Why ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ Might Not be for You

For those of you who don’t know flexible dieting or IIFYM (If it fits your macros) is the process of tracking your calories & macro nutrient intake (protein, carbohydrates and fats). This method of ‘dieting’ is really popular as it isn’t necessarily a dieting method it is more of a lifestyle. This eating method allows you to be flexible in the things you eat every day, so you can technically eat whatever you want once it is inside these macro nutrient goals, it requires weighing out and tracking the calories and the nutritional composition of nearly everything that passes your lips. It is serious dedication and does take time but it means you don’t have to totally cut out your favourite ‘junk’ food, making it more sustainable.

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In the past few months I have stopped tracking my macros and calories. I have started just trying to fuel my body with the freshest and most wholesome food possible. I am listening to my body in regards to how much food I need and when. This method is similar to what some people call ‘Intuitive Eating’, which is listening to hunger and fullness cues.

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So, in this post I am going to talk about my experience with both ‘flexible dieting/IIFYM’ and ‘Intuitive eating’. My opinion obviously isn’t gospel. I just want to share my experiences with the two different methods. I hope this post can give you some insight into what might work best for you, because after all, everyone is different.

Pros of Flexible Dieting

I tracked my macros for close to 2 years pretty consistently. Although I don’t do it anymore I think it was a great experience for me and helped me learn a lot about food composition and how different mixes of macronutrients and calories effected my body. It also helped me to understand the things people generally deem as ‘healthy’ weren’t necessarily as healthy as I thought they were. So I do believe that everyone should track their food for at least a month, even if you have no weight loss or gain goals. I just think it will give you a much better perspective on what you are putting into your body.

Cons of Flexible Dieting

During my time using the flexible dieting method I learnt a lot and I think it was great for me starting off. As time went on this approach made me obsessed with food. I was always trying to ‘fit things’ in. Everyday I would be like ‘Okay, what can/will I be eating next?’. This obsession had me  eating for the sake of hitting my calorie & macronutrient goal when sometimes I really didn’t need or want the extra food. Another problem that can, and did happen with me with flexible dieting is the ‘all or nothing’ mentality. I am a perfectionist and if I let myself have one thing that didn’t ‘fit’ into my macros I would treat the day as a write off and go on a huge binge – which was not healthy.

Pros of ‘Intuitive Eating’

Recently I have started ‘clean eating’ or ‘intuitive eating’. With this ‘method’ I am trying to listen to my body. I am only eating  when I am hungry, and in each meal I try to make sure I am using the Precision Nutrition Principles outlined in Nutrition: Back to Basics.  I try to include a portion of protein, carbs, fats and veg in every meal. This way there is less to plan, less to weigh and less to stress about. I am taking every meal as it comes and just trying to fill my body with the freshest and most natural food as possible.

Cons of ‘Intuitive Eating’

The cons that come with Intuitive eating include over eating. With no ‘limits’ on when to stop it can be hard to judge. Another issue is that all of the ‘superfoods’ are generally quite high in calories. So a healthy choice sometimes works out as a higher calorie choice, and although intuitive eating is moving away from the strict calorie counting, at the end of the day to lose body fat you need to be in a calorific deficit (burning more calories then you are consuming).

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So to conclude I am really happy with my move from flexible dieting to intuitive eating as I am definitely eating food for health rather than eating as a slave to my fitness pal or other calorie counting apps. I believe my experience counting calories makes intuitive eating more successful for me because although I am mainly concerned about filling my body with the best food, I also am aware that even the best foods have calories in them.

I hope you found this post interesting or helpful. If you know someone who would enjoy it be sure to share it with them. If you are not already subscribed to my email list you can do so down below.

The Girl on the Go xx

Decoding Nutrition Labels

Are you following my Nutrition: Back to Basics but don’t know how to tell what is in your favourite snacks? Don’t worry, I was the same. I always found myself looking at the back of packets in the supermarket and nodding as though I knew what was going on, but really I didn’t have a clue what to be looking for. For anyone who can relate, this article is for you. Hopefully, I will be able to clear some things up and give you a basic understanding of what to look for.

I would recommend reading my article Nutrition: Back to Basics before reading this post. I will be referring to it a lot and will give you a good basis of what to do with the information in this post.

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 16.10.471) Size of the serving 

2) How many servings per container 

Many people believe that the nutritional information on the back of the packet represents the whole packet. In some cases it does, but not always. It is a crucial mistake to make. You could eat a full packet of crisps and think it was only 200 calories but really it was 200 calories for 7 crisps. Same goes for the nutrients listed. The information is all per serving. So be careful.

