The past few articles have discussed the food groups and how they can contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle; now we’ll discuss how to properly combine eating and physical activity so that we can learn how to best eat for our lifestyle. For example, a marathon runner will want a lot more carbohydrates than a body builder due to the difference in protein needs for growing muscle versus maximizing glycogen storage for the runner.
The average person should stick to around 30 percent of calories from fats, 15 percent proteins, and 55 percent carbohydrates. Adding in weight lifting creates the need for more protein whereas doing more cardiovascular exercise will bring the need for more carbohydrates. For those that do both cardio and weight training, simply increasing calories is generally needed to maintain good health. Having said that, losing weight is usually the primary goal for most people starting a new exercise regimen, thus maintaining calories would be adequate rather than changing up the percentages of calories from protein, fat, or carbohydrates.
Why do weight lifters need more protein? Most people understand the basics here that when working out muscles they need to recover with more protein intake. A little more in depth response would show that muscle has a turnover rate where every fiber of muscle is broken down and rebuilt, or refreshed, to keep it working properly. Look at this as preventative maintenance just like changing the oil on a car regularly. When someone is getting bigger muscles by lifting weights, they need that extra protein as building blocks.
On the cardiovascular side, people need glucose to do everyday tasks. Exercise utilizes carbohydrates and fat to create energy to continue doing their work. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose, just like a large building can be made of many smaller bricks. Glycogen is broken down in the first 20-30 minutes of exercise to be used as glucose required by muscles. Once fat has been given adequate time and oxygen to get burning and put to use as energy for the body, the body will utilize glycogen less, but never completely stop.
The take away message here should be that fats should be about 30 percent of our diet almost regardless of our type of activities performed on a daily basis…just make sure most of these calories are from healthy fats! Protein is over consumed by the vast majority of the population and only about 15 percent of total calories should be consumed as protein. As a general rule of thumb, one gram of protein should be consumed per one kilogram of body weight. A 220 pound person weighs 100 kilograms, thus needs about 100 grams of protein daily. Carbohydrates are readily available in our everyday diet as described in previous articles, but we also tend to eat too much of these. Consume more carbohydrates only if planning to do more cardiovascular workouts!