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September 15th, 2004

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09:16 am - Dietician Day: The Answers

She looked at my Fitday journals for the last few weeks, and said I appeared to be doing fine, although she said I should really TRY very HARD to have at least one serving of an actual fruit or vegetable each day. I think you're technically supposed to have -- what -- 2 - 4 servings?, but she said to start small and try for one. :-)

I now have a fridge drawer full of tangerines, oranges, and nectarines. ~sigh~

She said that Apple-flavored soy protein shake does not count as a serving of fruit.

Oh, and this wasn't on the list of questions, but for the ladies, I found out that your metabolism increases around and during those monthly visits from Aunt Flo, so if you get the chocolate munchies, go with it. :-)

And, here are the questions and the answers:

As long as you're getting enough carbs/protein/fat and enough vitamins and enough calories in a day, does it really matter where you get them from? (E.g. carbs from doughnuts, protein from ice cream. :-))

Yes, it does matter. You can take Vitamin C, for example, but there are other chemicals in, say, an orange or tangerine that are good for your health. On the whole, it is really better for you to eat a balanced diet of actual foods (meats, grains, dairy, fruits, vegetables) than it is to get your protein from a protein shake, your vitamins from a multivitamin, etc. Protein shakes and vitamins are supplements, meaning, they should supplement a slightly less than balanced diet, not fill in for your whole diet.

On the other hand, if your choice is between not getting enough carbs/protein/fat/vitamins AT ALL and getting all your protein from ice cream, your carbs from doughnuts, your fat from half a bottle of flaxseed oil, and your vitamins from a multivitamin, that is moderately better than starving or not getting your nutrient requirements at all.

Note that I said, it's moderately better. Still no excuse for not eating a balanced diet. Dammit.

Should you eat several small meals, or a couple of big ones, and does it really matter?

Ready for this one? It doesn't really matter.

Actually, that's not true: it matters, but is completely dependent upon the individual. If you start to have symptoms of low blood sugar (lack of energy, headache, that kind of thing) every couple of hours, you should probably eat every couple of hours. Each person needs to listen to their own body's signals regarding when the body needs fuel. Some people don't really need to eat more than a couple of times a day. Depending on what they eat, they may have enough fuel to go on just fine. Other people may need to eat every hour.

Everyone's metabolism and fuel intake needs are different: there is no "One True Way" that fits for all people.

What is a good eating plan (carbs/protein balance) for X workout schedule? (In other words, how long before/after a workout to eat, and what?)

In general, you should eat a balanced diet with more calories than you need if you want to gain weight, and fewer calories than you need if you want to lose weight. She said that 30% of calories from fat, 30% from protein, and 40% from carbs is reasonably balanced, although a little low on the carb side. So, if you're eating 3,000 calories a day, you need to up your protein to a level higher than if you were eating 2,000 calories a day.

She recommends having 15 - 30 grams of carbs 1 - 2 hours before a workout, but people's digestive systems differ, so this is something each person needs to work with. If you're really exhausted and lagging in your workout and can't wait to get done, you probably haven't had enough carbs. If you're really energized after the first couple of minutes, you're probably okay. Again, it has a lot to do with getting to know your own body's needs and signals, rather than a hard-core number.

Surprisingly, she also says that you should have carbs around 2 hours after a workout as well. There's a common perception in the bodybuilding field that you need to have protein right after a workout: she says that's a myth. I thought that was interesting.

To gain muscle bulk without adding fat, what's the best thing(s) to eat?

The exact same balanced diet you would use to lose weight or maintain weight, but more of it. You'll always tend to gain at least a little fat along with the muscle, but if you're doing heavy weight lifting, you need those extra calories to gain muscle mass.

How many calories should I be eating in a day to maintain my weight?

She said I was pretty much right in line with my Fitday numbers. In other words, between 1500 and 1700 calories a day.


If anyone would like to know an approximation of their basal metabolic rate, Fitday's estimates are not too bad, but you can't take it down to +/-3 calories or anything. The best thing to do is have a BodyGem test done, next best thing is maybe an average of the Harris-Benedict equation and the "Fat-free mass formula" (RMR = 1.3 * Fat Free Mass (in kg) * 24) if you know your body fat percentage. This page from BodyBuilding.com calculates your RMR using several methods, and tells you the average. The Fat-Free mass formula has been the closest to the BodyGem results FOR ME. Your mileage may vary. If you scroll down a bit more on that page, there's also an approximation of how many calories over and above that you need for your lifestyle, what kind of work you do, etc.

