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Understanding nutrition or let me rephrase, explaining nutrition is a daunting task. The reason for this is that Nutrition is a complex study on its own and in my opinion never ending. Nutrition and the way it relates to many aspects including ﬁtness still requires that basic understanding. I have taken a most simplistic approach to ensure that the very basic of nutrition becomes an easy grasp.
A little reading is required to understand the basics after which I focus on the applications related to your diet and ﬁtness rather that additional explanations. It will help you to understand your meal plan and why nutrition contributes to 80 % of your results and why it is such an important factor. Let’s put the basics to bed once and for all.
I have set a few objectives so that we can break up all the information and have a clear understanding of each section.
WHAT IS NUTRITION?
Nutrition is the study of nutrients in food, how the body uses them, and the relationship between diet, health, and disease. In our case how it relates to ﬁtness.
WHAT ARE NUTRIENTS?
Nutrients are compounds in foods essential to life and health, providing us with energy, the building blocks for repair and growth, essentially allowing us to be alive and healthy.
THERE ARE SIX TYPES OF NUTRIENTS
- PROTEINS: meat, dairy, legumes, nuts, seafood and eggs.
- CARBOHYDRATES: pasta, rice, cereals, breads, potatoes, milk, fruit, sugar.
- LIPIDS: (most commonly called fats): oils, butter, margarine, nuts, seeds, avocados and olives, meat and seafood.
- VITAMINS: common vitamins include the water soluble B group vitamins, vitamin C, and the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fruits and vegetables are generally good sources of vitamin C and A, and Folic Acid (a B group vitamin). Grains and cereals are generally good sources of the B group vitamins and ﬁbre. Full-fat dairy and egg yolks are generally sources of the fat soluble vitamins A, D and E. Milk and vegetable or soya bean oil are generally good sources of vitamin K, which can also be synthesised by gut bacteria.
- MINERALS: (Sodium, Calcium, Iron, Iodine, Magnesium, etc.): all foods contain some form of minerals. Milk and dairy products are a good source of Calcium and Magnesium. Red meat is a good source of Iron and seafood and vegetables (depending on the soil in which they are produced) are generally good sources of Iodine.
- WATER: As a beverage and a component of many foods, especially vegetables and fruits.
THE ABOVE NUTRIENTS ARE CLASSIFIED INTO TWO GROUPS
- These are PROTEIN, CARBOHYDRATES, LIPIDS (FATS) and WATER.
- Our bodies need large quantities of these nutrients.
- Macro’s provide fuel for the body in the form of energy or calories.
- The energy or calories can be measured or counted and the unit of measure is grams (g) or kilojules (kj).
- Macronutrients are the elements in food that you need, to grow and function normally.
- All macronutrients are obtained through the diet as the body can’t produce them on its own.
- Carbohydrates, protein, and fat are the three main suppliers of nutrition in your diet.
- All macros provide valuable energy to your body all in a diﬀerent manner.
- These are VITAMINS and MINERALS.
- Our bodies require small quantities of these nutrients.
- Micro’s help our body to be healthy and digest those macronutrients.
- Micro’s can also be counted or measured, the unit of measure is milligrams or micrograms.
- Micronutrients are the elements in food that are crucial for nearly every process in your body, they can also act as antioxidants and in the right quantity, they protect your body against disease and deﬁciencies.
- Our body creates many nutrients on its own, but those it cannot make are called “essential.” Most micronutrients are essential and can only be supplied from our food, so we need to consume these foods, and the micronutrients they contain, regularly.
- While they work together, vitamins and minerals have diﬀerent tasks in the body.
- There are plenty of micronutrients in the foods you eat, especially fruits and vegetables that are plentiful in vitamins and minerals.
There are six types of fuel for our bodies in the form of water, carbs, protein and fats that have to be consumed on a daily basis to be alive, they are called Macro-nutrients. We require minerals and vitamins to stay healthy and repair imbalances or to ﬁght disease in the body, they are called Micro-nutrients. We simply don’t have a choice but to eat the available foods to us on a daily basis.
