I get a few emails once in awhile asking me what they should eat, what supplements are good, how many calories they should eat in each meal, and so forth. I’ve decided to spend a long time putting together the comprehensive answer to all nutrition-related questions and make it available on my blog, for free. Here we go!
First Step: Determine your ideal caloric intake. Use a Basal Metabolic Rate calculator (link) to figure out a reasonable estimate given a “sedentary” lifestyle, then multiply it by 1.5 (assuming you are an athlete; I am using a modified version of the Harris Benedict equation). So if your BMR is 2000 calories, multiply that by 1.5 and you have 3000 for your “maintenance level.”
- To gain weight: Eat 15-20% more than your maintenance level.
- To maintain weight: This should be obvious.
- To lose weight: Eat 15-20% less than your maintenance level.
What About Macronutrients?
Eat about 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. If you weigh 200 pounds and have approximately 25% body fat (be liberal with your estimates; no one is below 10% body fat for very long despite what you’ve heard), you have about 150 pounds of lean body mass. Eat 150 grams of protein per day. Space it out if you can and eat more of it around your workouts, but it’s really not that big of a deal.
As for carbs and dietary fat, we don’t care.
That’s it. That’s the list. In summation:
- Set and meet your caloric intake goals.
- Get 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass per day.
“But what about the Glycemic Index, Ketogenic Diets, HFCS, and [insert hot topic here].”
Simply following the three rules above will capture 90-95% of an “optimal” nutrition plan for your average athlete. All that other stuff either doesn’t matter or barely matters. When you can go for six months following the plan above, you can start worrying about the smaller things that only matter if you’re an elite competitor trying to differentiate yourself from others.
It really is that easy, folks. In fact, we can sum up an optimal exercise and diet plan like so:
- Go to #1.
- (optional) Some sort of high-intensity or low-intensity (not medium-intensity, like jogging) cardio work
- Get an appropriate amount of calories.
- Get an appropriate amount of protein.
It’s not rocket science. And to distill it down even further, there’s really only two constants you have to follow: You must squat, and you must eat enough protein. Simple stuff, really.