WTF is this stupid Fitday "lifestyle" number based on, and choosing "bed bound," should I put in 8 hours of typing in the activities section to keep more accurate account of my caloric needs?

The Fitday "lifestyle" number is pretty much based on the Harris-Benedict equations. She actually said that the "sedentary/bed-bound" number seemed to be more or less appropriate to my work life, and that I could put in 8 hours of typing a day as extra activity, but that would probably skew the numbers.


Is that 3500 calories per pound thing for gaining muscle as well as losing fat?

Actually, no. A pound of fat is 3500 calories, plus or minus. In other words, you need to eat 3500 extra calories to gain a pound of fat, and 3500 fewer calories to lose a pound of fat. To gain a pound of muscle, it's about 2400 extra calories. Say, 300 extra calories a day with at least one hour a day total workout, including both cardio and weights, to gain a pound of muscle in a week.

Again, there's no set number, unfortunately. People's bodies react differently, but that's sort of a guideline.

Do you need more vitamins on an over 2000-calorie a day diet? (I know zoot answered this, but I'm interested in what her opinion might be too.)

Nope! The RDA/RDI/whatever you call the recommendation for various vitamins nowadays is based on what will meet the needs of like 98% of all adults. Take that multivitamin, and you're probably stoked except for calcium and a few other things.

So why do they all say "Based on a 2000 calorie a day diet?"

The way she explained it to me is this: If you eat 2,000 calories a day, AND you are eating those 2,000 calories out of the "food pyramid" or whatever (X servings of this, Y servings of that, dairy, breads, fruits, veggies, meats, yadda yadda) then you'll likely end up getting 100% of your daily recommended vitamins and minerals and so forth automatically. So, it's not so much "if you eat 2000 calories, you need X vitamins," as it is "if you eat 2000 calories in the right way, with the right foods, you'll GET X vitamins."

Questions about target heart rate and MET level, like, if you're at 85% of your maximum heart rate, can you call it "jogging" (referring to the intensity level and how many calories you burn doing it) even if you're just walking really fast? :-) If one guy is at 85% of MHR while jogging at 8mph, but I'm at 85% of MHR while walking at 4mph, are we exercising at the same intensity/burning the same number of calories, etc?

The short answer is that if two people are doing the same exercise at the same level for the same time, and those two people are the same height/weight/gender/age/what have you, it's going to end up being around the same number of calories for both, EVEN if one person is really out of shape and half killing themselves and the other person is a professional marathoner. The reason for this is that the marathoner, while not having their heart rate up as high as the out-of-shape person, and not exercising at the same "intensity", still has more muscle mass than the out-of-shape person and so will burn more calories at a lower intensity. These factors tend to even things out.

She also said that it's hard to definitively categorize intensity just based on heart rate, but in general, if you can hold a more or less normal conversation, you're probably at a light-to-moderate intensity. If you can only hold a conversation a word at a time with several breaths in between, that's probably a "vigorous" intensity. Based on this, and the MET levels, you can get an idea of how many calories you're burning at that level of exercise.

How much calcium do I need? (RDA says 1200, other places say 1500 ... )

She said that for most women my age, 1200 a day is just fine. 1500 is no big deal, but that you shouldn't try to go higher than that. Some people taking 2000+ mg of calcium a day have problems, because calcium at high levels can bond to other needed vitamins or nutrients or something and cause you issues. She recommended that I get a baseline bone density scan done, and if it's low, then maybe consider going up to 1500. For most people, though, if they're not at risk for early osteoporosis, the RDA is fine.

Is it true that you burn fat for energy after exercising for over 30 minutes, but not until then?

Pretty much, yes, except that she thinks it's probably closer to 20-25 minutes. Basically, what happens is that your muscles have a certain amount of fuel available to them at any one time. This fuel comes from chemicals that hang out in your muscles, and your liver, and food in your intestines, and all over the place. It takes about 20 - 25 minutes or more of using your muscles before your muscles need to find another source of fuel, and that's when it starts burning your fat stores.

So, the good news is, any calories burned in exercise over 25 minutes or so are coming right out of your fat.