3) Calories: Can be related to ‘energy’ in my Nutrition: Back to Basics article. Remember, its calories per serving. Not always for the full packet!

4) Fat: In my basic nutrition article I talk about Precision Nutrition’s hand sized guide. They outline how per meal you should aim to have the ‘top of your thumb’ of fat.

5) Sodium: Try to keep to highly salted foods to a minimum. High sodium meals can in some cases cause the body to retain fluid in the form of a ‘bloat’.

According to the NHS:

  • A high amount of salt is 1.5g per 100g
  • A low amount of salt is 0.3g per 100g

6) Carbohydrates: In my basic nutrition article I talk about Precision Nutrition’s hand sized guide. They outline how per meal you should aim to have the size of a cupped hand of carbohydrates.

Sugars: A classified carbohydrate,  which can be found in foods in its natural form and in the form of artificial sweeteners.

According to Diabetes Ireland:

  • More than 15g per 100g is considered high
  • Less than 5g per 100g is considered low

7) Protein: In my basic nutrition article I talk about Precision Nutrition’s hand sized guide. They outline how you should aim to have the ‘size of your palm’ of protein per meal.

8) Bottom section and Percentages: I ignore these sections as like I mentioned in my other article everyone has different energy and macronutrient needs based on height, age, weight, and activity level. While the recommended daily intake can be somewhat useful I believe that when it comes to nutrition there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’. Everyone will have different needs. The guidelines given at the bottom of the nutrition label are the recommended daily amounts for all men and all women and the percentages are the percentages of each nutrient per single serving in terms of the daily recommended amount. I wouldn’t treat them as gospel but it is something to consider.

There are a lot of other things that can be considered when examining nutrition labels, but I am hoping that this article along with Nutrition: Back to Basics will be able to give you the basics on how to decode the label and what to do with the information you have decoded.

If you liked this article or found it helpful give it a like and don’t forget to subscribe to emails – if you have subscribed and aren’t receiving emails check your junk mail or you may have to confirm your subscription through this link.

The Girl on the Go xx

 

Nutrition: Back to Basics

A lot of people starting off dieting or changing their lifestyle are looking for a quick fix, and I was too. Google searching ‘7 Belly burning foods’ will do nothing to help your health and body recomposition efforts, in fact it will probably do the exact opposite. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there are no quick fixes or magic weight loss foods. Losing weight and changing your body composition takes time, dedication and  a willingness to learn. In my opinion, one of the main factors driving the obesity epidemic is lack of education and the public being given misleading information from companies trying to sell you a product. In this post I want to lay out a few basic nutrition principles that I have come to learn over the years which I wish I knew when starting off my health and fitness journey that hopefully will be able to help you too.

  1. Energy in vs. Energy out

A very simple concept that a lot of people tend to over look is energy in vs. energy out. In simple terms think of food as energy. On days that you are doing a lot off activity your body will use more energy than on the days that you are doing less activity. To maintain body weight you must be expending the same amount of energy as you are consuming, to lose weight you must be expending more energy then you are consuming, and yes, you’ve guessed it, to put on weight you must be consuming more than you are expending.

It might seem obvious but being aware of this simple concept and trying to consider it on a day to day basis should make you a lot more mindful about how much you are, and need to consume.

Let’s look at a real example that might make this more clear. If you know you are going out for pizza and drinks tonight while trying to lose a bit of weight (need to expend more than consume), what do you have to do to achieve or come close to achieving your negative energy balance?

You have two options;

  • Get some extra exercise in to expend the energy you will be consuming later on in the day
  • or you can make better food choices, reducing the amount of energy you would usually take in earlier on in that day to account for the pizza and drinks (yes, alcohol contains energy/calories.

I personally like to do a bit of both. I will make sure that I get a good workout in that day, as well as making better food choices. For example, I try to eat more protein as it is keeps you fuller for longer. I will touch on protein a bit more in the next point.

2. Macro nutrients

There are three main nutrients. These are carbohydrates, fats and protein and they are known as macronutrients. Every food has a different macronutrient composition. Here are some examples to show you (these values may vary slightly due to a lot of factors):

Chicken Breast

Protein: 23g

Carbohydrates: 0g

Fat: 1.2g

Apple

Protein: 0.3g

Carbohydrates: 14.6g

Fat: 0.2g

Slice of bread

Protein: 2.7g

Carbohydrates: 10.6g

Fat: 0.4g

Tablespoon peanut butter 

Protein: 8g

Carbohydrates: 7g

Fat:  15g

1 slice of Large Pepperoni Dominoes Pizza

Protein: 12g

Carbohydrates: 34g

Fat: 12.5g

Everyone has different macro nutrient requirements based on their weight, height, age, body composition, goals and activity. Being aware of macronutrients and what the foods you are consuming are made of up of will help you to make better decisions when trying to eat ‘healthier’. I try to make sure that most of my meals include all of the macro nutrient food groups. I will talk about portion sizes and rough proportions in point number 4.

