We’ve gotten some great information on setting expectations. We’ve got some goals with some tangible targets to hit. Now its time to drill down into the nutritional plans. In theory we could call this a diet, since a diet can be defined as “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” The problem with a diet is that for most people it is transitory. If it’s transitory, then the results will be transitory as well. You need to make a lifestyle change. Your body is transformible, but that means it can go back to where you started if your activities go back to where you started.
The key is to balance what you want to change with what you want to achieve. If you’re pretty close to where you want to be, maybe you just want to gain a few pounds of muscle, lose a few pounds of fat, or increase your strength or endurance slightly, then the changes will be minor. If you want to change dramatically, then the changes will have to be dramatic too. You don’t have to start with big changes, but start wrapping your head around the idea that to get where you want to go requires changes, and the degree of change you want to see will determine the degree of change you will need to make.
Over half of Americans believe it is easier to do their taxes than figuring out how to eat healthy. It can be really hard when you’re starting out on looking into nutrition, finding fact from fiction. There are all kinds of articles that proclaim the health benefits of one thing just to find some other articles describing the cost that comes with consumption of it. The first step we suggest is figuring out how much you currently eat so you have a good baseline of where you are starting. If you just want a rough idea, take a picture of everything you eat over the next week to get an idea of what you are eating. Do your usual routine. Try to get everything. All the meals, snacks, beverages, samples, everything. This will give you a good idea of how much you eat and what your eating habits are. Now you can try to estimate how many calories you are eating.
There are a few tools online that can help you estimate the calorie content of foods. If you type “Nutrition Facts Broccoli” into Google it will give you a sidebar with the nutrition facts and the ability to adjust how much you have selected. You can do this with a variety of foods, though Google doesn’t have them all. For other foods you can try one of these websites: SELFNutritionData, myfitnesspal, or CalorieKing. Check between multiple sites to ensure you are getting accurate information on the calorie count. If some of your meals are at a restaurant this can be a little less transparent since you wont necessarily know how much oil they used or how much sugar they added. We have a post here where one of our members shared their example of this exercise.
Now that you have a base of where you are at, which remember is an estimate, we can utilize a calorie calculator to determine how much you need to eat to maintain your current weight. This is based off a combination of factors including sex, size, and activity level among others. We put the same stats through each calculator to see how they compared to give you an idea of the fluctuation.
We used the following statistics for our individual:
Bodyfat: 12.05 (based off this calculator)
Exercise/Work Activity: Moderate (Exercise 3-5 times per week)
|Website||Calorie Requirements to Maintain Weight|
FreeDieting had a few different options under the advanced tab. * was Mifflin-St Jeor formula. ** was Katch-McArdle with a 12.05% bodyfat based off the calculator. *** was Harris-Benedict.
As you can see the calorie requirements fluctuated greatly from as low as 2350 up to 2934. This number will be unique for you and depends on a lot more than these calculators can come up with, but they provide a decent starting point. Take a few of these to get an idea of what they are suggesting and use that as a jumping off point. You can then build a diet around those calories. The best thing about this is it is easily changeable. You are losing weight too fast? Increase the calories. You are losing weight too slow? Decrease the calories. You are tired and don’t have enough energy to workout? Increase your calories. Your body will provide you with the information you need to adjust your calorie consumption.
So now you’ve come up with a calorie amount. In our example’s case we’re going to go with somewhere in the middle of the road around 2700. Depending on your goals you will need to determine what comes next. Are you increasing the calories, decreasing the calories, keeping the calories the same and adding additional exercise?
Since Lisa wants to slim down, she should start with a calorie deficit. The idea is that a slight reduction in calories will lead to less energy coming in than is going out. This will cause her body to use stored fat as some of its energy source. If you lose too much weight too quickly, a large portion of that will be lean body mass. She can start with a daily deficit of 500 calories to aim for a pound of fat lost a week. This is an oversimplification, but is a decent starting point. Keep in mind, that as she incorporates more physical activity into her life her calorie needs will rise, so she may only need to reduce 30o calories from her diet if 200 are coming from consumption during exercise to still meet that 500 calorie deficit. .
For Michael to increase his skiing endurance and general fitness he will need to add in an exercise program, but can start by getting a good estimate of how many calories he currently consumes. Once he determines how many calories he is at he can decide how much he needs to modify his diet depending on how much exercise he anticipates doing. An increase in daily calorie expenditure due to exercise may be all he needs to start.
Jessica will need to increase how many calories she eats if she wants to develop some strength and put on a little muscle. She could start with the addition of a pre and post workout shake totaling 100-200 calories if she is going to swap some of her cadiovascular exercise days for weight training days. If she is just going to add in weight training and continue with the same amount of cardio she may need to add more calories.
In order for Christopher to build a lot of muscle the timing of his food will be important. Consuming a post workout meal of a high quality protein such as whey has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis. Christopher will need to determine how many calories he needs to consume after he has determined his workout routine. He will have to take into account the calorie expenditure due to exercise. He will want to find the sweet spot for him that is maximum muscle growth with minimum fat growth.
Now how specific you want to get on your nutritional plan is up to you. Nutrient Timing breaks down the meals into servings of specific food groups with options you can choose from. For example, their breakfast for a 130 pound female who works out once a day and needs 2,340 calories consists of 2 servings of starch, 2 servings of fruit, one serving of milk, two servings of added sugars, two servings of medium fat, and three servings of fat. Pulling from their options for each category of food, this could be 2 slices of whole-grain toast, 1 cup of orange juice, 1 cup of milk, 2 tsp 100% fruit spread, 2 whole eggs, 2 tsp butter, and 2 tbsp cream. If you like something this structured and that works for you than by all means go ahead and get your plans setup.
For most people Transformible recommends starting in small steps. The easiest change to make is the one that removes something you didn’t like in the first place. Take a look at what you are eating. Are there any things you can remove that aren’t that big a deal? One of our users realized that they didn’t really like sodas but would order them out of habit when they went out to eat. Cutting out a soda a day was a super easy trade for 140 calories. Take a look at what you eat, are there things you don’t really like you get anyways? Another alternitive is to find things you really like that are low in calories and substitute them in for part or all of something. Do you really like cucumbers? Did you realize an entire cucumber averaging 2/3 of a pound is only ~47 calories? If you took what you normally eat and subtracted out 2/3 of a pound of it and added in a cucumber you would likely have a large subtraction of calories. Look around for some fruits or vegetables that you like that are low in calories and use those to help reduce how many calories you eat without necessarily reducing how much food you eat. Start with the easy changes and work your way down.
Now that you’re started on your nutrition plan, next step is to add some exercise in.