them first, in order, as what as of the things I’m going to tell you today won’t make sense without doing so.

So now that you know about flexible dieting and the importance of hitting your macronutrients (regardless of what actual foods get you there) the next part is figuring out what YOUR macros should be, because it’s completely difference for everyone. Even two people with almost the exact same stats (height, weight, age, activity level, etc.) could and probably do have different metabolic  rates. In fact how many times you’ve dieted over the course of your life can negatively impact your metabolism. So things like how many times you’ve crash dieted, how recently you’ve been on a low calorie diet, etc. can severely impact your metabolic rate.

This is why it’s so important for you to track your intake and adjust. Just because some calculator out there tells you how many calories you should be eating based on your stats, doesn’t mean those numbers will be right for you. But what it does do is give you a fair starting point. It will at least hopefully get you in the ballpark, but it’s up to you to track and see if it actually works for you or not. This is what any good coach for you will do. Calculate with their best estimate of what will work for you based on the info you give them. Then track and adjust based on how things are going. Take away calories if you aren’t losing weight, and yes, even add in calories if you are losing too fast.

So how do you find out how much you should be eating? It starts by finding a TDEE (Totally Daily Energy Expenditure) calculator online. This will tell you roughly how many calories your body burns in a day, so you have an idea of how many you should be eating. Once you calculate your TDEE I recommend eating about 300 calories less than that number at first. Then you track and see how it works. But it’s important to not get tied up in how things go in just a week. You must give it time to see and you also need to track more than just weight. You also have to remember that as you lose weight and time goes on your metabolic rate WILL slow down (there is no avoiding this) so you have to pay attention and make adjustments. No set of numbers will work forever. Just keep in mind scale weight is just one tool and one measurement. Take progress pics, measurements, judge by how your clothes are fitting, how you feel, etc. and BE PATIENT.

The best calculator I know of is at IIFYM.com. You can use their IIFYM calculator to not only get your TDEE, but they will also help you come up with your macros as well. You can find that calculator here. I think it’s important to point out protein is the most important macronutrient to hit consistently. It’s the main driver for not only building muscle but maintaining it in a deficit not to mention it’s very thermogenic so your body expends more energy. Typically I recommend people to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight , but if you have a lot of weight to lose that’s probably not very realistic. In that instance I recommend about 1 gram per pound of roughly what your goal weight is. That said, if you aren’t used to eating a lot of protein you may find that difficult to reach at first. If that’s the case start lower and slowly add protein each week until you can get where you want to be.

Another form of flexible dieting that seems to work well for others is one I learned from my old coach Chad Dolan with Denovo Nutrition and that is instead of tracking all three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) you only track protein and fiber (I recommend always tracking fiber anyway) and you don’t worry where the rest of your calories come from regardless if it’s carbs, fat, or even more protein. This actually allows for an even more flexible approach to dieting and the difference is likely negligible. At least for those just looking to get in shape and aren’t trying to compete at an elite level of a sport. Which style you like is up to you, and you may want to try both for a while and see which one you’d like better.

I think it’s also important to point out flexible dieting DOES NOT mean stressing out about nailing your macros perfectly each and every day. It doesn’t mean being paralyzed by the fear of every going over your numbers. Nor does it mean you should always try to be under them. The point is to get CLOSE and be FLEXIBLE. At the end of the day it’s total calories and adherence to a plan that’s more important than anything. But at least with flexible dieting you can choose to eat some of the foods you love in moderation and keep yourself from feeling so restricted. Will you nail everything right away? Of course not. You will make mistakes. You will have frustrations. But like with anything else, the more you do it the better you get at it and the more comfortable you will get with it.

So now you know how to come up with your macros and you know that while certain numbers will work for a while they will not and cannot stay the same. Your metabolic rate changes and your numbers will have to change with it. But what about exercise you ask? I’ve been going on and on about nutrition for 3 weeks now. No worries, I will delve into that next time! Trust me, there are just as many myths regarding exercise for weight loss as there are with regards to nutrition.

In the meantime if you are ARE looking for a coach to help put everything together and take the guess work out of everything I am accepting new clients. Just head here and sign up and we can get started. Otherwise if you are looking for more information from me you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you will get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance, and possibly a small kick in the rear from time to time…  Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you are super sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll love it.

