Guest Post: Optimal Stats, pt 1
Today’s guest post comes to us from Lauren Quigley. Lauren is a Nutritionist and freelance writer with a passion for gaming, and is here to drop some science on how to customize our stats like we do with our own characters.
A lot of my favorite games are RPGs. A childhood favorite was Neverwinter Nights, and now I spend lots of time traipsing around Skyrim shouting people off cliffs. It’s awesome.
So when I went to college as a lifelong gamer and took my first Nutrition class, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) and the skill points allocated to my RPG characters. It seemed like a pointless observation at first, but after years of “training” in optimizing my character’s stats, I realized I was already halfway to understanding how the right (or wrong) balance of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients could affect our human bodies.
Just for fun, try thinking of it this way: when your character has drastically uneven stats, like extremely high points in Magic with very few in Defense, your game experience generally suffers for it in some way. You may be the strongest mage in your party, but as soon as a foe manages to get close to you, you’re dead in an instant. For this reason, most of us generally try to keep the skills of our characters balanced, only raising certain attributes within a few points of the others based on our class or playing needs.
It’s the same way with carbohydrates, fat, protein, the 13 essential vitamins, and various minerals. Sudden death is obviously an extreme example, but if our diet relies heavily on certain food groups while ignoring others, we can end up with nutrition deficiencies that lead to fatigue, impaired sleep, decreased immune system function, or even more serious problems like anemia, high blood pressure, confusion and other mental effects, or even nerve damage.
So what are the recommended stats for our human bodies? In this post, we’ll focus on the macronutrients–carbohydrates, fat, and protein. The general recommendations for adults are 45-65% carbohydrates, 20-30% fat, and 10-35% protein.
If you know the number of calories your body requires each day (if you don’t, use this calculator!), you can figure out a personalized number of grams for each macronutrient. Each gram of protein and carbohydrate has 4 calories while each gram of fat has 9 calories. Multiply your total number of calories by any percentage in the ranges mentioned above, divide that answer by the number of calories in whichever macronutrient you’re measuring, and then you’ll have your answer in grams.
For example, if I wanted to figure out my required carbohydrates in grams, the equation would look like this:
Crunching a few numbers is relatively easy, but they don’t do us much good if we don’t know how to follow them. Thankfully, Nutrition Facts labels can help serve as our map. We all know what those are and generally understand that consuming something with a label reading “90% Total Fat” isn’t the best idea. But did you know all those percentages are based on the needs of someone with a 2000 calorie diet? If your daily calorie needs are above or below 2000, those percentages on the label aren’t as helpful–which is why knowing your recommended amounts of carbs, fat, and protein in grams can be valuable as you try to balance your personal nutrition stats.
You won’t live on the edge of death if you haven’t reached your optimal numbers by the end of the day (thankfully), but if you haven’t already tried, do an easy experiment by tracking the grams of carbs, fat, and protein in what you normally eat each day for a few days. If you notice a particular area falling beneath or far exceeding your needs, test a few adjustments over the next couple days to balance things out. You might be surprised how just a few small changes can increase your energy level, mental clarity, and overall performance!
You can check out some of Lauren’s writings here if you’re hungry for more!