Before getting into anything I want to say that a diet shouldn’t be short term in the sense that when you eventually stop you go straight back to your original weight. If you can achieve your desired goal then you should strive to maintain that by altering your diet according to your new weight, activity levels etc.
1) Determine Your Calories
You cannot lose weight by eating more calories then you burn, whilst alternatively you cannot gain weight if you eat less calories then you burn in a day.
The general guidelines which typically work best are:
Weight loss = 11-13 kcal/lb bodyweight
Maintenance = 14-16 kcals/lb bodyweight
Gain Weight/Muscle – 17-19 kcals/lb bodyweight
Remember these guidelines are not tailored for you specifically. For example, a very active individual may begin to lose weight at 13 kcals/lb or higher whereas a very inactive individual may need to go as low as 8 or 9 kcal/lb before they start to lose weight. Be smart and keep a track of your progress.
2) Set Protein Requirement
** When in a calorie deficit protein intake becomes more important in order to prevent muscle protein breakdown. The greater a calorie deficit the greater the protein requirement. Furthermore the leaner you become the more protein you require too.**
protein recommendation: 0.8-1.5 grams/lb total body weight.
If you are overweight and exercise infrequently then go towards the lower end. If you are lean and dieting to lose more fat then opt for the upper end.
If you are looking to gain weight/muscle then protein requirement is reduced, however I tend to recommend 1 gram/lb for most people, particularly if using a small calorie surplus.
1.5g/lb of protein is a LOT of protein by the way so I recommend adding protein shakes in between, or with, meals to hit those higher figures.
3) Fat & Carbohydrate Requirement
Fat & Carbs make up the remaining calories however how you wish to approach this is really up to you. If you train better on higher carb diet (most do) then go for higher carbs hwoever some few people train well on higher fat intakes.
A good Fat recommendation is the following:
0.45 – 1 grams/lb bodyweight.
Go towards the lower end if you are looking to lose weight (simply because its less calories, not because fat makes you fat…).
The rest of your calories can be made up of carbs.
5) Food choice and timing
Firstly variety is key! I usually recommend the larger part of food intake coming from fresh, whole food which isn’t pre-packaged or processed. A variety of food will provide all the nutrition you require. However of course this isn’t always practical and convenient for some families/people so just make the best of your situation.
Secondly is meal composition. You should aim to have a good quality source of protein, fat and protein in each meal.
Thirdly, in order to get the most anabolic effect from your workouts make sure you eat a meal within 45 minutes of finishing your workout. Also a meal 1-2 hours before workout would be beneficial. These meals should consist of a large portion of your carbohydrate intake and also contain good quality sources of protein (30g minimum to maximise muscle protein synthesis).
Finally, meal frequency doesn’t really matter unless you are training towards a specific goal. SEE PICTURE ADDED.
6) Faster Is Not Always Better
Trying to get big fast means you will also put on a lot more fat. There is a limit to how much muscle you can put on at a time. The same is true when trying to lose fat. Give yourself too big a calorie deficit and you will face problems including muscle loss, disrupted hormones such as elevated cortisol, water retention and you will be more likely to fail any diet you are on.
The calorie recommendations given in point 1) are based around a 20% difference from your maintenance levels. This is a good figure to go by.
1) Set a Calorie intake (estimate):
Weight loss = 11-13 kcal/lb
Maintenance = 14-16 kcals/lb
Gain Weight/Muscle – 17-19 kcals/lb
2) Protein Intake = 0.8-1.5g/lb
3) Fat Intake = 0.45-1g/lb
4) Carbohydrate Intake = the rest
5) Nutrient timing:
– Majority of carbs around exercise
– 30g carbs and 30g protein within 45 minutes of finishing a workout (liquid meals can beneficial)
6) be aware that trying to change weight too fast can result in issues so try to be moderate/relaxed in your approach.