The knowledge required for the proper care and maintenance of our bodies is something that every human being should be educated in. It gives us power over ourselves and encourages habits that will ensure we keep our bodies fit and our lives long. Yet in the area of early education, this information is not only outrageously ignored, but the minimal information that children are learning is inaccurate and outdated. This has created a situation where older members of society are struggling to regain power over themselves and are left at the mercy of an industry that has taken advantage of them for decades.
In my late teens and early 20’s, I took it upon myself to acquire the information that gave me back control of my physical fitness. This started my journey into the realm of the fitness industry and fueled my aspirations for competitive athleticism. What I found within the industry itself was a vast collection of crooked business practices, which takes advantage of the average person’s lack of necessary knowledge, as well as their desperation to regain their power over their destiny. They were creating problems that do not exist in order to sell you products that you do not need.
Here and now, I will provide you with a simple and basic understanding of nutrition, putting the power back in your hands. I will help you break down the important elements of the food you eat and also show you how to calculate your own body’s unique requirements.
Food sources are broken down into their three basic macro-nutrients:
Proteins, Fats, and Carbohydrates.
There are two types of proteins; complete and incomplete.
Protein is made up of smaller molecules called amino acids and these are the building blocks of muscle. There are twenty-two important amino acids and while your body does produce many on its own, nine of these amino acids can only be obtained through the food that you eat. These nine amino acids are called essential amino acids.
Complete proteins are food sources that contain an adequate amount of these nine essential amino acids, while incomplete proteins lack one or more of them. These amino acids assist the body in the creation of hormones that help regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure, which has a direct relation to muscular growth and your metabolic rate. Complete proteins are found in food sources like red meat, eggs, fish, cheese, and poultry.
Metabolic Rate: How much energy/calories your body uses within a certain time period.
The main purpose of carbohydrates is to provide your body with the energy it needs to operate. They are made up of sugar molecules, which your body breaks down into fuel. The two main types of carbohydrates are: simple and complex.
Simple Carbohydrates: Simple carbohydrates include syrup, soda, and table sugars. These types of carbs should either be avoided or used in moderation. Other sources of simple carbohydrates include candies, cakes, cookies, ice cream, beer, and so on.
Complex Carbohydrates: These include food such as apples, oatmeal, potatoes, rice, and other starchy foods. The difference between simple and complex carbohydrates is the rate at which your body breaks them down into usable energy in order to fuel your organs and muscles. How quickly these carbs are broken down also determine how much it will spike your blood glucose levels.
Without carbohydrates, your body will break down your muscle tissue and sabotage your efforts to optimize your fitness. The main point of any nutritional program is not to avoid macronutrients at extreme levels, but to provide your body with the right amount of healthy foods that fuel your metabolism, which will also assist in burning fat.
Fats were the carbohydrates of the 80’s and 90’s. Meaning that the fad diets were adamant about avoiding fats at an extreme level. But as I said before, extreme avoidance of any macro-nutrient is unnecessary, and the most effective approach is to ensure you are getting the proper amount. Elimination diets are effective simply because they limit the amount of overall calories that you’re consuming within a 24 hour period. A reasonably safe range of fat intake is somewhere around 20-35 percent of your total daily calories.
The basic biological functions of fat include transporting fat-soluble vitamins, providing structural integrity to your cells, and manufacturing hormones. It is also a fine source of energy and gives food both texture and flavor. When combined with protein it can also help us feel sufficiently satisfied after a meal.
How Much Should I Eat?
How you calculate your nutritional needs will depend on a lot of factors, but most importantly, it will depend on your current goals. Are you looking to gain muscle or lose body fat?
The average person looking to lose body fat with minimal loss of muscle mass can expect the following results.
Obese: 2 pounds per week.
Overweight: 1 pound per week
Athletic: ½ per week.
If your goals are to gain muscle mass without packing on a lot of body fat, you can expect results within the following ranges.
2-3 pounds of increased muscle mass per month for beginners.
