Tag Archives: nutrition coach

Protein: How Much and Why?

fish-meat-dairy-nuts-etc-350

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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Filed under Nutrition

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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Filed under diet, Nutrition

Nutrireligious Zealots are Boring

I started this blog post two months ago.  Never posted it.  Read Uber Beast Mode’s comment on Facebook this morning and decided to dust it off and finish it.

I read something a while ago about how many of us, especially us baby-boomer newbies in this clean eating and fitness game, get too passionate about it.  I sincerely apologize for being a complete pain-in-the-ass.  I’ve read a few articles like this one that equate nutrition and religion…

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/09/18/calling-for-an-end-to-nutrition-as-religion

I’ve started to avoid a lot of blogs and Facebook pages because the passion gets too negative.  It’s frustrating.  But mostly it’s boring.  I’d rather read about the cool things people are doing, not about their food.  That’s like having huge discussion about the gas you put in your car.

“To question their program or guru’s plans is akin to questioning their religious beliefs; and yet, unlike actual religious questioning (which would almost certainly lead to a thoughtful discussion), question dietary dogma online, and you can bet it will lead to a highly heated debate where anger and indignation can easily descend into name calling and personal attacks.”

I’ve been in a few debates, but my zeal has faded.  I honestly thought everyone was talking science – I’m a nerd.  It never occurred to me that nutrition wasn’t biology.  I didn’t realize that people held onto their beliefs like religious dogma – and I was doing it myself. OUCH!  I’m an idiot.  Then it was easy to spot in others.  People attack each other online and off-line.  Sometimes it’s polite, but many times it is not.  Karma came back and bitch-slapped me when I was attacked by the clean-eating police on my own page.

That’s when I decided that the focus of my Facebook page and this blog will be lifting.  Duh.  It is called Lifting My Spirits, right?  (And I just realized I have not written about lifting for a long time – sorry. I will soon.) I will still post recipes – my clients like that stuff.  I just won’t talk about macros, plant-based diets, clean-eating vs. IIFYM (Google it if you’re not familiar) because it doesn’t really matter.  No matter what your brain believes, your body needs what it needs and it adapts.  A good coach like me <insert shameless plug here> will help a client learn how to feed and care for their own body based on sound scientific principals.

Coach Jon at the Strength Guys said this…

“Metabolism is not static. Find an intelligent starting point and build from there. Sound nutrition-especially for the purposes of optimizing body comp, is largely reactionary. ” ~ Coach Jon

I studied and became a Fitness Nutrition Specialist because I’m fascinated by nutrition and how the body is fueled.  In some ways, it is a religious activity for me because I feel I honor my Creator by caring for His kid properly – how many times have I said eat food ‘grown by God’?  But it’s not really worth arguing about.  It’s just how I choose to eat most of the time because I like how I feel and perform when I’m fueled with foods grown by God.  However, this week, I enjoyed some lovely man-made low fat honey graham crackers as part of my carb refeed.  

People eat what they eat for many reasons.  And no two bodies are the same.  For the sake of transparency, I still get my undies bunched up by bad coaching because that’s malpractice.  But that’s another topic…

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Filed under Nutrition, Opinions, Venting, Ranting

Questions?

“How did you do it?”

“What’s your secret?”

How do I condense three years of … all of it… into a single blog post?  What I do now is an accumulation of three years of decisions, research, and advice.

I’ll try, but there’s no “magic pill” in here.

THE SIMPLISTIC AND SHORT VERSION

I ate fewer calories than I burned.  If over the course of a week, I burned 3500 calories more than I ate, I would lose a pound of fat.  Doesn’t mean the scale would show a pound loss, though.  The scale doesn’t weigh fat.   It weighs fat, muscle, bones, organs, and water.  Never drop calories below your BMR (basal metobolic rate).  You can look that up on line.  To create the deficit, you cut out a little from the food and move a lot more.  If the calories are cut too much, the body will biologically react to handle the famine.  Everything slows down.  That’s why people who don’t eat a lot can gain weight.  The body will store everything as precious fat while it waits for the famine to end.  Be patient.  You really want to lose weight slowly.  This is the healthiest and most permanent way to do it.

