31 July 2009

How much?

Great. So we know what to eat and what not to eat. Let's talk a little on how much to eat.

You probably already realize this, but your body isn't a machine. Today, you may burn up 2,163 calories. Tomorrow you might use 2,607 and yesterday maybe 1,979. The point here is to not get caught up in calories. It's silly to aim for 2,000 or 2,500 a day.

The great thing about the foods I've suggested to you is that they are all very satisfying (read: filling),don't overstimulate insulin production (a process that actually makes you more hungry) and most importantly, ensure you are getting the most nutrients per unit of food. The point here is eat when you're hungry and eat until you are satisfied. It's impossible to grow fat from fruits and vegetables and nearly impossible to grow fat from meat (since your body will only tolerate a certain amount).

But if you are an athlete, looking to lose weight, or are just interested in taking this way of eating a step further and have other specific goals, here are general rules of thumb. I always have to stress that these suggestions and only suggestions. They come out of a culmination of figuring out what works best for myself as well as a couple years of research and reading of various studies and approaches.

1. Protein: Your body needs adequate protein. It's the building blocks on muscles, helps them to heal, and does a number of other things throughout the body that are beneficial to you. For regularly active Joes, I recommend .8g of protein per pound of bodyweight. More mature (over 40 years of age) or sedentary males will be fine with .7g per pound and females .6g per pound. The majority of reader's probably fit in one of these categories. For example, a 180# active male, requires around 145g of protein per day. For a 120# female, you are looking at around 85g. If your aim is to lose weight, I suggest calculating your protein requirements using your ideal (but realistic) body weight. If gaining muscle mass is a priority, then 1g of protein per pound of body weight is what you should be thinking. As points of reference, four ounces of chicken has around 35g of protein. A six ounce sirloin steak has around 50g. One egg has about 7g. Six ounces of salmon contains around 40g.

2. Carbohydrates: I like to keep my carbohydrate intake at 1g per pound of body weight plus or minus some. This gives you plenty of that quick energy that you need, but not so much that you run into insulin issues. A large apple or banana has around 30g. One cup of blueberries has around 20g. One cup of cooked carrots has around 15g and one cup of cooked broccoli has similar amounts. A medium sized sweet potato has around 60g with the peel and around 50g without. Most nuts contain about 5g per ounce plus or minus some depending on the variety.

3. Fats: Ah, my favorite food group. Fat intake should be roughly the same as protein intake. This will help to cover the other calories needed now that that dump truck load of carbohydrates isn't coming in and also cause less insulin to be realeased to manage the carbohydrates you are eating. One tablespoon of most oils contains about 14g of fat. An ounce of nuts contain about 18g. One small avocado has around 20g. Your protein sources will also contain adequate amounts of fat, so don't fill up on olive oil and almonds (though one or two tablespoons of oil and 2 to 4 ounces of nuts is certainly ok).

Example: I'm a young, active 150# male, so I aim for about 120g grams of protein, 150g of carbs, and 120g of fat each day. This equates to around 2,200 calories per day. However, please keep in mind that some days I probably eat as many as 3,000 or as little as 2,000. I don't count calories. I make an effort to get adequate protein, eat when I'm hungry, and stop when I'm satisfied. Your body isn't a machine, but it is remarkably intelligent in knowing what and how much it needs so listen to it when it tells you something.

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