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A Beginner's Guide to Fat Loss and Muscle Gain Diets

Posted on September 16 2018

KH Nutritionby Kajs Hadžić 
of KH Nutrition

 

 

 

Bro scientists and health industry shills want you to think that you need silver bullet supplements to build muscle or draconian food restrictions to burn fat, but diets don't have to be complicated. The efficacy of your diet revolves around daily caloric intake and macronutrient ratios, not powders and gimmicks.

nutrition pyramidthe most original way to explain nutrition priorities: a pyramid

Trying to improve your body composition without identifying and hitting these targets is like trying to get stronger without learning how to program, lift properly, or rest sufficiently (i.e., doing CrossFit). With a little computation and a lot of self-control, you can develop and follow a sustainable diet that underpins a healthy lifestyle.

 

A. Calories in calories out

    Before deciding how many calories you need to consume to achieve your ideal physique, you need to calculate how many calories you burn in a day as a reference point. This number, your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), is the product of your basal metabolic rate and your activity. You can use a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Daily Calorie Needs Calculator to figure out your TDEE, but it pays to understand the math behind it.

     

    1. Basal Metabolic Rate

    Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of energy you burn at rest in a 24-hour period, starting 12-14 hours after your last meal, at 20-28 degrees Celsius room temperature.1 BMR is affected by a variety of factors such as fever, stress, and infective illnesses, but there’s a very simple way to accurately estimate your BMR: the Harris & Benedict formula.2

    for males

    for females

    metric units

    66.5 + (13.75 × weight in kg) + (5.003 × height in cm ) – (6.755 × age in years)

    655.1 + (9.563 × weight in kg ) + (1.850 × height in cm) – (4.676 × age in years)

    Imperial units

    66 + ( 6.2 × weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 × height in inches ) – ( 6.76 × age in years )

    655.1 + ( 4.35 × weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 × height in inches ) - ( 4.7 × age in years )

     

    2. Activity

    The amount of energy you burn other than what you burn at rest is your activity.The easiest way to calculate your activity is to select a Physical Activity Level (PAL), which is the ratio of daily energy expenditure to basal metabolic rate.3

    Description

    PAL

    exclusively sedentary and lying activities = old and frail individuals

    1.2

    exclusively sedentary activities with no or low impact free time activities = desk job, precision mechanic

    1.4 - 1.5

    sedentary activities with added expenditure due to occasional walking and standing = lab worker, motorist, student

    1.6 - 1.7

    mostly standing & walking activities = waiter, mechanic, housewife, craftsman, courier<

    1.8 - 1.9

    physical work = construction worker, farmer, pro athlete

    2.0 - 2.4

     

    Once you’ve determined your BMR and activity multiplier, you can calculate your TDEE.

    TDEE = basal metabolic rate x activity

    Example:

    1666 BMR x 1.8 activity level = 3000kcal (rounded up for simplicity)

     

    To gain weight, consume 200-300 kcal over your TDEE for about 2 weeks, making sure to monitor your progress (e.g., scale, appearance, energy levels). If you don’t see any changes, then add another 100-200 kcal to your TDEE. Adding more than 500 kcal isn’t ideal, as it will almost guarantee that you get out of control and eat too much, resulting in a “permabulk.”

    Consume 200-300kcal under your TDEE to lose weight. When you’re in a caloric deficit, your body is in an alert state, so it is even more important to monitor subtle changes like mood swings and energy levels.

     

    B. Nutrients

    Now that you know how many calories you have to consume every day, you have to decide the nutritional profiles of the foods that will provide those calories.

     

    1. Macronutrients

    A macronutrient is an essential nutrient that has a large minimal daily requirement, including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.4

    • Carbohydrates: Mainly sugars and starches, together constituting one of the three principal types of nutrients used as energy sources (calories) by the body.5
    • Proteins: Large molecules composed of one or more chains of amino acids in a specific order determined by the base sequence of nucleotides in the DNA coding for the protein. Proteins are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body's cells, tissues, and organs.6
    • Fats: In chemistry, a compound formed from chemicals called fatty acids. These fats are greasy, solid materials found in animal tissues and in some plants.7

     

    The first macronutrient ratio you should determine is protein. A simple way to do so is to aim for 0.75g of protein per pound of bodyweight. A 200-lb. man, therefore, should aim for 150g of protein per day.

