NUTRITION MODULE

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BASICS OF FOOD JOURNALING

SIMPLE OVERVIEW OF MACROS

What are macros? A detailed overview

What are macros?

Macros, short for macronutrients are essentially the building blocks of your nutrition.

The 3 main macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats and protein. Essentially they make up your diet.

Carbohydrates

 

Carbohydrates come in many forms, you may be familiar with a few, and not so familiar with others.

 

Carbohydrates are typically classified by their chemical structure (too much science for this) and are divided into three general groups.

 

Monosaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides (I wouldn't worry about remembering those names either)

 

Monosaccharides being the simplest form of carbohydrates and include

  • Glucose

  • Fructose

  • Galactose

 

Oligosaccharides are short chains of monosaccharides linked together in the form of disaccharides. The most common being:

  • Maltose

  • Sucrose

  • Lactose 

 

Polysacchardies are longer more complex chains of linked monosaccharide units and these include

  • Starches

  • Glycogen

  • Fibre

 

Glucose is essential to life. The brain and central nervous system prefer glucose for fuel and benefit from a continuously available supply, however the body is capable of deriving glucose from a process called gluconeogenesis (don't worry learning that term either, just eat some carbs).

 

Body composition, activity levels, other macronutrient intakes and specific goals will determine how many grams of carbohydrates you require.

Often to get a bad reputation, carbohydrates do not make you fat, they do not make you gain fat, you can have them any time of the day, even after 6pm. 

A calorie surplus will lead to weight and fat gain, now don't get me wrong, it's not difficult to over eat on carbohydrates, at the end of the day its some pretty tasty food, and coupled with a high fat intake (your favorite foods like pizza and ice cream have both a high fat and carbohydrate make up) it's not that difficult to end up overeating.

However, in saying that, a elimination of carbohydrates is not necessary, but a reduction is for fat loss. 

We hope to teach you to get the balance correct, enough carbohydrates to remain social, enjoy your favorite food and drink without compromising your body composition goals.

How many calories in a gram of carbohydrates?

4 calories per gram.

100g of carbohydrates = 400 kCal

 

Fat

 

Fat in the diet has six major roles:

  • It provides an energy source

 

Your body can store just small amounts of glucose as glycogen for energy, but you can put away unlimited amounts of energy as fat tissue. This is a problem in our world of excess calories, but was necessary in earlier times when food was scarce. You’ll use this stored energy while you’re sleeping, during periods of low energy intake and during physical activity.

  • It helps manufacture and balance hormones

  • It forms our cell membranes

  • It forms our brains and nervous systems

  • It helps transport the fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K

 

Dietary fats dissolve and transport fat-soluble nutrients, such as some vitamins and also disease-fighting phytochemicals like the carotenoids alpha- and beta-carotene and lycopene. 

  • It provides two essential fatty acids that the body can't make, linoleic acid and linolenic acid.

 

We also have different dietary fat classification, you may be familiar with some of these terms:

  • Saturated fat - Animal fats, oils

  • Unsaturated broken down into

  • Monounsaturated - Olive oil, avocado, peanuts 

  • Polyunsaturated - certain fish, flaxseed, hemp

 

Check out our food group for a more in-depth food list.

Like carbohydrates, often know to get a bad rap, again no single macronutrient can make you fat, just too many calories.

You may have tried a low fat diet before, bet that was fun, but in essence it's not needed to avoid foods with fat, in fact its almost impossible and we do need a certain amount of fats in our diets.

How many calories are in a gram of fat?

9 calories per gram of fat

50g of fat = 450kCal

 

 

Protein

 

And lastly, but most importantly, protein. 

 

When it comes to planning your food diary and looking at calories and macronutrients, protein will be the first macronutrient that you need to plan for, ultimately it is the most important.

 

Carbohydrate and fat intake can be variable, protein is the one macronutrient that will remain almost constant throughout your journey.

 

Unlike carbohydrates and fat, energy is not the primary role of protein. If you're using protein for energy, you're essentially losing muscle tissue. Yea, you're losing weight, but not body fat. 

The aim of a fat loss cycle is to reduce body fat, not lean muscle tissue. (Another reason to keep carbohydrates in your diet, they are also 'muscle sparing')

 

Protein Roles

  • Proteins provide structure.The protein collagen gives structure to bones, teeth and skin. Hair and nails depend on keratin.

  • Some proteins are antibodies.Without adequate protein, your immune system cannot properly defend you against bacteria, viruses and other invaders. Antibodies are the blood proteins that attack and neutralize these invaders.

  • Proteins maintain fluid balance.Fluid is present in many compartments of your body. It is within the cells (intracellular fluid), in the blood (intravascular fluid) and between the cells (interstitial fluid). Fluids also flow between these spaces. It’s the proteins and minerals that keep them in balance. 

  • Proteins transport nutrients and other compounds. Some proteins sit inside your cell membranes pumping compounds in and out of the cell. Others attach themselves to nutrients or other molecules to transport them to distant parts of the body. Hemoglobin, which carries oxygen, is one such protein. Proteins maintain acid-base balance. Blood that is too acidic or too alkaline will kill you. Fortunately, the body regulates its acid-base balance very tightly. One mechanism uses proteins as buffers. 

