Welcome and hello. What I have put together for all of you is a complete guide to diet and nutrition. Diet is the fuel of all of your athletic activity, it’s crucial you keep the machine running at a high level, or you’re metaphorically going to be running on E. Diet is easily the most overlooked part of any fitness plan. The world is full of quick fixes and “easy” solutions. The truth is, while some of these *might* work in the short term, they are largely unsustainable. What I plan to provide you is not a diet plan, but rather a foundation of a lifestyle you can follow for optimal results inside the gym and for your general health. Let’s dive right into this:
Calories: The Base of All Diets
All result driven progress is going to revolve around your net energy balance. This is the ratio of calorie intake (energy coming in) and calorie output (energy going out). A calorie is simply a measurement of the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. What is translates to in simpler terms is the amount of energy in all of the food and liquids you consume. What happens to your body composition will nearly 100% be a result of your net energy balance. If you input is greater than your output, you will gain weight, conversely if your input is less than your output you will lose weight. This is a gross oversimplification, we will dig a little deeper into the factors that determine your net energy balance, mostly in terms of caloric output as input is simply the calories consumed.
To better understand the process of caloric outputs we will look over the energy systems that make up your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, TDEE. Your TDEE is a combination of Basal Metabolic Rate BMR + Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT) + Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) + Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).
Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the the amount of energy you burn to support being alive. This is would remain constant even if you were to sleep all day. Age, weight, height, sex, amount of muscle, fat, etc. play into calculating your BMR.
Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT) is simply the caloric output of all the exercise you do on a daily basis.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is all the things you during the day that isn’t exercise, steps, tapping your foot, running errands, etc.
Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is the energy required to digest the food you eat. Fat requires the least around 5%, carbs 5-10% coming in the middle ground, and protein being by far the most requiring 20-30% of it’s calories to digest itself.
All of this added together constitutes your Total Daily Energy Expenditure.
How to calculate your TDEE?
This is very individualized, but you can get a rough estimate from doing a simple calculation to get a general idea of where your maintenance (calorie intake equal to output).
First you will calculate your BMR
U.S Men: 66+ (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)
Metric Men: (10x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) + 5
U.S Female: 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
Metric Female: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) -161
Now after you’ve calculated BMR, you will need to calculate your TDEE
This will be your BMR x Your Activity Level During The Day
BMR x 1.5 for sedentary individuals (desk job or less than 5000 steps a day)
BMR x 1.8 for Moderately Active individuals (job involving walking around or 5000-7500 steps)
BMR x 2.2 for Highly Active individuals (Manual labor or on feet all day 10,000+ steps)
As mentioned before, this is a very rough estimate, to get an accurate maintenance calorie level you will weigh yourself over a period of a couple weeks, if you eat for example 3500 and gain weight, try lowering your calories by 100-200 calories until the weight stops moving, this is your maintenance. Conversely if you are losing weight, add 100-200 calories a week until you level out. Now you will know your maintenance and can base your diet on that information, more on that later in this guide.
Now that you have an understand of what a calorie is and how to correctly calculate how many you burn a day, we will get a deeper look into the 3 macro nutrients of which you will consume your calories.
This is the most important macro nutrient for the sake of this guide. Protein is the building block of muscle, it produces the most thermic effect and is nearly impossible to convert to fat while providing a very high amount of satiety.
Protein is 4 calories per gram. Literature suggest tacking at least .8/1lbs of bodyweight, I prefer to keep this number higher due to satiation and anecdotally better growth at around 1-1.25 grams/lbs.
This will come down to preference, unless you are on a plant based diet, most animal based protein sources have a complete amino acid profile, meaning they are suffice to stimulate growth and recovery.
Protein timing will also come down to preference, for the purpose of optimally building muscle, I will suggest spreading your protein intake evenly amongst 3-6 meals a day. The body has a threshold for muscle protein synthesis, while fasting and OMAD is very popular is is a suboptimal approach to muscle growth. To keep muscle protein synthesis elevated optimally throughout the day I recommend eating everyone 3-4 hours, any sooner doesn’t not allow MPS to reset and be spiked any higher than threshold. Not to say it doesn’t work, but everything I will be discussing will be relative to optimal muscle growth. Find and experiment with what works best for you and your lifestyle. I have found added a fast acting protein source like a protein power after your workout can aid in recovery, this can be animal, plant based, whey, whatever preference you have. Incorporating a slower, casein based protein around bedtime can keep your MPS stimulated as you sleep. Greek Yogurt and Cottage cheese are a good choice here.
