For as long as I can remember, people have always been discussing amounts of macronutrients (macros) you should be eating. Or should I say which macros you should NOT be eating! Basically there seem to be two major schools of thought when it comes to macronutrients.
1) LOW FAT, HIGH CARB
2) HIGH FAT/PROTEIN, LOW CARB
But quite honestly, they're ALL wrong! The fact of the matter is that you need all three of the macronutrients in order for your body to function properly. Proteins, Fats, and Carbohydrates are all needed. The problem is that many people feel that if they reduce or almost eliminate one of the macronutrients, they can eat enormous amounts of the others. I distinctly recall someone at a buffet restaurant taking back almost an entire plate of roast beef and then commenting to her friend that she is doing a high protein, low carb diet. I didn't bother saying anything, but it was certainly good for a laugh! On the other hand, I've also seen people who were eating low fat diets who believed that it's alright to eat unlimited amounts of fruits, vegetables, fruit juices, AND sugar. That is quite a bit of sugar going down the hatch and with that comes a number of health problems.
So here is the most important fact about this entire thing and in fact, really simplifies everything:
THE TOTAL NUMBER OF CALORIES IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHERE THE CALORIES COME FROM!
Now bear in mind, I'm speaking strictly from the standpoint of gaining and losing weight. There are other health concerns which should determine exactly which foods you should eat.
FACT: If you expend more calories than you consume, you will lose weight
FACT: If you consume more calories than you expend, you will gain weight
FACT: There are 3500 calories in one pound of fat.
FACT: 15 calories per pound of bodyweight is generally what's required for weight maintenance.
So what does this all add up to? If your current calorie consumption is maintaining you at your current weight, then if you burn 3500 additional calories in one week without changing your diet, you will lose one pound of fat per week. If you reduce your total calories by 3500 per week AND you burn 3500 total calories per week, you will lose 2 pounds of fat per week. So the bottom line is that you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight and a calorie surplus to gain weight. Simple right?
So why is it so difficult to lose weight? For one thing, counting calories sucks! Seriously, trying to figure out all the macronutrient ratios and calories for all your meals is a good way to drive yourself insane. And those plans where you're supposed to eat six small meals per day are equally aggravating! Trying to eat tiny 300 calorie meals is lousy. When people sit down to eat, they want something that will satisfy them. Luckily there are two methods that work really well so you don't have to do these things.
1) USE YOUR HAND TO MEASURE YOUR PORTIONS
2) INTERMITTENT FASTING
So to use your hand for your portions, understand first that each meal must contain some type of protein and some type of carbohydrate. You may choose to eat more than one type since vegetables are also carbohydrates (just not the starchy variety). You may or may not want to add additional fat to your meal depending on what it is. If you're eating some red meat or fish for example, you're covered. Of course you may choose to stir fry your vegetables in oil and there would be some added fats there. So by doing this, you can still eat a nice sized Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner without feeling deprived. Add in one or two healthy snacks during the day and you're good to go! Now to measure your portions.
PROTEIN should be the size of your palm. This is the size of a hamburger patty, a small chicken leg, a piece of fish, some eggs, etc.
STARCHY CARBOHYDRATES should be the size of your cupped hand. This is the size of a baked potato, a small bowl of rice, some bread, tortilla, etc.
VEGETABLES should be the size of your closed fist. This is the size of a good sized bowl of broccoli, corn, carrots, a nice salad, etc.
SO WHAT ABOUT INTERMITTENT FASTING?
There is a lot of talk these days about intermittent fasting. I always laugh when people refer to it as something new. In fact, this has been done for thousands of years in different cultures around the world! This is the solution for you if you want results, hate the idea of carefully planning out all your meals, AND you absolutely love food!
So how is it done? SIMPLY SKIP BREAKFAST! By eating your first meal at 12 noon or so and skipping breakfast, you will have fasted for a prolonged period of time from the previous night all the way to lunchtime the next day. Then you can eat a substantial lunch! I'm talking 800 calories or more! You can have a nice dinner too and you can even have an evening snack (within reason of course). Another way to practice intermittent fasting is to have one day a week of fasting. You would just drink water and perhaps some fruit and vegetable juices during the day, but no solid foods. You'll find that while you're fasting you feel very calm and peaceful. And working out during this time is fantastic! In ancient times, people viewed fasting as a cleansing of both the body and the mind. If you try it, you'll see what I mean!
So there you have it! Macronutrients explained simple AND two realistic ways to plan out your eating so you won't go nuts!
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