  • Protein is a back up source of energy. With so many jobs, you can see why protein is not used as a primary source of energy. But rather than allowing your brain to go without glucose in times of starvation or low carbohydrate intake, the body sacrifices protein from your muscles and other tissues or takes it from the diet (if available) in order to make new glucose from amino acids in a process called gluconeogenesis.

 

How many calories in a gram of protein?

 

4 calories per gram of protein.

100g of protein = 400kCal

For further foods lists on each macronutrient, check out the Food Bank under Recipes.

EAT OUT AND STAY ON TRACK

SUPPLEMENTS TO CONSIDER

 

We’ve all been there; standing clueless in the middle of the supplement store thinking 
“What are all of these for?! Which do I actually need?”

With the myriad of supplements nowadays it’s easy to get confused between which you might benefit from or need and which are complete scams (did somebody say “TeaTox”?)

As a scientist, I am naturally sceptical of any supplement and its apparently magical qualities. However, there are many supplements out there with great health benefits if you need them. Let me be clear though, nothing can beat a healthy diet and lifestyle and you cannot buy health in a bottle.

 

Multi-Vitamin

A multivitamin is what I like to call a “safety blanket”; it provides your body with adequate doses of your daily vitamin and mineral requirements in the convenience of a little capsule.  Of course in a perfect world we would obtain all of these from our diets but… let’s face it -nothing is perfect (except peanut butter). We live in a “go-go-go” era where less than optimal food choices are inevitable. However by taking a multivitamin you ensure that you’re giving your body everything it needs to function efficiently. While everyone can benefit from a multivitamin in some way, those particularly in need are those who are in a caloric deficit (i.e. dieting) and at a low weight or body fat percentage. 

Almost all multivitamins will contain the same bioactive compounds but the main players for us ladies are the B-Vitamins, Vitamin-D3, Calcium and Magnesium. These are important for metabolic efficiency and regulation, hormone function and fatigue. I should note here that taking additional vitamin supplements in conjunction with a multivitamin (especially B-Vitamins) isn’t recommended as overdose is possible which can cause nausea, numbness in the extremities and a dent in your bank account!

A multivitamin tends to be a good idea if:

 

  • You are at risk for several nutrient deficiencies and your diet cannot otherwise be modified 

  • The multivitamin provides adequate dosages to cover the deficiency risk 

  • The multivitamin is a better purchasing option than the nutrients by themselves

 

Probiotics

You know the “good bacteria” those yogurt ads are always on about? These little guys are more than just a marketing ploy - they are actually very important and can have some amazing benefits (especially for you ladies!). 


Probiotics (the “friendly bacteria”) not only aid in digestion but they also help with your own body’s defence against the “bad bacteria” who would otherwise wreak havoc. These generous germs even make antibiotics for you, defending you from the inside out! They’re like our own little internal doctors - minus the cold hands and waiting rooms with 10 year old magazines. 

We actually need both good and bad bacteria to maintain a healthy balance in our gut as too much of either can have negative consequences. This balance can be disturbed by factors such as stress, medication, hormonal changes and/or imbalances, diet and even just plain old bad luck. When this balance gets thrown out of whack you may suffer with digestion issues, bloating, cramping, acne and even fungal infections.  

While it’s not really necessary to supplement with a probiotic daily there are times when they can be quite beneficial such as after a course of antibiotics, traveling and of course  - that time of the month.  

So while it sounds kind of gross, the image of bacteria running around inside of you, it is actually a good thing!

“Trust me, I’m a scientist” (I never say this but I couldn’t resist!)

 

Calcium and Vitamin D

 

While it’s true that everyone should consume calcium it is, again, more important for women because of – you guessed it – hormones! 


Why were we created as complicated hormone junkies?!

As most of us know, calcium is vital for healthy bones and teeth but is also required for efficient muscle contractions, cell-to-cell communication (cells need friends, too!)  and hormone production. If you don’t give your body the calcium it needs, it’s forced to get it from another source; your bones. 

The major benefit of calcium is preventative, mitigating the risk of developing osteoporosis during the aging process. Osteoporosis can be at least partially seen as a condition resulting from long-term calcium insufficiency and, while not fully preventative, maintaining adequate calcium intake throughout life is associated with significantly reduced risk. 

*Note - If you have excluded dairy from your nutrition for intolerance or sensitivity reasons, then it is vital you supplement with calcium.

Recommended Dose : 1000-1200mg per day

Take with a meal to aid absorption

Don’t forget about calcium’s best friend – Vitamin D. Vitamin D intake is crucial for the absorption of calcium and new research suggests it may aid in preventing neurodegenerative disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis. Vitamin D supplementation is particularly important for those living in cooler climates such as the UK and Ireland as we have less exposure to direct sunlight (which is how we make our Vitamin D). 

Most people are not deficient in vitamin D, but they do not have an optimal level of vitamin D either. Due to the many health benefits of vitamin D, supplementation is encouraged if optimal levels are not present in the body.

Recommended Dose: 1000-2000mg per day

Take daily with a meal or a source of fat, like fish oils.

