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Basic nutritional facts that you should be aware of

Basic nutritional facts that you should be aware of

In order to achieve the desired results from exercise and diet, you need to know the basics when it comes to food. How much should you eat? What are you supposed to eat?

We often talk about calories and PCF distribution (protein, carbohydrate and fat content in different food). Let’s explore PCF!

There are three different macro nutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Everything you eat consists of these three or a combination of two of these three.

For example:

  • Chicken: protein and a little fat
  • Salmon: protein and a lot of fat
  • Potatoes: carbohydrates and a little protein
  • Porridge: carbohydrates, a little protein and a little fat
  • Vegetables: carbohydrates, but also a little protein
  • Egg: protein and fat
  • Nut butters: fat and a little protein. 

As you can see, food might contain a combination of two, and sometimes all three macro nutrients. There is food that counts as containing one macro nutrient, where the quantity of the other two is minuscule, for example cod (only protein) or olive oil (only fat). If you are trying to lose weight or build muscle, you need to know more than just how much to eat. It is about knowing what the calories consist of.

Each macro nutrient provides the following calories:

1 g of protein gives us 4 calories
1 g of carbohydrates gives us 4 calories
1 g of fat gives us 9 calories (in other words, twice as much as protein and carbohydrates)

Note, however, that 100 g of potatoes in weight does not equal 100 g of carbohydrates. 100 g of raw potatoes give us 16 g of carbohydrates.

Now that you know about macro nutrients and how many calories they contain, let’s look at why we need these three macro nutrients in our food, regardless of our goals.

Protein

Protein counts as an essential macro nutrient, since the body can’t make protein on its own, and it needs to be absorbed through the food you eat. You will often hear us talk about protein, since it makes you feel full, and it is needed in order to build muscle. If you are exercising, you will need more protein than if you don’t. You can’t, for example, build your bicep muscles if you don’t eat enough protein. Nothing grows out of nothing.

Protein also helps in burning fat, since it takes time for the body to burn protein. Aim for 1.8 g of protein per kilo of body weight. If you weigh 65 kilos, you will need 117 g of protein per day. Good sources of protein are chicken, cod, quark/cottage cheese, egg and good quality protein powders.

Carbohydrates

How many of you believe that excluding carbohydrates is a good way to lose weight? Many people are misinformed about carbohydrates in some way or another. Let’s get to the bottom of this.

A physically active body needs carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide energy, help us recover and help us sleep better. Many people still believe that ‘carbohydrates’ equals bread, pasta and rice. No! There are better sources of carbohydrates than those: oats, buckwheat, quinoa, potatoes/sweet potatoes and root vegetables, to name but a few.

It is important to choose the right type of carbohydrates, to eat them when you are physically active, such as before and after exercise, and to restrict your intake in the evenings.

Aim for 1.5-3 g of carbohydrates per day, depending on your activity level. If you weigh 65 kilos, you should eat 100-195 g.

Fats

Fat is as loaded a topic as carbohydrates.

It is good to bear in mind that the amount of fat you eat does not affect the amount of weight you will put on – fat will not make you ‘fat’. The same goes for protein and carbohydrates. It is the total amount of all the macro nutrients you eat (i.e. calories from macro nutrients) that will determine whether you lose weight, or put it on.  

It is easy to overeat fat (peanut butter or chocolate, anyone?), but we need to remember that fat is very calorie dense (9 calories per 1 g of fat, as we saw earlier). The female body needs fat in order for our hormones to work – in order to get pregnant, breastfeed, sleep and for a healthy sex drive. The body needs fat in order to lose weight!

Examples of good sources of fat: avocado, olive oil, seeds, nuts, egg yolk, coconut, oily fish.

Aim for 1-1.3 g of fat per bodyweight in kilo per day. If you weigh 65 kilos, you will need 65-85 g of fat per day.

Back to basics …

Understanding the basics of nutrition is crucial since it will make it so much easier to know what you are doing and how it affects your results. You don’t need to count calories all the time, but it is good to be calorie aware.

Photo iStockphoto

Updated January 18, 2022

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