Wednesday, June 30, 2021


To lose weight, energy in must be less than energy out. Energy for the body comes in the form of calories. To lose weight, we need to take in fewer less calories than we burn. This calorie equation is important to know, and I stress it all the time with my clients. We also must pay attention to the types of foods we are eating. The types of foods we eat are called macronutrients or macros for short. We can lose weight by simply eating less calories despite where the calories come from if the number is low enough. But this does not mean you are eating healthy by any means. 

The macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and water. They are called macronutrients because we need these essential nutrients in greater volume than we need other nutrients such as micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Micro does not mean less important. It simply means that we get what we need from lesser quantities. 

Protein is the macronutrient that is responsible for growth and repair of a cell. Often when people want to grow bigger and stronger muscles, they tend to focus on protein only, and they increase their protein to unneeded levels. This is a mistake. Yes, we need more protein but only so much is needed for the repair of damaged cells. We need BOTH carbs and protein to grow bigger, stronger, muscles. Our diet should be 10-20% protein. That little bit is critical. And we need protein right after a workout. Not only do macros matter but meal timing matters too. You should consume 15 grams of protein right after a workout.  

Carbohydrate's key role is energy. Both longer term energy and shorter-term energy. We need carbohydrates. They really need to be the main staple of the diet. There are many types of carbohydrates. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate, and it is needed for immediate energy. But complex carbohydrates are the type that are stored in the muscles. Stored carbohydrates are called glycogen. And if we don’t have glycogen, we don’t have energy and we cannot improve our fitness. These types of carbohydrates are needed for energy and growth. Without enough carbohydrates a person will not have energy, add muscle, or gain strength. 45-65% of the diet should be comprised of complex carbohydrates. Meal timing is critical here as well. You need to eat around 50 grams of carbohydrates right after working out so your muscles can refuel and recover. This is the time that sugary type (high glycemic index) carbs are appropriate. Right after a workout! This does not mean soda! But fruit such as a banana.  

Fats help produce hormones. For example, testosterone is made from cholesterol which is a type of fat. Fats also help regulate hormones and they help us feel satiated. We need fats. We don’t need a lot of fats, but we need fats. A gram of fat has nine calories. The types of fats we should consume are polyunsaturated. But you don’t have to go out of your way to add fat to the diet. We don’t need much and often we get plenty. 20-35% of the diet should be fats. That sounds like a lot, but when you see how we calculate the fat later you’ll see it’s not.  

Alcohol, which is not an essential nutrient, has seven calories per gram 

Macros matter. As you read above, all these macronutrients have functions. Many people today want to lose fat. Many want to lose fat and maintain muscle. If you aren’t paying attention to the types of foods, you are eating you will not be able to maintain muscle mass let alone grow more muscle. Muscles need protein and carbohydrates to grow and get stronger. If you are not eating enough good quality carbs guess where your muscles get the carbohydrate energy from? The muscles. This is called gluconeogenesis. This means that when your body does not have enough stored glycogen, it breaks the muscles down to get it. If you are only paying attention to calories and not your macros, you may be losing weight, but you may be sacrificing muscle as you do. This is a doubly negative. When you lose muscle tissue, your metabolism will be lowered. When you begin to eat more again (after dieting) it will be easier to gain weight. Keeping muscle mass up is critical to overall fitness and heatlh. How do we do that? Strength train and eat quality carbs and quality protein.  

The first thing you need to do is determine how many calories you should be eating daily. After that you choose the percentage of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Remember above that protein should be anywhere from 10-20%, carbs 45-65% and fat 20-35%. I’m a proponent of the 20% protein, 60% carbohydrate, and 20% fat diet.  

Here is an example of a 1500 calories diet. For most people this is a weight loss diet. Using a 1500 calorie diet, 20% is 300 calories of protein, 60% of 1500 is 900 calories of carbohydrates, and 20% of 1500 is 300 calories of fat. Protein has four calories per gram, carbohydrates also have four calories per gram, and fat has nine calories per gram. Doing the math: 300 calories of protein is 75 grams, 900 calories of carbohydrates is 225 grams, and 300 calories of fat is 33 grams. Now you can track your macronutrients. In this case, the person would consume 75 grams of protein, 225 grams of carbohydrates, and 33 grams of fat daily.  

Not all macros are created equal. Let’s start with carbs. Carbs can be complex (good) or sugar (not so good). I often tell clients to make sure that the sugar stays under 15% of their carb intake (this will depend on some things but in weight loss cases we want to keep sugar low). In the above example the sugar grams would be kept to 34 per day. A banana is 30 by the way! I’m not against fruit at all. But learning what foods have what is so valuable to help you learn what you need! Fats are not all created equal. In the case here fat is set at 33 grams, that is low fat. I have my clients stay mostly with unsaturated fats and hardly any saturated fats. I tell all clients to keep trans fats to zero. A little quick FYI, the most crucial time to eat sugar would be after a workout. At this time, your body is craving more carbohydrates to fill back up the glycogen and sugar is gobbled up quickly and stored. It’s a particularly suitable time to consume sugar or high glycemic index carbohydrates.  