Let me get extremely controversial because it seems that there is an unwarranted active war against carbohydrates. Let me preface this by saying the problem isn’t with carbs, the problem is access calorie consumption in relation to TDEE. Though a very small amount is needed for biological function, carbs have many beneficial uses. I will try to demystify the argument against carbs and clear up some of the FUD into incorporating them into a healthy diet.
Carbohydrates are the your bodies quickest fuel source. At 4 calories per gram of carb, they have the say caloric density as protein. Carbohydrates are your muscles preferred fuel, this is because you will be using the glycogen energy system when working out. Carbs are also protein sparing as insulin is one of the most anabolic substances in the body. High carb diets actually require less protein for muscle sparing and growth depending on your deficit or surplus.
Lifting weights alone will not be enough to deplete your glycogen stores, this is a common argument against carbs, which is true, protein can cause the replenishment of glycogen through glycogenesis, but carbs will cause a spike in insulin which then signals the body to shuttle nutrients in the cells. This is hugely beneficial for both recovery and thus growth.
Low carb/keto/carnivore diets work in 2 ways, insulin sensitivity, meaning your body regulates insulin very well and will be less apt to store as fat, and my limiting calories through the the limitation or completely elimination of an entire macronutrient. Simply put when you go from eating 200 grams of carbs to 0 grams and see weight loss without manipulating fat and protein, this is not because you’re magically burning fat due to ketosis, rather you just eliminated 800 calories from your daily caloric input, this would be enough of a deficit to lose over 1.5lbs a week. Now I will not argue the health benefits in terms of autoimmune disease response, cholesterol, and improvements in diabetes. That is not the intent of this guide. This guide assumes you are a healthy person with no underlying issues looking to improve your physique and adopt a more healthy, balanced diet. If you do fall into the former group, always consult a physician when starting a new diet or exercise program.
Carbohydrates have a vast difference among sources in terms of satiety, micro nutrient count, and glycemic index (the insulin response to certain carbs, sugar being 100, so the lower the less insulin response). You will always want to eat nutrient dense food. While the pathway for all carbs to be converted into glucose is relatively the same, eating nutrient dense, satiating carbs will always be superior to eating low nutrient dense, low satiating carbs (I.e candy, sugary drinks which are the absolute worst, etc.). There are times when the types of foods/beverages can have their place as we will get into in the next section. Potatoes, rice, leafy greens, and fruit are examples of relatively satiating carbs or provide high micronutrient values.
While not as important as protein timing, the vast majority of your carbs should be in the window around your workout. Before the workout, roughly 60-90 minutes you will want to consume a relativity fast and easily digestible carbs source. I highly enjoy white rice as it causes very minimal digestive problems for most people and a quicker source of energy than say potatoes or fibrous carbs. During the workout I like to consume 25-50 grams of a rapidly digesting carbs in the form of a powdered drink. The preferred source here is Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin as this is found to be rapidly absorbed, easy on your stomach, and can provide enhanced energy, bloodflow and recovery during your workout. I will then follow the workout with another easily digestible, faster acting carb source like a rice based, gluten free cereal. This will replenish any glycogen lost during exercise and take advantage of the insulin sensitivity that exercise will induce.
Throughout the day keeping your remaining carbs generally even will work. If you cannot handle carbs well during the work day you should time them around the workout as mentioned above. Another good time to have a higher amount of carbs is around your wake up as this is a period of spike cortisol as carbohydrates have an anti cortisol effect. I have found with myself and hundreds of clients that at night before bed a lower carbohydrate meal with more fat and protein is effective for better sleep and satiation. This also anecdotally will keep insulin sensitivity higher as you will go your longest period of the day (sleep) without carbohydrates. Carbs at night will not cause fat gain though, only a caloric surplus will cause fat gain, so if you have to fit carbs in at night it is not the end of the world.
Fat has gone through scrutiny throughout time as being founds as both the bad guy and now the good guy in diet circles. The truth of the matter is fat is crucial for hormone health! If you don’t get enough your hormones will be completely out of wack. Fat is also responsible for for a wide plethora of regulatory process within your cells, inflammation response, and vitamin and mineral absorption. To put it simply, eat your *healthy* fats.