Now that we know what the food we eat are called and how it is classiﬁed we are going to take a look at how it works in and the eﬀects it has on our bodies. We are going to revisit the types of nutrients in their two main categories, Macro’s and Micro’s and see what they do and how it eﬀect our bodies.
MACRo AND MICRO-NUTRIENTS
Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and ﬁbers found in fruits, grains, and vegetables. They’re the most important source of quick energy in your diet because they’re easily broken down into glucose, which the muscles and brain use to function. While carbs are found in healthy foods like vegetables, they’re also found in cakes and doughnuts, which has given them a bad reputation in various diets. The important distinction to make in this instance is between simple and complex carbohydrates.
The diﬀerence between the two is the chemical structure which aﬀects how quickly the sugar is absorbed by the body. Simple carbs, generally release sugar faster because they are made with processed and reﬁned sugar and don’t contain any vitamins, minerals, or ﬁbers. Complex, or ‘good carbs’, are processed more slowly and are ﬁlled with various nutrients. See how they are diﬀerent and what makes them more ideal or not.
- Low in ﬁbre
- Low in nutrients
- High in kilojoules
- High in reﬁned grains such as white ﬂour
- High in saturated fat
- Full of reﬁned sugars such as corn syrup and white sugar
- Low or moderate in kilojoules
- Low in saturated fat
- High in nutrients
- High in naturally occurring ﬁbre
- Free from reﬁned sugars and grains
Your daily intake of carbs will depend on various, personal considerations. However, when you do eat them, it’s important to choose the most energy and nutrient dense sources of carbohydrates.
Examples of Complex Carbohydrates to include in your diet is fruit, vegetables, whole-wheat grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread and pasta and sweet potatoes.
Proteins are made up of Amino Acids and function as hormones, enzymes, and an antibody in the immune system. They make up parts of bodily structures like connective tissues, skin, hair, and muscle ﬁbres.
Unlike carbs, proteins don’t serve as a direct source of energy, but work like building blocks for other structures in the body. The nutritional value of a protein is measured by the quantity of essential amino acids that it contains, which varies depending on the food source.
Animal products, such as meat and ﬁsh, contain all of the essential amino acids. Soy products, quinoa, and the seeds also contain all of the essential amino acids. Plant proteins usually lack at least one amino acid, so eating a combination of diﬀerent plant proteins throughout the day is important for vegetarians and vegans.
The recommended daily intake of protein is between 0.75 grams and 1 gram per kilogram of your body weight for normal bodily functions. Sources of protein to include in your diet is legumes, ﬁsh, eggs, nuts, seeds and meat.
The diﬀerence between saturated and unsaturated fats are important because your body only needs the latter. Unsaturated fats regulate metabolism, maintain the elasticity of cell membranes, improves blood ﬂow, and promote cell growth and regeneration. Fats are also important in delivering fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K into the body.
While your body doesn’t necessarily need saturated fats, they do provide your body with cholesterol, which plays an important role in hormone production. Your body does produce its own cholesterol, but a small amount introduced through your diet can help build cell membranes, produce hormones like estrogen, help your metabolism work, produce vitamin D, and produce bile acids which help digest fat and absorb nutrients.
However, a diet rich in cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease. Fats should make up between 30–35 per cent of your daily calorie intake, with a maximum of 10 per cent of that being saturated fats.
- Animal fats
- Coconut Oil
- Olive oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Canola oil
- Coldwater ﬁsh like salmon
It’s clear that many of the foods in each group overlap, and each macro fulﬁls a crucial role in your overall health. A balanced diet with the appropriate amount and ratio of macro nutrients is vital for a healthy body and mind.
