Proper Nutrition For Fitness & Weight Loss

Guess what the number one new year’s resolution has been for the past 20 years? You guessed it, to lose weight and/or get in better shape. But do all diets work? How can food intake be modified to achieve different goals? How does eating for weight gain differ from eating for fat loss? We want to offer a customized approach to eating for different fitness goals.

To build your best body ever, it takes a combination of proper nutrition, training, and supplementation with nutrition being the most important of the three. The problem is figuring out how to eat properly for different goals. To start the discussion about eating food for various fitness goals, it is important to review the components of food and their effects in the body. Whole foods provide protein, carbohydrates (including sugar and fiber), and fat (including saturated and essential fatty acids).

Protein

It is the building block of muscle and amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Protein provides four calories per gram. There are essential amino acids (you must get these from the diet as your body cannot produce these—hence essential) and non-essential amino acids. There are various types of proteins such as enzymes, peptide hormones like insulin, structural proteins, transport proteins, and immunoproteins (also known as immunoglobulins).

Many research studies indicate that exercising individuals have higher daily protein requirements than sedentary individuals and that exercising actually increases the need for protein. Since protein helps build muscle, it can actually help speed up the metabolism because it takes energy/calories to maintain that lean muscle mass at rest. This may allow you to lose more fat.

Quality sources of food protein

  • Egg whites
  • Chicken breast
  • Sirloin steak
  • Top round steak
  • Turkey breast
  • Tuna fish
  • Halibut
  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Orange Roughy
  • Skim Milk
  • Non-fat yogurt
  • Black beans
  • Carbohydrates
  • For many more healthy food ideas, check out our fat burning foods list, recommended fat burning foods and our favorite fruits that burn fat.

They are the major source of energy for most humans. Carbohydrates also provide 4 calories per gram. There are various types of carbohydrates such as simple sugars, complex carbohydrates, and dietary fiber. The glycemic index is a rating of carbohydrates and their effect on blood sugar levels.

The higher the glycemic index of a certain carbohydrate, the greater the blood sugar response after eating it. High blood sugar responses to foods can cause fat storage to occur and cause “yo-yo” energy levels. Consuming dietary fiber can lower the glycemic rating of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen in the liver and mainly in muscle tissue.

Eating lower glycemic index carbohydrates can allow for a steady release of energy and help keep blood sugar levels stable. Fruit is very interesting in that it provides a form of carbohydrate called fructose. This is a low glycemic carbohydrate but since it is metabolized primarily in the liver it can slow down metabolism and may cause fat storage to occur if eaten in excess.

nutrition-for-fitness-weight-loss

Proper nutrition for fitness and weight loss

Quality sources of Carbohydrates

Complex Fibrous Simple
Oatmeal Asparagus Apricot
White Potato Broccoli Banana
Yam Cabbage Grapefruit
Sweet Potato Cauliflower Orange Juice
White Rice Corn Apple Juice
Brown Rice Green Beans Pear
Rice Cakes Peas Raisins
Whole Wheat Pasta Tomato Grapes
Wheat Bread Cucumber Strawberries
Grape Nuts Lettuce Peaches
Black Beans

Fats

After being indoctrinated by nutritionists and so-called diet gurus for most of the 70’s and 80’s about the evils of dietary fat, we are now learning all of their benefits, especially for exercising individuals and athletes. Fat provides 9 calories per gram. There are saturated fats (the ones you want to avoid because of their detrimental effects in the body) and essential fatty acids–omega 3 (alpha-linolenic) and omega 6 (linoleic) cannot be made by the body and are necessary for life (no EFA’s..no life!). They must be taken in through foods or supplementation.

Some of the positive benefits of EFA’s include: decreased catabolism and increased growth hormone secretion, improving the action of insulin, enhancing oxygen utilization and energy transformation required for optimal performance, decreasing total serum cholesterol and increasing HDL, improving testosterone production, supporting liver function and enhanced immune function, and improving the condition of hair and nails as well as increased nitrogen retention. These are all great effects for individuals on a diet and fitness program.

Sources of Quality Essential Fats

  • All natural peanut butter
  • Sunflower seeds (unsalted)
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Olive oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Flax seed oil
  • Peanuts
  • Hemp Seed oil

General tips to remember when following a sound Fitness program

  • Be consistent – It is important to follow a diet plan for several months on a consistent basis.
  • Drink plenty of water daily – Try consuming 3/4-1 gallon of water daily, especially if strenuously exercising. Seventy percent of your body is water and water helps get rid of toxins in the body, transport nutrients, and helps healthy skin function.
  • Eat slowly and choose appropriate portion sizes – Overeating is one of the main reasons people cannot lose weight.
  • Eat 5-6 small meals daily – Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day can help increase metabolic rate (allowing you to help burn more fat), stabilize blood sugar levels (which is important for sustained energy levels throughout the day), and improve nutrient absorption.
  • Eat more in the morning and decrease caloric intake, especially carbohydrates as the day progresses- The metabolism slows down as the day progresses so eating smaller meals at night and limiting carbohydrate intake at night can be a very positive step towards fat loss.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time – If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.
  • Exercise- The effects of a good nutrition program can be greatly magnified with as little as three-four short workouts per week.
  • Make better bad choices – For example, instead of regular potato chips, have the baked version instead. Or instead of regular ice cream, have some non-fat yogurt. Try the low/non fat versions of salad dressings and dairy products instead of the full fat versions.
  • Make a commitment and stick to it by setting realistic goals- This puts positive pressure on individuals to help them achieve fitness success.
  • Execute- Only YOU can determine YOUR own success.

