- What are calories?
- What are macros?
- What are carbs?
- What is fat?
- What is protein?
- What is fiber?
- How low can my carbs be?
- What is Keto?
- What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
- Should I work out fasted?
- What should I eat before I work out?
- What about alcohol?
- Should I limit my salt?
- What should I eat if I’m on the go?
What are calories?
We use calories when we want to track how much energy we are getting from food.
If you are in a calorie deficit, burning more calories than you are consuming, you will lose weight.
If you are in a calorie surplus, that is consuming more energy (food) than you are burning, you will gain weight.
The reality is a little more complex but this is all you need to remember to make a functional diet decision.
What are macros?
Macronutrients, also known as macros, are what food is mostly made of. They are carbs, protein, fats, and fiber.
Micronutrients are all the little stuff like vitamins and minerals.
Balancing your macros is one of the key components of weight loss.
Micronutrients are important, but you usually get enough from eating a wide variety of foods. It’s one of the reasons why having a balanced diet is important.
What are carbs?
Carbs are short for carbohydrates and contain 4 calories per gram (this is important to remember when tracking your food).
Most commonly, people associate carbs with foods like bread, pasta, potatoes, and cereals.
Carbs are also found in fruits, vegetables, and milk products.
Carbs are made up of many sugars stuck together and how fast your body processes them depends on the number of sugars bonded together.
What is Sugar?
Sugar is a carb, but since it’s the building block of carbs people usually put it in its own category called “simple sugars”.
If you live a very active lifestyle, you probably want to eat more carbs (simple or otherwise) than someone who doesn’t move very much.
However, if you eat simple sugars, your body processes them very quickly. It can give you a big spike of energy, but a crash will follow.
These ups and downs make it hard to manage your hunger. When the majority of your carb intake is coming from simple sugars many people find it impossible to keep their calories low enough to lose weight. (See “What is a calorie?” for weight loss formula)
Is fruit bad?
You must eat lots of fruits and vegetables to have a balanced diet. So I never want to discourage anyone from eating either of them because they are almost never the main cause of weight gain.
Fruits do tend to have a lot of sugar, but it is usually balanced with plenty of fiber and water so your body doesn’t digest them as rapidly as processed sugars.
You should take caution when eating large amounts of raw fruits on their own. The fiber and water will help slow the digestion down but without any protein, you’re not really going to get full.
An exception would be if you need a snack in the middle of a physical activity, then fruit is a great choice. Surprisingly, watermelon is one of the foods that keeps you the most full for the least amount of calories – a great choice of snack on a hot summer’s day.
What carbs should I eat?
If you are looking for carbs that DO keep you full for a long time, focus on foods like rice, oatmeal, and potatoes (any kind of potato including yams)
Be careful of products like instant rice, oatmeal, or potatoes. When these foods are processed, they actually turn into something fast acting like sugar. Avoid these if you are trying to stay full.
Don’t forget, if you add butter to your potatoes, that is not a carb and must be tracked as fat.
It can also help to boil or bake your carbs as opposed to frying them in oil (which is also fat).
What is fat?
Fat is a slow burning source of energy that contains 9 calories per gram (it is important to remember that fat is 9 cal/g and carbs are 4cal/g)
Fats are butters and oils like coconut oil or olive oil. Fats are also in meat, eggs, and dairy products.
If your total fat consumption is under control, the type of fat you eat is not something you should worry about.
The only exception is: you should avoid trans fat. These are common in highly processed foods and you should take a pass.
Also, make sure you get enough Omega-3 and Omega-6 because these are known as essential fats that your body can’t produce on its own. Fish is a common source.
Fat is the hardest macro to track because it is the most energy dense.
It is easy – deceptively easy – to turn a tablespoon of fat into a heaping triple tablespoon without even noticing.
Plus, each gram of Fat contains 9 calories — so when you’re looking at a label and you see something has 10g of fat and 10g of carbs. At
What is protein?
Ah yes, every meathead’s favourite macro.
Protein is also the macro that will keep you the most full.
Every meal should revolve around your protein choice. If your meal doesn’t contain a significant amount of protein, it will most likely be digested too fast and result in too much hunger.