1-2 pound of increased muscle mass per month for intermediate athletes.
½ pound per month in advanced lifters.
In all cases, these are the most average results that occur on a case by case basis. But genetics will also play a role in your results. So you may see more or less progress based on other circumstances.
Calculating Body Fat and Target Body Weight
There are several effective methods for choosing a starting point, but I will share with you the method that I am currently using myself. Remember, these calculations are not 100% accurate and are meant to get you close to where you need to be. Further measurements as the weeks go on will help you dial in and optimize your nutrition.
The most common tools you will need are a decent scale and a body fat caliper. Using these tools, you should find your current total body weight and use measurements from the fat caliper to estimate overall body fat percentage.
Step One: Finding Your Lean Body Mass
Let’s say your total body weight is about 200 pounds and your measurements using the body fat caliper show that you’re around 30% body fat.
200 pounds x .3 = 60 pounds of body fat.
That means your lean body mass is about 140 pounds.
Step Two: Configuring Your Target Lean Body Mass
If your goal is to focus on losing body fat, use your current lean body mass for this portion and multiply it by 100.
Ex. 140 x 100 = 14,000.
If your goal is to gain lean body mass, then configure your goals based on the average results listed above. For example, if you are a beginner, I previously mentioned that you can expect an average of 2-3 pounds of increased lean body mass per month, with minimal fat gain.
If your starting lean body mass is 140 pounds and you are using a 6-month program, then you can expect to gain 12-18 pounds of lean muscle within that time period. So your lean body mass will be calculated at your target goal weight, which would be 152-158 pounds.
152 x 100 = 15,200.
Step Three: Configuring Your Target Body Bat Percentage.
Depending on your current body fat level, here is what you can expect to lose on a month to month basis.
25% and above: 3-4% per month.
20-25% : 2-3% per month
13-19% : 1-2% per month
13% and below: 1% or less.
Using the same example as before, a person who is 30% body fat can expect to lose around 3-4% body fat per month. Over the course of 6 months, they can expect around 18% of body fat loss, leaving you with around 12% body fat.
Now take this number and subtract it from 100.
100-12 = 88 A happy number indeed.
Step Four: Configuring Your Overall Target Body Weight.
By using the numbers we have found so far, divide the results of step two by the results of step three.
For typical fat loss in this example.
14,000/88 = 159 pounds.
For the example of increasing lean body mass:
15,200/88 = 170 pounds.
Depending on your goals, these numbers will be your target body weight for a 6-month diet and training program.
Calculating Your Calorie Requirements.
Most formulas for fat loss find your daily caloric needs based on your resting metabolic rate and subtract 500 calories in order to put you in a calorie deficit. This will work fine in the beginning, but this does not account for your physical activity. High-intensity training and low-intensity training have different influences on overall body composition and your metabolism. The following formula will take this into account and help you adjust your nutrition accordingly.
The basic formula:
Target Body Weight x ( Activity Multiplier + average weekly hours of training)
Step One: Estimating Your Weekly Hours Of Physical Activity.
Strength training, cardio, physical jobs, and any recreational activities count towards this estimate. For this example, we will make it easy and use a sedentary person who spends at least 3 hours per week in the gym.
Step Two: Calculating Overall Weekly Training Intensity.
The intensity of your training is based on the intensity of the load. Meaning the percentage you lift relative to your 1 rep maximum on any given lift.
Maximum intensity: 11
Mixed Intensity: 10
Casual training: 9
So if you average 3 hours in the gym with mixed intensity, your activity multiplier would be:
10 + 3 = 15
Step Three: Multiply your Target Body Weight By Your Activity Multiplier.
In this example we have a target body weight of 159 pounds, making the formula as such:
159 x ( 10 + 3 ) = 2,067 daily calories.
The Beastly Machine Formula
Target Bodyweight x ( Increased Activity Multiplier + weekly hours of training)
This formula is for those who are younger, leaner, have a lot of energy, and struggle to gain weight. Here your intensity numbers will be as such:
Maximum intensity: 13
Mixed Intensity: 12
Casual training: 11
Using the same example as before, this is how your equation would look.
