September 23, 2008
How Much Should I Be Eating?
Are you happily eating your meals of lean meats, fresh veg and raw nuts, but feeling a bit tentative about how much of each you actually need to be consuming?
Because there is SO much variability from person to person (including gender, activity level, body size, body composition, to name a few), it would be quite tricky for me to give a blanket statement regarding how much of each macronutrient one should eat on a daily basis.
Recommendations abound, from sources both reliable and not so reliable about how much protein we need, as well as fat and carbohydrate. "Eat a ratio of 4 to 1 carb to protein", one source states. Another suggests "1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight". While there's a lot to be gained from at least becoming familiar with what a 'portion' looks like, one needn't feel they're going to have to turn their diet into a lab experiment, weighing and measuring every singe morsel.
The most basic approach would be to think simply in terms of 'balance'. Balance as far as how often you're eating throughout the day (DON'T go too long without eating- too long is also very individual but at least not more than a few hours) as well as what you have on your plate each time. Do you have some lean protein, some unprocessed carbohydrate as well as some plant-based fat? You're all set! That brings us to another area where you'll want to be in balance- your weight! If you use this basic approach, you can use your body weight & body composition as a gauge to determine whether you're eating too many calories (are your clothes snug in all the wrong places?), not enough (are you dropping too much weight?), or just the right amount (a healthy weight & body comp percentage with little variability week to week). One of my favorite things about the Paleo DIet is that if you follow it correctly, keeping this balanced approach in mind, you'll see that you finish each meal with a satisfied, but not stuffed feeling, with constant high energy levels throughout the day.
If you are more of a numbers person (as I am!) and you'd like to be a bit more technical, buy a food scale, some measuring cups and spoons and take advantage of the many food caloric composition websites and books that are available. One that I use quite a bit is: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/ which is the USDA's Nutrient Data Laboratory. You simply type in the food, hit search, choose which variety of the food you're about to eat, enter the weight and there you go!
Ultimately, it all comes back to the balance of healthy food eaten regularly throughout the day. Following the above approach, you'll easily find yourself able to determine just how much is the right amount for you!