What kind of protein should I eat?
The best form of proteins are animal proteins and lean sources are usually the way to go. Chicken breast, flank steak, lean ground beef, fish, etc.
Fattier cuts of meat are ok too, but be careful as it is easy to underestimate the fat content and you could be blowing past your calorie goal.
Also, don’t forget that many meats have sauces and marinades with tons of sugar in them, making them a triple threat food.
If a food has Sugar, Salt, and Fat in one delicious form, it is known as triple threat food.
If you eat these foods without thinking, you will eat way more than you need — every damn time. Without fail.
Your best option is to save your willpower and avoid them.
Should I take a protein supplement?
Protein powders like whey protein are a good option, but they can be hard on people who don’t digest dairy very well.
Plant proteins can be made to work but it is difficult for some stomachs to break down the fiber to use the protein.
Try both and see how you feel.
Protein supplements are great for convenience but don’t forget that they are a supplement and you should get most of your protein from lean meat.
Can I eat too much protein?
It is very hard to eat too much protein.
Like physically hard.
If you are eating lean meat (without a ton of fat), once you reach a certain point, eating more will not be enjoyable.
You might even struggle with eating the minimum amount of protein. However it is worth taking the time to eat it all because it will keep you full and you won’t crave as many carbs and fat.
Remember the weight loss formula? If are eating less calories you than you are burning, you are going to lose weight. Unfortunately, some of that weight might be muscle.
To keep the most amount of muscle it is extremely important to get enough protein.
If you are struggling to eat enough protein, you must make sure your fiber game is on point so your body can process as much as possible.
What is fiber?
Fiber is the dark horse of the macronutrients.
It doesn’t contain any calories so some people dismiss it.
But it might be the most important factor in your digestion.
How much fiber someone needs varies wildly between people and even the same person at different ages.
The question you need to ask yourself is: How is my poop?
Check out this infographic from precision nutrition.
If you choose to use a fiber supplement. Do NOT take it on an empty stomach and make sure to drink plenty of water (probably more than you think you need).
It is also good to get a mixed source of fiber instead of a single one.
Personally I use the Daily Cleanse.
It contains flax seed, psyllium husk, rice bran, inulin fibre from chicory root, as well as a non-dairy probiotic.
The combination of fibers makes it much easier on your stomach.
How low can my carbs be?
As far as your health is concerned, you do not need carbs at all.
However, some of the tastiest foods in the world contain carbs and you should not deprive yourself of awesomeness.
In a balanced plan, you can still eat those amazing foods as long as you control how much you have and you plan out the rest of your day so you have room in your diet.
Carbs are also a major performance enhancer when it comes to exercising. If cutting out carbs causes your workouts to tank, you might want to re-think your strategy.
In short, carbs are great, especially if you are working out hard, but cutting out carbs for a short period of time can help reset your body.
Sugar can rewire your tastes bud.
If fresh fruit doesn’t taste amazing to you, then you and sugar definitely need to go on a break. You might even want to cut out as many carbs as you can.
You should still eat leafy greens and vegetables so you’ll get some trace carbs, but you can safely cut out all sugars and all starchy carbs.
After you have retrained your taste buds to not hate you — you can rebalance your diet and bring back carbs that keep you full (rice, oatmeal, potatoes). Also, they will now taste like heavenly morsels.
Unfortunately, balanced plans don’t work for all people. There are people who can almost gain weight by looking at food.
So if you’re at the end of your rope when it comes to fat loss, cut out the carbs and deal with the fatigue until your body adapts to burning more fat.
It’s an extreme path, but it is 100% healthy and it is the only solution for a lot of people. It’s just really hard to do.
What is Keto?
Keto is short for Ketogenic and it is an extreme version of going low carb.
Important Note: Keto does not help you lose more fat unless you end up eating less calories.
If you try Keto, most of your calories come from fat. It’s totally healthy, but even a tiny carb slip can cause your hunger to come roaring back.
Also, even though fats are a priority on a Keto diet, it is SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT to make sure you’re eating tons of leafy greens, vegetables, and enough fiber.
