As you can gather from the title, this article looks at how a diet should be created in order to fit your personal goal, whether this is fat loss, muscle gain or maintaining the body and lifestyle you already have. Having spoken to a lot of members over the past few weeks it's clear that creating a well structured diet is not the easiest thing to do, and in my opinion, is one of the main factors that prohibit people from getting the results they want.
Throughout this article we will look at everything you need to know in order to create a diet that you can stick to and maintain, as we all know diets such as ‘The Atkins’, ‘Weight Watchers’ and various others are unmaintainable for long periods of time and its after such crash diets that we see most of the weight (usually fat) piled back on.
How many of you train regularly, smash every session and come out a sweaty mess? Im guessing many of you, but if I ask the question, how may of you track your food intake, alter elements of your diet depending on results and stick to the plan 100%? My guess would be only a few. Following a well structured nutrition plan, and making changes to it when necessary, is just as important as the work you put in the gym. With 168 hours in a week, and only 5-8 hours being spent training, it's clear the other 160 or so hours are even more important.
So let's go back to basics with this, let's look at how many calories we need each day to either lose body fat, gain lean muscle tissue or maintain the weight we already are. There are four steps to this, estimating your calorie needs (1), setting protein requirements (2), fat requirements (3), and finally carbohydrates (4).
How many calories should I be consuming?
Firstly let's look at how many calories we need on a daily basis to maintain the weight we already are, from this we can then see if we need to decrease calories (to lose weight and body fat), or increase calories (to gain weight and lean muscle tissue). A good way of doing this is to find out your BMR, this is the rate of energy expenditure by humans and other animals at rest. Although this is interchangeable from person to person, as a starting point it is a good way of finding out how many calories we need to sustain the weight we already have.
In order to do this lets look at a formula devised by Harris-Benedict:
Men: 66 + (13.75 x weight kg) + (5 x height cm) – (6.76 x age)
Women: 655 + (9.56 x weight kg) + (1.85 x height cm) – (4.68 x age)
Let's use myself as an example and get a fairly accurate reading of my BMR
Benjamin: 66 + (13.75 x 82) + (5 x 180) - (6.76 x 24) = 1931kcal
So In order to maintain my natural weight of 82kg at rest I would need to consume 1931kcal per day. Now we have the BMR sorted let's take a look at our activity levels (TEA) and the thermic effect of food (TEF). Depending on your activity levels we can use the equations below to determine how many more calories you need to consume in accordance to how active you are on a daily basis. To estimate you energy needs you can multiply your BMR by the chosen activity levels below.
- Sedentary = BMR X 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job, stay at home job)
- Lightly active = BMR X 1.375 (light exercise 1-3 days/wk)
- Moderately active = BMR X 1.55 (moderate exercise 3-5 days/wk)
- Very active = BMR X 1.725 (hard exercise 6-7 days/wk)
- Extra active = BMR X 1.9 (hard daily exercise/sports & physical job or 2x day training)
This again is not definitive, but it gives you an idea of how many more calories your body needs depending on how active you are.
Now we have a grasp on how many calories we need in relation to our activity levels and goal settings, lets look at the macronutrients used to set up out diet.
2. Setting protein intake
The RDA for protein is set at 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (g/kgBW), but greater research suggests the individual should aim for 1.2-2.2 g/kgBW. I myself prefer to have more protein than not enough, so with my clients and myself i set my protein requirement at 1.5-2.7g/kgBW.
With the requirement now set, here are just a few protein sources you should look to include in your diet. Eggs, steak, chicken, turkey, salmon, cod, mackerel, lean mince, duck and whey.
3. Setting fat intake
With little research being done on how much fat an individual requires in their diet, I like to set intakes of 1-1.5g/kgBW. Some people prefer a high fat to a low fat diet so this is personal preference, but from experience hitting between 1-1.5g/kg is a pretty solid estimate.
Good source of fats you should include are, Avocados, oils, raw butter, coconut oil, nuts, red meat, eggs, nut butters.
4. Setting carbohydrate intake
With everything else in place, simply use your carbohydrate sources to make up the rest of your calories.
I would include the following, sweet potato, rice, oats, fruit and lots of fibrous vegetables.
So now we have everything we need to create a diet, let's go through step by step with myself as an example, and work out how many calories, proteins, fats and carbs i need to achieve my goal of gaining lean muscle tissue.
BMR = 24.2 x 82kg = 1984kcal. My activity levels are fairly moderate, BMR x 1.55 (1984 x 1.55) giving me a TEE of 3075kcal per day
With my primary goal being to gain lean muscle tissue and size, my protein requirement should be set at the top end (2.7g/kgBW). 82 x 2.7 = 221. Each gram of protein contains 4kcal, 221 x 4 = 886kcal per day.
I usually have a slightly higher fat consumption for personal preference, so I will set my fat intake at the top end of 1.5g/kg. 82 x 1.5 = 123. With each gram of fat containing 9kcal, I'd consume 1107kcal (123 x 9) per day.
Finally my carbohydrate intake is the remaining calories, and like protein these contain 4kcal per gram.
As mentioned before, this is only a rough estimate of how much you require daily, this may change from person to person but it's a good starting point if you're new to tracking and setting your calorie needs.
If your goals are for weight loss/fat loss then I'd recommend you keep protein the same or slightly increase, and start tapering down your carbohydrates and fats. You could also increase activity levels and maintain the calories you are already consuming.
If you goals are to gain size and weight I'd simply recommend doing the opposite, slightly increase your carbs/fats and keep protein levels the same.
Hopefully this article has helped with understanding how to create a diet plan for each individual goal. Although this is not 100% accurate it's a great starting point for most individuals who are looking to lose fat, gain muscle or maintain their current weight. If you're looking for professional help with training and diet with the aim of transforming your body and mindset, feel free to contact my team at Bodyworks Performance where we can discuss everything in greater depth.