Thursday, May 14, 2015

How much food do YOU need?

There's an oft-used saying "less is more." While this may apply to many things, fitness related and otherwise, it is not a blanket statement to be used without thought process. Where am I headed with this? Why, food, of course!

When I first began training people, I was in for a few very surprising revelations. I came to realize that most of the adult population of the world has multiple nagging injuries or other restrictions that you'd never know about without a LOT of questioning, and that wine is basically the base level of the average Americans food pyramid, not whole grains. But one of the biggest surprises was regarding nutrition, or lack thereof. I had generally assumed (big mistake...) that most people who were looking to drop weight would need to be told to eat LESS. Makes sense, right? (See, the dots will connect after all!) 
What I came to realize was that a size-able majority of gym goers have one of three general issues with food intake. The first is overeaters, which are less common than I thought (in gym populace). This issue is generally an easier issue to work on, and is a topic for another article.
The second two fall into a tougher category to solve - under eating. Of the under-eaters there are two basic varieties. 
The first are those who have jobs or lives that otherwise demand a lot of their time. These folks "don't have time" to eat consistently. They often skip breakfast, work through lunch, and get home late to dinner. Many of these busy people also run on the not entirely accurate notion that its better to just skip a meal (or 3...) than to eat something fast on the go. While I generally advise staying away from "junk food", one does need to make sure that they're getting sufficient calories into their body throughout the course of the day. Preferably, one would prepare and tote around some macro-friendly meals and/or snacks to fuel them through the day, but even a 7-11 pit stop for a protein shake or bar would be very beneficial in this scenario. This is more a matter of breaking a bad habit than it is a mental struggle with food itself.
The second variety of under-eaters are those who may have been misinformed by the media or their own logical (though ultimately unfortunate) thought process saying that "less is more."
Most people, when they seek to lose weight, immediately try to basically remove as many calories from their day as they can physically stand. This is a mistake on a number of levels and leads not only to an unhealthy relationship with food, but also metabolic damage that is not easy to repair. Without getting too technical, I'll refer back to the good ol' car analogy: you wouldn't try to drive a sports car without any gas in the tank, right? Well your body works pretty similarly. In a perfect world we want a body and a vehicle made of lean muscle - streamlined, nice to look at, but with an engine that burns through fuel faster than OPEC can raise the prices. (Again, this is a VERY simplified analogy, not a biology lesson) What that translates to (in analogy land) is a fast metabolism. An 84 civic hatchback might be good on gas, but its not much to look at or fun to drive. Its a lame body with a low metabolism because it hardly ever gets fed. A brand new Ferrari, however, looks great, performs beautifully, and needs a lot of high quality fuel to do its job. Aaaaand we're back full circle to how your body needs food.
In many cases, people have been trying to loose weight using an approach with too few calories for so long that their bodies have become programmed to stay in a down-regulated state where calories are stored as fat rather than the body using them efficiently for daily processes and burning bodyfat. In these cases, it is common to need to slowly INCREASE calories rather than remove them. This can be a huge mental struggle as it defies conventional thinking, but is not only necessary to achieve fitness goals, but more importantly to optimize health. (Plus, really, who doesn't want to eat more...?) 
Bear in mind that this approach is situation-dependent - some people may still need to lower calorie intake, some may need to increase it. Some may simply need to balance their ratio of intake and increase protein while reducing carbs and/or fat. Each individual needs to work with their own body, nutritional history, and exercise prescription. If you're unsure about your macronutrient needs, consult a trainer today!

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