Do not jump into Keto unless you are an extremely experienced dieter.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Intermittent Fasting just means that you would rather eat all your food in a short period of time vs. spreading it out over your day.
Some people don’t mind being hungry. In fact, some people get a little charge from it. If you like to eat large portions and you don’t really mind being hungry, IF might be the solution for you.
The most common method of IF is to fast for 16 hours (no food, only water/black coffee) and then have 1-3 meals in an 8 hour window.
It is important to note that someone using IF is not eating any more or any less calories than someone with a spread out diet.
The reason why IF works well is that hunger comes in waves. Many people get fooled by the first craving and they end up caving. But if you push through the first couple pangs of hunger, it weirdly becomes easier to deal.
Why do people fast?
Fasting takes practice and after you have gotten your body used to the idea, it can give you a boost of mental energy.
If you have a massive meal right before a mentally taxing challenge — you might want to take a nap, especially if the meal contained carbs.
Eating a big, carb-filled meal is one of the most reliable methods of inducing sleep. This can be horrible for productivity and it can be the start of a vicious cycle > too much afternoon caffeine > can’t sleep at the end of the day > next day’s willpower is shot and you end up eating a ton of simple sugars > get sleepy > take caffeine > repeat for decades.
So fasting for your work day is a great choice for some people. Plus, if you’re really busy you don’t have to worry about finding time to eat.
Intermittent Fasting can also make it much easier to track your food. You only have to worry about a couple meals and not try to remember the random snack you had in the middle of the day.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is not magic
Don’t be fooled by the IF hype and think you don’t need to track your food. Even if you only eat once a day, there are some dedicated food lovers that can easily eat more than
This is the main danger of doing IF — starving yourself all day and then going nuts on junk food as soon as you get home. Not a good idea.
Note: Intermittent fasting is NOT NECESSARY. If this all sounds like a nightmare and you want to choke someone out if you miss a meal — then feel free to avoid IF like the plague. For our sake and yours.
Should I work out fasted?
Maybe. Give it a shot.
There is no real fat loss benefit to working out fasted and your workouts probably won’t be as productive.
But many people who are IF or low-carb veterans enjoy working out fasted.
If you have recently switched to IF or low carb then working out fasted can be a good way to kickstart your body into burning fat.
But take it easy and realize you won’t be hitting any records in the short-run.
Working out fasted can also temporarily blunt hunger and help you extend your fast.
Many people work out at the end of their fast because eating before a workout makes them tired and the best time to have a big carb meal is after a workout.
But if you’re not on IF, a general rule to follow is to eat 1-3 hours before your workout. Though it’s quite personal.
It really comes down to testing how your body responds to food and figuring out the best time to eat before a workout.
The great thing about tracking is that you can test something for a while and if it’s not working, you can change it.
What should I eat before I work out?
You want to eat a balanced meal containing protein, carbs, and fat, 1-3 hours before your workout.
If you consume simple carbs on their own 30 minutes or more before you workout, your body will release a huge dump of insulin and you will become sluggish.
If you absolutely NEED food before you work out and you only have simple sugars, make sure to eat them right before your workout. 30 minutes or less.
Exercising will stop your body from going into “digestion mode”, but simple sugars are easily absorbed so your body can start burning them immediately.
Dried dates are the perfect food for this. I get the Medjool Dates from Costco and they are unreal when it comes to taste and energy.
What about alcohol?
Look, I’m not your mom. I’m not going to tell you not to drink.
Is one or two drinks a night a problem? Probably not.
But it’s not helping you lose fat.
Figure out how serious you are and then make a decision.
If you do decide to drink, track the calories as carbs and try to avoid the sugary mixers.
Should I limit my salt?
Salt does not cause chronic high blood pressure.
Salt can temporarily increase your blood pressure, so if you are at risk of a heart attack it can be a trigger.
But if you are a generally healthy person who is actively exercising, eat all the salt you want.
However, be careful because salt can make food tastier which will make you eat more.
But the salt itself is not bad for you and if something doesn’t taste too salty — then it’s not too salty.