Nutrition - Where do I start?
Nutrition can be confusing for many people, especially those who want to lose weight or gain lean muscle. It can be difficult to understand what to eat, when to eat it and how much to eat.
Over the last five years information has become more readily available guiding people with how to approach their own nutrition. However, not all methods are suitable for everyone. You really have to figure out what works best for you. For example, I have a number of clients who are vegetarian and in the past have struggled with getting the correct amount of protein into their bodies to fuel their workouts and repair their muscles afterwards without rapidly increasing their fat and calorie intake.
During this post I will aim to help you begin your journey in understanding nutrition to fuel your lifestyle and your body's requirements.
Step 1 - What are my current goals?
Before we can start, you need to decide what your main goal is. Are you trying to build lean muscle, lose excess body fat or are your goals more performance based?
In this blog post, I will be looking at the first two options in greater detail. I will be discussing both goals in Step 2 separately so feel free to skip to the part that is applicable to you, you can always come back for the other section later on.
Whilst you are deciding what your focus is let's go into some detail about Macros. Have you heard of the term before?
Macros is short for macronutrients which are the proteins, carbohydrates and fats that make up the food and amount of calories you consume. It is essential that you get the correct amount of each macro in order for your body to perform to its optimum capacity which will allow you to achieve your goals in a realistic timeframe.
Step 2 - How do I achieve my goals?
Goal: Building Lean Muscle
Firstly, if you want to build lean muscle you need to understand that you will be eating LOTS and REGULARLY! In order to build muscle your body needs to be in a calorie surplus. This means you need to be consuming more than your body needs to function in its normal capacity.
Next you need to decide how aggressive you want your bulk to be. If you want to pack as much on as possible you need to increase your calories a lot, and I tend to be an advocate of doing a lean bulk. During a lean bulk you increase macros gradually giving your body time to respond to the increase which should limit the amount of body fat you put on. You should still see good amounts of strength and hypertrophy gains but you need to make sure you stay consistent with nutrition and training to optimise on this!
For a lean bulk, look at the rough guide below for how to increase your macros:
Protein - 1.5 x per lbs of BW (bodyweight)
Carbs - 1.5 - 2 x per lbs of BW
Fats - approximately 20g from oils or seeds for women OR 40g for men
Make sure you keep yourself accountable and don't sway too much from your targets as you will see an increase in body fat fairly quickly! Adjustments may need to be made depending upon how your body responds but this varies person to person.
Lastly, to make the most of the bulking phase make sure you stick to it for a couple of months at least. Some fitness professionals will do a bulking phase for 6 months or longer depending on their goals. For example, if its prep for a competition where size is needed a prolonged bulk may be required.
Some helpful tips... make sure you take regular pictures of your progress and body stats so you can keep track. This will allow you to make adjustments when required.
Goal: Losing Body Fat
The best place to start is figuring out how much you are currently consuming, this includes food and drinks! Make sure you track at least three days with one day being on a weekend as we are more likely succumb to temptations then! Using free apps such as My Fitness Pal is a great way to do this as it is user friendly allowing you to scan barcodes of the items you consume. Make sure you are realistic and don't miss off that chocolate bar you treat yourself to as the result won't be reflecting reality and may hinder your results!
Next you want to decide if you want to do a hard cut (larger calorie deficit) or one that is more gentle but for a longer period. In my opinion, gentle cuts are more sustainable and healthier for your body but ultimately this is your decision and depends on whether you have a narrow deadline you want to achieve your goal by. However, be realistic... you are not going to be able to lose a stone in a month so set attainable weight loss targets to keep your mindset positive.
The more aggressive the cut the harder it potentially could be for your body to get use to. For example, you WILL feel hungry and the further you are on the cut the hungrier you will feel. BUT this is normal! Don't look at this in a negative way, as long as you stick to your plan your body will get the minerals and nutrients it needs whilst using up the fat stores. Increasing your water intake can help to curb some of those cravings in between meals.
For a guide on calorie deficit targets and how to calculate your macros see below:
Aim for a calorie deficit of between 300-500 calories per day (including weekends!)
Protein - 1.5 - 2 x per kg of BW (bodyweight)
Fats - 0.7 - 1 x per kg of BW
Carbs - Remainder of your calorie allowance (1g of carb is 4 calories)
Good Luck and if you need any help with nutrition or staying accountable please use the contact form or comment below! :)