Controlling your body weight does not need to be confusing, but there is a lot of information out there. That’s why we’re here to condense it for you! To begin to wrap your head around the broad spectrum of advice that you’ll receive from friends, significant others, loved ones, and coaches, you need to understand that your diet needs depend on your goals, so take advice from people who are achieving similar goals or from people who understand your goals (that’s us). In a nut shell, nutrition advice for athletes and nutrition advice for weight loss are inherently different. The following article will help you understand the nutrients in your food most fundamental to weight loss whilst simultaneously familiarizing you with the FDA’s nutrition label.
To start, think about the nutrition label as a guide to help you stay in line with your health goals. It’ll give you important information about the quantities of nutrients inside of a food so you can compare what you eat with guidelines of your diet. If you want to lose weight, you need to determine two things: how many calories you burn on a day to day basis, and how to eat less calories than you burn. We’re going to do that by helping you understand how to get a healthy distribution of calories and provide you with a link to calculate your TDEE. Also, it’s important to distinguish that losing weight is different from losing fat, however, the body will more easily melt fat before wasting muscle; especially if you’re exercising, so we’ll consider them about the same thing.
When familiarizing yourself with nutrition labels, note that all percentages of daily recommended intake listed on a nutrition label are for a 2000 calorie diet. You might not need that much or you might need more. Your individual daily recommended intake is also called total daily energy expenditure (referred to as TDEE). If you don’t understand TDEE it’ll be difficult to eat the right amount of calories. To estimate your personal total daily energy expenditure, follow this link to the iifym TDEE calculator—remember that this is an estimate, if you do less today, eat less today, if you do more tomorrow, eat more tomorrow. If you still aren’t losing weight, you might have gotten a bad estimate and still need to eat less.
Before modifying your diet, it’s in your best interest to understand what is recommended for general health and to also have a grasp on what your current diet actually consists of. To figure out what you eat on a day to day basis you can use a program such as MyfitnessPal.com or any food logging program. However, use caution, most food logging programs will not provide accurate calorie counts because some depend on users to input the nutrient data. Below, there are a number of nutrients listed. All of them are important to your weight loss journey. In the description of each nutrient below, you’ll find the current recommended intake for an average adult according to the FDA nutrition guidelines. You can incorporate this information into your diet by trying out some of our recipies!
When talking about food and weight loss, the word “calorie” comes up a lot. In short, calories are anything the body can use for fuel. There are three nutrients in food that can give our bodies calories: Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrate. Collectively, they are referred to as macronutrients. Your body uses these macronutrients to supply every cell in the body with energy to function, exercise, and perform tasks of daily living. Our bodies love to store macronutrients as a survival mechanism. This could be why it’s easier to not notice when we’re putting on weight, but then becomes a battle of the will to melt it off. Let’s break down the individual macronutrients.
Comes in the form of animal fats, and plant based oils. During exercise and rest, your muscles prefer to run on the energy available in fat. You’ve probably heard of fat burning zones as a particular range of exercise or called the cardio range. The fat burning zone is not a myth but is often misconstrued. Through all intensities of exercises you will burn fat, however you will start burning more carbohydrates than fat when you exercise at really high intensities (sprinting, power lifting, gymnastics), and that’s what people mean by a fat burning zone. This doesn’t mean the body stops using fat during your HIIT week. Thus, all exercise is good for weight loss. When finding good fats to eat, it’s important to get it from a variety of sources. There are two primary types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Daily recommended intake fats is 30% Total Calories from Fat: 10% Saturated, 10% Polyunsaturated, 10% monounsaturated for maintaining weight.
Saturated Fat: In the average American diet, we consume too many saturated fats. The easiest way to recognize these fats is by their appearance: solid at room temperature. This includes most animal fats: butter, lard, the fat on a piece of meat, but also includes some plant oils like coconut oil. It’s recommended that a third the amount of daily fat intake is comprised of saturated fat (or 10% of total caloric intake)
Unsaturated Fat: In contrast to saturated fats, unsaturated fats are easily recognizable by their liquid appearance at room temperature. This includes most plant based oils olive oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, etc. and some animal fats—primarily fish. Comes in two forms: polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. It’s recommended that two thirds the amount of daily fat intake is comprised of unsaturated fat (or 10% Polyunsaturated, 10% monounsaturated) Tip: look for unsaturated fats with Omega 3 Fatty Acids. They’re typically under consumed in an American Diet.
Polyunsaturated Fat: Is dense in foods like soybean oil, corn oil and sunflower oil, as well as fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout. More info on Polyunsaturated Fats.
Monounsaturated Fat: Is dense in foods like olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil and sesame oil. More info on Monounsaturated Fats.
Trans Fat: Found in products that are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated which is a process used to turn liquid oils into solid oils. It’s not recommended to consume any trans fats in your diet due to increased risk with coronary heart diseases. Tip: Check for “Hydrogenated oils” or “Partially Hydrogenated oils” on ingredient lists.
This can be a tricky word for some people to understand because carbs are many different things. Simply put, carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fiber. To help identify your carbohydrate dense foods, ask yourself, “is it mostly protein or mostly fat.” If it’s neither, then it’s most likely full of either carbohydrate or water. Many people will restrict carbohydrate intake as a weight loss strategy. This is fine, but carbohydrates are a valuable fuel source for the brain and body during high intensities of exercise, so it should never be completely eliminated especially if you plan on exercising. It’s recommended to get 60% of calories from carbohydrate for weight maintenance.
Fiber: Comes in two forms Soluble and Insoluble. Fiber aids with regularity, managing weight loss, and managing cholesterol levels. It cannot be stored as fat by the body which makes it an important weight loss tool. It’s recommended to get 25g of fiber daily. Examples of foods high in fiber: Broccoli, whole grains, raspberries, peas, lentils, beans.
Sugars: Simple enough, it’s broken down for fuel by the body and worth keeping an eye on because of how easy it is to eat desserts that are high in sugar but have little else to offer in terms of nutrients. These types of foods, high in calories and low in other nutrients, are often referred to as empty calories, and are recommended to be limited in the diet. Examples of foods high in sugar: Fruits, table sugar, honey, corn syrup, and molasses. (for additional understanding of sugars check out this article on Glycemic Index.)
Starch: Is a huge chain of sugar that is eventually broken down to be used as fuel for the body. It’s not required to be listed on the nutritional label. It’s essentially a sugar, but takes longer to digest because of its complex chemical structure. Examples of foods high in starch: potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, cereals.
Artificial Sweeteners: These do not contribute to calories, and, in most cases, it’s not required to be listed on nutritional labels. All are safe for consumption according to FDA, and non are currently linked to breast cancer, or cancers in general. As a weight loss strategy these can be used to wane off of sugary drinks, but it’s a good idea to eventually wane off of the artificial sweeteners as well. Examples: Acesulfame K, Advantame, Aspartame, Neotame, Saccharin, Sucralose.
Proteins are possibly the easiest nutrient to recognize when we’re getting it because it’s most abundant in meat as well as dairy products, nuts, eggs, and beans. Strangely enough, protein isn’t a large contributor as a fuel source or to fat storage, but it’s still considered a part of total caloric intake. Why eat protein if it doesn’t contribute to fueling the body? Tip: it is very difficult to convert protein to fat. Thus, if you’re trying to lose fat, eating lean proteins can be an effective strategy for weight loss. Of course, protein is also useful for repairing muscles if you’re working out. If there is no muscle to repair, however, eating a lot of meat is not as necessary in a diet. In fact, general recommendations for protein intake are only 10% of total daily calories. Foods high in protein include: lean turkey, lean beef, beans, nuts, fat free dairy products.