Like macro-nutrients, your body doesn’t produce micro-nutrients in the quantities that it needs, so eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals are essential for a healthy body. Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by elements such as heat, air, or acid, which means they can denature when cooked or exposed to air, making it slightly more diﬃcult to ensure you’re getting them in your diet. Minerals on the other hand are inorganic and aren’t broken down in this way. This means that your body absorbs the minerals in the soil and water your food has come from.
Each vitamin and mineral has a speciﬁc role in your body, and the best way to ensure you’re meeting all your bodily needs are by eating a healthy, varied diet. Not only are micro-nutrients crucial for nearly every process in your body, they can also act as antioxidants. In the right quantity, they protect your body against disease and deﬁciencies.
Eating a balanced diet promotes this and improves your chances of getting a variety of minerals and vitamins through your food into your bloodstream. While they work together, vitamins and minerals have diﬀerent tasks in the body.
One of the main functions of vitamins is to help release the energy found in the food that you eat. Vitamins help build protein and help your cells multiply. They make collagen, which helps heal wounds, support blood vessel walls, and promote healthy bones and teeth. Vitamins keep your eyes, skin, lungs, digestive tract and nervous system in good condition. They build your bones, protect your vision, and interact with each other to help your body absorb the vitamins it needs to. They protect you against diseases.
Minerals maintain the correct balance of water in your body. They promote healthy bones and stabilize the protein structures that you get from the protein you eat, including those that make up your hair, skin, and nails. They get the oxygen moving around your body and assist in your ability to taste and smell.
There are multiple food items that fulﬁl both macro- and micro-nutrient functions. Incorporating these foods into your diet will allow your body to function at an optimal level. Other than oxygen and water, the food you eat is the only input your body has to perform the functions it needs for you to go about your daily life. The better quality the input, the better your body will be able to function and perform.
Examples of food sources high in micro-nutrients are: avocados, brussel sprouts, melon, paw paw, berries, beans, nuts, lean beef, lamb, venison, spinach, kale, mushrooms, eggs, lentils, grains like oats and brown rice, chicken, turkey, rabbit, bell peppers, potatoes, seeds, peas, seafood like tuna and salmon.
Now that we know a little bit more about food, we clearly have no choice as to eat on a daily basis but choosing what to and what not to eat inevitably will have an impact on our body.
Ultimately we would want to maximize our diet from a ﬁtness perspective. We are going to have a quick look at the digestive system. Everything we eat must be processed; the digestive system is a complex function on its own. Ultimately what we eat and how much eﬀects this process.
Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are the major nutrients that are broken down and absorbed into the body at diﬀerent rates and into speciﬁc forms as they travel through the organs in your digestive system.
Digestion and absorption begins in your mouth and ends as waste when it exits your body. The food we eat is broken down and absorbed during digestion. Components in foods, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals, each have their own function in your system and are processed by our body in diﬀerent ways.
Carbohydrates, your body’s main energy source, come from nearly all foods in your diet. Fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils and dairy foods are all rich in simple and complex carbohydrates. Sugars, a type of simple carbohydrate, rapidly convert into glucose in your small intestine. After which it makes its way to your bloodstream in the form of glucose, giving you a sudden sugar rush or burst of energy.
Starches, which are complex carbohydrates, deconstruct in your mouth. Saliva surrounds starch when you chew, breaking apart long branches and forming smaller maltose molecules, a type of simple carb. Maltose travels down to your small intestine, where it turns into glucose and enters your bloodstream through intestinal walls. Because starch undergoes several steps during digestion, you’re more likely to feel sustained energy, rather than a quick surge.
The glycemic index is used to measure how much a speciﬁc food increases your blood sugar levels. The higher the GI, the greater the eﬀect on blood sugar levels.
Following a low glycemic diet involves swapping out foods that have a high GI with low GI alternatives. A low glycemic diet may help manage blood sugar levels, reduce your cholesterol, and boost short-term weight loss.
