Monday, January 24, 2011

Optimizing Your Fuel Intake

How much food do you need to eat every day?
While the question might sound simple, evidence from last week’s article demonstrates that most Americans don’t have the answer.  On the whole, we eat too much.  Too many of our calories come from the wrong places and because we’re not exercising, they get stored as fat.  We’re eating ourselves to death.
This article is going to be a bit math heavy, but I’ll do my best to make it easy and accessible.  The information within this article is going to be the basis on which you’ll build your entire nutritional intake.  These are important numbers you’re going to discover.
First, you’ve got to do a little homework.  It’s really important.  You need to find out your body fat percentage.  If you belong to a gym, one of the personal trainers at your gym can help you obtain this number.  If you are not, many digital bathroom scales are equipped with technology that can instantly determine this value.  You’ll need to program your age and height into the scale.  The whole process takes about 1 minute.  Ask a friend if you can borrow theirs, or go to a department store like Sears and “test” some out.  It’s worthwhile to obtain this information.  Go do it.  I’ll wait.
Now that you’ve figured out your body fat percentage, you’re on your way!  Do not be alarmed by the number if it’s larger than you expected.  It’s just a number.  It’s one piece of a puzzle that creates an overall picture of you.
OK, we’re ready.  The first thing we’re going to do is calculate your Base Metabolic Rate, or BMR.  This number represents the number of calories your body would consume if you decided lay around for 24 hours and do nothing.  I mean nothing.  It’s math heavy, but just bear with me.
Step 1: Convert your bodyweight into kilograms using the following formula:
Bodyweight (in pounds)/2.2 = bodyweight (in kg)
Step 2: Calculate the following equation using your weight in kilograms:
                                Men:                     1.0 x bodyweight (kg) x 24
Women:              0.9 x bodyweight (kg) x 24

Step 3:  Determine your lean factor multiplier based on your body fat percentage.

                Lean factor         Body fat percentage       Multiplier
Men:                     1                              10-14                     1.0
                                2                              14-20                     .95
                                3                              20-28                     .90
                                4                              over 28                 .85

Women:              1                              14-18                     1.0
                                2                              18-28                     .95
                                3                              28-38                     .90
                                4                              over 38                 .85
Step 4:  Multiply the number obtained in Step 2 by the lean factor multiplier to determine your Base Metabolic Rate (BMR).

Step 5:  You’re almost there!  Now, determine your daily activity multiplier.  This number is a factor based on the amount of physical activity you do every day.

                Couch Potato Range
1.30 – Very light: Sitting, studying, talking, little walking or other activities throughout the day.
1.55 – Light: Typing, teaching, lab/shop work, some walking throughout the day
Fitness Buff Range
1.65 – Moderate: Walking, jogging, gardening type job with activities such as cycling, tennis, dancing, skiing, or weight training 1-2 hours per day.
Athlete or Hard Daily Trainer Range
1.80 – Heavy: Heavy manual labor such as digging, tree felling, climbing, with activities such as football, soccer or body building 2-4 hours per day.
2.00 – Very Heavy: A combination of moderate and heavy activity for 8 or more hours per day, plus 2-4 hours of intense training per day

Step 6: Multiply your BMR by your appropriate daily activity multiplier.  This number is your daily caloric expenditure.

BMR x daily activity multiplier = daily caloric expenditure

Good job!  That’s the hardest part, but it’s the most important piece of information you need to build nutritional program based on you and what you need every day.
Before we move on, take a look at this number.  This number is equivalent to filling up your car at a gas station.  Let’s say you have a 13 gallon tank.  If you wanted to increase your fuel efficiency, would you simply fill your car up with 10 gallons of gas and expect to go the same distance as you’d go with a full tank?  That’s ridiculous, right?  Well, consider diets that cut calories.  To increase fuel efficiency of your car, you’d make sure you were using the best grade of fuel, change your oil, and make sure your car’s maintenance was up-to-date.  Based on what you now know about yourself, simply cutting calories means that you’re eliminating the fuel your body needs to “go the distance” every day.  To increase your body’s efficiency at using calories, you’re going to learn how to give yourself the best fuel every day.
OK, a bit more math, and you are DONE!
Take your daily caloric expenditure and divide it by six.
1/6th of your calories should come from fat.
2/6th of your calories should come from protein.
3/6th of your calories should come from carbohydrates.

For example, let’s take someone whose daily caloric expenditure is 2500 calories.  Here’s how his nutritional requirements break down:
2500 calories/6 = 417 calories
417 calories x 1 = 417 calories should come from fat
417 calories x 2 = 833 calories should come from protein
417 calories x 3 = 1250 calories should come from carbohydrates

That’s it.  Pretty simple, right?

The last bits of information you’ll need to continue today’s journey to best health is the number of calories in one gram of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories

So let’s convert our caloric requirements into grams (the number you’ll see on a nutritional label).
417 calories from fat/9 calories = 46 grams of fat per day
833 calories from protein/4 calories = 208 grams of protein per day
1250 calories from carbohydrates/4 calories = 313 grams of carbohydrates per day

So there you go.  Now you’ve laid the groundwork for your daily fuel intake.  These numbers are ballpark figures.  This week, take a look at nutritional labels.  Don’t get obsessed!!!  Try your best to simply be aware of what you’re putting in your body.  You don’t have a thing to rebel against.  If it helps, try to emotionally detach yourself from your fuel in the same way you’re detached from what you put in your car.  Try to get enough of the right stuff.  Calorie charts abound on the internet.  Find one that you like.  Maybe print it out and put it on the fridge.  I’d recommend tracking what you eat for a week, or even a couple of days.  Explore your habits.
I’ve probably exhausted you, so I’ll give it a rest.  Next week, we’ll talk about the best times to eat.  Again, I’ll be posting every night my daily food and activity.  Tonight I’ll also post ALL of my stats, show how many calories I need every day, and in what proportions I need them.  We can all do this together.  Honestly, this is really the hardest part.  Once you do this, you’ve taken a monsterous step in taking control of achieving your best health.
If you have any questions, PLEASE leave a comment or email me at natskedat at gmail dot com.  I will be more than happy to help!  My goal in all of this is to you the tools to achieve your best.
Have a great week!

Hatfield, Fredrick C. Fitness: The Complete Guide. International Sports Sciences Association.  Carpinteria, CA. p.498


Tater said...


Nice article, thanks for the read and the good info. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the GI food Index and the relationship to the bodies Metabolism. Might make an interesting article. Keep up the good work!!

Natalie said...

Thanks Tate! I will definitely do a piece on the glycemic index and the best way to maintain level blood sugar. It's a complex subject, and one I'd be happy to cover. Thanks for reading and commenting.