There is way too much out there about diets and what everyone “needs” to know! To top this off I am no dietician by any extent. Personally I know basics and what I like/what makes me feel good throughout my days and while working out and does not have adverse effects on my body. Getting to this place was a lot of trial and error, frustration and pain but I am here today and I will share with you the basics of what I know and hope that you can glean from this some information that will help you.
First off there is simple math you need to know to figure out how much food you should be eating if you want to either gain or lose weight. This is all about calories. To gain weight you need a caloric surplus, to lose weight you need a caloric deficit. It really is that simple. I am not going to get too in depth with calories in food versus drinks, or empty calories, but just knowing this much is true will help you.
In order to determine how many calories you are burning in a day you need to know your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This is the minimum amount of calories your body needs for essential functions such as breathing. Another way to look at it is the amount of calories you would burn in a day if you did NOTHING but lay in your bed! To figure this out I could lay out the math for you (really I would just copy and paste it) or you can click here and put your information into the BMR Calculator which we all know is much easier to do! BMR Calculator.
Now that you know the number of calories you burn in a day doing nothing, you can use this to estimate how many calories you burn throughout your day. Again you could do a lot of math, measure your heart rate which is fairly time consuming, or you can rely on the various trackers and apps that are out there. These are fairly accurate, but remember these are estimates so do not go off of them religiously! Also these usually only track your “active calories” and not your inactive (BMR number) so your numbers for intake could be substantially off! To play it safe I typically use this site to estimate your daily numbers. It seems to be fairly close to what I measure my “very active” days, but I also have to remember that my very active days are sometimes much more active than most. So keep this as an estimate!
Once you have your daily estimate, now you need to figure out if you want to gain or lose weight. I normally follow a 20% rule. Either 20% more for a gain or less for a cut. This is important because if you over eat on a gain you will gain too much too quickly and it will be more fat mass than muscle. If you cut too much you will lose more muscle than you should. Neither will have positive effects on performance or how your body looks.
This is usually where people really focus on macros. For a long time the only macro I focused on during all of these numbers was protein, consuming .8 grams per pound of body weight on a cut and 1-1.2 grams per pound for a bulk. This is usually what is recommended, but there are so many other factors to take into consideration.
If this is the path you want to take, and have the mental capacity as well as discipline I would suggest you reach out to a nutritionist or dietician for some more detailed and personalized advice. For the purpose of this particular post I mention all of this because as you can tell it is tedious, time consuming, and borderline obsessive! This is NOT NEEDED to live a normal and healthy life. Science is needed to achieve your peak performance and I encourage everyone to keep these basic ideas in mind, but know that things can be much simpler if you just want to be generally healthy.
Today my diet consists of a lot of fruits, veggies, and yes even meat! I eat pretty much what I want and am able to stay in decent shape, the difference is I have created a life where most of the garbage that I use to ingest is gone. I stay away from sugary drinks always! I cannot tell you the last time I had a pop (soda for all my non-Buffalo people), my coffee is always black, and I really do not eat candy except a few pieces of dark chocolate once a week. I will allow myself to have a pizza with my daughter once a week with my daughter, and eat pasta occasionally. The pasta is whole wheat normally, so is any bread that I buy. I get most of my carbs from fruits and vegetables as well as proteins. There are many foods out there low in calories and high in protein that are also just refreshing (such as the cold kiwi I ate for breakfast this morning).
The rules I try to go by are simple. I avoid processed foods whenever I can and try to eat food that is as close to its natural state as possible. Meats I eat only 2-3 times per week and try to keep it as lean cuts, chicken or fish, I do not have anything with added sugar, and the fact that I don’t drink alcohol keeps away a lot of excess carbs and empty calories that many other people put into their body. This, plus my training has kept my body bouncing between 11 and 12% body fat for the better part of 2 years now and I feel great! From a guy that use to suck down a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper daily while on a strict fried food diet and smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day I have been transformed into a guy that runs over 30 miles this past weekend and can’t wait to get back out and hit the roads and trails again today!
The fact is if you can start by making small changes and turn your diet into your lifestyle it will become much easier for you to stick with it and get consistent results! Start by cutting out sugary foods and drinks, then maybe get away from the microwavable foods. Before you know it you will be craving some cold and refreshing fruit rather than a Gatorade after a workout and your plate will be a lot greener than it ever has been, even with the bloody piece of steak on it! No matter what, find a way to eat foods you enjoy and make you feel good and your life will change drastically!
Next week we put it all together when I create a one month training plan for myself to show you what I do and the reasons why I have certain things put into place. Until then, experiment with your food and search for the healthier options rather than the crap!