159 x ( 12 + 3) = 2,385
These are your starting numbers and I suggest you stick with them for the first month, while also monitoring your progress. By keeping track of shifts in your overall body weight and body fat percentage, you should be able to easily tell if you are making progress towards your goal. From there, you can adjust your nutrition based on the results in order to optimize your numbers to your specific needs.
As a standard rule, you want about 1 gram of protein per pound of your target body weight. Each gram of protein contains 4 calories. Using the same example, if your target bodyweight is 159 then you would calculate 159 x 4 = 636 calories from protein.
This calculation depends on if you feel better taking in more fat and less carbs or the other way around. The typical range is between .4 to .7 grams per pound of your target body weight. If you’re like me and prefer less fat and more carbs, then your calculation would look something like this:
159 x .04 = 79.5
Each gram of fat contains 9 calories.
79.5 x 9 = 715.5 calories from fat.
What you have left over from your previous two calculations will be dedicated to your carbohydrate intake.
We have already concluded that you need 636 calories from protein and 715.5 calories from fat.
If your overall calorie intake is 2,067:
2,067 – (715.5 + 636) = 715.5 calories from carbs.
Each gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories.
714.5/4= 178.9 grams of carbs.
Once you’ve had the opportunity to test the efficiency of your meal plan, then you will be able to make adjustments accourding to your needs. Keep track of how your carb/fat ratio makes you feel, as well as how your body is responding. This includes keeping records of your lean body mass, your body fat gain/loss, and your performance during physical activity.
What Should I Eat?
Breaking down the foundation of a healthy and reasonable diet should look something like this:
80% whole and nutrient rich foods you enjoy.
10% whole and nutrient rich foods you can tolerate.
10% whatever you want.
A successful long-term nutrition plan does not shift into extremes but instead creates a reasonable balance. It provides you with the necessary nutritional value that your body needs to operate at its most optimal function, while also allowing the flexibility for you to enjoy some of your favorite treats.
Common Macro-nutrient Sources.
Here is a list of basic macro-nutrient sources that will help you get started in organizing a meal plan. Remember that variety is key when it comes to designing your own meal plan. Please check nutritional labels for specific macro-nutrient information in order to adjust your portions.
If you’re someone who prefers a vegetarian or vegan diet, make sure you know what your proper protein and fat sources are and that you’re receiving adequate amounts. Nutrient deficiencies tend to be the biggest problem for people who have adopted these diets without proper nutritional knowledge.
Cured Dried Beef
Ground Beef 95% Lean
Chuck, Pot Roast.
New York Strip
Chicken: Breast, Leg, Thigh, Wing
Turkey: Breast, Leg, Sausage
Pork and Lamb:
Pork Chop, Sirloin, Boneless.
Lamb, Leg Chop.
Ham, Fresh and Lean.
Tuna, Fresh or Canned
Eggs And Dairy:
Cottage Cheese, Nonfat
Mozzarella Cheese, Nonfat
Whey Protein Powder (I recommend True Protein)
Cream of Rice
Rice: Brown, Jasmine, or White.
Whole Grain Breads:
100% Whole Wheat
Pita 100% Whole Wheat
Eggs and Dairy:
Block Cheese (American, Cheddar, Colby, etc.)
Mozzarella Cheese, Whole Milk.
Ricotta Cheese, Whole Milk
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Nuts And Seeds:
Raw or dry roasted.
Almonds, Almond Butter
Cashews, Cashew Butter
Fruits and Veggies:
As a general rule, free foods do not count towards carbs or calories. Nobody ever got fat from eating too many vegetables.
I hope that this information proves useful to you and helps you gain a general understanding of your body’s needs. There have been several books written on this topic and I have done my best to condense the information into its most basic form. But I always encourage further reading and study. You no longer have any excuse not to take responsibility for your own nutritional needs and fitness goals.