Chris Zaremba is our regular writer on fitness for the over 50’s. However, in this article Chris looks at a subject of interest to all age groups – Nutrition.

Chris updates his 10% System and provides a sample day’s actual food diary. It’s a great system to follow to get your nutritional needs right.

I’ve devised a system for nutrition by numbers that I use and recommend. It’s called ‘The 10% System‘ as that particular percentage features frequently in the calculations. I developed this a while ago but have now updated it following a further year’s experience both by me and with input from others.

At first sight it may look complicated, but users (and you!) will soon get used to it. You’ll like the short-cuts provided by the system in working out some key numbers that will let you eat more positively and meet your weight and training goals. The system will also help you make a quick analysis of nutrition labels.

Stage 1:

So what do you do?

The initial stage is to calculate your target daily calories. Assuming you are active for around one hour per day – then the initial calculation that I have found works for most is:

Weight in kg divided by 3 then multiplied by 100.

So for a 75kg person, such as me, this equates to a daily target of 2500 calories. A couple of adjustments are then made to this number – if you exercise less than this amount, take off 10%. Also deduct 10% if you want to lose weight overall, or add 10% if you want to gain weight.

Now, I believe it’s impossible to be accurate enough to hit the exact number of calories on a daily basis, so try to get as close as you can. Don’t worry if it’s a little high or low on some days. I suggest a maximum variation of (you guessed it) 10%.

So on any given day it’s great if it’s 2500, but still good if it’s anywhere between 2250 and 2750. But make sure there isn’t a regular pattern of being away from the precise target in the same direction over multiple days. Finally, on calorie targets, if after a month you see that your weight isn’t moving in the direction you want, change the target calorie amount up or down by that 10% factor and see how that works for the next month.

Stage 2:

What next?

Having determined our target calories, it’s on to Step Two. This requires you to split the target calories across the day to get guideline amounts for your different meals throughout the day. I’m a big fan of eating little and often and usually have seven meals a day – I call them all ‘meals’, although only three are proper ones – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Three of the others are really snacks (mid-morning, mid-afternoon and late evening), plus there’s an extra refuel post-workout.

I divide my daily calorie total into guidelines for each meal – 20% of the target for the three big meals and 10% for each of the four others. So I have a guideline of 500 calories for breakfast, 250 mid-morning, 500 for lunch, 250 mid-afternoon, 500 for dinner and 250 later in the evening. The other 250 are used for the refuel post-exercise, whenever that takes place. Note: that these are guideline amounts per meal, don’t worry if they are not spot on.

Stage 3:

And next?

The third step is to review the macronutrient composition of meals. I believe that 40% of daily calories should come from protein, 40% from carbs and the final 20% from fats. This 40/40/20 ratio gives a higher protein and lower carbs in-take than official recommendations, but it’s the ratio I have found that people can stick to and it works for most as part of their strategy for gradual fat loss reduction and muscle growth.

Nutrition System_2

The 10% calculation

The key element in my system is the use of 10% of the total calorie number to provide you with your target number of grams of protein and carbs per meal over the day. Ideally my 2500 daily calories would be sourced from 250g of protein and 250g of carbs over the day. And a perfect 500 calorie meal would have 50 grams of protein and 50 of carbs.

The 10% variation I mentioned at the end of the day relating to total calories also applies to grams of protein and carbs. So I should end the day with a calorie total somewhere between 2250 and 2750 broken down to protein levels of between 225g and 275g and 225g to 275g of carbs.

Remember that not every meal needs to be in this protein-number-equals-carb-number proportion – what matters is the target over the whole day, not per meal. For example, my breakfast is usually about 490 calories but a little protein light at 42g. But I make up for that by having heavier protein amounts later in the day – note the sample day (Table 1) to see how this works in practice for me:

Table 1: Sample day’s eating plan for Chris

 

Cals

Pro g

Carbs g

Comment

Breakfast

490

42

58

Oats, hot water, 2 scoops whey protein, berries and nuts

Mid-morning

220

37

13

Small tin tuna with 2 crispbreads

Lunch

410

53

25

Turkey and veg 4 eggs (3 whites only) omelette + salad

Mid-afternoon

230

29

20

Meal replacement bar

Post-workout Dinner

280

41

25

2 scoops whey protein, banana

600

30

86

Grilled chicken and veg in pub plus pint beer

Late evening

190

40

9

Zero fat Greek yoghurt with 1 scoop casein protein

Total

2420

272

236

 

 

Reflecting on the day’s totals, it was a great day. All three numbers fell within my acceptable 10% variation from the target of 2500 or 250, even with the pub meal and pint included! This was a real day, by the way – May 8 – although I admit I’m not that good every day!

What about fat?

Well, fat is a little bit harder to calculate. But as long as the calories for protein and carbs are OK by this calculation, then the fats will be too. Assuming you achieve the objective of the day’s total grams of carbs added to the day’s total grams of protein = 80% of the total day’s calories, then fat calories will be in the target proportion of the 20% required by the 40/40/20 macronutrient ratio. So don’t worry about the fat numbers. Although of course you should think about the types of fat you consume.

Nutrition Label analysis

One other shortcut provided by the system is that it makes nutrition label analysis a little easier. As an example I’ve a beef based ready meal here which is 360 cal, of which 40g are protein and 28g carbs. I can tell instantly from those numbers that this is a good item to include as its pretty close to the 10% number on both macronutrients for a meal.

Over to you…

I haven’t described the maths behind my 10% system, but if you are as geeky as me and want to know the sums behind it, let me know and I’ll send you a more detailed explanation, including why it only works with  that 40/40/20 macronutrient breakdown.

More importantly, I know a few people who have tried this system, like it and feel it is helping them achieve their goals – but I’d like to hear more observations, so if you try this system for yourself, please let me know how you get on.

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