Nutrition 101

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Lesson 1: Energy Balance


Energy balance is the relationship between the food you eat (calorie intake) and your body's energy needs (energy expenditure). Your body needs energy to perform all vital functions, like keeping your heart beating and lungs working. Your body also needs energy to support activity. Activity refers to movement. There is normal daily activity such as walking around, working, brushing your teeth, and actively using your brain for thinking functions. Emotions can sometimes use up quite a lot of energy as well. 

  • A positive energy balance occurs when food intake is greater than energy needs. 
  • A neutral energy balance occurs when food intake matches energy needs.
  • A negative energy balance occurs when food intake is less than energy needs. 

Energy expenditure is not just about what you eat and how much you exercise. Total energy expenditure includes:

  • Digestive and absorptive efficiency (how well you use nutrients and calories and how well you can eliminate waste)
  • Actual calorie/nutrient contact of food (labels can be off by 25% in some cases due to measurement error/human error)
  • Non-exercise activity (normal daily activity like walking around, household chores, etc)
  • Purposeful exercise (running, biking, group fitness, etc)
  • Sleep
  • Vitamin/mineral availability for metabolic processes.
  • Stress
  • Inflammation

To lose body fat you must establish a negative energy balance. Energy expenditure must be greater than consumption. All of the factors listed above will affect your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). If you are stressed, not sleeping, eating too much of the wrong foods, have a vitamin deficiency, have chronic inflammation, etc it doesn't matter how little you eat your body is not going to function properly. Conversely, if you are trying to put on muscle you will need to establish a positive energy balance. You must consume more calories than your body needs to promote an environment for muscle growth.

In order to reach your goals you must first have a healthy body that functions properly. This may mean that you need to focus on getting quality sleep, correcting nutrient/vitamin deficiencies, de-stressing, and reducing inflammation before you can change your body composition.

If you are interested in finding out how to restore health, function, lose fat, or gain muscle (or both) come in to the gym and talk to me. Nutrition coaching is included in all memberships. We also offer a separate Nutrition Coaching program for those unable to join us at the gym.