Whether it is a Facebook challenge or something that your relative’s, cousin’s, aunt saw on the last episode of Dr. OZ, the “fad diet” has always been a presence in the new health trend. Ask yourself this- how many times have you, or someone you know, done great on that diet, only for two or three months later to gain it all back and then some? The reason is that these types of trendy diets are great on the short term, but cannot be sustained for the long term. At any point when looking into a diet, and IF the foundation of it is to completely eliminate a macro nutrient (i.e. Carbohydrates, Fats, Protein) then this should be red flag number one. The next step to determine if it is a fad diet is can you see yourself eating in this fashion 3 years from now? If that answer is honestly no, then that is red flag number two. Lastly, if you need to buy $300 worth of product; shakes, supplements, etc; then that is red flag number three and you are probably in full blown fad diet mode. I am not trying to sound negative or bash those internet gurus out there because in reality one step toward becoming healthier is better than no steps at all. However, the end goal is to adopt a healthier lifestyle now, so you don’t pay the price later.
Let’s dive a little deeper into creating a lifestyle change in order to reach a weight loss goal that you may have. First thing first, the number one rule to live by when eating a more healthy diet is that whole foods are the best foods. Eating a wholesome diet that is rich in nutrient dense foods provides you with a variety of vitamins and minerals that otherwise are not found in viable sources. With that rule in mind, we can now talk about the structure of the diet:
Below is a sample calorie distribution for a 30 year old Male that wants to lose 1 pound per week:
-6’ tall/200 lbs with Moderate Activity
First we need to convert pounds to kilograms:
Next, we need to find the Basil Metabolic Rate(BMR) which is the amount of calories he needs for normal body function:
-Harris-Benedict Equation: Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) - ( 6.8 x age in years )
Now we need to factor in his activity level into his total energy expenditure or how many calories he burns per day:
-Total Daily Energy Expenditure(TDEE)= BMR x Physical Activity Factor
After that we need to find his final calorie limit to reach his goal (Lose 1 pound a week):
-3,500calories (Equal to 1 pound of fat) / 7 (Days of the week) = 500 calories per day
-TDEE-500 calories= Calorie limit per day to lose 1 pound a week
-3,134-500=2,634 calories per day
Finally, we can assign total grams for each macronutrient, but needs to be done in the order listed below. One gram of carbohydrate and protein equals 4 calories and one gram of fat equals 9 calories. For the general population an individual should consume 3-5g per kilogram of body weight of carbs, 1.0-1.2g per kilogram of body weight of protein and the rest of the calories should be fats.
-Carbohydrates: 90.9kg x 3g= 273g x 4cal= 1,092cal
-Protein: 90.9kgx 1.2g= 109g x 4cal= 436 cal
-Fat: 2,634-1,092-436=1,106 / 9=122g or 1,106 cal
This type of layout is a very easy plug and go equation where as your weight decreases or your goals change, all you simply need to do is take the older numbers out and place the update ones in. For each group of macronutrients here are some general guidelines set forth by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines:
Grains- “Healthy eating patterns include whole grains and limit the intake of refined grains and products made with refined grains, especially those high in saturated fats, added sugars, and/or sodium, such as cookies, cakes, and some snack foods.Grains are either whole or refined. Whole grains (e.g., brown rice, quinoa, and oats) contain the entire kernel, including the endosperm, bran, and germ. Refined grains differ from whole grains in that the grains have been processed to remove the bran and germ, which removes dietary fiber, iron, and other nutrients.”
Fruits-” Healthy eating patterns include fruits, especially whole fruits. Whole fruits include fresh, canned, frozen, and dried forms. Although fruit juice can be part of healthy eating patterns, it is lower than whole fruit in dietary fiber and when consumed in excess can contribute extra calories.” The reason that fruit juice is not as optimal for you is due to the absence of dietary fiber which aids in absorption and digestion of the food.
Vegetables-”Healthy eating patterns include a variety of vegetables from all of the five vegetable subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other  [health.gov]. These include all fresh, frozen, canned, and dried options in cooked or raw forms, including vegetable juices.”
Protein- “Healthy eating patterns include a variety of protein foods in nutrient-dense forms. The protein foods group comprises a broad group of foods from both animal and plant sources and includes several subgroups: seafood; meats, poultry, and eggs; and nuts, seeds, and soy products.”
Fats or Oils-”Oils are fats that contain a high percentage of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and are liquid at room temperature. Although they are not a food group, oils are emphasized as part of healthy eating patterns because they are the major source of essential fatty acids and vitamin E.Oils also are naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados.”
Wrapping All of This Up
Now that we have gone through how to find how many calories to eat, how to calculate how many grams of each macro nutrient to eat, and some information about each one so let's have some easy takeaways. When attempting to make a long term lifestyle change the number one goal should always be to eat more unprocessed whole nutrient dense foods. A great metaphor for the human body is to look at it like an expensive car. If you put unleaded gas (processed, low quality foods) in that Mercedes or Range Rover then it will not run at the optimal level. However, if you put premium gas (nutrient dense, whole food) in it, then it will run at the top level and you will get the most out of it. The human body is very resilient in that it has mechanisms that help defend itself against stressors. When you constantly feed your body low quality, highly processed foods paired with a stressor then that creates the building blocks for inflammation. Inflammation causes many of the chronic diseases that are crippling Americans such as Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Metabolic Syndrome.
Try to incorporate new and different foods into the weekly diet by searching new recipes or even alternatives, such as Banana Ice Cream (substituting frozen banana for dairy) or substituting olive oil for butter. Smartphone apps such as MyFitness Pal or Supertracker are great tools for food tracking that give you the ability to scan a label and it automatically inputs it for you and it is FREE. The most important thing that can come from this post is this: when choosing a diet the only thing that matters is can you sustain this over the long haul. If that answer is NO then it is time to jump ship and change methods.
Ben LaNeve, MS, CSCS
Director of Strength and Conditioning