Thursday, June 09, 2005

Nutrition Methodology

In a May 15 comment, Liz asked me about calories. This is the nutrition post I've been meaning to write since then.

There's one advantage to being 40 lbs overweight. I'm in that happy happy joy joy stage where I can add muscle and lose weight at the same time. Eventually I'll be at the stage where I won't be able to do both simultaneously, and I will have to worry about bulking phases and cutting phases and so on. But for now I don't have to worry my pretty little head about them.

I use the Harris-Benedict formula for women (655 + [9.6 X weight in kg] + [1.8 X height in cm] - [4.7 X age in years])
to calculate my BMR. I then multiply this by an activity factor of 1.55, which represents moderate activity. This tells me that I need to take in around 2300 kcal per day just to stay at my current weight. Since I want to lose a pound each week at most, I subtract 500 kcal from this. So, I need to take in around 1800 calories each day. This means six meals of 300 kcal each, or 5 meals of 360 kcal each. I file all that useful data away in the back of my head.

Do I log calories daily? No. I have the utmost respect for people who do, but it does not work for me. However, if I sense that things are going awry, that I'm starting to eat foods that come out of colourful boxes instead of quality grub (not grubs!), I will log for a day or two, just to get back on track. Similarly, once my progress stalls, and it eventually will, I'll go to a log to identify where adjustments should be made.

Instead, I focus on trying to follow Berardi's habits as closely as possible and to make my kitchen (ok, my third of the shared kitchen of the apartment) resemble this and this as much as possible. I also read the Dietary Displacement articles (part I here, part II here) on a regular basis, to remind me that it's about getting in quality food most of the time rather than freaking out about the occasional slip-ups. To give credit where it's due, I first read all of these articles on the T-Nation site, back in the days that it was still

My biggest challenge is getting in enough food. For example, an omelette made of 2 whole eggs + 4 egg whites + 40g of uncooked oatmeal mixed in clocks in at a measly 332 kcal, and that's a serious volume of food. Alternately, an entire can of oil-packed tuna, drained, is a measly 233 kcal. Add an entire pound of sliced green peppers, and that's only another 80 kcal or so.

I focus on getting in protein. If I get to mid-day and realise I haven't eaten enough carbs, it's easy to grab some fruit or veggies or ww bread, although I am definitely eating way less of the latter and more of the former. Similarly with fat; grab some nuts or drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over whatever I'm eating: done!.

Protein, on the other hand requires a bit more planning. Hard boiled egg whites are not, as of right now, sold on street corners in convenient six-packs. When I started eating cottage cheese I would eat a quarter cup at a time. Now I eat it by the cup. I haven't been eating much meat, because I didn't have a pot to cook it in. I've since acquired a stir-fry pan, and I'm adding chicken breasts and ground beef to my meals. Did I mention that I miss my Foreman Grill? Protein powder is not an option at the moment: first, because I want to eat real food, and second, because the apartment has a kosher kitchen and I'm not aware of a powder that has kosher certification.

I take a multi vitamin and three omega-3 fish oil capsules three or four times per week. It should be a daily thing, but this is one place where I'm not entirely on track yet. It's coming. I am consistent on 3.5-4.5 litres of water each day, and 2-4 cups of green tea per day. This means the 16oz thermal mug and the 1 litre water bottle go pretty much everywhere with me as does the big lunch bag.

I also need to emphasize that none of this happened overnight. I've been fat since at least 1988. I've been reading about nutrition and exercise for a very long time, but it took several different things to move me from being a gatherer of information to a user of information. That's another post entirely.

If I had to sum up how I think about things now, I'd go with my favourite Berardi quote (of course, now that I need it, I can't remember which article I got it from): "Start thinking of food as fuel. You don't stop at the gas station just because you're bored". Now, one way to interpret this quote is just what it says: don't use boredom as an excuse to eat. But I also interpret it another way: my body is a magnificent machine and I will not put low-grade fuel in it.

So this is what I'm doing and what is working for me right now. I'm looking forward to finding out where it all leads.


At 8:20 PM , Anonymous Yael said...

I'm not positive, because I never actually checked this as I do not practice glatt kashrut and labels like vegan and dairy free are good enough for me, but I was a vegan for long enough to know that you can get some very high quality vegan protein powders (I believe the Absolute brand has a range that include soy and "vegetable" (not sure what that entails, probably a blend of soy and rice) varieties) as well as those made with only egg protein. Anyway, those may be good bets if they are certified kosher, and I'd be surprised if they weren't. Sadly, I have no idea whether or not they are available in Israel, as I am a Canadian Jew who remains in Canada.
Hope that helps.

At 4:51 PM , Blogger M@rla said...

Thanks for the links, Mich. Reading Berardi's nutrition articles, I see that I am guilty of the displacement type of dieting - if I want to have a treat, I remove a healthy food from the meal so as to have calories left for the treat. Not a good idea!


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