We at limitless get asked multiple times a week to help individuals with their dieting, nutrition, etc. The most common questions asked are 1. What should I eat? And 2. How many calories should I eat? These, albeit simple to the advanced lifter, can be daunting and overwhelming to the beginner. Don’t fret, as we have you covered!
Calories: Calories are inarguably the most important aspect of dieting and nutrition overall. Without proper tracking of caloric intake, weight training and exercise has much less of the effect you desire. The most common rule to site is the widely known 80/20 rule of fitness nutrition. The origin of this rule is unknown, but it basically states that training in general only comprises 20 percent of your athleticism, where nutrition comprises the remaining 80 percent. Although the percentages may not be exact, the law is still applicable. Focus on your diet before you even think about starting an exercise routine. This should without a doubt be your first step in making a change!
Macros explained: The first step in complicating your dieting process. Just when you thought you had it down with the caloric intake, here is a wrench thrown in your thought process. Now, tracking calories is a great start. However, if you are serious about making gains or making a significant change, macronutrients must be tracked.
The first and most important macronutrient to track is the glorious protein. For someone who is weight training and exercising very regularly, the 1 to 1 law will apply here. Essentially, for every 1 pound of body weight you carry, you should consume 1 gram of protein everyday. For example, if I currently weigh 184 pounds, I should consume 184 grams of protein daily. For those not interested in building significant mass, 50-75% of your bodyweight should be consumed in grams. Make sense?
The second most important macronutrient to track is carbohydrates. Some individuals have sensitivities to carbs in general, and therefore should eat less than others. The way to calculate the healthy number of carbs is to take 45-65% of your caloric intake. Then divide by 4. For example, if I were to consume 2000 calories per day I would need to get 225-325 grams of carbohydrates per day. (45%-65%)x2000= (900-1300)/4=(225-325).
The last macronutrient to track is fats. Our general recommendation is to “consume in moderation.” Some fats, like those in nuts are considered healthy, but too much of any fats are not good to consume. The basic rules of fat are as follows. Completely avoid any and all trans fats. Saturated fats should generally be avoided as well. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which include essential fatty acids, should be what most of your fats consumed are. You should only consume 20-35% of your nutrients as fats. That is only 44.4-77.7 grams of fats per day. Here is how to calculate for a 2000 calorie diet. Take 20-35% of your calories per day, then divide by 9 calories per gram. (20%-35%)x2000=(400-700)/9=(44.4-77.7)
Tracking diet: This is arguably the hardest part of nutrition and dieting. Tracking a diet can become a tedious task and drive many to relapsing on their diet. Fortunately for us, technology is working in our favor! There are now numerous applications which let you track your nutritional intake. Our personal favorite, is MyFitnessPal. It is absolutely the easiest interface, and is the most powerful app on the market. Did we mention it’s free? This application allows you to even scan the barcode of your foods instead of searching for specific items. My favorite part is that you can save personal recipes in MyFitnessPal. Yes, you can now track “Moms Spaghetti” in your diet.
Calculations: If you’re interested in manually tracking your diet, we will even give you a way to do that. In short, proteins and fats are 4 calories per gram. Whereas fats are 9 calories per gram. This is why we suggest you watch your fat intake very closely. If not, you will be in a caloric surplus much quicker than you could anticipate. The amount of calories you need to bulk, cut, or maintain is easy to find. The quickest way to calculate this is using the app MyFitnessPal. If you are interested in the manual calculation CLICK HERE!. Now the calculations from bodybuilding.com DO NOT take into consideration your activity level. For this reason, we recommend using an application or another source to calculate your recommended calorie levels.
Bulking, Cutting, Maintaining: These are the three commonly accepted amounts of caloric intake. Each of these require consistent tracking depending on your bodytime.
The first we will touch on is bulking. Bulking involves a caloric surplus. In other words, we are purposefully trying to eat more calories than we consume. The biggest reason other than gaining weight is to put on muscle mass. In order to effectively build muscle mass, we need to eat more calories than we consume. The common rule to remember is a 500 calorie surplus a day will equal a one pound increase in overall weight per week. This is not exact, however it will get you surprisingly close. Even if you are exercising daily, gaining more than a pound a week is often considered unhealthy weight. Bulking itself has two general types. The first is dirty bulking. This is where an individual consumes any and all sorts of calories. This diet is so pleasing, as you can consume sweets, simple carbohydrates, and fats galore. However, as previously mentioned, the weight gained is often unhealthy and results in large amounts of fat stores on top of the muscular development. The other type of bulking is clean bulking. Clean bulking is much healthier. In this state, you must consume large quantities of food. However, eating healthy is a must. Clean proteins like chicken and fish, complex carbohydrates, and low fats is generally the food of choice for the clean bulker.
The next level of caloric intake is the deficit. A prolonged caloric deficit results in what we call “cutting.” This is where you attempt to purposefully drop weight. Ideally you want to cut slowly. A 500 calorie deficit works exactly inverse as a 500 calorie surplus because the result is losing a pound a week. Fun fact: the reason we shoot for a 500 calorie deficit, is because a pound of fat contains 3500 calories!
The last level of caloric intake is where your caloric intake averages the same amount of calories as you consume. In a perfect maintenance, you will not gain or lose any weight overall because your body will consume every calorie. Cool right? However, this state is almost impossible to hit exactly. Our activity and training levels will vary every day. If you are bodybuilding, we basically never recommend a caloric maintenance because you are essentially making no progress. If you aren’t gaining muscle or cutting fat, what is the point in exercising at all?
Clean vs. Flexible Dieting: These are fighting words for many. This is an age old argument which plots clean eating vs. eating what you want and hitting your macronutrient and caloric intake. This flexible dieting is often referred to by the acronym IIFYM or If It Fits Your Macros. Here is our general recommendation. You are what you eat. If you eat healthy, it will enhance your workouts and physique. If you eat unhealthy, it will ultimately be detrimental to your workouts and physique. However, we always recommend you research and draw your own conclusions.
Conclusion: Although we did not divulge into any topic too heavily, we touched on many in regards of nutrition and dieting. We hope for people entering our fantastic world of fitness, that this guide helps to set you straight. We are here to motivate you throughout your fitness journey and to act as a helping hand throughout your efforts. If you have any questions or additional comments, feel free to let us know. We would love to hear from all of you!