You may have heard the term low GI before, in fact moving in dietary and ﬁtness circles it must have come up many times. When a carb has a low GI score it means that it is broken down slowly by the digestive system. The result is a steady blood sugar level and the glucose directly translates to energy available to your body and muscles. The carbohydrates are also slowly digested due to the type or characteristic of the food consumed and will make you feel fuller for longer periods at a time.
Foods with a high GI score will digest more quickly and result in a sudden increase of glucose in the blood sugar levels but the result is most certainly a sudden drop that may result in a feeling of lameness or weakness. If a quick boost is required it is ideal, but normally food with a low GI score is preferred as it is more sustainable over a period of time.
A healthy, low glycemic diet should comprise mostly low GI foods, such as:
- Fruits: apples, berries, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit
- Non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, cauliﬂower, carrots, spinach, tomatoes
- Whole grains: quinoa, couscous, barley, buckwheat, farro, oats
- Legumes: lentils, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans
Foods without a GI value or with a very low GI can also be enjoyed as part of a balanced low glycemic diet. They include:
- Meat: beef, bison, lamb, pork
- Seafood: tuna, salmon, shrimp, mackerel, anchovies, sardines
- Poultry: chicken, turkey, duck, goose
- Oils: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil
- Nuts: almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pistachios
- Seeds: chia seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, ﬂax seeds
- Herbs and spices: turmeric, black pepper, cumin, dill, basil, rosemary, cinnamon
Although no foods are strictly oﬀ-limits on the diet, foods with a high GI should be limited. Foods with a high GI include:
- Bread: white bread, bagels, naan, pita bread
- Rice: white rice, jasmine rice, arborio rice
- Cereals: instant oats, breakfast cereals
- Pasta and noodles: lasagna, spaghetti, ravioli, macaroni, fettuccine
- Starchy vegetables: mashed potatoes, potatoes, french fries
- Baked goods: cake, doughnuts, cookies, croissants, muﬃns
- Snacks: chocolate, crackers, microwave popcorn, chips, pretzels
- Sugar-sweetened beverages: soda, fruit juice, sports drinks
- Ideally, try to replace these foods with foods that have a lower GI whenever
To be able to identify GI scores on food labels, see below:
- Low: 55 or below
- Moderate: 56 to 69
- High: 70 and above
Protein comes from meat, seafood, eggs and dairy, but you get additional protein from beans, tofu and several other types of plant foods. After swallowing protein compounds, an enzyme called Pepsin in your stomach breaks proteins into peptides. These smaller fragments head to your small intestine where pancreatic juices digest peptides into the smallest form of protein known as Amino Acids. From there it is absorbed into your bloodstream, your brain, muscles and various other parts of your body.
Fat provides a cushion for vital organs absorbs several vitamins and acts as a backup fuel source. Your small intestine secretes lipase enzymes, which emulsiﬁes large fat molecules from whole milk, nuts, avocados and other fatty foods. From there, tiny emulsiﬁed fats absorb into the mucosa lining of your intestinal tract.
Once absorbed, your system turns the smaller fat molecules back into large compounds, which are picked up by lymphatic veins that surround your intestines. These specialized veins carry fat around to various storage deposits all over your body.
ABSORBING VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Virtually any food you consume provides vitamins and minerals, although processed junk foods tend to have lower amounts than produce, low-fat milk and other nutritious foods. Most vitamins and minerals separate from other food components and absorb into your bloodstream through the small intestine.
Some nutrients have additional steps that further delays absorption. For example, Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, meaning they absorb and are stored alongside fat. If you take a multivitamin with these nutrients but do not eat something with fat when you take it, your system may not pick up these vitamins.
Vitamin B12 absorbs diﬀerently than any other nutrient. This vitamin attaches to a protein called intrinsic factor in your stomach. Once B12 and intrinsic factor combine, your small intestine is able to pick it up and send it to your bloodstream.