At 9 calories per gram of fat, fat is the most caloric dense macronutrient. Fat is always very satiating, leaving you less hungry for the cravings that can come along with a caloric deficit if fat loss is your goal.
You should be seeking out monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats these comes from fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, olive oil and other sources of high omega 3 fatty acids. You should eat saturated fats in moderation, this is your red meat, cheese, and butter. Now their all definitely noticeable health benefits of consuming fats, but if you are not doing a ketosis/carnivore type diet you are better off limiting your intake of fattier red meats and avoid processed meat. Trans fat should be avoided. This is highly inflammable and found in most junk foods. These can wreck havoc on your hormones and lipid profile increasing your risk for heart disease.
Generally speaking timing won’t have too much of an effect unless you are consuming large amounts of your daily fats with high carb meals as the insulin effect of the carbs will not allow for the fat to be properly utilized. I tend to keep fat away from my workout window to avoid suboptimal digestion. I will then keep my fat balanced between my other meals throughout the day with slightly more with my protein based meal at night again for absorption and satiation reasons.
Setting Up Your Diet Based on Goal
When I say goal here, I want to be clear I’m referring to a result based outcome. This is not necessarily “feel better”, this is pretty much a body composition based goal. I am not going to tell you how to train eat for a marathon or the olympics because that would go beyond the scope of this guide. This guide is for those that want to look better I.e. gains muscle, lose body fat, or recomp. Now that we have that out of the way let’s go into how you should set up your diet for your desired goals.
This is the most fun part of any dieting process. You will feel good, energized, and not feel hungry more than likely ever, if anything you will become some what annoyed with having to eat so much food, but hey, if you want results it’s not always sunshine and rainbows.
The basis of muscle gain to circle back to the beginning is a caloric surplus, you are giving the body not just the amount it needs to maintain, but rather more than enough so it has the adequate energy to grow. How much energy? The science is out there and the general consensus is 300-500 calories over maintenance for an adequate surplus. This number is largely dependent on your preference in body fat gain and diet flexibility. You can *potentially* see more growth at a larger deficit, this is mostly anecdotal as is most bodybuilding knowledge thrown around, this is because 1. Bro’s just spread bro info that sounds good but may not be backed by science or application. 2. It’s very hard to actually conduct a meaningful study as the variables are very very hard to pinpoint in a control group. Conclusion? There is some merit in fitness claimed by the top pros, and also garbage thrown around. Try and see what sticks as long as it isn’t blatantly unhealthy, unmoral, or illegal. I bring this up because going into a much larger surplus (1000 calories +) has been show to yield great results for some people. Now to get into detail and make sense of all of this.
Setting Up Your Surplus
For those in the higher end of lean (10-12% body fat) your best bet is to stick to the smaller end of this surplus at 300-500 calories to avoid unwanted body fat gain. When you’re reaching 15%+ body fat you start to get a net negative ROI on your surplus. This is when you will start running into hormone and insulin resistance issues.
Calculate your TDEE from the section listed in the beginner and simply add 300-500 calories to this number.
Example, if you’re TDEE is 3000, simply eat 3300-3500 calories a day.
As you do this you will want to track your weight (most optimal), or the mirror (least optimal) and gauge the weekly difference. Initially you will more than likely see a large jump due to increase glycogen storage and water weight. Take this into account and after 2-3 weeks you should be seeing a .5-1lbs difference a week. If lower, up your calories by 100-200 calories, if more draw back 100-200 calories.
Keep this up adding or subtracting (more than likely adding) until you’ve 1. Reach a point where you are satisfied with your growth. 2. Are entering the range of 15% body fat and need to start dialing it back to get into a deficit or cutting phase.
If you are leaner (sub 10%) this will also be a good solution to growth, but if you enjoy more flexibility and don’t mind seeing the abs soften up a bit you can go a bit higher in your surplus (say 800-1000, or even 1000+, wouldn’t suggest anything beyond 1500). This will let you eat more and leverage more weight to get stronger and grow. Again you want to go until you’re 1. Starting to get uncomfortable with your physique. 2. Are reaching 13-15% body fat and losing your abs.
If you are going into as muscle building, or bulking phase I would suggest plan on doing it longer than 12 weeks, you are not going to build an appreciable amount of muscle mass in less time than that.
