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Nutrition is the most difficult part of the transformation process for most people. It's estimated that 45 million Americans go on a diet each year. We probably don't have to tell you that the success rate is very low.
Does this mean that we just need a different type of diet? On the contrary, we believe it means it's time to let go of the word "diet." That word has built up decades of negative connotations for most of us, but just as importantly, it usually means you're doing it for a short period of time.
In the Transformed trainer, we're going to take the focus off of deprivation and put it on building the types of skills and habits that can help you thrive in any nutritional or fitness plan in the future. These include:
- Calorie and macronutrient awareness
- Food tracking
- Meal prep
- Effective shopping
Every person has a different palate, a unique attitude toward food, and various likes and dislikes. Over the next 12 weeks, you'll learn how to work with your tastes while also eating to maximize your performance in the gym.
There's a lot of info here, so allow some time to read through it. We'll include a little cheat sheet at the end to help it all stick!
Calculating your total daily energy expenditure
Counting calories may seem archaic, and you've undoubtedly heard the commercials on television that promise you can lose weight without doing it, but there really is no other way to lose fat other than eating fewer calories than you burn. And the only way to know you're eating fewer calories is to count them!
Don't worry, you don't need to do this forever. But years of experience—and a quick look around any restaurant—will show that most of us have totally unrealistic ideas about portion size. Tracking your nutrition for just a few weeks can provide a wake-up call that makes a huge difference in your results for years to come.
To help you determine where you stand, we've provided a total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) calculator, which is based on the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation, to help you calculate your caloric needs. This easy-to-use calculator will estimate how many calories your body uses at rest (your basal metabolic rate, or BMR) and then factor in additional calories based upon your activity level, age, and gender.
MIFFLIN ST. JEOR EQUATION
- Men: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) - 5 x age (y) + 5
- Women: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) - 5 x age (y) - 161
* Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
Keep in mind this is just an estimate, and although the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation is commonly used to assess calorie needs, it's not perfect. Whatever number the TDEE calculator gave you is a starting point, not a law for you to abide by for the rest of your life.
If your goal is fat loss, try to eat about 15-20 percent fewer calories than your estimated TDEE. Once you've established your daily caloric intake, we suggest weighing yourself on a weekly basis. This will help determine if you need to adjust your caloric intake to optimize your fat-loss goals. Losing 1-2 pounds a week is a reasonable goal. For many people, any more than that simply isn't sustainable.
For the first few weeks, it's extremely important that you read labels and measure portion sizes to make sure you're reaching your caloric goals. While this may take a little more effort than you're used to, it's really important that you start to get to know your body and how much food it needs.
Along the way, also track everything—honestly, everything—you eat in some type of journal, app, or online program. This may sound like a minor step, but for many people, it's the most important one. Seeing everything you eat on the page often provides a shock of awareness as you suddenly realize what's been holding you back all along!
Once you determine your daily caloric needs, it's time to break your macronutrients (macros) down so you know how many calories you should spend on each macronutrient. Despite what many online pundits may tell you, there's no right or wrong number when it comes to determining how much protein, carbs, or fat you should be consuming every day. We can give you suggestions, but you need to find out what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Carbs, fat, and protein play special roles in your body, and you need all three in order for your body to function optimally. Carbs and fats will help fuel your body during your workouts, while protein is essential for the growth and repair of your muscles.
If you're new to counting macros, a good ratio to start with is:
- 40 percent of your calories from protein
- 40 percent from carbs
- 20 percent from fat
Protein, we know, contains 4 calories per gram, as do carbohydrates. On the other hand, fats contain 9 calories per gram. So on an 1,800-calorie diet, your macros calculate in this way:
- Protein: 720 calories ÷ 4 calories per gram = 180 g
- Carbs: 720 calories ÷ 4 calories per gram = 180 g
- Fats: 360 calories ÷ 9 calories per gram = 40 g
As with calories, we recommend sticking to the numbers as tightly as you can for a few weeks, just to give you a solid idea of what a day's worth of performance looks like, and to get a grasp on your portion sizes. But understand that in this program, the numbers themselves are less important than the fact that you're sticking to the fundamental ideas and behaviors.
