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Learn the Basics of Nutrition

basics of nutrition

Nutrition is the main pillar of our physical and chemical development and thus, its importance is paramount for everybody. From a professional athlete to the most sedentary person, we all have to respect kind of the same basic nutrition principles if well-being or physical performance concerns us every day. I am happy because people nowadays are more interested in this topic than ever before.

This article will help you learn the basics of nutrition and within the article you’ll get responses to some of the most frequently asked questions:

  1. What are macro and micro nutrients?
  2. Are fats good or will I get fat eating them?
  3. How do I eat to maintain, lose or gain weight?
  4. From where do I find good calories?
  5. How many calories do I need?
  6. How much protein do I actually need?

Some of you already know that I am an influential bodyweight coach and athlete. My experience is vast, not only with sports and fitness but with nutrition as well.

You will learn how to feed yourself based upon the needs of your body, serving all kinds of different goals like losing weight, gaining muscle mass or simply knowing how to arrange your meals in a various and balanced way.

 The number one step you need to take is learning how foods are classified based on their nutritional composition.

All the foods we buy or grow can be categorized as macronutrients or micronutrients.

 These nutrients are substances necessary to our organism for growth, metabolism and other vital functions. So let’s start with the first one:

Macronutrients

Macros are energetic nutrients representing the biggest portion of our daily calorie intake. Our organism needs them in a larger quantity than micronutrients.

Macronutrients are represented by carbohydrates, proteins and lipids (fats). Water can also be considered a macro-nutrient because we need it in a large quantity as well, although it is not a caloric nutrient.

On the other hand, carbohydrates, proteins and fats are caloric nutrients. The caloric content of each of them can be found by consulting the table below:

MacronutrientsEnergy [Kcal./gram]Main Function
Carbohydrates4Energetic
Lipids (fats)9Energetic, for growth and development etc.
Proteins4Growth and development, also energetic.

Hence when you want to know how many calories you eat during a day, sum up all the macros. The results can be compared with your required energy for a day to know if you ate too much or if you are on a caloric deficit: Find out about the Required Energy

Judging from the energic point of view, the number one fuel the organism prefers are carbohydrates, especially for an athlete requiring more energy than a sedentary person does.

Lipids play an energetic role as well, but the excess is usually stored in the body as a form of visceral fat, subcutaneous and abdominal fat. Yet, do not think for a second that lipids are harmful. They are important when they are consumed in normal quantities and in helping the synthesis of hormones.

Proteins are less useful as energy. The body only converts them into energy when it doesn’t get the first two in a sustainable quantity (carbohydrates and lipids). Proteins are utilized mainly for maintaining or developing the tissues.

 Due to the fact that I don’t like to over complicate things I will reveal in a practical way what’s of great importance only, so that you will not be forced to remember all the sophisticated terminologies. Nutrition is pretty simple if you keep it that way.

Carbohydrates

Starch, glucose, and fructose are digestible and transformed into energy; the excess is deposited as body fat.

Glycogen is the body’s backup source of fuel used when you train.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that our organism does not digest. Fiber is very important because it has a direct influence over your digestive process. Therefore, if you eat fruits, legumes and veggies on a daily basis, your digestion should be good enough to keep you safe. Fiber can usually be found among foods containing complex carbohydrates: brown rice, beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.

But what will interest you the most is to know how to classify foods containing carbs. This leaves you with two types of carbohydrates:

  • simple carbohydrates
  • complex carbohydrates

The most important ones are complex carbohydrates and thus, they should be eaten first instead of simple carbs which come second.

 Complex CarbsSimple Carbs
FoodsStarchy foods like: bread, cereals,pasta, rice,potatoes, beans, chestnuts, lentils, chickpeas, sweet potatoes etc.
Fruits, Veggies and Legumes.
Sweets of all kind: chocolate, cookies, biscuits, candies, ice-cream, donuts, chips etc.
Also honey, sugars, sodas, brown sugar, coke, fruity juice.

complex carbs and simple carbs

Complex carbs come first because they help ensure a gradual release of energy preventing the glycemia to rise.

Simple carbs on the other hand release a lot of energy over a very short period of time. This triggers the glycemia to rise a lot and in some cases is bad for your health.

READ MORE HERE!

e.g. 1:

Chocolate contains simple carbohydrates hence it is quicker to digest and will release a high amount of energy in the short term. Brown rice contains complex carbohydrates. Digestion and absorption take longer. The energy provided will be released in smaller quantities and over a longer period.

e.g. 2:

Even among starches some of them are a lot easier to digest. For instance, white bread has a higher Glycemic Index than the whole grain bread with cereals. Corn pasta or whole grain pasta have a low Glycemic Index too comparing with cheap wheat-white pastas.

Honey may contain simple carbs but we all know its benefits for our health because it contains a lot of micronutrients too. As an aside, you’re better off choosing honey to boost your energy before a training session instead of sweets and cookies.

The devil will not come after you by choosing to eat sweets on occasion. Here, at Old School Calisthenic, we believe in the principles of moderation and variety when it comes to food choices.

After all, we must live happily and sometimes chocolate for instance will help us be that way. Be smart and choose the sweets with more and better nutritional values. Dark chocolate for instance contains around 85% cocoa and can be eaten as a snack. It is a better choice over another type of chocolate.

How many carbohydrates you should eat on a daily basis is not that relevant because on a macro scale the only important thing is the calorific intake from all the three macros: fats, proteins and carbs.

However, for balanced nutrition you should eat more carbs than proteins and fats in almost each meal with few exceptions.

MACROS ON A PLATE

This dispersion of macros is generally valid for everybody who is not following a strict diet. The quantities of each varies however based upon the energy requirements of the individual, which is related to physical activity, age, sex etc.