Setting Up A Caloric Deficit
This is the easiest part by the numbers, the hardest part in applicability. Why? Dieting isn’t fun, especially in the end stages of getting very lean (9% and lower). You will feel hungry at times, and you will have cravings. It is up to you to remain disciplined and stay the course. This is also where the fun begins and you begin to see your best results in terms of physique. Having abs for the first time of your life is a real token of hard work and dedication and you should be proud, it’s not easy or everyone would have a 6 pack.
First and foremost, you should again calculate your TDEE. This time you will subtract 300-500.
Example your TDEE is 3000 you will begin eating 2700-2500 calories.
You should start slow, always. You do not want to be restrictive in the beginner because your calories can only go lower as your body will begin to adapt to the deficit. By doing so you will be forced to either subtract calories or add in more output (cardio, steps, etc.)
By starting a small deficit you will again see a larger weight drop in the beginning, again this will be attributed to losing water weight and a little depletion of muscle glycogen. After a couple weeks this drastic weight loss will stall and you will start to see what the actual rate of fat loss is. Again we’re shooting for .5-1lbs a week. With cutting you can potentially take this a bit further with up to a 1000 calorie deficit with a rate of loss at 2lbs a week. This is as far as I would ever take a deficit due to the potential loss of muscle mass at any rate beyond this.
A cutting cycle doesn’t have the limit that a gaining or bulking cycle does, simple cut down until you’re satisfied with your level of leanness. I will throw this in there because some of you are extreme, around 3% body fat is essential for sustaining life, and below 6% you will start feeling absolutely terrible. This is not sustainable long term.
An added benefit of dieting to a lean level is your margin of growth if you decide you’d like ti enter a mass gaining phase again, at 7% body fat you have a lot of room for growth if you want to get to say 12% where you will still maintain visible abs. This is much more advantageous than being around 12% and bulking to 15%. You are able to either go a little harder and more flexible, or maintain the level of growth for a longer time. Not to mention the advantage of having a high insulin sensitivity the leaner you are.
This is the hardest of the 2 methods in terms of execution, but if your goals is to remain relatively lean without much fluctuation in body fat, this is your method albeit a much lengthier process. Recomposition simply means gaining muscle and building fat at the same time, which is very hard to achieve unless you meet 1 (or more) of 3 conditions. 1. You are brand new to the gym. You will put muscle on simply because you are adding a new stimulus to the body to adapt. 2. You had a significant amount of time away from the gym (6+ months) which could be perfect for those experience gym closures when they open back up, again the new stimulus will force growth. 3. Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) which is obvious for several reasons that will not get into because this is not a guide advocating or explaining AAS use.
For those that fall outside of those 3 criteria this method, while not being the most optimal, can be used by simply finding your TDEE and eating +-100-200 around that number. If you’re on the leaner side, I’d suggest 100-200 over, if you in the 11%+ side I’d suggest going 100-200 under. By doing this you will be providing just enough calories to grow, while not enough to gain any appreciable fat (if going slightly over) or enough to grow while losing a slight amount of fat (if under). This is a long game method, your results will be slowly than choosing a fat loss or muscle gain phase, but it can be done.
Example TDEE is 3000 and you want to gain muscle while lean then eat 3100-3200 calories if on the less lean side then you will eat 2900-2800 calories
This method can also be used when in between a fat loss and building phase, or vice versa to achieve a level of homeostasis before embarking on whichever endeavor.
Reversing Out Of A Diet Phase
When finishing up a diet phase it’s important not to start going overboard on eating, because trust me, you will really want to. Instead slowly add 100-200 calories a week for 4-6 weeks to return back to your new maintenance. Again when they scale stops moving you will be there and can decide what your next plan is based on your goal. You can also stay at this maintenance calorie amount if you are satisfied with the way you look. This will prevent a rebound fat effect and will healthily get your metabolism back into optimal shape.
As you begin to get leaner and leaner it will be important to give your mind and body a break. If you are below 15% body fat I suggest having 1 meal, emphasis on meal, where you eat whatever you want. This will help take the mental burden of dieting off and satisfy your cravings. If you are beyond 15% body fat this needs to limited to a once or maybe twice a month affair as you need to focus on getting into a healthy body fat range.
