Nutrition basics & how to improve your diet
- There are several dietary regimens that can all be effective, so choose the one that is the most convenient for you to follow — it’s all about calories, protein, and eating healthy in general.
- Calculate your calorie TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). To lose weight, eat 10%-20% fewer calories; to gain weight, consume 10%-20% more calories.
- To find your daily protein in grams, do (0.8g*YourWeightInLB) for muscle gain.
- For your body’s overall nutritional and hormonal needs, aim for 0.3g/lb of fat every day.
- Fill the rest of your calorie allowance with as much protein, fat, and carbohydrates as you’d like.
- Be responsible
You’re probably here because you’re unhappy with your weight — either because you’re overweight and want to lose weight, or because you’re underweight and want to gain weight. Understanding the underlying process of weight fluctuation – calorie balance – is the first step toward losing weight.
Every day, your body expends a certain number of calories to sustain itself and its activities — this is known as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE. The difference between how many calories you consume and your TDEE influences whether you gain, decrease, or maintain your current weight. You will lose weight if you eat less than your TDEE (a deficit). You’ll gain weight if you eat more (a surplus), and part of it will be muscle if you’re undertaking strength training. Calories In, Calories Out, or CICO, is a term used to describe this process.
CICO is sometimes misunderstood as a diet in and of itself; however, it is just an underlying theory that outlines the mechanics of weight change. For different people, several factors might make achieving the proper calorie balance simpler or more difficult. It’s possible that you’ll have to attempt a few different eating regimens before you find one that you can adhere to. But, regardless of the dietary plan you adopt, the final result must be a change in your calorie balance, even if it’s done indirectly rather than directly (ie, counting calories).
You don’t have to start with precise calorie and food tracking; in fact, doing so might be stressful and hence harmful. However, if you’re having difficulties gaining or losing the weight you desire over time, you’ll need to start paying attention to and altering your calorie balance at some point.
General Diet Improvement
If you don’t want to dig into the weeds with calories and macronutrients, you may frequently make progress just by changing your eating habits in general. The Tailor-Made Nutrition essay series by John Berardi, PhD, is a wonderful place to start: Part 1 of Tailor-Made Nutrition (Read time: 15 minutes)
Here are some broad guidelines for “cleaning up” your diet that you may find useful:
- As much as possible, choose whole foods.
- Consume a lot of veggies.
- If you want to lose weight, don’t snack in between meals.
- Sugar, sweets, junk food, and alcohol should be consumed in moderation.
- You don’t have to completely give up these things; just be wise about it
Calories and Calorie Balance
A quick recap:
- To lose weight, you must consume less calories than your TDEE — you must create a deficit.
- To gain weight, you must consume more calories than your TDEE – you must create a surplus.
You’ll need to know both how many calories are coming in and how many calories are going out to control your calorie balance in the way you need for your objectives. Neither of these are exact science, notably the “calories out” component. Keep in mind that any TDEE figure you make will always be an estimate and not set in stone. The scale, on the other hand, does not deceive you about your calorie balance.
Tools like MyFitnessPal and NutritionData are great for keeping track of your “calories in.” They maintain vast databases of calorie and macronutrient data for various serving sizes. For discovering this information, Google may be a very useful tool. If you’re having problems, you may need to weigh your meal separately using a food scale to ensure that you have an accurate serving size.
Any TDEE calculator you can find on the internet will give you a decent starting point for determining your “calories out.” Keep in mind that this is merely a rough estimate, and your real TDEE might be greater or lower. Don’t get hung up on attempting to come up with the ideal starting number. Expect it to be incorrect at first and that you will need to make adjustments. Users have gotten a lot of value out of the nSuns Adaptive TDEE Spreadsheet in the long run. It will offer you an estimate as a starting point, then calibrate and give you a more accurate picture of your TDEE over time as you enter your weight and calories ingested each day.
To assess your daily calorie needs, most experts advocate adding or subtracting 10-20% of your TDEE. While it’s tempting to obtain results “quick” by completing crash diets or “dirty bulking,” being cautious is crucial for long-term health, adherence, and enjoyment.
- When it comes to gaining weight, the more you go above your TDEE, the more fat you’ll gain along with muscle. It will also be more difficult to make big changes in food consumption without feeling unwell.
- The lower you fall below your TDEE when reducing weight, the more difficult it will be to keep muscle and retain athletic performance. You’ll also be more likely to suffer from dietary deficits and binge eating.
Keep in mind that your weight affects your TDEE, so as your weight fluctuates, so will your TDEE, and you’ll need to re-evaluate your estimate on a regular basis. Keeping track of your weight over time is an excellent approach to do so. It’s usually time to make a change if your weight hasn’t altered in a few weeks or longer.
Protein, fat, and carbs are macronutrients, whereas vitamins and minerals are micronutrients.
- Protein: 4 calorie count per gram
- Fat: 9 calorie count per gram
- Carbs: 4 calorie count per gram
Protein should be the basis of your macros. For those looking for a minimalist approach, PhD candidate Jorn Trommelen suggests 120g every day, divided into four meals, and 160g per day for the best outcomes. Eric Helms, PhD recommends 0.8-1 g/lb for muscle growth and 1.3 g/lb for muscle preservation when dieting. 120g-160g a day is a decent place to start for most people, with room to add more if desired. The greatest amount of protein per pound that has been demonstrated to be advantageous for muscle building is 0.82g/lb, but there’s no harm or waste in exceeding that (as long as you don’t eat solely protein).
Carbohydrates and Fat
The rest of your macros aren’t nearly as important as your protein consumption. To ensure that you’re getting enough essential fatty acids, a decent starting point for fat is 0.3g/lb*. After that, you may simply fill in your calorie allowance with as many carbohydrates or fats as you like. There are a few more things to think about:
- Eating a lot of high-fat foods can deplete your calorie budget and make it difficult to obtain enough carbohydrates and protein to keep up with your workout routine.
- Carbohydrates are the most significant dietary factor* in recovering after exercise, second only to calories, and the harder you train, the more carbs you should consume to guarantee appropriate recovery.
*Sourced from “Recovering from Training” by Dr. James Hoffman, Dr. Mike Israetel, and Dr. Melissa Davis of Renaissance Periodization
So What’s the “Best” Diet?
There really isn’t an one.
The ancient proverb “Many roads lead to Rome” is true. Finding out what is easiest for you to implement and least stressful for you to keep to over time is far more essential than the label you put on your diet. Experiment with some of the usual tactics, or even something as basic as eating less or more of what you’re eating now, to determine what works best for you.
Lyle McDonald’s book All Diets Work: The Importance of Calories is a good place to start. (Approximately 7 minutes to read)