Beginning Nutrition: Energy Balance, Calories & Portion Control!

So you’ve consciously made the decision to take action in regards to your health and nutrition in particular.  Maybe you have discovered “Your Why” as mentioned in an earlier blog post.  So now what?  There are a ton of concepts within nutrition that are either overlooked because they seem “simple enough” or come along with the baggage of myths and misinformation. To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re 15 years old or 65 years old.  It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete, former-athlete, or non-athlete. The goal of this post is to provide your basic how-to’s when it comes to fat loss, body recomposition, living a healthier lifestyle, overall nutrition, etc.

In future articles, we’ll dive a little bit deeper into macronutrients and micronutrients to stress their importance in relation to not only athletic performance, but healthy bodily functions.  We’ll also go into why fad diets are exactly that, FADS.  Right now, I want to lay out some basic concepts that are important to what is on most people’s minds (drum roll please).  I’m talking about fat-loss. 

But where does it start? And what are strategies to finally get rid of that stubborn fat for good?  Before you start an expedition through the vast jungles of Google and your Instagram popular page, I believe that educating yourself on the BASICS is a great place to start.  Even if you are experienced in some of these concepts, it’s always good to give yourself a little refresher once in a while.  Let’s start with hands down the most important aspect of beginning nutrition.

ENERGY BALANCE!

What everything boils down to from a weight-loss or weight-gain standpoint is Energy Balance.  Energy balance refers to the difference between your energy input (how many calories you are consuming) and energy output (the number of calories you burn each day).

  1. If you constantly consume more calories than you are burning throughout the course of the day, you will inevitably gain weight

  2. If you constantly burn more calories than you are consuming throughout the course of the day, you will lose weight.

There’s no other way around it.  That being said, the timeless sayings “you can’t out-train a bad diet” and “abs are made in the kitchen” are pretty much 100% accurate.  Most of the general population does not want to accept these truths however and believe that some magic trick or pill or (Johnny don’t say it… don’t say it…) juice cleanse… can help them.

This being said, CALORIES are extremely, extremely important.  And TRACKING YOUR CALORIES is extremely, extremely important.  Can you technically manipulate your energy balance (lose/gain weight) without tracking your calories? Absolutely.  But it is a lot longer and harder of a process and usually one that is in fact so long, most people just give up.  Theoretically, could you just jump in your car and drive from New York to California with no directions? Absolutely.  But it will be quicker and easier with a map.  I am almost positive I got that analogy from the great Dr. Mike Israetel but I could be wrong.  Sounds like something he’d say though and it’s the damn truth!  “Just eating healthy” doesn’t necessarily cut it for most people because you can overconsume healthy foods the same way you overconsume junk food and not even realize it.  We’ll get to that in just a little bit.

Oh, and PS: carbs don’t make you fat… Neither does eating after 7pm… But again, I’ll save that for another post.

TRACKING CALORIES

So how exactly do we track our calories?  Thanks to modern technology, tracking our dietary food intake is right at the touch of our fingertips.  I recommend using an app such as MyFitnessPal, Lose It! MyPlate, or any of the others out there.  Personally, I use MyFitnessPal and find it effective from an organizational standpoint in relation to my goals and how much detail you can actually track in there.  Their database of foods is also incredible and I find it to be very user friendly.

*Links to these apps at the end of this blog*

If you want to begin incorporating calorie tracking into your routine, you need to literally TRACK EVERY SINGLE THING THAT YOU PUT INTO YOUR BODY.  It doesn’t mean track breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then just completely ignore the box of Oreos at 2am.  It also doesn’t mean tracking a half-cup of rice in your app and then consuming the half-cup as well as the rest of the bowl. This is a commitment just like anything else and if you want to find step 1 and discover what you’re consuming every day, it doesn’t come down to you just being honest with an app, but it comes down to you being honest with yourself.

Are you going to 100% nail down precisely what you consume every single day?  Not necessarily considering the amount of variables (aka – The Untrackables) that go into your every day diet, but if you can start to understand ballpark estimates of where you’re at, you’re heading in the right direction.  This leads me to my next point which is somewhat of a subcategory of tracking calories which is Portion Control.

PORTION CONTROL

Fist size of this, a finger and a half’s worth of that, and a thumb’s worth of those.  Portion Control. We’ve all heard those dreaded two words more times than not when discussing anything related to fat loss.  If you read my ‘Welcome to the Strength Lifestyle’ post, you learned that growing up half-Italian didn’t necessarily benefit my relationship with food and portion control.  So this topic is one that was like absolute fat-loss lightning in a bottle when I finally figured it out.

Growing up and throughout most of my life, I did what many people out there do which is to eat until you’re full.  A “being full” portion is nowhere near close to the same thing as adequate food intake or what your body actually needs to function.  And besides, by the time your brain receives the signal that you are in fact full, you usually have already overeaten. 

Portion control is a subcategory of tracking calories because if we can start to develop a habit of ACCURATELY measuring our portions, we can then ACCURATELY understand our energy input.  With time and dedication to measuring and weighing our food, the skill of just “eyeballing” improves drastically which will ultimately help in situations where you’re definitely not going to measure your food; social settings, family parties, work related activities etc.  To begin applying this, start by purchasing a food scale which weighs in both grams (g) and ounces (oz.) along with a set of measuring cups/spoons!

I remember that when I started learning what 100 grams of Food X or 4 ounces of Food Y actually looks like, my mind was blown.  Personally speaking, peanut butter was a big one for me.  When I learned what one TBSP of peanut butter actually looked like, the lightbulb went off as to why I was training my ass off and not seeing results all those years.  Most people I have worked with have a similar reaction.  You will be completely shocked when you start realizing how many calories are in some of the foods you consume daily.

Again, is this extra step the most convenient thing in the world? No, but then again, neither is dropping the fat you speak about wanting to lose. You have to understand that the reality is if you want to see results or make changes in your body, you need to be willing to put in the work.  There’s no way around it.

*To learn more about portion control, check out the following from the International Journal of Obesity:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105579/

MOVING FORWARD

These three topics barely scratch the surface when speaking about nutrition, fat-loss, or muscle gain as a whole but they are incredibly important to not only understand, but accept!  I want this initial post to set the tone for what is to come.  Begin by applying these three topics into your personal health and nutrition journey and you will see a noticeable difference in body composition well-before diving into some of the more detailed topics to come.  I have seen people drop tremendous amounts of fat from not even necessarily “dieting”, but just applying these basics into their daily routine.  Having Strength in Nutrition starts with deciding to take the first step.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  1. Weight Loss/Gain all comes down to Energy Balance – Calorie Intake vs. Energy Output
  2. You CANNOT outwork a bad diet
  3. Begin tracking calories to gain an understanding of your own daily energy balance
  4. Learn to control portions by ACCURATELY measuring the food you are tracking

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MyFitnessPal
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/myfitnesspal/id341232718

LoseIt!
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lose-it-calorie-counter/id297368629?mt=8

MyPlate
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/myplate-calorie-counter/id502317923?mt=8

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As always, please share this article with any friends and family that may benefit from the information.  You play just as important of a role in helping The Strength Lifestyle change peoples’ lives as we do!  You can also find us on Instagram: @TheStrengthLifestyle

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