The bad news is, you have to exercise over 25 minutes just to get there. :-)

Also, in case someone asks, it doesn't make much difference if you exercise first thing in the morning before you eat, or at the end of the day after eating. It's still going to take you around 20 minutes to get into fat-burning mode.

(11 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 15th, 2004 10:49 am (UTC)
* falls over *
[User Picture]
Date:September 15th, 2004 11:50 am (UTC)
so basically, you didnt learn anything new.
[User Picture]
Date:September 15th, 2004 12:03 pm (UTC)

I did learn that the "protein right after a workout" was kind of bunk and that it doesn't much matter when you work out.

Other than that, I just learned I was mostly right.
[User Picture]
Date:September 15th, 2004 12:50 pm (UTC)
Love, I've known that you're mostly right for years now.

* smooochies *
[User Picture]
Date:September 15th, 2004 12:34 pm (UTC)
grr at that last one.. that just sucks! feh!
[User Picture]
Date:September 16th, 2004 02:12 pm (UTC)
Heh. I know, but that doesn't mean that you don't burn fat if you don't exercise that long. It just means that if you exercise that long, you are burning fat DIRECTLY after 20 - 30 minutes.

If you eat fewer calories than you use, then you will also burn fat a little bit at a time throughout the day. However, your body will also tend to burn your muscle tissue as well, especially if you eat too little. If you just decrease calories and don't exercise, then you'll lose muscle, lower your metabolism, and tend to gain the weight back. That 10 minutes of exercise might only burn like 50 calories, but over two months, that's a pound. Plus, increasing muscle mass raises your metabolism, so in the long run, building muscle may make you gain weight on the scale, but you'll end up being a smaller size and being able to eat more than you would if you just dieted.

It's this tricky, tricky combination. :-)

You can lose weight on the scale faster if you just drop calories, but a lot of it will end up being muscle that you lose. This is one reason I'm also doing strength and endurance training -- I want to be able to eat more. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:September 16th, 2004 06:15 pm (UTC)
Yep.. I don't really go by weight, I judge progress by appearance.
If my clothes are baggy.. I know its working.. and they are. :P

Ya I excercise everyday even if it is just dancing around the house for a half hour or so.. which is often what I do. ;)
[User Picture]
Date:September 15th, 2004 01:25 pm (UTC)
well that makes sense. the last one b/c 20 mins is the first mile and it's not until i've gotten to that point that i really start sweating, even if the intensity has stayed the same.

so yay me and my hour workout!
[User Picture]
Date:September 15th, 2004 01:27 pm (UTC)
Does it mattre if your heart rate is at a certai level on the last one??

Also how long does that affect last?

What if you worked out tw2ice a day at 30 minutes a day?

*sits in awe of the MrsV*

;) *hugs*

At least you know you are on the right track. It's Valadatino if anything, and know you don't have to wonder if it's correct or not. :D
Date:September 15th, 2004 02:09 pm (UTC)
Twice a day at 30 minutes is good cardio, but not great for fat loss. By then you've replenished the glycogen in your muscles, and they draw on that for fuel instead of going for fat. Ideally, it's over 45 minutes a day if you want to burn off fat.
[User Picture]
Date:September 16th, 2004 02:19 pm (UTC)
Does it mattre if your heart rate is at a certai level on the last one??

Sort of. The more intense the activity (and intensity is measured a certain amount by increased heart rate), the faster you'll get into fat burning mode, but it's not a lot faster the way I understand it. It's basically 20 - 30 minutes of "vigorous" exercise, from what I understand.

Also how long does that affect last?

I'm not sure, but I would guess that it would probably last until you eat, (or drink something other than water) or until you cool down and your body can make more glycogen out of what's already hanging around in your body.

What if you worked out tw2ice a day at 30 minutes a day?

Well, understand that if you work out for a total of an hour, you're burning the same number of calories whether you split it up into 6 ten-minute workouts or one one-hour workout. If, during the course of a day, you use up more calories than you take in, then you'll be burning off fat to make up for those calories you needed. However, it's only after continuous exercise that you are burning fat *directly* for immediate fueling needs. With the two 30-minute workouts, your body just tends to burn whatever's to hand, which might not include just fat, but will likely include at least some fat.

Does that make sense? It's not that you don't burn fat at all if you don't exercise for a continuous period of time, it's just that if you do, you're in a mode where you burn fat directly for that period of time.

I think. :-)

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