Following a Nutrition Plan to Carry You Through 2021
The New Year always brings about some form of a common goal for many: Get in shape. For those trying to lose a couple pounds, to those trying to gain some muscle for the now-impending swimsuit season, it’s imperative to not only focus on exercise, but also what is going to fuel that exercise and the accompanying bodily changes.
A popular fitness saying states: “There’s no way to out-train a poor diet,” meaning that no amount of cardio or strength training can undo or replace improper calorie intake with low nutritional value. Your body takes what you eat and uses it for cell replacement or repair, so in a way, we are what we eat. Ingested food also provides the energy (calories) needed for these processes.
How Nutrition Impacts Your Body
The body requires a certain number of calories each day just to undergo the basic life functions required for existence; this is called a basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR varies widely, depending on a person’s genetic make-up, current physical size, lean vs. fat mass, and biological sex. There are several websites or equations out there to find your own BMR number, which is then modified based on the level of activity being performed weekly.
This new number is typically then dubbed “maintenance calories” and is the point of weight loss, gain, or maintenance. It’s probably a safe assumption that most reading this will seek to decrease fat mass while preserving or even gaining muscle. To do so with efficiency requires discipline, accuracy, and consistency.
Fat is the most inefficient macronutrient to break down, therefore the body will try to preserve it until it needs to us or get rid of it because it’s dragging the body down (sometimes literally). The body, when in need of energy, will sometimes break down muscle protein because that’s more accessible than fat stores.
Unfortunately, because muscles are “metabolic tissue”, they require calories and nutrients to upkeep. There is a delicate balance when considering nutrition plans base on how many calories are needed to fuel all these bodily processes and the workouts required to attain the goal weight. It’s important for the nutrition plan to work in conjunction with exercise to keep the sought-after tissue around through an effective balance.
How to Improve Nutrition this Year
Improvements to nutrition can be a challenging goal for many reasons: finances, upbringing, digestive restrictions or problems, etc. The most effective changes in improving nutrition can be accomplished through a couple of simple behavioral alterations.
- Expectation setting/management: Reaching for too lofty of a goal and it will seem unattainable, while too small of a goal won’t seem like an accomplishment. Once a goal has been met, a new one can be created in its place to help further prioritize progress.
- Focusing on quality food intake: Maximize nutrients while only ingesting the necessary calories needed for your current goal. Prioritize protein, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats in that order, and then fill in any remaining space in the nutrition plan for everything else. It’s currently recommended most people consume 2.2-3.3 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight to build and maintain muscle mass, depending on current caloric intake.
- Caloric/macronutrient tracking: This will always be an invaluable tool for nutrition changes. Being accurate and honest is the only way this method can help, as it allows for analysis and correction of anything missing, bad patterns, or likely slip-up spots that can send a nutrition plan spiraling. This method can also help plan “bad food”, because let’s be real—everyone has that one food they eat for sanity, and not because it’s good for them.
If you have trouble doing these things on your own, it can be incredibly beneficial to hire a trainer or nutritionist to help the process. This requires yourself to be accountable to someone who’s knowledge could help you from otherwise becoming overwhelmed or frustrated. Everyone’s needs will be different, and the same thing goes for your goals. As a result, your nutrition plan should be equally contoured to the needs of specifically your body.