Today I’ve got a really interesting guest post from the guys over at Protein Promo. This isn’t a sponsored post it’s just a really important question that I think everyone wonders about and we’ve got some information to share!
You may have seen an equation at some point that looks like this:
Calories in – calories out = weight gain/loss
Not only does it not make a lot of sense (you don’t gain or lose weight in calories), but it’s a gross oversimplification of how diet and exercise work together in maintaining your health and if it’s of concern to you, your weight.
Taking this equation, you could imagine that if you managed to keep your calorie intake down to 500 per day and went for a two-hour run every day, you’d lose weight at lightning speed. However, in reality, if you didn’t die in the attempt, you’d find yourself gaining fat and losing muscle. Obviously, that’s at the extreme end, and it’s tempting to think that as long as you eat ‘normally’ it doesn’t really matter what you eat, as long as you’re more active. On the small scale, this may be true, but if you’re trying to build muscle – and ultimately become stronger and leaner in the process – then you absolutely need to watch what you eat, but maybe not in the way you’re thinking.
Your body basically needs three things to survive: fats, carbohydrates, and protein. All food is made up primarily of these things, in varying ratios. The first and most important thing you need to know are this: if you fail to eat well, and you put your body under more stress than usual, you won’t just not get anywhere; you’ll actively hurt yourself in the process.
Protein Is Your Friend
Assuming this isn’t the first thing you’ve ever read on the subject of nutrition, you’re probably tired of hearing about protein. But you can’t afford to be because it’s the number one thing you need to pay attention to.
Protein is the basic building block of muscle – which is what most of your body is made of. When you work out, you make tiny tears in your muscles as you use them. This is fine and normal, and your body knows how to deal with this–but it needs protein to repair that damage and ultimately build more muscle, so it can handle the strain. That’s the basic process of muscle building. You put your body under stress, so it responds by making more muscle to cope with it. That’s why, if you’re doing things right, you have to add more weight to your workouts every so often.
Without adequate protein intake, your body is unable to repair the muscle, and you get the opposite effect. Damage builds up, healing is slow, you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck the next morning, and you gain absolutely nothing.
You’ve probably heard that you need to consume 20-40 grams of protein within an hour after working out (and if you haven’t, start doing that), but it’s important to keep your protein intake up anyway. If you’re actively working out, you should be consuming about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, and this is definitely not the time to shave off five pounds.
Many people find adding protein powder to meals like breakfast an effective way to ensure they’re eating enough, to find the best deals on protein-packed products like lean meats and protein powders head to Protein Promo.
Fuel Your Workouts
Protein is important, but it’s not the only thing you need to make sure you’re getting enough of. In order to make your body get through a workout, you also need an adequate source of fuel – for most people, this will be a combination of simple and complex carbohydrates and fat.
Simple carbohydrates (sugars) are easy to digest and are a quick source of energy. Consuming them 2-3 hours before a workout gives your body the fuel it needs to get up and get started. You should also aim to add complex carbs (think grains, starchy vegetables, and nuts) and at least a small amount of fat because this will give you a graduated energy release and prevent you crashing after a workout. This is important not just for your body, but for your mind–if you start to associate working out with wiping out, you’ll be less likely to do it.
Even if your ultimate goal is fat loss, it’s important not to skimp on your calorie intake. Doing that will stall your progress and can lead to long-term health problems if not corrected. Your body does a lot for you, the least you can do is give it enough fuel to keep it working properly.
What Does Good Nutrition Look Like?
Good nutrition depends on a lot of factors, including your normal amount of daily activity, any special dietary needs, and general genetic disposition. You don’t have to just drink 100% lemon water and eat chia seeds but if you do fancy seeing what lemon can do, check out this article. Nutrition 101 is that carbs are, more or less, the source of fat in the body. This is because of how the body processes them. So, fewer carbs equal less fat, but don’t try to cut them out altogether, because they perform an array of vital functions. If you learn nothing else from reading this, understand that exercise and nutrition work together, and neither can be separated from the other.
So, there you have it. Nutrition is as important as working out if your aim is to gain muscle and/or lose weight. If you neglect it, you’re only hurting yourself.