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62 Weeks Out – Pushing Through

Historically, the week before AP exams has been a very stressful week.  This year, I’ve been so overwhelmed with stuff*, that I’m in survival mode and coasting.  Just hanging on to the roller coaster with a white-knuckle grip.  I can see the end of it from here.

*AP exams start next week.  I have 50 kids testing on Wednesday, May 7th.  The stress of pushing 50 teenagers when we all really want this to be over … well, let’s just say being disciplined about exercise and nutrition is NOTHING compared to being disciplined enough to get seniors with “senioritis” ready for an AP calculus exam.  In previous years, I’ve made a pancake breakfast for them before the exam.  This year, I decided to have it ‘catered’ by the culinary arts program here at school.  Same cost, no work for me.  Perfect!

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*The decision to transfer schools was made last week and the plans regarding the logistics of that move are beginning to be made.  I’m excited about the change, so I’m OK with the stress of going through nine years of accumulated stuff.  I honestly have no idea what’s in this drawer…

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*Hubby and I are still navigating life with one vehicle.  This week, it’s been easy because he’s been doing tons of spring yard work.  I call him a “grass-whisperer”.  It’s impressive what he can get to grow in a our high desert climate this early in the year.  Most lawns on our street are a little brown.

lawn pic 1 lawn pic 2
*A couple major life issues came up this week that are not appropriate to discuss in a blog, but they have been challenging for me to process. A couple of restless nights, so sleep deprivation was an issue earlier in the week.

All of these things are more important than bodybuilding, but this blog is about that part of my life, so it may not be surprising that lifting wasn’t awesome during the first part of the week.

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Heavy upper body was the plan, but there were issues.  Woke up feeling like I should take a second rest day.  Low back strain from leg day on Sunday was still nagging me.  Or maybe it was from deads last week?  I went into the gym before work anyway.  Once there, my wireless headphones wouldn’t pair with my phone and I didn’t have another set.  My primary gym is a small lifting gym, so they don’t have one of those little in-gym shops.  They play great music, but that’s not why I wear the headphones.  There are too many little groups of people lifting in too small of a space.  All those conversations distract me.  So I wore my useless headphones anyway just to block out the noise a little bit.  I was able to get my bench press and incline press work done, but I could not add weight.  I actually had to drop a rep from each set.  I only did 6 sets of chest and called it a day.  Heavy back work just didn’t feel like a good idea.

Wednesday: Finished Tuesday’s planned workout with the heavy back work.  It went much better than it would have gone the day before.  I added 10 lbs to my Pendlay rows last week, so on this day, I added reps.  I ended up adding reps to most things instead of weight and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.

Thursday: It had to be another rest day.  Life was just too busy, so I planned to get more sleep.  “More sleep” is a priority now.

Friday: Friday afternoon lifts are one of my favorite things.  This leg workout did not disappoint.  It may have saved the week, actually.  Goblet squats with blood flow restriction – weight up.  Barbell Hip Thrusts – weight up.  This was a PR from the floor.  A bit of back strain again, but it was gone the next day. (Carbs, ice, ibupofen, sleep)  Calf Raises – added reps.  Not sure what’s going on with my calves.  They are getting stronger faster than other parts.  I think I will have to use other exercises than that standing calf raise machine to work calves.  The weight pushing down on my shoulders feels like it compresses my spine too much.

Saturday: Upper body hypertrophy lift.  Nothing exciting happened with chest work.  Actually failed on the last rep of the last set of incline presses and had to put the barbell on the floor.  But I was able to do one arm rows with 70 lbs for 3 sets of 8.  I’ve lifted that weight – a little heavier, too, but not for 8 reps.  This is my longest workout and I wasn’t able to finish it.  Just did chest and back.  Saved shoulders and arms for the next day.

Sunday: Legs hypertrophy lift with shoulders and arms.  Did the arm work I didn’t do on Saturday.  Added a few sets for shoulders, too.  I raised the hex bar deadlift up to 135 lbs.  I used blood flow restriction for that exercise and I think the weight was too heavy for the reps I was supposed to do – 15.  Did three sets of 8, 12, 8 reps, I think.  I didn’t feel the pump the way I’m supposed to.  Oh well.  I’m sure work was done.  For power squats, I kept the weight around 155 pounds and worked on form.  I tend to not go low enough.

