Let’s face it- it’s a sh***y word. For many of us, we think about mystery shakes mixed with room temperature tap water, boring salads, dry chicken and broccoli or the hollow feeling in our stomach while we just plain starve ourselves. For that reason, I want to preface this post by saying my use of the term ‘diet’ doesn’t mean any of these things. I simply mean- eating. We do it to survive, it’s one of the most basic of the human functions and it’s something we do every day across the full spectrum of age, race, lifestyle and profession- of course including those of us in construction. It’s for that reason that I’ve chosen ‘diet’ for my first series of posts.
Like all of my posts to come, I’m going to first lay out a bit of ‘theory’ but I’m going to keep it in simple terms and only put forward theories I can validate through my own experience. The reasoning for this is summed up perfectly in the following quote from Nassim Nicholas Taleb;
“We are built to be dupes for theories. But theories come and go; experience stays. Explanations change all the time, and have changed all the time in history with people involved in the incremental development of ideas thinking they always had a definitive theory; experience remains constant.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Antifragile
I’m a firm believer that fitness professionals are no exception to the above (most of them epitomise it). Once I have laid out a bit of technique, I’ll then give you the hints and tips to incorporate this into your average 12 hour day on site; in the office; on the road and the like. Without further ado, today’s theory is to be the first, entry level step towards improving our mindsets about food. I’m calling it: DIET LEVEL 1 In essence, Diet Level 1 is ‘Calories in vs. Calories out‘. There’s no fancy words in this approach, we’ve heard it all before and for those of you that want to keep it as simple as possible but still want to take some action – this is where you can start, the first step up the mountain. We hear the word a lot but for those of you that aren’t all that sure what a ‘calorie’ actually is, my simplified definition is- a unit of heat energy. We both ingest them through what we eat and drink and we expend them through our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the amount we burn by just being alive; plus our level of extra activity across the day. It is important here when looking at the calories contained in the nutritional information of our food and drinks, not to confuse calories with kilojoules which may be listed as ‘kJ’ (see example below). A useful rough conversion if only one of the two are provided is; 4kJ to every 1kcal.
To again sum up this ‘Calories in vs. Calories out‘ approach, we eat a certain amount each day, and as living, breathing people, we burn a certain amount whether we exercise or not. The latter part of this approach is one that so many of my colleagues have never explored, and it is calculating, to some degree of accuracy, the amount of calories we are burning daily. I know the engineers among us love their equations and there are many out there. The calculation I have always used is the Katch-Mcardle Formula to create a realistic goal for my ‘Calories Out’ value. If there is enough questions, I will provide a step-by-step guide post to this calculation but in the meantime, feel free to email me and I can provide you with some help through the process.
This calculation will generate a value for your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and a baseline to start the rest of your approach. At Diet – Level 1, if you eat less than your TDEE, you will lose or at the minimum, maintain your weight at a rate proportionate to the difference between the two. Without getting too technical it is important to note that the above does not guarantee an improvement in body composition and this will be explored further in Level 2 next week. After all of that, here comes the weekly practice for the labourers, engineers, project managers and supervisors out there (even safety advisors :)). You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned anything regarding the types of foods at Level 1, and I’m not going to. Keep them the same. The first step to practicing this approach is to calculate your TDEE using the aforementioned technique and to start to count your calories for at least one day to see how the two compare. For those of you wondering how to count calories- flip over your food and peruse the label using the aforementioned tips for reading the values. Note and record them. If the values are not shown or you are consuming unlabelled products such as meat, fruit, eggs, sandwiches and the like- I swear by the app MyFitnessPal. Here you can search by food type and add it to your daily total, either as individual ingredients or a combination. As always, feel free to contact me regarding the use of this. This counting process does not have to be exact but of course, the more diligent you record everything you consume, combined with an accurate TDEE calculation, the more likely you are to get results. After a while this process will become natural or even subconscious without apps or reading labels at all. Important note to end…. Do I recommend staying at level 1 to reach the heights of health and fitness? No. There’s more levels to come and you can drill as far into the nitty gritty details of nutrition as you like. However for today, and for those of you that just don’t have time or the above is already sounding confusing, stay at Level 1. What my most important message is going to be for my future followers is- this is OK! If Level 1 is what you can manage, taking even the smallest step is orders of magnitude better than doing nothing. Don’t set the pass mark for yourself so high (a concept that will receive its own post). Start small- even aim to count calories one day next week and anything you achieve above this is a bonus. You are not a failure- you are a success for making a start.
To wrap up, our approach going forward for Level 1 is; count your calorie intake- even loosely estimate. Think about increasing your TDEE with some simple exercise, then recalculate when you lose weight. If the results don’t come as you wish, and you’ve caught the bug then it’s time to go to Level 2 (coming next week!).
That’s it for me- I’ll be back next week to Get Constructive!