In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “great abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.” Hollywood has proven this to be true over and over and over again with many big name actors sporting six pack abs in movies, like Gerard Butler as the Spartan king Leonidas in the movie 300. Of course having a physique like that requires a highly regimented training program, but one of the biggest factors is the diet. The problem is that these days everyone is trying to sell you a diet, and the truth about eating healthy gets lost in all of the marketing. This post will be the first in a series of posts in which we will dive into the science of a healthy diet as well as some things you should consider before you decide on a diet.

                First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room. Counting calories. It’s part of every diet and is generally considered to be the end all be all of dieting. But what is a calorie? Is it as evil as some people would have you believe? The truth is, a calorie is just the unit that is used to measure the energy content of food. To be more specific, it is the energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree Celsius. Therefore, counting calories is counting the amount of energy you consume in order to fuel your body. The reason people count calories is because an excess of calories leads to that energy being stored by the body in the form of fat, however, not consuming enough calories can be just as detrimental as consuming too many calories. But more on that later.

                So now that we’ve addressed the nature of calories, it is important to address the nature of food itself. Food is fuel for the body, and consists of three macronutrients. Each macronutrient contains a certain number of calories per gram and perform a specific function in supplying the needs of the body. These three macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. There is technically a fourth macronutrient, which is alcohol, but alcohol provides no benefit in performance nutrition, so I won’t be covering it in this series. If you have seen anything about diet trends through history, you will notice that they usually try to focus on cutting out one of the macronutrients, usually either carbohydrates or fat. The truth is that each macronutrient serves a vital role in the body, and over the next three posts I will delve deeper into the function of each macronutrient, but for now I will stick with a brief overview. Protein is comprised of amino acids and is primarily used in the body for building and repairing muscle tissue, which is why so many performance nutrition plans are built around protein. One gram of protein contains four calories. Carbohydrates serve as the body’s primary source of fast burning energy, and one gram of carbohydrates contains four calories. Carbohydrates are broken down into two different categories: starch and fiber, with the difference being the manner in which they are digested. Fat is the body’s primary source of slow burning energy. Fat is comprised of glycerol, and there are two types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Fat is much more energy dense than the other macronutrients and contains nine calories per gram, which is part of the reason why people are so careful with fat.

                It is important to understand that when it comes to dieting, you can’t just count calories. If you have a target calorie goal of 2,000 calories in a day and you are focusing just on counting calories, you could eat ten donuts or drink 12 cans of coke in a day and still technically meet your caloric goals. That’s why it is also important to take into account where those calories are coming from. In my next post I will cover protein in detail. It is my hope that through this series I can help you cut through all of the noise surrounding performance nutrition and give you the tools to make informed decisions about what you choose to fuel your body with. As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at josh@nobullfitness.net. We would love to have you join our community and train with us.