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Key To Nutrition Found in Pyramid

I recently came across a nutrition pyramid created by Eric Helms, PhD (Cand), a natural bodybuilder and PhD candidate, that succinctly summarizes what I would consider the foundations of how to optimize your nutrition for weight loss, weight gain, health and performance

Image result for eric helms nutrition pyramid

Energy balance/Calorie intake

Energy balance is the foundation for weight gain, weight loss, performance and even longevity.

How do you know if you are getting enough calories?  You’re HEC is in check, i.e. Hunger, Energy, Emotions and cravings are in balance, your weight is stable and you are able to perform optimally, i.e. work, sports, exercise, life.

How do you know  if you are getting too many calories? Generally, unwanted weight gain accompanied by potential comorbidities, e.g. elevated blood sugar, blood pressure and lipids.

Determining your energy balance should start with estimating your BMR (The number of calories you need to run your metabolism at rest). There are a number of online calculators available to determine this number. A quick estimate is to multiply your weight by 10.

Next, add in your AEE (Activity Energy Expenditure) by using another formula (calculators also available online).

Lastly, take into consideration NEAT (Non-Exercise  Activity Thermogenesis) and  your diet for the TEF (Thermic Effect of Food).

NEAT and TEF can be estimated by a sports nutritionist by evaluating your diet and lifestyle.

 

BMR Calculator:    http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/

EAA Calculator:     https://tdeecalculator.net/

 

Once you have an estimate of your daily calorie expenditure, you can design a diet that best meets your needs and goals (e.g. weight loss, weight gain, performance and wellness)

 

Macronutrients

There are 3 macronutrients

  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Proteins
  3. Fats

Carbohydrates

Functionally, carbohydrates can be divided into:

  1. Slow (Low Glycemic)- e.g. Complex
  2. Fast (High Glycemic)- e.g. Simple

Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for your body and brain. Depending on activity and energy needs, they should make up about 40-60% of one’s diet and consist primarily of complex sources, i.e.  High fiber plants, such as a mixture of non-starchy and starchy vegetables and fruits.

While simple carbohydrates have some potential benefits in certain performance sports, their consumption should be minimal as they are generally empty calorie foods, i.e. high in calories and low in nutrients

 

Protein

There are two types of proteins:

  1. Complete- Animal proteins that consist of all the essential amino acids. Soy and Quinoa are two plant sources that are also complete. *
  2. Incomplete- Plant proteins that do not have all the essential amino acids, e.g. grains and legumes

*Protein quality (i.e. The leucine content) appears to play a role in determining resistance exercise-induced muscle hypertrophy.

Protein should make up about 25-30% of one’s diet.

Another way of looking at meeting protein needs is grams/Kg body weight, with the range being  0.8g-2g/kg body weight.

Higher intakes of protein are important for athletes, weight management and for certain health conditions.

One should aim for eating some protein with each meal. For men, about 2 fists and women1 fist, as a serving size (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner).

 

Fat

Fat is an important source of energy as well as a precursor to sex hormones.

Dietary sources include:

  • Saturated- Animal fat and coconut
  • Monounsaturated- Olive oil, avocados, macadamia nuts
  • Polyunsaturated: Omega 6 (Vegetable oils- corn, canola, safflower, sunflower) and Omega 3 (Fish, flax, walnut, hemp)
  • Trans/Partially hydrogenated fats- Found in refined and some fast foods. Should be avoided

Fat should make up  20-60% of the diet (60% for those following a ketogenic diet).

Ideally, the emphasis should be on mono and polyunsaturated (omega 3) fats in order to reduce systemic inflammation, enhance performance  and prevent disease.

 

MicroNutrients

Micronutrients include:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Phytonutrients

A plant-based, whole foods diet with a variety of colorful vegetable and fruits generally provides adequate sources of micronutrients.

My preference is to focus on food, however, supplements are available for those whose lifestyle does not allow them to prepare balanced meals.

 

Nutrient Timing

Nutrient timing plays a role in:

  1. Creating metabolic adaptations
  2. Enhancing performance
  3. Facilitating repair after exercise
  4. Weight management

 

This is a comprehensive topic. Stay tuned for future blogs…
Supplements

Supplements contribute a small percent with respect to weight management, performance and health and should be individualized based on one’s needs, goals and specific health conditions.

It is generally accepted that some nutrients are not obtained through the diet due to poor choices, specific diets (e.g. low calorie, veganism), lack of variety when meal planning or reliance on fast foods. Therefore a multiple vitamin/mineral is a good insurance policy.

 

Other general recommendations include: Probiotics, Fish oil and Vitamin D.

There are a few supplements that can be used to help treat certain health conditions as well as some that have ergogenic properties for performance. Ideally, these should be used under the guidance of a qualified  health professional who recognizes the role and place of supplements as shown within the Pyramid discussed.

Lastly, there are many claims made about supplements. Do your due diligence and check the source, or consult with someone who does.

The Examine.com website provides an evidence-based database for the efficacy of supplements.

http://examine.com/

 

Summary

  1. Meet your energy (calorie needs) for your weight goals, optimum health and performance
  2. Balance your macros. Start with your protein and fats and add carbohydrates based on your activity
  3. Eat a plant-based, local, seasonable, sustainable, organic, whole foods diets for optimum micronutrient availability
  4. Time your nutrition based on your health, goals and performance needs
  5. Top it off with supplements

 

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About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin