The Basics of Eating

You’d be unsurprised to hear that, as a Trainer, I consider my specialist area to be fat loss.

Since well before I lost weight and became a trainer, and to present, I have spent a considerable amount of time reading and researching fat loss for my own benefit and the benefit of my clients.

In 2012, after years of reading, trying various different things and generally being bloody minded and refusing to seek any help, I managed to lose the extra 5-6 stone that I had been carrying. It all came down to what I am about to talk about below.

Now, I may have been very overweight, but I was no slouch, I was using the gym 5-9 times per week alongside attending 2-3 martial arts classes per week. This was a massive amount of exercise but I was seeing very little change whatsoever.

When I did figure out what the problem was (Nutrition), and devised a plan to solve the problem, the weight seemed to just fall off me in no time.

As much as I’d love to get in depth and write an article explaining the Bio-chemical and Hormonal processes at work when it comes to shedding fat, I believe that most people just need a bit of basic guidance on how to eat regardless of you goal. This article is designed to provide that knowledge.


The Problem with Dietary information.


Nutrition and Diet can be a bit of a Minefield because there’s so much conflicting information out there: “Don’t eat after 6pm”, “If you eat Fats you’ll get fat”, “Every time you eat Carbs a Kitten dies”, “You have to have a Protein Supplement Shake after you train or your muscles will fall off”.

Obviously I’m being cynical, but I’m sure if you’re reading this that you will have had some experience with (and would be forgiven for) not knowing what/when/how to eat. BUT, it is actually a lot easier than you might think once you know some of the basics…

Take a look at the pyramid below:

Nutritional Pyramid


As you can see there are 5 layers. Each layer builds upon the one beneath it. The layer at the bottom serve as a foundation for the ones above and there is a very clear order of priority. Also of note is the arrow marker at the side. Each layer only becomes important as you progress in your training and goals.


There is a large amount of confusion and misconceptions over which of these layers is the most important.


What this Pyramid helps to communicate is:

You can’t eat just ‘clean foods’ and ignore calories.

You can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet

You can’t use some special timing tricks to enable you to binge eat on the evenings.


Remember: Calories > Macros > Micros > Meal Timing > Supplements

1. Calories (Energy Balance – calories in vs out)

When it comes to weight gain or weight loss, Calories are King. This platform sets the foundation for the entire of the rest of the Pyramid. If you don’t address the issue of your calories first, you are very unlikely to hit your goals.

In 2010 a professor called Mark Haub, spent 10 weeks eating a diet composed mostly of sweet snack called “Twinkies”, he ensured that he was in a caloric deficit throughout the 10 week period and sure enough he lost weight (27lbs to be exact)

Regardless of whether you eat 5000kcal of Chicken and Broccolli or 5000kcal of Chocolate Buttons, you will gain weight. A good goal to shoot for, for weight loss, is 10-12kcal per lb of bodyweight. For weight gain 17-20kcal per lb works well.

Something to consider with calories is how easily they sneak into your diet, the 2 tablespoons of Olive oil you put on your salad is nearly 250 calories (or 10% of your average mans daily calories requirement), Mayonnaise is over 50kcal per tablespoon.

This is why it is a great idea to use a calorie tracking app such as myfitnesspal or calorieking to keep track of what you are eating. I did this myself and becoming aware of how much you are eating is the single most important thing you can do to help with your weight loss/gain goals.


2. Macronutrient Targets, Fibre & Alcohol

When people in fitness talk about “macros” we are talking about the three macronutrients: Carbohydrates (4kcal per gram), Proteins (4kcal per gram) and Fats (9kcal per gram).

This layer is important because although calories determine weight lost or weight gain macronutrients largely determine what is lost or gained. We are, quite literally, what we eat.

When it comes to your Macro Nutrient ratios everyone varies greatly but the one unifying factor is Protein, 30-40% of your daily calorie intake should come from Proteins, regardless of your goals. Protein is satiating, it encourages the body to spare muscle tissue and is actually used by the body to repair muscles damaged in training.

The rest of your daily intake varies greatly from person to person but if you have struggled to lose weight in the past I would go with no higher than 25% Carbohydrates and the rest of your diet made up of Fats. If you have struggled to put weight on in the past I would go with 20-30% fats and the rest from Carbohydrates.

Though that is a gross oversimplification, macros play an important role and do need consideration. Get them right and you’ll reach your physique goals quicker and more painlessly than if you ignore them.


3. Micronutrients & Water


Vitamins, Minerals and Water play a huge role in your health and composition, but once again they become invalid if you haven’t fixed the two tiers below this one on the Pyramid. Whilst the Micronutrients you consume can have an effect on helping you to gain muscle or lose fat, you can’t lose weight, by munching on veggies alone, if you are eating too much and you won’t gain muscle by choking down vitamin tablets if you don’t have enough Protein and Carbohydrates in your diet.

Water is however very important, if food is the Petrol to you body, water is the oil, brake fluid, windscreen wash and the little cloth you use to demist the windows. Your body cannot do anything without water, most of us get our water from our food but you should always try to drink 2-3 litres per day. Increasing your intake of water however can reduce subcutaneous (under the skin) water storage making those who are already lean, look even leaner.


4. Nutrient Timing & Frequency

We have now reached a Tier in the Pyramid which only becomes important as you really progress in your training.

I hear talk all the time from people about how you can eat “Whatever you want” after you’ve trained and get away with it…

Whilst it is true that to some extent your body will process what you eat differently when you’ve had a hard training session or at certain times of the day, it is all irrelevant if the other Tiers in the Pyramid aren’t covered. Eating 5 bananas after a “Big Session” isn’t going to help if you’re not hydrated and eating enough calories and Protein to fuel muscle growth and it definitely isn’t going to help if your aim is to lose weight.

The only Meal timing strategy I have ever used effectively is the 16/8 Protocol of intermittent fasting (Again this was used with all other tiers of the Pyramid in place first). The explanation of 16/8 is beyond the scope of this article but I am happy to give you some information if you get in touch!


5. Supplements

Easily the most over sold and misused Tier in the Pyramid bar none. Whilst supplements can help with your goals, the clue is in the name, Supplements are designed to SUPPLEMENT your diet to help you fill in any gaps that you may be experiencing.

Nothing can be a substitute for good nutritious food and you can get amazing results just from eating correctly.

This tier is where people who want visible Abs or Performance athletes should look to maybe help improve their results. Your average trainee doesn’t need any supplements. There are a few useful (but not essential) supplements, such as BCAA’s, Creatine and some Protein shakes, but again that is beyond the scope of this article, feel free to get in touch if you’d like some more information about this.


So there you have it. A basic Nutrition guide in a nutshell. The majority of people will be able to achieve great results just by focusing on the first 3 tiers of the Pyramid.


If you would like more information on Nutrition and exercise get in touch!


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