Happy New Year ChipWINation! There are two things that are innate to the start of another recognized turn of our giant ball of mostly molten metal about the sun. The first is New Year’s health resolutions, and the second is motherfucking MAGFest. Now, as a reader, you’re probably thinking those two things have almost nothing in common, and frankly, you’d pretty much be right. In fact, after my first trip to MAGFest last year, I’d go so far as to say they’re negatively correlated. See, the key component to getting and staying fit is good nutrition. I’ll get into defining that below the fold, but I’m sure we can all agree you’ll be hard pressed to find it at MAGFest.
That’s okay. Get yourselves to MAG, party your asses off, and then come back to this article. Seriously, its on the Internet now. Its not going anywhere.
Still with me? Awesome! This article is going to be heavy on the study, so why not throw on a little music to help you focus? Hoodie recently got me to play a little game called OneShot. Its soundtrack, by Nightmargin just so happens to have recently released an update to its OST. Its a damned fine puzzler with some damned atmospheric music perfect to throw on when you’re cracking them books.
Now that you’re in full study mode, this article is going to touch on two topics. One, why is nutrition so damn important, and two, how can you figure out what nutrition model is going to work for you?
I’ll begin by addressing the first question. Simply put, all things being equal, what you’re fueling your body with has the biggest effect on how your body is going to run. Don’t just take my word for it. I highly encourage you to check out any/all the resources linked at the bottom of the article and get your learn on. Speaking from my personal experience, while working out like an epic badass (20 hours a week between the gym and martial arts) was amazing for my physical fitness, I didn’t see weight loss results until I started counting calories and taking my diet seriously.
So, that’s great, that’s what worked for VF, how the hell are you supposed to figure out what works for you? A solid starting point is getting a rough idea of just how many calories your body needs to maintain its current weight. Eating more calories than that should result in weight gain, and eating less should result in weight loss. I’ve provided a calculator here to help you get started. Plug in your vital statistics,
Powered by BMR Calculator
I want to stress that this number is just an estimate. A damn good estimate based on a formula derived from a hell of a lot of empirical data and decades of study, but still just an estimate. It takes 3500 calories to make a pound of body weight, so eating 500 calories under or over a day should result in a pound of weight loss or gain a week. In general, the medical community advises staying within a target of 1 – 2 pounds lost or gained a week. Regardless, you’ll need to experiment with your caloric intake in order to find what gets the results you want for you.
So, how can you begin to experiment? By getting equipped with a calorie tracking system, be it old fashioned pen and paper, or software. If you’re going to go with software, my personal favorite system is LoseIt, though MyFitnessPal (which I find to be clunkier) works with many fitness trackers out there.
Once you’re counting your calories, start experimenting with the ratio of calories from carbohydrates, fats, and protein in your diet. I would recommend using the 2010 Guidelines for Americans to find yourself a relatively safe starting point within their recommended ranges:
- 45-65% of daily calories from carbohydrates
- 20-35% of daily calories from fat
- 10-35% of daily calories from protein.
Personally, I shoot for 50% of my calories from carbs, 30% from fat, and 20% from protein. I’m also willing to let those percentages be wobbly, because the sources of those nutrients matter more than trying to reach some sort of oversimplified Platonic goal of nutrition.
Finally, do your best to get your calories from “good” sources. Again, this is really vague and will vary quite a bit depending on your body. However, you can start your exploration based on a few simple guidelines.
For carbohydrates, look for sources that are complex and unprocessed. Whole vegetables and breads and cereals made from whole and unrefined grains with plenty of fiber are examples of complex carbohydrates. Whereas, white flour or sugars added to foods are considered refined and simple carbs.
For fats, get them from mono and polyunsaturated sources and avoid trans fats. To both put that in less scientifically obfuscated terms and continue repeating myself, get your fats from whole and unprocessed foods. Avocados, olives, and fish are great sources of good fats. When it comes to avoiding trans fats, some usual suspects are margarin, shortening, or foods containing them, but you’ll really need to check the label on the container to be certain.
When it comes to protein, look for lean sources. If you eat meat, I’ve heard that chicken is a great (and affordable) source. For vegetarians (like myself) and vegans, I highly recommend trying seitan, provided you don’t have Celiac’s or some other sort of gluten intolerance.
Finally, since I am speaking to the chiptune community. Alcohol is a calorie source, and contains more calories per gram than carbs and protein, but less than fat. Your body won’t use it for much of anything, and it may in fact interfere with burning fat for calories. All that said, just take it into account when counting calories, and consume it in moderation and your diet will be fine.
In closing, everything in this article is just a starting point on what can be a deeply personal bit of self-exploration. I highly encourage everyone to get their learn and experimentation on. Expand your palettes, try some new foods, and just maybe find the foods that help you feel good about yourself, both psychologically and physically, along the way.