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Homemade protein shake

3. Micronutrients 

While most of the health and fitness industry are obsessed with macronutrients, micronutrients shouldn’t be overlooked. A lot of people forget that if they aren’t supplying their body with the correct micronutrients, all of the macronutrients you are working so hard to have on point won’t be able to be utilised effectively.

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Micronutrients are the nutrients that will help to keep your insides healthy, happy and your systems working at full capacity. Where do you get micronutrients from? Fruit and vegetables. Only recently have I realised the true importance of getting my micronutrients in. I am always sick and hate knowing that every few weeks I will have to drop everything and stay in bed. I have been making a very conscious effort to try and eat one big portion of veggies in with every meal, and honestly I think it has helped my immune system. I haven’t been getting sick as often and when I do, it doesn’t feel half as bad as before.

Portions

Now that you have an idea about energy balance, macronutrients and micronutrients, let’s talk about portions. Like I previously mentioned, everyone will have different needs based on age, height, weight and nutrition goal. One thing you can consider that will give you a rough estimate of how much you should be eating of each food group is splitting up your plate, seen in the below illustration. Disclaimer: this is just a rough idea and is what I personally try to follow.

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Protein = Chicken. Carbs = Sweet Potatoes. Veggies = Peppers & Broccoli. Fat = Coconut Oil which the sweet potatoes were cooked in

 

Another good thing to consider is Precision Nutrition’s hand guides:

Your palm determines your protein portions

Your fist determines your veggie portions

Your (single) cupped hand determines your carb portions

Your thumb determines your fat portions

So a good example of a meal based on these principles would be:

Omelette

  • Veggies: Big portion of a range of veg
  • Protein: Egg whites
  • Carbs: Slice of toast
  • Fats: Butter on toast
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Well balanced meal for any time of the day

I don’t believe in cutting out full nutrient groups, eliminating or reducing carbs seems to be a popular trend among ‘dieters’. As you probably know if you are reading this, diets don’t last. This information is here to give you some tools that will hopefully help to change your habits and overall lifestyle. If you are looking for a 1 week diet to lose weight before your holiday that you are guaranteed to put straight back on you won’t get that information here. Sorry. I am interested in helping the people that want to change their life and who are willing to trust the process. I am no expert but if anyone has any questions feel free to get in contact and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.

I hope you were able to take away at least one helpful point from this post. Thanks for reading and see you in the next one.

The Girl on the Go xx

 

 

 

 

 

Protein Powder – Myth Busting

I get a lot of questions especially from girls about protein powder and why I take it. I remember when I first started taking it, I never wanted to take it in public because I didn’t want to have to justify myself to anyone as to why I was taking it. It seems to be this thing that everyone that doesn’t know anything about it has an opinion on it. So I am here to set some things straight. Hopefully this article will be able to give you some evidence based answers on some of the common questions and set some ‘myths’ straight – so next time someone questions you, you can hit them with the #EvidenceBased.

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Let’s get some facts on the table first

Protein is one of three macronutrients, the other two being fats and carbohydrates. Everyone has different macronutrient requirements based on their height, weight and goals. Protein, carbs and fats are the main nutrients that make up the food we all consume on a day to day basis. So if you are getting your carbohydrates from pasta or fruit, fats from peanut butter or avocados and protein from chicken or protein powder. In simple terms, your body isn’t going to know the difference between foods with similar nutritional makeup.

Chicken Breast Nutritional Breakdown (100g):

Calories:  110

Carbs:      0g

Fats:         1.2g

Protein:     23g

1 Serving of Protein powder (the brand I use):

Calories:   98

Carbs:      1.9g

Fats:         1.9g

Protein:     18g

So not exactly the same but you can see the pattern. Both chicken breasts and protein powder have similar nutritional makeup.

Now let’s address the Myths:

Protein Powder makes you ‘Manly’:

Although our bodies are extremely smart, they aren’t able to differentiate a chicken breast from protein powder, even though they both have similar macronutrient makeup.  For example, my body is not going to say,‘  “Right, this is protein powder not chicken so I am going to grow Amy a beard”. I never really understood the whole ‘protein powder makes you manly’ myth, but hopefully that has cleared things up for you guys.