Macronutrient Breakdown Of Your Diet
This will be very individual based, and assuming you’re not trying to be a competitive bodybuilder will largely be up to your preferences. A popular diet method known as If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) or flexible dieting will be what we will discus. In this approach you will be able to eat whatever foods you want throughout the day, as long as at the end of the day you’re meeting your daily caloric and macronutrient goals. Now there is a wrong way and a right way to do this. The wrong way is to eat a lot of processed food sporadically throughout the day and come up with your numbers. You will see your results (to an extent) as calories in vs calories out trumps all, but you will feel and perform terribly. A better approach is to use this dieting method to eat around 80% of your daily caloric needs with nutrient dense, satiating food, and have 20% things that would be considered “junk” food. This approach is both sustainable for lifelong dieting and gives you flexibility, it also will allow you to get your micronutrient needs from a majority of nutrient dense food.
Another method is a meal plan, where you construct a daily meal plan based on macro/caloric needs and eat the same thing every day. This works well for someone like myself who is a creature of habit and wants to eliminate as many variables in favor of a stable routine.
For both methods you will need a food scale and an app to track your diet, I suggest mymacros+ or carbon diet app (which will actually do all of the calculations and adjustments for you). A free option is myfitnesspal, but the user interface is subpar in my opinion.
With both methods you will need to know your macro needs to begin, this is how we will get there:
Protein will consistently be 1g-1.2 grams per pound of body weight. If you are 200lbs this will be 200-240 grams of protein
Fats will needs to be around .3 grams per pound of bodyweight for health purposes. For the same 200lbs male this will be 60 grams, or 540 calories. This does not have to be set in stone. Carbs and fats can be interchanged as long as you are getting AT LEAST 0.3 grams per pound of bodyweight.
Carbs will make up the remaining portion of your diet. This will 100% come down to preference, if you want to make them lower, go for it, but try to maintain around 100g for athletic performance.
Putting it all together.
If you take a 200lbs male and want to get the macros for a TDEE of 3000 it will look like this:
200g protein – 800 calories
60g fat – 540 calories
415g carbs – 1,660 calories
Total of 3000 calories.
If trying to lose fat this could be
220g protein – 880 calories
60g fat – 540 calories
270g carbs – 1,080 calories
Total of 2500 calories
If trying to build muscle
200g protein – 800 calories
60g fat – 540 calories
540g carbs – 2,160 calories
Total of 3500 calories
This is going to get a ton of questions so let me address that now. YES, you can get absolutely shredded to the bone while eating carbs. EVERYTHING is going to come down to your calorie deficit and to be honest, the higher you keep your carbs the better you will either grow, or keep performance up when dieting. I want to reiterate that this is PERSONAL PREFERENCE. You can do whatever split up you want of fats and carbs, my suggestion is just staying above 100g of carbs a day. If you would like to do a keto diet, there will come a time where I delve into that topic, but this is for the average person looking to change their physique optimally.
Follow this general guideline, play with your macros and calories until you find what is working, and relentlessly follow your goal and the laws of science will be on your side to make it happen over time, unless you have an underlying health condition it is nearly impossible to not get results following following the above. Combine this will a nutrient dense diet and you will be feeling better than ever, performing better than ever, and simply getting your desired results.
Sample Meal Plan
I will actually just give you my meal plan so you can see how to structure meals in a way that is optimal for gym performance. You should not try to follow this plan, this is for me and I am a 215lbs bodybuilder and the results will not be what you want (you’ll probably gain a lot of fat).
– Meal 1 75 oat 40g iso whey 20g almond butter
– Meal 2 150g chicken 100g greens 75 jasmine rice 100g pineapple
– Meal 3 150g lean beef 50g low fat pasta sauce 350g potatoes
– Meal 4 pre workout meal 100 jasmine rice or 100g pasta 125g chicken 100g banana
– Meal 5 post workout 120 g gluten free rice based cereal 50g isolate whey 100g fruit
– Meal 6 250g fat free yogurt 10g iso whey 20g almond butter
Example Budget Grocery List ($100 Week)
Frozen Pink Salmon
Lean Ground Beef
I hope you find this useful, this guide comes from years upon years of tried and true experience and learning from the top minds in the industry. If you have anymore questions again I am always available to answer anything you might have.
I will never charge for guides like this, this is for you to use and hopefully change your life for the better and potentially make a lasting impact. If you feel that this has given you value I will accept donations. If this proves to be something sustainable I will put more and more in the future and be able to devote more time to creating more guides and coaching 1 on 1. If not, that is completely okay I will continue to provide these for you at no cost! I appreciate the constant feedback on will continue to build up on this library.
– Your friend BowTiedOx
Post Category: Diet/Nutrition