Sunday, November 27, 2011

Diet: The Basics

Diet is by far the single most important aspect of achieving your fitness goals. Whether you want to build muscle or lose fat, it comes down to diet. You may be working out consistently, but if you aren't feeding yourself properly you won't see results. It's one thing to be committed to going to the gym a few times a week for a total of five or so hours but it's another to commit yourself to a diet. The gym only takes up several hours a week. Dieting is a 24 hour, 7 day a week process. It's truly a lifestyle and it's what separates people who achieve their goals and those who don't.

Find Maintenance Calories

First and foremost, you need to find out how many calories you need in order to maintain your weight. Here is a calculator to give you a general idea.

You can never trust an online calculator so what I would do is use it as an estimate. Eat that estimated amount of calories everyday for two weeks. Meanwhile, you should weigh yourself without clothes on in the morning twice a week to see what your weight is doing over those two weeks. If you are the same weight after two weeks then you have found your maintenance. If you lost some weight then your maintenance is higher and if you gained weight then your maintenance is lower. Adjust accordingly for another week or two until you get your weight to stabilize so you know you have found your maintenance. To do this, it is extremely important to have a reliable scale. I recommend this one.I've gone through five scales over the last couple of years and this is the first one that gives me consistent readings. It's not expensive and pretty aesthetic looking too. You don't even need to tap it to turn it on.

Choose a Goal

Now that you have a rough idea of how many calories you need to eat to maintain your current condition, you can adjust that number for your goals. If you are trying to gain weight, I recommend you add 300 calories a day to your maintenance. If you are trying to lose weight, I recommend eating 500 calories below maintenance. There are 3,500 calories in a pound. At 300 calories over maintenance, you will be gaining about .6 pounds a week. At 500 calories below maintenance, you will be losing a pound a week. Your body can lose fat a lot faster than it can build muscle which is the reason I recommend a higher deficit than surplus.


Macros stands for macronutrients. There are three macronutrients. These include: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. We will refer to them as macros from this point forward. Calories are made up of these macros. Protein and carbohydrates each contain 4 calories per gram and fat contains 9 calories per gram. Keeping track of your macros is what will determine if you reach your weight goals or not. If you are serious about keeping track of your macros accurately, you absolutely must have a food scale. I've been using this onefor the past two years and it hasn't let me down yet. Without measuring your food, there is no way of actually knowing how much you are eating. You don't need to use the scale all the time if that seems a little too obsessive for you. Use it for a couple of weeks until you get an idea of how much of each food equals a serving and then eyeball it after that. You may be surprised how off your initial estimations are without the scale.

Calculating Macros

Now that you know what macros are and how important they are, you need to figure out how much you need. This is very individual but I will give you guidelines for each.

You should eat 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. The leaner you are, the higher up on this range you should eat. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds and are of average body fat, I would eat 1.25 grams of protein per pound. This is equal to 225 grams of protein per day.

Fat You should eat between .3 and .5 grams of fat per pound of body weight.If you are trying to gain weight, I would aim for closer to .5 grams per pound but if you are trying to lose weight I'd aim closer towards .3 grams per pound. For example, if you are 180 pounds and trying to gain weight, you should eat 90 grams of fat per day.

Carbohydrates I saved carbohydrates for last because this is where the majority of calorie manipulation will take place based on your goals. You simply fill in the rest of the required calories with carbohydrates once your protein and fat needs are met. Using the 180 pound person example, if that person were to eat 225 grams of protein and 90 grams of fat, that equals 1,710 calories. I got this number by doing 225 grams of protein x 4 calories per gram + 90 grams of fat x 9 calories per gram. Let's assume this person has a maintenance calorie level of 2,500. This leaves 790 calories of carbohydrates to maintain. Since there are 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates, this equals 198 grams of carbohydrates. However, this is simply to maintain. If this person wanted to gain weight, he would add 300 calories from carbohydrates which yields an additional 75 grams of carbohydrates. Therefore, the macros for this 180 pound person trying to gain weight would be 225 grams of protein, 90 grams of fat, and 273 grams of carbohydrates. If this person were trying to lose weight, he could subtract 75 grams of carbohydrates rather than add them. However, I would most likely choose to lower carbohydrates just a little bit and lower fat towards the lower end of my recommended range but you may prefer lower carbohydrates.

It can be difficult to keep track of all of this by hand so I would use a website like FitDay to help. It let's you add all your foods and create new ones if they aren't already in the system.

Meal Frequency

Now that you know how much you should be eating, the question is when should you be eating. There are a lot of myths surrounding this issue. You may have heard that six small meals spread throughout the day are better because it keeps your metabolism revved up all day. This is wrong. It doesn't matter whether you eat six small meals, three medium sized meals, or even one huge meal a day. All that matters is you hit your target macros for the day. Meal frequency is personal preference. I prefer four to five meals a day because it gives me a balance of decent sized satisfying meals and somewhat frequent eating throughout the day. Six meals a day isn't wrong but the only reason you should follow this protocol is if you truly enjoy eating that way. Personally, I don't like six meals because I can never eat enough in one sitting to be satisfied and I always have my next meal on my mind since it comes up so quickly.

Meal Timing

Meal timing also has some incorrect information surrounding it. You may have heard not to eat carbohydrates after 8:00 pm or else it is stored as fat. This is simply not true. It does not matter when you eat your calories. I prefer to eat a decent amount of carbohydrates for breakfast, before my workouts, and after my workouts and then taper them off later in the day. I simply do this so that I have more energy for my workouts and during the day. I don't need so many carbohydrates at night since I'm a lot more sedentary. If your lifestyle is more active at night than during the day, then I would definitley eat more carbohydrates then.


Brian said...

good stuff on the meal frequency and timing.

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Wilson said...

Hi, is accurate? I find it suspicious of its macros of foods like chicken breast sometimes.

OoFaP said...

I wouldn't use the foods they have there. I create my own and then just use those. If you are eating chicken, create it yourself and use the macros on the package. It's annoying to create all your foods at first but once they are in the system it's quick and easy.

Luis Loera said...

Hey man good read. I wanted to ask what is your take on my situation and whether you believe I should be bulking or cutting? I would like to start off by saying that I'm only 17 years old and I been lifting for a year but I wasn't doing proper training as I have not even seen improvements in my physique or my progress in the gym. Just recently I have gotten on your beginner full body routine and it feels great! However, I don't know whether to bulk or cut. I'm 17 years old, I weigh 150-155lbs, I'm 5'9'', and I guess you could say my body fat is somewhere around 15-20% bodyfat. I have a pudgy belly and I feel so uncomfortable, but many tell me to bulk regardless and take advantage of my youth. What do you think I should do? Thanks and I hope my question is clear.

Jones Morris said...

I admire this article for the well-researched content and excellent wording. I got so involved in this material that I couldn’t stop reading. I am impressed with your work and skill. Thank you so much. weight lifting

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