Nutrition is a funny thing. For every aspect of nutrition that most people agree on, there are a hundred more that they’ll fight like cats over. One of the most contentious issues is macro-nutrient ratios; the amounts of carbs, fats and proteins that you ingest over the course of the day.
Opinions go all the way to extremes such as advocates of ‘Ketogenic’ diets, where you consume almost no carbohydrate whatsoever and the ‘Zone Diet’ which advocates eating a sensible 40/30/30 ratio, but insisting you meet these numbers at every single feeding. Put bluntly, if you throw a pair of rocks into a room full of nutritionists, your odds of hitting two people with the same opinion is almost zero.
So what should we do? What’s the sensible way to decide what to eat? I prefer to use the research available to provide guidelines. Any particular ‘diet’ or way of eating CAN work, as long as it fits within these guidelines.
We need protein to build and maintain lean tissue. Opinions on what constitutes ‘excessive’ protein consumption vary, but it seems to be fairly challenging to really eat too much. Aim for between 1-2g per pound of body weight, and you will make sure you’re getting enough, without eating so much you give yourself digestive problems!
After years as the enemy, fats have made their way back to general acceptance in the nutrition community! You need approximately 0.3-0.5g of fat per pound of body fat per day. Try to have more of this from ‘good’ fats, such as oily fish and nuts and seeds containing high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. I would also recommend supplementing with fish oil or Omega-3 to be certain you’re getting enough essential fatty acids.
Carbohydrates are no more the enemy than fats! That being said, there is no strict lower limit for how much carbohydrate we need. I would personally shoot for a minimum of 200g of carbohydrate per day and adjust from there.
Making up the difference
Those of you reading this with a calculator may have noticed we only have x calories worth of food there. Here’s the great thing though, as long as you’ve met the minimums above, you can fill the extras up with pretty much anything you want! I’m not saying xoo grams of sugar is a good idea, but within reason, these are yours to play with.
The choice is yours
From here, you have two options. Either select a ‘diet’ from ones that speak to you and let you eat foods you like within the limits set out here, or just eat whatever you want, but, again, make sure you’re within these limits and either just above, pretty spot on, or just below your maintenance calories calories, depending on whether you’re looking to gain, maintain or lose weight. We can argue about ‘optimal’ strategies all day, but as long as you stick to those rules, you can’t be too far wrong!
Pic by: www.flickr.com/photos/rpavich