For the same reason that we are all different, it doesn’t matter how many meals a day you have and how you split this up as long as it serves your purpose.

Lipids

Lipids are concentrated energy, which our organism uses when the energy coming from carbohydrates is not enough. Of course, the energy is stored as bodyfat when we consume more than we burn in a day.

Lipids are classified in two categories: saturated and unsaturated fats.

Saturated fats can be found in solid state at room temperature and they are represented by the animal fats (butter, fats from milk, fats from meat, cheese). Nevertheless, cocoa and palm oils actually contain saturated fats too.

Unsaturated fats can be found in fish, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, seeds and nuts. They have a liquid form at room temperature. The unsaturated lipids are considered to be good and healthy fats, because they fight bad cholesterol and help reduce its level. They’re also rich in omega fatty acids.

First hand, lipids play an energetic role being placed on top of the other macronutrients, though they do not make you fat necessarily if you respect the thermodynamic law:

More OUT than IN over time = lose weight (vice-versa)

Anyway, do not eliminate them entirely even when dropping in weight is the main goal. Fats actually allow proteins to fulfill their structural goal by not using them as a fuel. To top it all, fats have a role of maintenance over our health in several ways: they help absorb vitamins, create various hormones, keep our hair and skin healthy and much more. A diet which includes cutting all the necessary lipids will harm you in the long term.

My first recommendation is to pick foods containing more unsaturated lipids.

The recommended daily lipid consumption:

Kids (1-3 years old)30-40%
Kids and Teenagers (4-18 years old)25-35%
Adults (over 19 years old)20-35%

The percentages should only be seen as an estimate. Depending on your current weight, lipid intake for a day could drop a bit if the bodyfat percentage is too high.

Proteins

Proteins can be classified in two categories:

  • proteins from animals
  • proteins from vegetables

Based on their quality there exist 3 types of proteins:

  • complete proteins: represented mostly by the ones coming from animal sources, having all the essential amino acids up to an optimal level – eggs, meat, milk, soy (the only complete vegetable protein source)
  • partially complete proteins: they contain all the essential amino acids but with inadequate levels. Hence a twice biggest portion may be necessary to guarantee the optimal level of amino acids (grain, vegetables and legumes)
  • incomplete proteins: they do not contain all the essential amino acids or are present in abnormal levels (corn and collagen).

Based on the previous principle of choosing the complex carbs because they include fiber and other nutrients as well, the same principle applies to proteins. When you choose them, don’t just hurry to grab the complete ones, because they come in a package with saturated fats that you only need in the smallest amount possible.

Choose both of them, coming from animals and vegetables in equal proportions. The best combination is offered by legumes and grains with meat.

veggie proteins with animal proteins

How much should you ingest?

Nutrition is a big player when it comes to getting results in fitness. We train our muscles, we damage the muscle fibers and we need nutrients to build them up stronger and bigger. Along with recovery, nutrition represents at least 50% of the process of body re-composition.

Regarding proteins…

The standard recommendation for athletes regarding daily protein intake is 1 gram per pound of bodyweight or 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. However, I recommend you to build your muscles and strength by aiming to eat more carbohydrates than the recommend protein intake.

For any persons who are uninvolved in fitness activities, you can go based on feeling.

Micronutrients

Micronutrients are present everywhere, especially in fruits, veggies, legumes, cereals, dried fruits, but also meat, eggs and dairy. We can consume as many of the micronutrients we want.

They will never make us get fat. They are indispensable and you should consume them with every meal. Yet, regarding fast food or foods like French fries, sandwiches, sweets, appetizers etc., they contain insufficient micronutrients.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. They are responsible for our general health and we cannot survive without them. We can find vitamins in all kinds of foods. That’s why we need to eat various foods: vegetables and leafy salads or whole-grains and whole food starches or meats of all kind.

Minerals are important for nerve signaling, muscular contraction, and tissue structure. Calcium supports muscle function and transmits nerve impulses. It can be found in yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, and dark leafy greens. Magnesium is involved in protein synthesis, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, and bone formation. It can be found in dairy products, seafood, meat, and fish. Phosphorus is an essential part of living cells and is found in meat, poultry, fish, and plants. Potassium is an electrolyte that is necessary for muscle contraction, nerve impulses, protein synthesis, transferring nutrients through cell membranes and can be found in spinach, potatoes, yogurt, meat, nuts, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. Iron is important in blood proteins and can be found in beef liver, chicken liver, oysters and lean meats. Zinc supports our immune system, helps wounds to heal and cells to divide and grow. Oysters are the most zinc-potent food.

The easiest way to make sure that you get a good amount of vitamins and minerals in your daily food intake is to eat various fruits and plants. You won’t have major vitamin and mineral deficiencies if you eat a balanced and diverse diet.

The nutrition philosophy that we promote here at Old School Calisthenic is one that involves eating nutritious foods that taste good and help grow our muscles and in recovery so that we can maintain the level of athleticism that we have achieved so far. Is as simple as that guys. No fancy diets and protocols. Just a sustainable and healthy way of eating.

Thank you for reading and don’t forget to share it with your friends!

My source of inspiration comes as usual from my friend, Nicoleta. Check her nutrition website: HERE!

In several months we will release our eBook about Sports Nutrition. Subscribe here and get notified about it.

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Author Adorian Moldovan

Adorian Moldovan is the founder of Old School Calisthenic, a site dedicated to helping people achieve aesthetic and strong physique through bodyweight training. His calisthenics programs helped a lot of people transform their bodies. He is also the author of the programme: High-Volume Calisthenics Workouts.

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