Not everyone looks the same, and more importantly, not everyone wants to. Who doesn’t want to feel good though? Diet is the most significant factor in your health, and if you’re doing the work in the gym, why wouldn’t you want to facilitate that with a healthy diet? This short guide will look at three macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) and identify what you should be eating, and the things you should look to avoid.
Eating correctly can be difficult – it seems a lot easier to eat a ready meal, rather than cooking yourself a meal. However, if you’re looking to get in shape you need to consider carefully what you’re eating.
Knowing what you want to achieve is key. If you want to get bigger, you need to take in more calories than you expend. Conversely, if you want to get smaller you need to burn more calories than you take in.
Processed foods should be avoided, and you should look to cook meals where you know exactly what food is going in. The food you do eat should be naturally occurring, whole foods, wherever possible.
People want different things from training and working out – some people want to gain muscle, some want to lose fat. So how do you know how many calories to have per day? Use these calculations, and you won’t go far wrong:
Bulking – Multiply your body weight by 16 (E.g. 200lbs * 16 = 3200 calories/day)
Cutting – Multiply your body weight by 10 (E.g. 200lbs * 10 = 2000 calories/day)
So how much of everything should you have? Well let’s take a look:
Every cell in your body contains protein, and it is essential for helping your body to grow, and repair itself. As a result, you should look to make protein the basis of most of your meals.
Luckily, there is an incredibly easy way to know how much protein you need. Once you know what you’re looking to achieve, you can decide what body weight you want to get to. Then this weight in pounds is the equivalent to the minimum amount of high-quality protein you should look to consume each day (in grams). For example, if you want to weigh 200 lbs (approx. 90 kg) then you need to be eating at least 200 g of high-quality protein a day.
So what is meant by high-quality protein? Well generally we are looking at lean animal sources, including:
- Turkey and chicken
- Most fish
- Exotic meats – e.g. ostrich, buffalo, alligator etc.
Unfortunately carbs tend to get relatively bad press, but don’t believe what you hear. Carbs can be split into 2 key groups:
- Simple sugars
- Complex carbs
Simple sugars are the carbs we find naturally occurring in fruits for example, but can also be added to foods, traditionally using white or brown sugar.
Complex carbs are the starches we find in foods like bread, pasta or rice. As with simple sugars, some complex carbs are better than others. Starches found in whole foods are generally a lot better – due to the fact the nutrients and fibre are removed when using white rice or white flour.
When looking to lose weight (or ‘cut’) the macronutrients you should look to cut down on are carbohydrates. However if you’re looking to get bigger (‘bulk’) then increasing your intake of whole foods and naturally occurring simple sugars will help aid this.
Just as with carbs, fats aren’t necessarily awful. In fact, dietary fats are an integral part of a healthy diet.
So let’s clear this up. Saturated fats and trans fats should be limited as they raise low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and reduce high-density lipoproteins (HDL). So what does that mean? Well LDLs are known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, whereas HDLs are seen as ‘good’ cholesterol.
However it is essential that we consume healthier monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil, and Omega-3 fatty acids, such as the ones found in fish. The bad press associated with fats comes from the fact that they are relatively calorie-dense, especially compared to carbs and proteins
Other areas of your lifestyle obviously play a huge part, and shouldn’t be overlooked, but if you stick to this guide, then you will find yourself getting closer to the body that you desire.