The digestive system extracts nutrients from food and transform it into fuel for our bodies. It is evident that there are various reactions to various types of foods and that it is a complex system. When applied to ﬁtness and dietary requirements it is all about streamlining the processes for maximum beneﬁt. This is where we can help our bodies by making the best choices when it comes to the types of food we consume.
This is where we shift the focus to what you eat and how to maximize your meal plan to provide you with all the nutrients required by your body for a speciﬁc purpose i.e. weight loss or muscle building.
As with the other sections, there is always a few aspects that needs to be explained. You are not required to work out your own meal plan but that does not mean you don’t have to understand the basics and components required to do so.
COUNTING CALORIES FOR WEIGHT LOSS AND WEIGHT GAIN
Counting calories is an aﬀective method to do just that. There may be other reasons to where one needs to or want to count calories other than losing or gaining weight i.e. keeping track of a speciﬁc dietary deﬁciency.
Weight management is simply the number of calories taken in vs the number of calories consumed by your body. A calorie is a unit of measurement that describes how much energy a given food or drink has. The same unit of measure is used to describe how much energy is used by your body or commonly referred to as calories burned.
To make sure you stay in your desired surplus or deﬁcit, you need to keep track of the calories. You can create the calorie balance you desire by counting the calories you eat and burn.
The bottom line of a weight loss program is a change in your calorie balance through dietary habits and exercise. Calories supply your body with the same amount of energy, however, they diﬀer in how they aﬀect your health and ability to stay on track with your diet, and that is where a simple plus and minus becomes a little more complicated.
Calories are measured in grams and each macro nutrient provide a certain number of calories per gram.
- Carbs provide 4 calories per gram and typically make up the largest portion of people’s calorie intake.
- Fats have the most calories of all macro nutrients, providing 9 calories per gram.
- Proteins provide 4 calories per gram.
Once we have established your target calorie intake we need to determine what you macro composition would be best for you. In simple words the ratio or percentage of carbs, proteins and fats. The ration can be adjusted in order to achieve speciﬁc objectives.
The relation between calories and macros is used to calculate a meal plan that is suitable for your goals and body.
For professional athletes, nutrient timing may provide a competitive advantage but no research support the importance of nutrient timing for most people who are simply trying to lose weight, gain muscle or improve health.
From personal experience I tend to focus my eﬀorts on the consistency of my daily calorie intake. Preparing and eating food takes a fair bit of time and I ﬁnd it is best to stick to daily routine or adapt to your training schedule, just be consistent. Enjoy your food as well as the prepping beforehand.
At LFF there is no need to cut out on the foods you love. It is possible to still get results and indulge on that occasional treat. In general, a flexible dieting approach allows the food you are used to, as long as it ﬁts into your daily calorie intake suggestion.
However, to stay healthy while following the ﬂexible dieting plan, you must have the self-discipline to make healthy choices. With a little bit of self-control you can enjoy our food and still reap the beneﬁt of proper nutrition.
There are many theories and justiﬁcations why you should and why you should not. There are also many theories that again just comes down to more justiﬁcation. So what do we do? Well let’s just structure it and make it part of our planning and try to beneﬁt from all the justiﬁcation others have made already. It sounds like another justiﬁcation coming from myself so let’s just be clever about it.
There are various reasons why one would be in a situation where you are obligated to have something that’s not part of your meal plan. Birthdays, special occasions, work functions and don’t forget date nights. So what do we do when we experience an overly social period or time at work and don’t want to be seen as a party pooper or well let’s just say, a little on the dry side.
If you are not a serious or professional athlete then let’s just go the justiﬁcation route but not without the but, as most exceptions. Don’t let your cheat meal turn into a cheat day or days. A cheat day can quickly ruin all the progress and hard work that you have put in and I am afraid that your cheat meal is now cheating yourself.
Have a look at some ideas or workarounds when you really have to or are under obligation to have a little something to ﬁt in with the crowd or impress your mother in law to be.
- Have a glass of wine but add some sparkling water and ice.