Protein does not have to be animal protein! That is another myth. You can get your protein sources however you choose. There are plenty of high-quality plant proteins now. Most of my personal protein choices come from plants. That’s just want I like and what works for me.  

What is the best way to track your macronutrients and/or calories? There are so many different apps now, it’s easy. Personally, I use My Fitness Pal. It works for me. In the olden days when I was studying exercise science in college, we used to look everything up and calculate. That had its value! But I’d prefer not! Now it's on an app and it’s so easy. When you enter your food into the app, all is calculated for you. You can simply enter your food and check through the day. If you aren’t where you should be, you can adjust the next day. It really works well. 

Some argue that this is a lot of work. I disagree. I think it’s a lot of work to have to wonder if you are eating what you should be eating. Studies show that when people guess how much they eat, they underestimate by 30%. We all do, right? How many times do I hear “I don’t need to track; I know what I eat.”  Tracking takes the mystery out and you can enjoy food more because you know that you can eat a certain food because there is room in the diet for it. When we really learn what works and why, we are really helping ourselves get in tune with our body.  

What about that essential nutrient alcohol? You would think by the reaction when I tell people they really cannot drink it AND lose weight that it was essential, but it’s not. Essential in the case of essential nutrients means that your body needs it and, that your body cannot produce it internally. It must come from an outside source. Your body does not need alcohol! You may disagree! Here is the deal, is drinking occasionally going to impact your fitness? No. I’ve been doing this for over 25 years, and I promise you that no one I’ve worked with has ever lost body fat (enough to tell) and drank regularly. It’s simply empty calories. Let’s say you are on a 1500 calorie diet to lose weight and you are supposed to have 80 calories of protein, 225 grams of carbs, and 33 grams of fat. You eat your 1500 daily but 200-300 or so calories are alcohol. Which essential nutrient do you rob? Yes, you can keep the calories under but as I explained above, macros natter and guess what alcohol pure sugar is, so it’s all wasted. Don’t shoot the messenger. You decide. Maybe lose the fat and then go on a bender?! Kidding.  

Macros matter. I know I left some unanswered questions, but I hope I’ve made the case that’s it’s not just about calories. If you want to hold on to muscle, strength, and energy you’ll need to make ure you are eating all the nutrients you need. You really are what you eat.  

Wednesday, June 9, 2021



Where have we gone wrong? It is not so hard to figure out. Our obesity rates have skyrocketed in the United States and the rest of the world. I hate to say it being an American, but we own the prize. The United States has the highest obesity rate in the world. We take home the gold, but I am not sure it is an award we want to win. Over 70% of the American population is either obese or overweight according to BMI numbers. A BMI of over 30 is considered obese and a BMI of over 25 is considered overweight. BMI or body mass index is not a perfect evaluation of our levels of body composition, but it gives us a good estimate.  

There is a significant difference between being overweight and being obese. Regarding health, being obese is far more problematic than being overweight. The obesity trend is what we want to start seeing decline. But how? Before we figure out how we need to look at how we got this bad. 


What happened is portions have grown exponentially. We have gotten out of control as a nation with our portion sizes of food. When you go to a fast-food restaurant and sit-down restaurant the portions have increased drastically compared to decades prior.  Restaurants are a business. We can’t blame them. We must take responsibility for the foods we eat and how much we eat. We first take responsibility by learning the calorie content of the foods we eat and secondly by deciding how much to eat of it. Later I will give examples of how much the portions have changed.   


The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you eat. You must put in your mouth less calories than you put out. Period. It’s plain and simple. It’s simple. I understand that it’s not easy. It’s a simple concept but I know it’s very hard to learn how to eat moderately. I’ve worked with people for over 25 years in the personal training industry and I know that “diet” is the hardest part for some people.  

It takes a calorie deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound. This came come from eating less, moving more, or a combination of both (preferred).  If you create a deficit of 500 calories per day you will lose one pound per week. If you create a deficit of 1000 calories per day you will lose 2 pounds per week. Knowing this is easier than doing this but understanding this helps you get started. 

Another nutritional basic we should grasp is understanding macronutrients. It matters what type of food you are putting in your mouth.   The macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, fat, and water.  Carbohydrates have four calories per gram; protein has four calories per gram; and fat has nine calories per gram. Water is the final macronutrient, and it is calorie free.  Research shows that diet our diet should be 45-65% carbohydrates, 15-35% fat, and 10-20% protein. The ranges depend on your activity levels and type of activity. If you are active, you will need more carbohydrates. Protein is the most over-eaten macronutrient in an American diet. The myth is that we need more when we are active. What we need is more carbs.   


