Nutrition Is The Key To Achieving Your Dream Body
I often feel like nutrition is one of the most misunderstood concepts when it comes to fitness. When people hear the word “diet” they automatically think “restrict” and associate the word with feelings of dislike, and uneasiness. This is one of the reasons that I personally don’t like to use the word diet. This is why I personally like to use the word nutrition to represent the meals that you’ll be eating to get the results that you want.
Dieting does not have to be painful. It does not have to be something that is despised. Understanding how your body processes certain foods can give you great insight into how to properly structure a diet, with the foods that you like to eat AND get the results that you want. Sound good? Let’s dive deeper.
How Many Calories Do You Need A Day To Survive? Calculating Your BMR
The first thing that you need to do before anything else is to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the minimum number of calories that your body needs just to survive. This does not take into account any physical activity which we will use later. With this number as a starting point you can then determine how many calories you would need to maintain your current weight, gain weight, or lose weight.
This tells us that this 35yr old female who is 5 feet 5 inches tall and has a weight of 150lbs needs a minimum of 1376.6 calories a day just for her natural biological processes to function properly.
How Many Calories A Day Do You Need To Lose Weight?
Now that we have figured out your BMR, which is the minimum number of calories you need a day just to survive, we can use this number and multiply it by a number that represents the amount of physical activity you do each day. The result of this calculation will give you how many calories you need a day just to maintain your current weight.
|1||If you are sedentary (little or no exercise)||1.2|
|2||If you are lightly active (light exercise or sports 1-3 days/week)||1.375|
|3||If you are moderately active (moderate exercise 3-5 days/week)||1.55|
|4||If you are very active (hard exercise 6-7 days/week)||1.725|
|5||If you are super active (very hard exercise and a physical job)||1.9|
Now that we know what our multipliers are we can use the BMR we calculated earlier and multiple it by this number which will give you your daily maintenance calories.
Let’s assume that our 35yr old female friend has an activity level of 3 which means she works out 3-5 days a week. Using this number we can calculate her daily maintenance calories,
Maintenance Calories = BMR * Activity Level Multiplier
Maintenance Calories = 1376.6 * 1.55
Maintenance Calories = 2133.73
After plugging in her BMR and activity level into the formula above we have learned that our 35yr old female friend needs 2133.73 calories a day to maintain her current weight.
To lose weight she would need to enter a caloric deficit. When starting a caloric deficit it’s important to start off slow! The important thing here is to be able to eat as many calories as she can and still lose weight.
A good rule of thumb is to start by introducing a 250 calorie per day deficit.
Calories To Lose Weight = Maintenance Calories – 250
Calories To Lose Weight = 2133.73 – 250
Calories To Lose Weight = 1883.73 calories
What Are Macros? Why They’re Important. And How To Calculate Them
Macronutrients, or more affectionately known as macros, is the ratio of protein, carbs, and fat that make up the foods that you eat. Now that we know how many calories you should be eating a day to lost weight, the next step is to figure out from that number how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat you’ll be eating.
There are many different strategies when it comes to calculating your macros. Should you do a linear approach, intermittent fasting, keto, low carb, or carb cycling? In this article I’m going to show you two different strategies that have stood the test of time and are less restrictive when it comes to what you can eat.
Linear Approach To Fat Loss
A linear approach is where you consume a balanced diet based on some fixed macronutrient ratios and if you plateau you cut out some more calories but follow the same macro ratios. A very common ratio would be 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fat. This seems to work well for most people. If you find that you’re sensitive to carbs you can lower the carb ratio and increase the fat. That could look something like 40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fat.
Before we calculate your macros I want to quickly show you how many calories there are in a gram of protein, a gram of carbs, and a gram of fat. These numbers will be used to calculate your macronutrients.
|Macronutrient||Calories per 1 gram|
By looking at this table you can clearly see that a gram of protein and a gram of carbs are both 4 calories each and a gram of fat is 9 calories per gram. Let’s take these numbers and figure out how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat you’ll be eating each day based on the number of calories we calculated above to lose weight.
Calories To Lose Weight: 1883.73
Protein = (Calories * 0.4) / Calories per gram of protein
Carbs = (Calories * 0.4) / Calories per gram of carbs
Fat = (Calories * 0.2) / Calories per gram of fat
Using the formulas above we get the following macronutrient breakdown for the day
Carb Cycling Is A Proven Nutrition Strategy For Getting Ripped
Carb cycling is a method of dieting that involves planned increases and decreases in carbohydrate intake as well as planned increases and decreases in your caloric intake. You repeat this process until you have reached your desired goals.
On your lower carb days you’ll eat a higher amount of fat and on higher carb days you’ll eat a lower amount of fat. Protein remains high and consistent throughout the process.
For a comprehensive guide on how to create an effective carb cycling meal plan check out my article here: The 2020 Ultimate Guide To Carbohydrate Cycling (Carb Cycling)
You can also check out this Carb Cycling Calculator to help take the guesswork out of creating your meal plan based on a carb cycling strategy.
Eating 6 Small Meals Per Day
Regardless of the approach you’d like to take there is a big advantage to dividing up your meals into 6 smaller meals eaten throughout the day.