Nutrition programs for various goals

Gaining weight and strength

To achieve this goal it is important to eat more calories than you are expending. Limiting cardiovascular activity and performing mainly weight training is also helpful. Consume 16 calories per pound of body weight. For example, if you are 150 lb. male, you will need to consume at least 2400 calories daily broken into 5-6 small meals throughout the day. You will need to eat a diet with a ratio of 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 25% fat. So here’s how it breaks down:

  • 150 lb. male requires 2400 calories daily to gain weight
  • 50% carbohydrates=2400 x .50= 1200 total calories from carbohydrates
  • 1200 calories of carbohydrates / 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates= 300g carbs daily.
  • 25% protein = 2400 x .25= 600 calories total calories from protein daily
  • 600 calories of protein/4 calories per gram of protein = 150 g protein daily
  • 25% fat = 2400 x .25=600 total calories from fat daily
  • 600 calories of fat/ 9 calories per gram of fat = about 67 g fat daily.

Sample Diet

Losing weight and toning

To lose body fat it is important to consume less calories than you are expending daily. Avoiding simple sugars is beneficial. Try to eat smaller meals in the evening consisting of quality protein and fibrous carbohydrates (for example: a chicken breast garden salad with non-fat dressing). Performing cardiovascular work (such as a brisk walk or bike ride) 3-4 times a week, preferably first thing in the morning, can be very helpful. Consume 10 calories per pound of body weight daily with a daily food ratio of 45% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 15 % essential fat.

So using the same calculations above this equates to the following for a 150 lb. female looking to lose weight:

  • 1500 daily calories
  • 168 g protein
  • 150 g carbohydrates
  • 25 g essential fat

Sample Diet

Building muscle and losing fat

To gain muscle and lose fat, it is important to consume around 12 calories per pound of body weight daily. A good macronutrient ratio to follow is 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 20% essential fat.

This equates to the following for a 150 lb. male:

  • 1800 daily calories
  • 180 g protein
  • 180 g carbohydrates
  • 40 g essential fat

Sample Diet

Improving immune system

Here are some tips to strengthen the immune system:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables, especially uncooked tomatoes – Vegetables contain phytonutrients that have a powerful impact on the immune system. Tomatoes contain lycopene which helps support positive immune function.
  • Avoid saturated fats and consume essential fatty acids- Saturated fats can damage immune function while essential fatty acids can help improve immune function.
  • Avoid excess simple sugars- Sugars can inhibit white blood cells in their attempt to destroy bacteria.
  • Eat non-fat yogurt- This provides components (“friendly bacteria”) which can actually help fight bacterial infections.
  • Decrease stress – Stress can weaken immune function because it tends to increase the hormone cortisol which can have negative implications on the immune system. In a landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, psychologist Sheldon Cohen, of Carnegie Mellon University, gave 394 people a questionnaire designed to quantify the amount of stress they were under. He then exposed them to nose drops containing cold viruses. About 90 percent of the stressed subjects (vs. 74 percent of those not under stress) caught a cold. According to Dr. Cohen, the findings suggest that stress-triggered changes in the immune system may create greater vulnerability to infection. He advises taking better care of yourself than you would usually when you know you’re under stress. Meditation, warm baths and a good eight hours of sleep a night will build the immune system and reduce stress.
  • Take Whey Protein- Supplementing your diet with whey protein (around 80 grams a day) may rev up your immune system, thus making it less likely you’ll catch a cold. One study out of McGill University (in Canada) revealed that the immune-boosting action of whey was due to the overall amino acid makeup—whey contains just the right amino acids in the right concentration. In addition, whey contains a minor protein fraction called lactoferrin, which appears to be a powerful immune-system stimulator. A high quality whey protein isolate supplement with a good microfraction ratio could be very useful during flu season.
  • Take an L-Glutamine supplement: The amino acid glutamine is an important fuel for some cells of the immune system. During times of disease, stress, and extreme exercise, certain parts of the body demand so much glutamine that the body can’t manufacture enough. In these instances, taking two-three grams of glutamine three times a day could stimulate your immune system and help you ward off viruses.
  • Take Antioxidants- Antioxidants are a class of chemical compounds (many are vitamins) that attack substances in your body known as “free radicals.” It is suspected that free radicals are involved in immune deficiency, among other things. Some of the most effective antioxidants that may be of help are Vitamin C (1 gram/day), Vitamin E (400 IU to 1,000 IU/day), beta-carotene (100 mg to 200 mg/day), N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC, 400 mg to 1,200 mg/day), selenium (100 mcg to 200 mcg/day), grape seed extract (50-100 mg daily), lycopene (10-20 mg daily) and alpha-lipoic acid (100 mg to 300 mg/day).

Don’t forget to take a look at our posts about protein bars and sports and energy drinks for these and other specific goals.

Now that you have some direction in terms of what to eat for your specific fitness goals, it’s time toimplement and walk the walk to fitness success!!

Written By: Mike Harley

Mike Harley has been a health & weight loss writer for over 15 years - dedicated to helping you burn your belly fat, lose weight and improve your health with simple exercise and healthy eating. Read More Articles by Mike Harley

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