Protein powder makes you ‘bulky’:

I understand why people might think protein powder makes you ‘bulky’. It’s not uncommon to hear hear those ‘broscience’ guys (the industry’s term for people who think they know everything, with little scientific knowledge on the subject) talking about having to take their shakes so they can get ‘huge’. And they are right in some ways, when we work out our muscle fibres become damaged, and after our workout they have to repair themselves. Protein is needed to stimulate the growth and repair process. This is where the protein and ‘becoming bulky’ overlap, but correlation does not mean causation. For both males and females, becoming ‘bulky’ is not easy. It requires years of intense training and a certain diet based on their goals. To become ‘bulky’, you have to be eating above maintenance (more food then your body needs) and be kicking ass in the gym everyday, but even when you are doing those two things it doesn’t happen overnight. Quite the contrary. It takes months to build muscle that you will notice, let alone get ‘bulky’. Not to mention the hormones that come into play, women just don’t have enough testosterone and other male hormones in their body to get ‘bulky’ without being on some kind of substance geared towards making them more bulky.

Whey protein can damage the liver & kidneys

According to Examine.com (an excellent scientific-based source for all things health) whey protein (the most common protein powder) does not harm the liver of kidneys. However, people with existing liver or kidney problems shouldn’t increase protein intake without speaking to their doctor first. But for the average Joe’s with perfectly functioning kidneys and livers, we should be good.

So why am I using protein powder?

I find that protein powder is very useful for helping me to hit my daily protein goals. Some days I will get enough protein from my main meals, and other days I won’t. This is when protein powder can be so useful.  A shake is a great snack, it is portable, filling and tastes damn good! I do like to get my macronutrients from whole, minimally processed food where possible, but from a convenience point of view you can’t fault it. Id much rather reach my protein goal from protein powder, than not reach it at all.

I hope you guys found this post useful and that it was able to clear up some questions or concerns anyone had about protein powder. Any additional questions feel free to comment and I will try answer to the best of the ability. Don’t forget to follow my page. See you in the next post!

The Girl on the Go xx

 

6 Healthy Habits to aid Weight Loss

Trying to shift a few pounds before bikini season? Here are a few simple tips you can easily incorporate into your day-to-day life on top of your training/exercise program to help you feel fabulous on the beach this summer.

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Reusable VS water bottle

1. Stay Hydrated – Aim to drink around 2-3 litres of water a day. A lot of people confuse hunger and thirst. If you are starting to feel hungry, drink some water and see if you are still hungry 15 minutes later. Not only does it help to keep everything moving through you, it also helps to keep your skin clear. I try to carry around a water bottle with me everywhere I go. If you don’t like drinking lots of water on it’s own you can add some cut up strawberries or lemon for some extra taste (also looks pretty).

 

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Cycling around Amsterdam

2. Increase your NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) – Okay, I know that sounds confusing, but it is simple. Your NEAT is the energy you expend doing your day-to-day activities not including sleeping, eating or working out. For example, easy ways to increase your NEAT include: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, carrying a basket in the grocery store rather than using a trolley or even if you are watching tv get up and walk around during every ad break.

3. Write down everything you eat in a day – This one has a huge impact on me. My mum gets these salted crackers from Lidl that are AMAZING, and before I know if I have eaten half the packet. When I  write down what I eat it makes me think again about what I am putting in my mouth. ‘How is 47 salted crackers going to look on paper?’ – NOT GOOD, so it is easier to stay in control when you are recording it.

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Pure Kitchen – The freshest food in Ottawa, see review at Ottawa Series – Pure Kitchen

4. Avoid highly processed food – Not only are these foods not great for you, they also cause you to retain water in the form of a bloat due to their high salt and high sugar content. Bloating isn’t something to be worried about in the long term, I just find it more motivating waking up in the morning feeling like I am making progress rather than with a big water belly.

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Strawberries in the San Francisco food market – Pier 39

 

5. Get your 5-a-day – The simple advice is usually the best. If you are consciously trying to achieve this little goal every day your diet will become a lot cleaner.

6. Eat Mindfully – Enjoy every bite and chew slowly. Eating with distractions tends to make people overeat so try and avoid eating your dinner in front of the television. Another point to consider is that it can take a while for your brain to realise that you are full, so if you still feel hungry after a meal give yourself sometime before you dive into the snacks.

A good way to adopt these habits is to have a checklist and tick off completing each one every day for a month. Normally after doing something everyday for a month it becomes a habit, so before you know it these will all be second nature.

Interested in more on health and fitness? Check out my other posts 5 Ways to Make Getting Fit Easier10 Step Guide to #FitSpo Dining and How to Stay Healthy Whilst Traveling.

Don’t forget to sign up for email updates at the bottom of the page. Thanks for visiting and hope to see you again soon!

The Girl on the Go xx