You can make alterations to this ratio depending on what foods you like, how your body responds, and your daily activity level. The idea here is that macronutrient distribution does not follow a one-size-fits-all template. After a few weeks of setting the baseline, we encourage you to play around with the numbers and find what works best for you and your lifestyle.
How to Make Macros out of Food
For the most accurate measurements, use a food scale. You can pick up one at almost any grocery store, and they will make weighing and portioning out your food simple. If you don't have a scale readily available, or simply don't want to be bothered with the extra step of weighing things out, just use your hand to measure your portions.
Proteins: A 4-ounce serving of protein is approximately the size of your palm, and will deliver 20-25 grams of protein, depending on the source. Depending on your macros, you'll want to include 1-2 servings of protein per meal.
Carbs: Use the size of your fist to estimate the amount of carbs you should be consuming at each of your main meals. Each fist-sized portion of carbs will deliver 30-40 grams of carbs, but again this is dependent on the source. Starchy carbs like potatoes, rice, bread, grains, and beans will come in at around 30 grams of carbs per serving, whereas a serving as broccoli only has about 10 grams of carbs.
Fat: For liquid fats such as oils, spreads, and butters, use the size of your thumb to estimate one serving, or about a tablespoon. For solid fats such as nuts and seeds, you'll have to count out one serving. For example, 24 almonds is equivalent to roughly one serving size.
Figuring out how many calories you need on a daily basis is only half the equation. Understanding what foods will best support your physique and performance goals is equally important.
The problem? As soon as you begin labeling foods as "good" or "bad," you see that that everyone has a different opinion. Some people will claim you should stay away from anything white, such as bread, rice, or potatoes. Others will tell you to ban fruit from your diet. Since when did fruit become unhealthy? If you try to follow all of this advice at once, you'll be left eating lettuce and boiled chicken.
Sure, there are foods that are better for you and provide more nutritional value, but rather than ban certain foods from your diet, the plan in Transformed is to practice eating in moderation and being sensible about your food choices.
If you feel completely overwhelmed the minute you step foot into the grocery store, let us help you navigate through the store and get in and out in less than an hour!
Grocery Shopping Basics Dymatize Transformed
Watch the video - 16:09
Most of your carbohydrate sources will come from the produce section, and will include fruits and veggies. Sweet potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates and should be a staple in almost anyone's nutrition plan. They're packed full of vitamins and minerals, and you can cook them in a matter of minutes if you throw them in the microwave. On Day 7 of this training plan, professional chef Patrick Stark shows you how.
Don't shy away from the leafy greens and other vegetables in the produce section. Instead, learn to cook them! These foods are packed full of nutrition and fiber, which can help you stay full and keep you from reaching for the cookie jar between meals. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, and cabbage are all great choices. On Day 70, Chef Stark shows you how to blanch them to perfection.
If you've got a sweet tooth, stock up on some berries, like blueberries or raspberries, Not only will these help to satisfy your cravings, but the antioxidants naturally found in berries can help boost your recovery following a tough training session. Chef Stark is a big fan of putting a good portion of his daily fruits and veggies into a smoothie. On Day 49, he shows you how to do the same.
You can also pick up some fruits and veggies in the frozen-food aisle. Fresh fruits and veggies are great, but there are advantages to buying frozen. For one, you don't have to worry about them spoiling. As long as you keep them in your freezer, their shelf life will last forever. They're also super easy to prep, especially if you get them in the microwavable bags. Plus, they're picked and packaged at their ripest, ensuring you're getting a high concentration of nutrients.
As for your proteins, stick to leaner cuts like turkey, chicken breast, lean ground beef, and fish. Chicken in particular is a staple due to its flexibility and ease of prep. Chef Stark loves to use a slow cooker to prepare his, as he shows on Day 42. Of course, you also can opt for nonmeat protein sources like tofu or edamame. Greek yogurt, goat cheese, and eggs are also great sources of protein.
Just because you're trying to lose fat doesn't mean you need to remove all fat from your diet. Including healthy fats like avocados, nut butters, and coconut oil as part of any well-balanced diet. Not only does fat add delicious flavor to your meals, but with 9 calories per gram, it's a great fuel source. Fat is also necessary for the absorption of vitamins and minerals. On Day 21, Chef Stark shares one of his favorite ways to get healthy fats, in the form of Avocado Bombs.