- Date night, you have to look fancy; you would not want to decline. Have a steak but leave the starch, opt in for greens instead.
- Order something similar to your planned meal and eat proportionally.
- Most restaurants are very accommodative and will do their best to comply with your request.
- Choose the best option available to you at the time, without annoying your date or the waiter.
The secret of cheats is to eat clean for the better part of your week, stay active and reward yourself by indulging in something you really want to eat.
Planning is key for cheat meals. Preferably for a time when you’re most likely to be craving fatty foods, such as on a weekend or for a special occasion. This way you can ﬁt it around your calorie intake that day and it’s great to have something to look forward to, giving you that extra motivation to do well during the week.
FLAVOURING YOUR MEALS
Spicing up a plain, but healthy meal is good for your taste buds and your health. Reach for your spice rack and you’ll not only up the ﬂavour of your food, but you’ll also get a boost of antioxidants. There are more than 100 common spices used in cooking around the world.
Spices are concentrated sources of antioxidants and using spices fresh or dried, you’ll still get beneﬁcial compounds. If you fry or grill food with spices, it decreases the antioxidants. However, microwave cooking, simmering or stewing foods with spices actually heightens the antioxidant levels of spices.
Regardless of the other health beneﬁts, spices add ﬂavour to food and can make healthy meals delicious and interesting. Spice your meals the way you like it and enjoy the ﬂavours that tickle your taste buds.
MEAL PLAN OPTIONS
I have provided you with a variety of interchangeable Meal Guides that align perfectly with your preferences, needs and goals. Following a Meal Guide is a great way to familiarize yourself with balanced nutrition, as with this document, and experience how consistency deliver results.
You are required to do the following:
- Stick to your daily nutritional targets.
- Make sure that 80 % of your total food intake originates from whole foods. (I make this easy through your Meal Plan)
- Stick to the plan for the best results possible.
At LFF coaching there’s an option for everyone, no matter how well you can track meals and nutritional values. You will have both the options to either follow a set Meal Plan and your budget for two weeks, or swap out the set Meal Plan to suit your food preferences with more variety.
Swapping recipes and matching up calories can be time-consuming. We take care of all the hard work and leave the cooking for you to enjoy.
HOW IT WORKS
- You will receive a total of four (4) Meal Plans, a new Plan every two weeks after completing your check ins.
- When you receive your Meal Plan you have two options:
- Option 1: Follow the set Meal Plan for two weeks.
- Option 2: Follow the set Meal Plan for one week and make swaps from the LFF Recipe Library according to your preference.
- Three to six meals per day depending on your ﬁtness goals.
- A weekly shopping list is provided for every week’s meals.
- Recipe and cooking instructions for every meal.
- Nutritional composition of your meal.
MEAL PLAN NOTES
- Be consistent, if you make food swaps you are only allowed to so once every 7 days.
- If you are a new to LFF coaching I recommend that you follow the set two week Meal Plan.
- If you are accustomed to your workout program and meals feel free to try out the variety options.
- The ingredients must be weighed raw/uncooked unless stated otherwise in your Meal Plan.
- Aim to drink 2-3 liters of water per day.
- If you are still hungry after a meal, begin by increasing your non-starchy vegetables, i.e. leafy greens like broccoli, zucchini, spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms. Feel free to add additional/more non-starchy vegetables to your last meal. This will help to ﬁll you up, with very little diﬀerence in calories. There’s no speciﬁc amount, but normally it doesn’t require a lot.
- Prepare your meals ahead of time for convenience.
- Limit your caﬀeine consumption to less than 400-600mg per day (about 4 cups). Be especially mindful of supplementation such as pre-workouts and fat burners, which may contain as much as 300-400 mg of caﬀeine in a single serving.
- Don’t overthink spice, sauce and sweetener measurements if the quantity is very small.
- The recommended quantity of spices in the recipes are for general ﬂavouring. Feel free to add your favourite spice or increase to suit your liking.