How did we become so obese? Food sizes have gone up exponentially. In the 1960’s a basic McDonald’s meal was a hamburger or cheeseburger, french fries, and a milk shake. They only had nine items total on the menu. A hamburger at McDonald’s in the 1960’s had 250 calories and a cheeseburger had 350 calories. Today a Big Mac which is the more commonly sold item has 563 calories. French fries in the 1960’s at McDonald’s had 350 calories. A large fry now has 610 calories. A total meal at McDonalds in the 1960’s was 590 calories. The soda sizes were 12 oz and 150 calories. Today they are 32 ounces and 370 calories. If you order a total meal now at McDonald’s here is the calorie content: 1543 calories compared to 590 calories in the 1960’s. That is a simple increase in size my friends. What happened? It’s clear. 

I am not picking on McDonalds. They are clear and open about their calorie contents. All restaurants and convenience stores have increased their serving sizes. They are simply responding to consumer demand. At Burger King a Whopper has 677 calories. The Baconator from Wendy’s has a whopping 970 calories. There are now places like WAWA and 7-11 where people can go in and get fast food whenever they want. In the 1960’s this “convenience” was not there.  

Now, let’s look at “coffees”. If you went to McDonald’s in the 1960’s our coffee would cost, you five calories. Good luck ordering a mocha Frappuccino in the 1960’s! They did not exist. Now if you get a latte at a Starbucks or similar place it will cost you 160 calories or 360 calories if you order a mocha! What happened to just a coffee? Back to the Frappuccino; it has 520 calories. These places wouldn’t make these super high calorie drinks if Americans weren’t demanding them.  

Next on the list is ball parks. We used to go to games and watch games! In the past a hot dog was 150 calories, and a soda was 150 calories. You won’t climb up the BMI scale too much with that home run. But now you can get it all. A common item at a ballgame are cheese fries with 629 calories. You can order a corndog with 460 calories and a basic hot dog has now grown to 290 calories almost doubling. Why? American’s want more beef! Or whatever it is! You can’t fault the companies. They wouldn’t serve it if American’s didn't’ buy it up.  


It could be argued that people could have eaten more in the 1960’s and prior and obesity rates would have been just as high. This is true. It’s not like humans have simply learned how to eat more than we used to. It’s simply that it’s easier to eat more than it used to be. Again, I’m not making any excuses. The sizes have gotten bigger and we’re gobbling them up. Decades ago, if you wanted to consume those kinds of calories in a brief period you would have had to work for them. You would have had to make foods in your own kitchen or doubled up on serving sizes which would have cost you money. The fact is that it’s quite easy to now consume way more calories than you need. 

This isn’t the only reason that obesity rates have skyrocketed. Remember above where I mentioned that energy in must be less than energy out to lose weight. The energy out part is activity. We don’t move like we used to. We don’t have physical education in schools like we used to, kids aren’t moving outside like they used to and so many devices do simple things for us that we used to do.  Adults have far more sedentary jobs than we used to.  

Our portions our out of control and we don’t move like we used to. The obesity crisis has been explained.  


I believe the first step to any change is awareness. I believe that if most people knew how many calories are in these high calorie convenience foods, they wouldn’t choose them. The restaurants are giving calorie numbers now. It’s not like they’re hiding them. We need to be aware that these high calorie numbers are making us gain weight and we don’t need them.  

Another thing people really need to get is it’s not about carbs, proteins, and fats. Quit going on the internet and finding the next fad diet.  The enemy is too many calories! Period. If you always choose the lowest calorie food with the highest nutrients you will stop battling the bulge as much as you do. For example, broccoli is a very nutrient dense food because it’s low in calorie and high in nutrients. A Big Mac is the opposite. It’s extremely high in calories and extremely low in most nutrients. 

Also, be mindful. These places that have fast food are aware that you are choosing them because you are in a hurry. Slow down and don’t be. Do you really need that big drink when you're simply fueling up for gas? Do you have to stop at the 7-11 and grab food out of a bag? The other thing that’s quite different from decades ago is that families don't sit down and eat together anymore. It’s fast food. And food on the run. Why do you have to eat like that? I always tell my clients to delay the gratification. These food ads at these places pop up on purpose. These people get paid big bucks in the marketing department to know how to get you. They know we humans are very impulsive and will see that tasty drink sign and order it when we are not even in need. Say no. Delay gratification doesn’t mean forever. It means for now. Just wait unit your next meal that you are having at home and eat then. You won’t miss it. 


Our eating is budget. We have gained weight over the decades worldwide because we consume far more food than we used to, and we need. The places that sell foods have made it easier for us to eat more. We can’t blame them. They sell food to make money. We need to be aware of what is best for us. We can all be better which is this case is smaller food choices. Fast food restaurants most likely will not change and convenience stores are not going to stop selling Big Gulps. We need to understand just how costly these choices are. I believe our best defense is understanding this as the problem.