I wasn’t a clean eater at first.  That happened about six months into it.  When I was ready to really understand it, my nutrition coach/friend Kim sent me some of Tosca Reno’s books.  I’ve since started eating like a bodybuilder.  No way would I have been ready to eat this way at the beginning.  In general, I tell people to eat real food.  Give your body the nutrients it needs to do the work you will be asking it to do.  Many kinds of vegetables with lots of colors, lean protein, and healthy fats.  Try to cut back on processed foods.  (It’s just my opinion, but I think the body will store some unnatural stuff in processed food as fat because it doesn’t recognize it as a protein or carb that can be used for energy.)  I am what I eat.

Lunch at my teacher desk.

Water.  So they say 70% of our body is water.  Water under the skin can look like fat.  (Fat under the skin looks like fat, too.)  Once I got used to the fluctuations in my weight based on water, I could predict what it would do.  If I ate a big meal, but got back on the plan right away, my weight would go up at first and then settle back down.  That was the extra water weight from the extra carbs.  No biggie.  I wanted to eat a cheat meal every so often – like once a month – to be tricky.  Tricks my body from thinking we are starving.  One of the many reasons to drink a lot of water is that it will flush water out of the body.  If you don’t drink enough, the body, once again in it’s completely misguided attempt to keep us alive, will hold water.  I have no proof of this, but I suspect my body also holds water when it is burning fat.  It releases it in a few days.

Move.  For the first year, I lost about 40 pounds just cutting calories and doing  basic cardio things.  There is a ton of stuff out there about what is the best cardio…yeah, it’s all good info, but it can be pretty overwhelming at the beginning.  Just move.  I was too heavy to do some of the things I do now.  Knees were just not going to handle it.  I walked.  I did the elliptical machine.  My buddy StairMonster – I couldn’t handle that beast at that point.  My biggest mistake was to not lift.  I should have started that sooner.  I did the same thing I know others do – I didn’t want to pay for training so I decided to wait until I proved to myself that I wasn’t going to quit.  Yeah, it worked out OK, for me this time, but most people fall away because “real life” gets in the way of self-care, doesn’t it?  And I think I would have had better results had I done things differently.

What if it didn’t work?

It’s not a day-to-day thing.  It matters what happens over the course of a week or two.  (I learned this from my bodybugg coach.) If I wasn’t getting results, she told me to make a food substitution and/or change my exercise a little bit.  It’s not always about doing MORE cardio.  Might just need to change what I did for cardio.   The body adapts.

I cruised along just fine losing weight until a point when I stopped losing weight.  The next big change was to add lifting into my program. Should have been there all along, but I was intimidated by that part of the gym.  That’s when I started working with a trainer.  Did that for about nine months.  I learned how to lift and didn’t need to have training after that.  (I studied, tested, and earned my personal training certification so I could design my own programs.   I’ve been working out on my own ever since,  however, I do have a coach now for the bodybuilding and contest prep stuff I’m doing.  So, I’m not really on my own, am I?  Duh.)

SLEEP.  I have personal experience with how lack of sleep alone will cause weight gain.  The research is out there if you need to see it.  But get your 8 hours in as many nights as you can.  Everything will work better.

ACCOUNTABILITY.  I have no idea what will work for others.  I know what worked for me.  I started food logging online and I had a someone reviewing those logs regularly.  When my own motivation fell away, I hired a trainer and started this blog.  Now I have a coach.  I found people online doing something similar to what I was doing.   This is something you do alone.  I had to stop myself from eating certain things.  I had to get up early and go workout.  I got up and went for a walk.  I did the research I needed to do.   No one made me do those things.  If I found myself spending more time “thinking” about losing weight, I stopped thinking about it and went to workout.

MENTAL GAME.  This is much harder than people realize.  I think this is when you need people to help you get out of funks.  Having real life people to talk to is best, I think, but it’s not always practical.  The internet is an excellent resource for you.  You are reading this blog right now.  There are a bunch of us fitness bloggers – go find more.  Read about their struggles.  Ask a question and we’ll answer.  We’ve all been there.  Use Facebook.  I used post-its.  My bathroom mirror is framed with post-its with motivational quotes that mean something to me.  I’ve been reading them every day for… years, I guess.

* * *

I’m very unsatisfied with this post.  Starting is simple.  After that, things can get complicated, but they don’t have to be.  Everyone is different.  Every body is different.  Some things are universal.   I don’t feel like I’m being very helpful just yammering about what I did.  I remember reading things like this when I started and thinking “Yeah, that worked for her, but what about…” whatever it was that was stuck in my head as an obstacle impossible to overcome.

How about we do this…if you ask me a question, I’ll do my best to answer it.   That might save this post.   So… do you have a question?

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Filed under Motivation, Nutrition, Personal Training, Weight Loss