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Nutrition Basics

Nutrition Basics

Where do we start?

The basic goal of nutrition is putting food in your body to provide it fuel to do things. This is where the term macronutrients come in. Everything we eat is composed of these 3 macronutrient categories: carbohydrates, fats and protein.

Fats provide 9 calories of energy per gram. Carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories of energy per gram. Alcohol, a subcategory of carbohydrates, actually provides 7 calories of energy per gram. Everything we eat is one of or a combination of these categories. An avocado is all fat. Regular milk has all three.

Where it gets tricky and downright complex is how each of these is used by our body. Even more complex is how/if the chemical components of foods affect our body. A basic concept we all need to wrap our head around is what amount of calories our bodies need compared to our goal (losing/gaining weight, maintaining current status, fueling long distance training, building lean muscle). Does our body type matter……..more in another newsletter.

How many calories do we need?

Okay now, stay with me. We’re going to go over some definition stuff and some pretty complicated formulas, but I’m gonna simplify it in the end. After all, 99% of us only need to be in the ballpark as far as what calories we need. Then, it’s a tweak here and there. Most of us want to control our food intake and not have our food intake control us. For the 1% ers, have at it.

BMR(basal metabolic rate) is the minimum number of calories your body needs to maintain life functions at rest. Basically, what our body needs if we were sleeping 24 hrs each day.

RMR(resting metabolic rate) is the calories required to perform bodily functions (breathing, our heart pumping our blood, organs doing their thing, etc) awake but at rest.

TEF(thermic effect of food) is the amount of calories your body needs in response to the food we eat. Protein takes energy for our body to break down and digest. A more complex food takes more effort for your body to process. This gets into brown rice versus white rice, a banana versus an apple, fat foods versus sugar foods. Foods that are spicy increases our body temperature and make us burn/use more calories. This also gets into the glycemic index of foods (yet another future newsletter topic…).

EA(exercise activity) is the number of calories your body needs for the exercise you do each day. It takes more calories to walk 3 miles than 1. It takes more calories to strength train for 45 minutes than 30 minutes. You get the idea.

NEAT(non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is the number of calories of unplanned activities like grocery shopping, vacuuming the house, playing with our children, cooking, and on and on.

Our TDD (total daily energy expenditure) = BMR+RMR+TEF+EA+NEAT

A pretty complicated formula where the accuracy depends on how exact you can calculate the TEF, EA and NEAT amounts.

If you want, check out the below scientifically based formulas that attempt to reign in the accuracy:

One is the Mifflin St Jeor calculator, found at:

Another one is the Harris-Benedict calculator, found at:

I like to use the following simpler formula:

For men: (Weight in kg)x24= daily calories. For Ex. (145/2.2)x24= 1,582

For women: .9(weight in kg)x 24 = daily calories. For Ex. 9(145/2.2)x24=1,424

Yeah, the scientific formulas are more accurate and, if you extrapolate the difference out for an entire year, would make a difference in weight gain or lost. What I would argue is that 99% of people are not going to (and more importantly do not need to) calculate their dietary intake to that detail. The ballpark #s will do. Also, as weight is gained/lost throughout the year, your caloric intake will change.

The underlying beauty to our caloric needs is that the more lean mass you have on your body, the more calories you need. In layman terms, as you get into better shape, you can eat more. Remember, I talked about this in an earlier newsletter.

Feel free to send me an e-mail at [email protected]

To your health and happiness,


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