    Using lean body mass (LBM), however, will yield a better starting point and reference; you can get your LBM via BIA scale, bod pod, or DEXA scan. A safe target is 1g per pound of LBM. 

    Once you determine your protein requirements, calculate your calories from protein.

    Calories from protein = protein intake goal x 4

    Example:

    If you have 160 lbs. of LBM, then you should consume 160g of protein per day to maintain your weight. Your calories from protein, therefore, are 160g x 4 calories/g = 640kcal.

     

    Next, calculate your remaining calories to allocate to carbs and fat, a subject of many bitter internet debates among armchair fitness experts. I recommend allocating the remaining calories to carbs and fats equally for a balanced macro split. The amount of carbs will trigger keto followers, but your body will handle it without a problem if you’re healthy; if not, you can always adjust accordingly. Finally, determine your daily grams of carbs and fats.

    Remaining calories = TDEE - calories from protein

    Example:

    If your TDEE is 3000kcal, then your TDEE less 640kcal from protein results in 2360kcal for carbs and fats.

     

    Calories from carbs = calories from fats = remaining calories / 2

    Example:

    2360kcal / 2 = 1180kcal

     

    Carb requirements = calories from carbs / 4

    Fat requirements = calories from fats / 9

    Example:

    • Carbs: 1180kcal/4kcal = 295g
    • Fats: 1180kcal/9kcal = 131g

     


    sushiAdjusting your macros when you’re cutting is more tricky. Consuming more carbs usually results in more satiety, but it also causes a greater insulin response that can make you feel hungry. This presents a tradeoff: if you consume more fats, you'll feel less full, but you probably won't be hungry as you would be if you were to add more carbs. If you consume more carbs, try to distribute them throughout the day to keep you blood sugar levels consistent and avoid crashes.

    For instance, if you’re bulking, then you’ll probably find it easier to get in your daily energy by pushing the scale towards fats. They carry more energy per gram than carbs and proteins, which means you’ll need less volume and will stuff your face less. In this case I’d recommend going with 60% fats (up to 65% but not more) and 40% carbs.

     

    2. Micronutrients

    There's no math to do with regards to micronutrients, but that doesn't mean they're unimportant. I recommend incorporating three different vegetables with a combined mass of 400g and two different fruits (roughly 250g of fruit) into your daily meals. Change the fruits and vegetables in your diet every couple of days to avoid monotony.

    Make this a habit. For example, when cooking lunch, you can take a common two-veggie mix like peas and carrots and put it into your rice while cutting up a fresh pepper or tomato as a fresh salad. Fruits are even easier to incorporate; just put them into your protein shake, smoothie or cut them up and mix them with your oats/oatmeal and you're good to go. Bananas, berries, apples, and grapes are cheap and easy to mix into your meals.

     

    Tess Holliday
    a reminder not to binge eat

    C. Willpower

    Once you’ve determined your daily caloric requirements and macronutrient ratios, do your best to hit those targets. Body composition swings that come with getting sick or celebrating holidays are irrelevant if you’re generally compliant with your diet. Monitor how well you respond to different macronutrient ratios and caloric intake levels, then adjust accordingly.A macro-counting app can be very helpful until you reach the point at which you can estimate your calories and macros in your head. Don’t bother with supplements and meal timing until you can consistently manage your caloric intake. A sensible diet only works if you have the discipline to follow it. For the out-of-shape and undisciplined, there’s always the fat acceptance movement.

     

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    Sources

    1. Dörr, Martin "Ernährung und Stoffwechsel" ISBN 978-3-427-92370-1
    2. Harris JA, Benedict FG. Carnegie Institution; Washington DC: 1919. A biometric study of basal metabolism in man.
    3. Dictionary of Sport and Exercise Science and Medicine by Churchill Livingstone. S.v. "physical activity level PAL." Retrieved September 11 2018 from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/physical+activity+level+PAL
    4. Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. 2003. Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc 11 Sep. 2018https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/macronutrient
    5. https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=15381
    6. https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=15380
    7. https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3394