Fitness and nutrition experts will tell you that diet and nutrition are responsible for 80% of your real fat loss and muscle-building results. However, zeroing in on a diet plan that will suit your individual nutritional needs can be complicated.
In order to simplify the complex nature of how the body builds muscle tissue and stores fat, it is best to gain an understanding of how the primary nutrients influence metabolism and the body’s energy systems.
In order to maximize fat burning and muscle building efforts, several nutritional factors must be considered. This article aims to create an understanding of what calories are, how individual nutrients work within the human body and what biological influences dietary compounds have on muscle building and fat loss.
Calories are a measure of food energy and represent foods based on the amount of fuel they provide to the body to perform critical functions. Excess calories that are not used by the body are stored in fat cells as adipose tissue.
In general, 3500 calories are required for the human body to maintain one pound of body fat. In contrast, in order to lose one pound of body fat, a caloric deficit of 3500 must be achieved.
To accurately calculate the number of calories you burn, you need a high quality device that measures your daily calorie expenditure such as the Fitbit Alta. This is the most trusted, highly accurate, reasonably priced calorie and heart rate monitor on the market. Read over 2,000 positive reviews here.
The three primary nutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fat. Each carries a caloric value and plays a unique role in the body’s maintenance, energy, repair and immune processes. Below is a discussion of each nutrient, its caloric value and the role it plays in the human body.
Protein is a nutrient that carries four calories per gram and is primarily responsible for maintenance and repair of the various cells within the human body. Food sources that provide a significant amount of protein include animal products, dairy, nuts and some vegetation, such as soy.
Ingestion of high quality, protein-dense food and nutritional supplement sources is critical in order to support the synthesis of muscle tissue. When healthy levels of muscle mass are maintained, the body’s metabolism is enhanced and fat loss efforts are facilitated.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel and are most efficiently processed by the body for rapid and sustained energy. Carbohydrates contain four calories per gram and occur in two distinct forms.
The simplest form of carbohydrate is sugar, which causes a rapid rise in blood glucose levels when digested. Glucose in the blood is quickly transported to the brain, vital organs and muscles to be utilized as energy.
Shortly after glucose levels become elevated, the pancreas releases insulin, which causes blood sugar levels to drop. Insulin alters the sugar molecule at the atomic level, reducing its ability to sustain energy, and facilitates the body’s fat storage process.
The primary sources of sugars include pastries, candy, cola drinks, white breads and pastas and some fruits. These foods should be avoided to experience real fat loss.
Starches, also known as complex carbohydrates, provide a steady, sustained source of energy for the body. When these carbohydrates are consumed, they are digested slowly and do not cause a rapid elevation in blood glucose levels.
Therefore, the insulin response is suppressed, allowing the body to efficiently use the glucose as energy for an extended period of time. Complex carbohydrates are found foods like sweet potatoes and grains.
In order to easily draw a distinction between what foods are considered to contain primarily sugars or primarily complex carbohydrates, the glycemic index should be considered.
The glycemic index is a scale that rates how rapidly blood sugars rise in response to consuming certain foods.
Generally, the higher a food ranks on the glycemic index, the more rapidly blood sugar levels rise after its ingestion.
For example, honey ranks very high on the glycemic index due to its high sugar content. In contrast, barley ranks very low on the glycemic index as it primarily contains complex carbohydrates.
When developing a nutrition plan, it is critical to consider where foods fall on the glycemic index. In order to effectively experience real weight loss, foods that rank lower on the scale should be chosen over those that rank higher. The result is a stabilization of blood sugar levels through the day and a less pronounced insulin response.
How Fat Relates to The Glycemic Index
Traditionally, fat has been considered the enemy to fat loss efforts. In reality, dietary fats have less to do with excess body fat accumulation than most people realize. Dietary fat plays a crucial role in sustaining human life.
Many hormones in the body are dependant upon the presence of fat for their production. Fat also provides lubrication of joints, insulation and a source of energy.
Because dietary fat carries nine calories per gram, it is easy to achieve a calorie surplus when large quantities of fatty foods are consumed. Foods that contain a lot of fat include many meat products, full-fat dairy products, oils and some nuts.
While those who are health-conscious and desire to achieve a lean, toned physique should minimize their intake of fried foods, essential fatty acids, or EFAs, should be included in everyone’s diet. EFAs are found in walnuts, flax seeds and many natural oils.
As such, the nutritional value of alcohol needs to be considered when designing a healthy nutrition plan for real fat loss.
Alcohol contains seven calories per gram and is not efficiently used by the body.
As excessive quantities of alcohol enter the digestive system, the body converts alcohol to sugar, which causes a rise in blood glucose levels.
In order to reduce the amount of sugar in the blood, the pancreas releases insulin, which initiates the process of altering the sugar molecule and creating a biological environment that is conducive to the storage of body fat.
In addition to facilitating the body’s fat storing process, alcohol causes certain hormones to be released which have a detrimental effect on fat loss and muscle building efforts.
Estrogen and cortisol levels become elevated during and immediately following the consumption of alcohol beverages.
While small amounts of alcohol have less influence on the release of these hormones, regular over-indulgence can lead to accumulation of body fat around the hips and breasts in both men and women.
Particularly vulnerable is the abdomen, where fat can accumulate in the body cavity, causing the appearance of a bloated, distended belly.
This type of fat, called visceral fat, is caused by high levels of cortisol in the body and is very difficult to eliminate. The term “beer belly” is often used to describe the appearance of the midsection that results from excessive alcohol consumption.
Once careful consideration has been given to the caloric value of the above dietary compounds, their rating on the glycemic index and how hormonal responses can influence real fat loss and muscle building, a sound nutritional plan can be developed. Accurately tracking daily caloric expenditure with the Fitbit Alta will help achieve greater, real fat loss more rapidly. Find your Fitbit Alta here.
While the performance of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training is critical to developing a lean, toned physique, an understanding of how the body processes and uses foods must be achieved.