It’s Sunday night and as I end of this week, I’m feeling strong, but a little pudgy.  I’m thrilled to be coming to the end of this anticipated “stress season”, and if I gained a little fat with muscle, I’ll take it.   I think I’m doing a good job hitting macros.  Carbs have been high because they go up with my daily burn.  I’m getting enough sleep and recovering well.   Considering the stress I’ve had, I expected to lose muscle and gain fat (cortisol), so it’s a big win to see strength gains.

 

 

 

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Training Update – Week 2 of 4

I don’t like being told what to do. But as a teacher, I know I need to pay attention.

Last week, I started a new phase that will last for 4 weeks. It’s awkward. I’m used to having more flexibility about my workouts. Now? Not so much. Coach is pretty adamant that I do exactly what I’m supposed to do on the days I’m supposed to do it. I’m pretty good about progressing the weight to match the number of reps I’m going to do. I’ve learned how to approach failure, without actually hitting it. What do they say? “Leave 1 or 2 in the tank.” But I will do too many exercises, too many sets – according to Coach. He’s probably right. So I’ve been given parameters that are not to be changed…

  • Monday: Back, biceps, abs. 25 sets total with 16-20 of those sets on back. 12 reps per set.
  • Tuesday: Cardio mayhem = flipping tires, pushing sleds, stairs, mountain climbers – all sorts of fun.
  • Wednesday: Chest, triceps, calves. 25 sets. 8-10 reps.
  • Thursday: Cardio mayhem
  • Friday: Quads and hamstrings. 15 sets each, 12-15 reps.
  • Saturday: “Rest” = food prep, laundry, home stuff
  • Sunday: Shoulders, glutes, forearms. 10 sets each, except shoulders get 15 sets. 10-12 reps

I like my rest day to be Sunday, but when I asked if I could modify this plan, I got a big “NO”. It was rough switching my rest day from Sunday to Saturday.

During the last couple of weeks, my macros were supposed to be 200 g protein, 200 g carbs, 70 g fats. I didn’t really see anything major happening and my energy level was down. I also wasn’t doing much cardio. So when I got the new workout plan, I also got 40 g more carbs to be eaten before lunch. The first week of this phase (last week) was pretty bumpy. Coach didn’t give me the new macros until Monday when food prep was done on Sunday. I had to scramble and it felt very unorganized. I started training a new client. Plus I had that TV interview thing on Friday. Fun, but disruptive to the routine.

The part of the plan that is the hardest to get done is the mandatory 8 – 10 hours of sleep a night. This is a non-negotiable. It’s soooo hard. Based on the time of day I get up to do the gym before work, I need to be in bed around 7 pm. If I don’t get home until 5:30-6:00, I have about an hour to get my last two meals in and visit with Hubby. I know the food will work itself out. But I really need some quality time with Hubby everyday.

This is Peanut. Sleeps next to me all night. He didn’t want to get up on this day.

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Overall, I’ve lost 5 pounds since prep started. Most of that was just bloated water weight. No matter – it’s gotta go, too. The calories I’m doing are right around maintenance right now. Some days below my burn, some days above.

The “big picture” plan is to increase my metabolism. That’s why I need to follow instructions.

From a lifting standpoint, the weights are going up. Part of that is having a cap put on my sets. I like to do a lot of different exercises when I’m left on my own. Too many. Part of that would be injuries healing – and that’s the rest. It’s just soooo hard to do everything I’m supposed to do when I have to sleep that much. I feel slammed for time all the time. Run from one thing to the other. Which is why I haven’t been blogging. I have a list of drafts with ideas, but no time to finish anything.

Sorry. Not a funny blog. Not a tug the heart-strings blog. Nothing deep and philosophical. Just a catch up. Shouldn’t have spent the time on it either. I have 7 minutes until class starts, so I’m scheduled to pee right now. (If you’re a teacher, you know what I’m talking about.)

Cardio Mayhem includes, but is not limited to…

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