These benefits include:
- You are giving your body a consistent stream of nutrients.
- Eating smaller meals helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels. You want to avoid large spikes in your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar spikes your body releases insulin to return your blood sugar levels back to normal. The problem here is that when insulin is present in the bloodstream your body goes from fat burning mode to fat storing mode. This can lead to a condition known as insulin resistance which will make losing fat much harder and could ultimately lead to Type 2 Diabetes.
- Every time you eat, your body needs to do work to break down the food you just ate. This process is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF) or dietary induced thermogenesis (DIT), which is the amount of energy expenditure above the basal metabolic rate due to the cost of processing food for use and storage. So essentially eating smaller meals more often helps to increase your metabolism.
- Eating smaller meals more often is that it helps to prevent you from snacking on non nutritious foods. It’s a lot easier to stick to your diet and avoid snacking when you know another meal is just around the corner.
Foods To Avoid
It’s important to know that not all calories are created equal. The foods that you will consume have a big impact on how your body will process them and function. You’ll want to be sure that you’re consuming foods that are nutritious and come from whole food sources.
1. Fried Fatty Foods
This is probably a no brainer but it’s important to call out the bad from the good. Deep frying foods, although delicious, adds unwanted saturated fats which are very high in calories.
2. Foods High In Sugar
Foods that are high in sugar tend to be not very high in nutrients. They are filled with a bunch of empty calories that will ultimately lead to unwanted weight gain. Sugary foods will also cause spikes in your blood sugar levels which will cause your insulin levels to spike resulting in your body going from fat burning mode to fat storing mode.If kept unchecked it can also lead to insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes.
3. Processed Foods
Highly processed foods are stripped of good nutrients and are filled with empty calories. Try to consume most of your calories from whole food sources.
4. Breads and Pastas
Try to limit your consumption of breads and pastas. If you feel the urge to eat bread or pasta try to eat whole grain varieties. Whole grain breads and pastas will digest slower causing a lower spike in blood sugar levels.
Best Foods To Consume In A Lean Muscle Diet For Females
As we discussed earlier it’s best to try and consume most of your calories from nutrient dense whole food sources. Here are some great choices when putting together your meal plan.
1. Lean Sources Of Protein
- Boneless, skinless chicken breast
- Lean cuts of beef
- Egg Whites
- Greek yogurt
- Whey Protein
- Casein Protein
2. Slow Digesting Carbs
- Whole Grains
- Sweet Potatoes
- Brown Rice
- Black Beans
- Cream of Wheat
- Cream of Rice
- Leafy Green Vegetables
3. Healthy Fats
- Olive Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
- Coconut Oil
Lean Muscle Diet For Females Example Meal Plan
Using our 35yr old female friend as a guide, below is what a daily meal plan could look like. I want to call out that we’re trying to come as close as possible to her target calories and macros but sometimes it’s hard to get it exactly right. As long as you come pretty close you should be fine.
Target Daily Calories: 1883.73
Target Daily Protein: 188g
Target Daily Carbs: 188g
Target Daily Fat: 42g
Estimated Calories Per Meal: 314
Estimated Protein Per Meal: 31
Estimated Carbs Per Meal: 31
Estimated Fat Per Meal: 7
|Meal 1 (7:00am)||Calories||Protein||Carbs||Fat|
|½ Cup Oatmeal||150||5g||27g||3g|
|1 Scoop Whey Protein Isolate||90||22g||1g||0.5g|
|1 Whole Egg||78||5g||0g||5g|
|8 oz Unsweetened Almond Milk||30||1g||1g||2.5g|
|Meal 2 (9:30am)||Calories||Protein||Carbs||Fat|
|Fage 2% Greek Yogurt Plain (200g)||140||20g||6g||4g|
|Meal 3 (12:00pm)||Calories||Protein||Carbs||Fat|
|Grilled Chicken Breast (4oz cooked)||182||33.4g||0g||3.8g|
|Brown Rice Cooked (125g)||139||3.2g||28.7g||1.1g|
|Broccoli (4oz cooked)||40||2.7g||8.1g||0.5g|
|Meal 4 (3:00pm)||Calories||Protein||Carbs||Fat|
|Quest Double Chocolate Protein Bar||180||20g||24g||7g|
|Top Round Steak (4oz cooked)||210||35.8g||0g||6.4g|
|Sweet Potato (4oz)||100||2.2g||23g||0.2g|
|Green Beans (1 cup)||44||2.4g||10g||0.4g|
|1 Serving Casein Protein (70g)||130||25g||3g||1.5g|
|8 oz Unsweetened Almond Milk||30||1g||1g||2.5g|
|2 Whole Eggs||143||12.6g||0.7g||9.5g|
|Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwich Bar (Night time treat)||100||3g||18g||1.5g|
We covered a lot of information in the article. The takeaway should be that if you’re serious about getting lean and making good progress every week then it’s extremely important to come up with a solid nutrition plan. Your nutrition plan is what’s going to drive and fuel your results. The better you stick to the plan the better your results are going to be. Enjoy the process and best of luck to you on your fitness journey to building a lean, muscular physique!