 

Iron

 

While this one is definitely not a “must-have” supplement it would be more commonly used by women due to… that lovely time of the month. Again. Have you realized how often I’ve said that? 


Iron’s main role in the body is to help our red blood cells transport oxygen to our tissues and trust me; oxygen is fairly important to our cells. If iron levels drop too low you will be unable to provide your body with adequate oxygen and may suffer with fatigue, circulation problems and concentration issues   Factors which contribute to iron deficiency include heavy flow (thank you, hormones!) and vegetarian diets. Also, to the good Samaritans out there donating blood on a monthly basis – make sure you’re keeping enough for yourselves, too!

Recommended daily allowance:

  • 8 mg for men and non-menstruating women

  • 15 mg for menstruating women under 19 

  • 18 mg for menstruating women over 18 

  • 27 mg for pregnant women 

  • 9 mg for lactating women under 19 

  • 10 mg for lactating women over 18

 

Those numbers include the iron in your diet. Getting enough iron through foods makes supplementation unnecessary. Be careful not to ingest more iron than the daily tolerable upper intake level (UL) for your age: 45 mg for people over 13.

 

If you do choose to supplement with Iron, aim for the liquid variety such as Spatone, Floradix or Blue Iron as these are far gentler on your stomach and are also more easily absorbed by the body

 

Creatine

 

It is a fantastic supplement for any athlete. And YES, throughout this program, you are asking your body to do athletic activities through strength training and cardio... you are offically an athlete! 

 

It needs to be mentioned though as many fear that creatine supplementation will turn them into the Michelin man as if it was some form of dodgy anabolic steroid.


It’s really not. If it delivered the same results as steroids it would be A LOT more expensive.  Creatine is actually a natural compound already found in meat, fish and even made by our own bodies. It will not make you “bulky”, bloated or “butch”. Simply put, creatine helps your body produce more power to lift more weight and hydrates your muscle tissue aiding in recovery. 

This is one supplement absolutely everyone can benefit from, especially vegetarians. Creatine enables your body to generate more force and more power more often, which will directly impact your strength gains. The stronger you are the more weight you can lift and therefore the more muscle you can potentially grow.

Win, win situation! 

There is  no reason why somebody shouldn’t supplement creatine, nor is there any logical basis for the seeming “fear” of this compound in society. It’s safe, it’s healthy, it’s cheap, and for most people it just works. Get some creatine monohydrate, take 5 g/day, and you’re good to go.


If humans didn’t make any in the body, creatine would be a vitamin. Deficiency symptoms that result in mental retardation, however they’re rare, but they pretty much establish the importance of this molecule as a vitamin-like compound.

The recommended dose is 5g per day with plenty of water. Don’t worry about the fancy new creatine varieties – the plain old Creatine Monohydrate is the real deal and won’t break the bank, either.

 

Omega 3's

 

Saving the best for last!


Omega-3s (specifically EPA and DHA) are probably my number one supplement for absolutely everybody.  We’ve all heard of their brain-boosting properties but they are also powerful anti-inflammatories making them a great supplement choice for any athlete

Omega-3’s become even more important if you have a history of heart problems in your family as they aid in the prevention of thrombosis (blood clots) and help keep your heart beating smoothly by preventing fatty acid deposits from accumulating. They also keep your cholesterol in check by lowering HDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and increasing LDL (the “good” cholesterol). 

In addition to their heart-loving properties they also aid in cognitive function making them a perfect supplement for those with particularly demanding jobs or if you suffer with “brain fog” or concentration issues. 

As for Omegas 6 and 9 – don’t worry about supplementation with these. In fact, avoid it until instructed to by your doctor as almost everybody consumes too much of these already. These guys can be helpful to women during menopause but it’s best to wait until a doctor recommends it. 

The typical dose for Omega-3 fish oils ranges from 250-500mg/day of EPA and DHA, usually sourced from mackerel, salmon or flaxseed as these are utilized more efficiently by the body.

However, fish oil doses vary depending on the goal of supplementation. For general health, 250-500mg of combined EPA and DHA is the minimum dose and can be obtained via fish intake. The American Heart Association recommends 1g daily. If the goal of supplementation is to reduce soreness, a 6g dose, spread over the course of a day, will be effective.

Pregnant women should increase their intake of DHA by at least 200mg a day, as long as there is no risk of elevated mercury levels.

 

While it’s true there are many supplements out there that can be beneficial to some people at certain times, nothing beats a healthy diet and lifestyle. I’m not saying live your life on chicken and broccoli (leave that to the Bro’s) but to balance your nutrition between whole foods, not-so-whole-foods (we all need ice cream!) and supplementation when required. 

Remember, supplements are an aid. They are useful, some essential, particularly when dieting when its much harder to meet your recommended daily intakes when your nutrition is a little bit more restricted. 

Nutrition comes first, always. 

 

Recommended Brands:

  • NutraBio

  • Garden of Life

  • Optimum Nutrition

  • Magnum Neutraceuticals

  • EHP Labs

If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.


If a healthy food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it. 

 

-Dr. John Berardi, Precision Nutrition