I have a question: when you look at the nutrition facts label on food packages, which item jumps to your eyes? I’m sure you said it’s the calories, right?
And that’s true for most people, after all it’s widely believed that calorie value is the main factor to gain or lose weight. Well, that’s an honest mistake!
I have talked to Vanessa Leite, who is a nutritionist, a specialist in clinical and sport nutrition as well as specialized in Personal Dieting and Weight Loss Psychology from Porto Alegre. My question to her was about our being counting calorie freaks. She explains.
“Looking at the calorie values alone is quite an old-fashioned strategy. What is current and effective is considering satiation (so you won’t go hungry too soon) and boosting your metabolism (so you’ll burn more calories and fat)”, she points.
What’s more, she adds that considering the calories alone may result in flabbiness, once the diet tends to get rather imbalanced. “And if your goal is gaining lean mass, I’m sure you don’t want fat to come along. Therefore, the tips are the same and you shouldn’t forget that if a person takes in extra calories, it won’t result in just lean mass, but fat as well”, she clarifies.
Same calories, different nutrients
“Both have the same calorie value, around 60 calories. Yet, when we look at the chocolate sweet, all we see is what we call “empty calories”. Its glycemic index, as well as its amount of fat, is high, which will contribute to weight gain because the glucose in it will get to your bloodstream almost immediately and its excess will be turned into stored fat”, she points out.
“Now, the apple is a different story. Although it’s gotten the same 60 calories, its glycemic index is low and it’s a source of fibers as well as fat free, which will contribute to quite the opposite, that is, to a much more gradual absorption into your bloodstream. Therefore, there’s less risk of fat storage and it’ll promote satiation for a longer period of time”.
Watch for the nutrients
Well, then how can we eat right and not count calories? The answer is simple: watch for the nutrients in each food. That is, proteins, carbs, fibers and fat that are behind that meal that may or may not be healthy.
If your goal is losing weight or gaining lean mass, the math is the same: take in all the nutrients, always prioritizing one or another item over the others.
“In order to lose weight it’s necessary to invest in carbs (whole carbs, preferably), healthy fats, like those present in olive oil, omega-3 (fish) and lean proteins (chicken, egg). If you cut any of these nutrients out, you’ll hardly burn any fat, and you may, many times, lose lean mass”, says the doctor.
For hypertrophy, the experts state that a diet including more proteins (hyper-protein diets), split into portions along the day is essential. That means it isn’t enough to take in the nutrient just before and after training, you should ingest it also in your main meals.
“Our organisms have no storage for proteins, this way we need a concentration of amino acid in the bloodstream to synthesize lean mass, which is only possible through splitting the sources of proteins with high-biological value”, explains Vanessa Leite.
X-ray of the nutrients
They’re essential in our diets because they constitute muscle tissues, enzymes, hormones, in other words, they’re vital for our body functions.
Regardless of specific goals, like weight loss and lean mass gain, they have to be ingested in the right amounts.
Concerning weight loss, proteins contribute to satiation and reduction of sugar levels of meals because they have the property of reducing the speed with which glucose gets to the bloodstream.
“In terms of lean mass gain, its relevance can’t be expressed enough as it helps with the process of muscle fiber recovery after strenuous workout”, clarifies Vanessa Gama.
However, so that hypertrophy can happen properly, the nutritionist adds that the protein must be ingested with carbs, nutrients that provide energy for the muscle recovery.
“We must not forget that the increase of muscle volume boosts your metabolism, making weight loss a lot easier”, she states.
Chicken, fish, egg, whey protein (milk protein isolate), beef protein (beef protein isolate), vegetable protein isolate, milk, cheese, yogurt.
Optimal daily amount
Sedentary men, over 19: 0,8g/per kilogram of body weight. Active men: 1,8g to 2,0g/per kilogram of body weight. Therefore, an active man weighing 80kg needs 160g of protein per day.
There is, however, another recommendation: 10 to 15% of the total calorie value (which can vary depending on customized orientation by the nutritionist).
That’d be around 75g of the nutrient per day.
Carbs, as I’ve been saying, are the greatest source or energy. Without carbs, no matter how much protein is ingested, there’s no way energy can be produced for the muscle recovery to happen.
Another crucial fact is that the release of anabolic hormones, which promote muscle growth, rely on the ingestion of carbs.
In order to understand it better, this nutrient is classified in: low and high glycemic index. The best ones for weight loss are the low and medium glycemic index, like apple, pear, apricot, sweet potato, yam, oat, carrot.
For lean mass gain, all kinds are recommended, low, medium and high glycemic index. What has to be different is the time of ingestion. For pre workout, low glycemic levels are recommended and for post, high index, like honey, tapioca, pumpkin, beet, English potato, corn, banana.
Optimal daily amount
That varies according to your goals, but it should stay between 4g and 8g/ per kilogram of body weight.
They contribute to promote satiation and they’re also very important conductors of liposoluble vitamins (A,D,E and K) and sources of essential fatty acids, which are not produced by our body and must, this way, be obtained from other sources.
Good and bad fats and the foods
I guess you can fathom which nutrient is the most recommended to remain in your menu, right?
The good fats, as they’re called, are the monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated ones, found in linseed, walnut, chestnut, canola, fish.
On the other hand, the “bad” fats are the trans kind and the excess of the saturated fat. For instance, chocolate, ice cream, fried foods, snacks, breaded foods, some butters and margarines.
“Saturated fats, present in mainly animal source foods, must be consumed in moderation once they raise sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides levels”, teaches Vanessa Leite.
Optimal daily amount
It must cover 15 to 25% of the calories in the diet, 2/3 being from mono and polyunsaturated fats and 1/3 from saturated fats.
They contribute to satiation, essential for those wanting to lose weight, plus they also help bowel transit.
“Because they work this way, fibers can contribute to the health of the intestines and therefore, all nutrients in a diet will be better absorbed. This makes the whole body functioning easier and is vital for the processes of losing body fat and gaining lean mass. Fibers also reduce the glycemic index of the meals”, says Vanessa Gama.
There are fibers of two kinds: soluble and insoluble. Both are important. The insoluble fibers cross the whole gastrointestinal tract without being metabolized, but the soluble kind can be metabolized in the large intestine.
Foods containing whole wheat and vegetables in their composition are sources of insoluble fibers. On the other side, we have legumes and fruits as examples of soluble fibers.
Optimal daily amount
The recommendation is that of 20g to 35g. For example, 1 fruit has 1g to 4g of fibers; 1 loaf of whole bread takes 1g to 2g of the nutrient; 1 cup of beans or lentils has 7g to 8g of fibers; 3 tablespoons of oatmeal or wheat bran have 2g to 3g of the nutrient.
So? Ready to eat the best way you can? Then determine your diet and eat healthy and right.