Seasonings and sauces are a great way to add flavor and variety into your meals. Just make sure to read the labels closely so you're not adding in a bunch of unwanted calories and sugar. Olive oil, sea salt, Mrs. Dash, onion powder, and cinnamon are all great options to spice up your foods!
Other staple items for the Transformed nutrition plan include:
- Canned tuna
- Black beans
- Whole-grain rice and quinoa
What about drinks, you ask? As with your caloric intake, consider this a time to "reset" your liquid intake by sticking to calorie-free liquids like water and unsweetened coffee or tea. If the prospect of chugging water all day sounds miserable to you, Bodybuilding.com's nutrition editor Paul Salter has some great suggestions for how to add flavor to your water.
- Add a scoop of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to your water bottle.
- Consider a flavor-enhancing agent such as Mio or zero-calorie Propel flavoring.
- Make your own fruit-infused water by soaking fruit in a pitcher of water overnight.
- Toss a bag of tasty herbal tea into your water. Seriously, this works!
What about diet soda, you ask? We're not going to get into the "is it good for you" debate here or tell you to cut it out entirely. But in the spirit of this "reset," try to cut back and focus on the essentials.
What About Treats?
If your diet consist of nutrient-dense foods 90 percent of the time, go ahead and enjoy the occasional small treat. Let's face it; the moment you start labeling certain foods as "bad" and tell yourself you can never eat them is the moment you start craving them more than ever.
The key is moderation and a little bit of planning. Allow yourself the occasional treat, but don't let one cookie turn into the entire box. If you have a tendency to go all-in when eating treats, either buy preportioned snacks at the store or don't keep them in the house. Additionally, if you have plans to enjoy a mouth-watering piece of cheesecake for dessert, plan your dinner to be lower in carbs and fat, so you can save up for the sweet treat.
Eating clean, healthy foods will go further toward building your physique than if you rely on processed meals, fast foods, and other landmines that dot the typical American diet. In the simplest terms, the simpler your food, the better it is for you.
Alcohol should also be consumed in moderation, if at all. As with diet soda, we aren't going to say you have to cut it out entirely. On Day 5, we discuss the impact alcohol can have on your transformation goals and give some recommendations. The short version: Keep it to a drink or two once or twice a week tops.
Meal Prep in Under an Hour
Now that you have a better understanding of how many calories you need on a day-to-day basis, and what foods those calories should come from, it's time to put all that knowledge to use and start planning out your meals.
You may bristle at the idea of prepping meals, but trust us, it works. There's no better way to get control of your eating habits, dial in portion sizes, and add predictability where before there was chaos.
Meal Prep in Under an Hour Transformed Trainer
Watch the video - 22:12
In this video, we'll show you how to prep four days' worth of meals in under an hour. We recommended only prepping for four days at a time so that your food stays fresh and keeps all of its flavors.
Each day includes three main meals along with a couple snacks. You can easily add or subtract meals and snacks based on your calorie goal, but use this as a starting point. Each of your main meals will include a lean protein, a complex carbohydrate, some healthy fats, and ample vegetables.
Rather than cooking up everything and then throwing it into one large container, save some time during the week and portion out your foods as you go. Investing in some good Tupperware will go a long way when it comes to meal prep!
We also recommend switching up which carbs you pair with which proteins and veggies. This way, your meals won't be so repetitive, and you won't get bored with your food when Day 3 rolls around.
If you're someone who likes to graze between meals, make sure to include small snacks into your meal prep. Hard-boiled eggs are a great option because they travel well, and they're a great source of protein and heart-healthy fats if you eat the yolk. Greek yogurt with berries is another great option. The protein/carb combination is great to have as a pre- or post-workout snack. Apples, almonds, and protein powder all make convenient snacks you can take with you on the go!
When it comes to meal prep, there's no right or wrong way. We've given you some tips to make things a little easier, but do what works best for you! Change up your proteins, carbs, and fats to keep things interesting and to keep your taste buds happy. Remember, the best meal plan is the meal plan that you stick to!
* Ratings as of article's date of publication