“Maria, I just want to be toned.”
In other words, you want to lose fat and/or gain lean mass. And, you most likely don’t have a coach. I got you!
Okay, I don’t like when people bore me with a predictable story or, even worse, preach to the ends of the earth about [insert latest fitness craze here] and how my fitness career is doomed for life if I’m not following it. I’m going to try to be as succinct as possible, and provide you with the fundamentals.
I love top tips and cookie-cutter recommendations too, but only YOU know your body best and it’s YOUR responsibility to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, document your training and food, listen to your body, and adjust accordingly. How powerful is it to know that you have all the tools you need to transform your body?! Think about it.
I’ve labelled this as part 1 because I plan to turn this into a 3-part series. Good nutrition is the cornerstone of any performance and physique goals, and is the most influential factor when it comes to transforming your body.
FOUR EASY STEPS:
1. Calculate the calories you require to maintain your weight.
Formula: BMR * Activity Factor.
You can calculate your BMR for free online, but if you’re going to do that, use five sources and take the average. Alternatively, if you’re relatively lean and you have a good estimation of your body fat %, use the Katch-McArdle formula:
BMR = 370 + (21.6 x LBM)
Where LBM = [total weight (kg) x (100 – bodyfat %)]/100
The activity factor is the total cost of living, which includes your training, work, daily activities, sleep, and the thermic effect of feeding of ~15% (an average mixed diet).
Average activity variables are:
1.2 = Sedentary (desk job and little exercise)
1.3 – 1.4 = Lightly Active (Light daily activity and light exercise 1-3 days a week)
1.5 – 1.6 = Moderately Active (Moderate daily activity and moderate exercise 3-5 days a week)
1.7 – 1.8 = Very Active (Physically demanding lifestyle and hard exercise 6-7 days a week)
1.9 – 2.2 = Extremely Active (Athlete in ENDURANCE training or VERY HARD physical job)
Putting this to use, let’s use my stats as an example:
BMR = 370 + (21. x [(51.7kg x (100 – 17%)/100])
BMR = 1,297
Total Caloric Requirement = BMR * Activity Factor
= 1,297 * 1.6
This is an estimate, so give it a go and monitor your weight and measurements for 4 weeks. If your stats remain the same, congratulations you’ve found your maintenance.
2. Re-calculate your calories depending on body composition goal.
Fat loss = Subtract 10-20% calories from your maintenance
Mass gain = Add 10-20% calories to your maintenance
Again, you’re going to be monitoring yourself weekly and adjust as you go.
3. Calculate your macros.
Protein intake is somewhat controversial, with many research studies recently published or underway that examines the role of protein synthesis and its effect on the human body. To shape your body, I recommend using these ‘bodybuilding’ guidelines:
– Moderate body fat and training load = 2.2 – 2.8g per kg of your TOTAL weight (about 1 – 1.25g per pound)
– Very low body fat / very low calorie / high training load = 2.4 – 3g per kg of your TOTAL weight (1.1 – 1.35g per pound)
– High body fat / high calorie / low training load = 1.6 to 2.2g per kg of your TOTAL weight (.75 – 1g per pound)
Fat is required to maintain health, satiety, and sanity. This is especially important if you engage in a lot of high intensity exercise since it reduces inflammation and controls free radical damage.
– Average or low body fat = 1 – 2g fat per kg TOTAL body weight [between 0.40 – 1g per pound] – High bodyfat = 1 – 2g fat per kg of LEAN weight [between 0.4 – 1g LEAN weight per pounds] – Do not go less than 0.3g per pound
Carbs are usually the variable macro here, meaning you can use it strategically depending on the type of training you do, the type of eating plan you’re on, and the physique goals you’re after. Carbs are extremely important for athletes, very active individuals, and those trying to gain lean mass.
– Moderately active: 4.5g – 6.5g per kg (about 2 – 3g per pound)
– Very active: 6.5g – 8.5g per kg (about 3 – 4g per pound)
– INTENSE activity: + 8.5g per kg (more than 4g per pound)
Now, to put this all together:
Total calories = (protein grams x 4) + (fat grams x 9) + (carb grams x 4) + (cals left over / 4 = more yummy carb grams)
4. Track everything.
I mean it—everything. This is the hard part, but well worth it in the long run. Keeping track of macros will allow you to easily estimate the calories and macros in the foods you eat often and will be the best gauge of your progress. I’ve logged my food intake in an unsophisticated Excel file for several years, and although it was obsessive and borderline weird, this exercise allows me to be able to estimate cals and macros in practically any food I look at. It’s like a game but you can use MyFitnessPal or its mobile app Calorie Counter And Diet Tracker.
Now, after all is said and done, I know there will be more than a handful of you who find this whole thing tedious and really want someone to figure it out for you. If that is the case, feel free to e-mail me. I don’t know everything, but unlike many coaches/gurus/experts out there, you can’t outsmart your body and you must follow a smart, structured plan that works with your lifestyle.
Finally, if you’re wondering WHAT to eat, I’ll let these photos show you:
“Maria, what about exercise?!” ahem, that will be part 2…