In a previous article I wrote about nutritional mistakes that many beginners, including myself when I started out, make. Let's recap the strategies that I suggest for all beginners starting out:
- Eating 5-6 times a day
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Drinking more water and cutting out calorie-containing beverages (beer, soda, etc.)
- Focusing on consuming lean proteins
- Limiting your sugars and processed foods
By dedicating yourself to focusing on these principals and avoiding the pitfalls that I outlined in the previous article people new to fitness and bodybuilding will start to see great results without the frustrations usually associated with starting a new "restrictive" diet plan.
You may be wondering once you've "mastered" the above principals what is next? Are there other nutritional strategies that you can implement into your diet to optimize your body composition and performance? Yes, and that is what I am going to outline today.
Determining Your Body's Needs
There are several formulas out there that you can use to determine your body's caloric needs but they are based on group and population averages from scientific studies and not your body
I'm not discounting the accuracy or efficacy of these equations; I'm just presenting a different method.
What we need is a method that is specific to your body. Everyone's body is different. Let's take these two people for example: Tom and Bill. Both men are 5'8", 180lbs, and rather lean. Tom is constantly eating and never seems to gain any weight regardless of if his diet is "clean" or not.
Bill on the other hand has to be very careful about what he eats because if he were to eat like Tom does he would instantly start gaining the wrong kind of weight.
Have you ever met people like Tom or Bill? If we were to use an equation to determine their caloric intakes it would be the same (because of their similar body types), but Tom would probably lose a bunch of weight and Bill would maintain his. This is because everyone's metabolism is different. That is why people need calorie intake prescriptions that are specific to them.
WARNING: THE PROCESS THAT I AM GOING TO OUTLINE BELOW TAKES DEDICATION, CONSISTENCY AND COMMITMENT. THIS IS NOT A ONE SIZE FITS ALL DIET. IF YOU CAN COMMIT YOURSELF THE RESULTS WILL BE SPECTACULAR.
First I want you to look at your food journal for the past week; if you haven't been keeping a food journal then record one for a week and come back to this article. Is this an accurate representation of what you normally eat? Be honest. If it is then your next step is to determine how many calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you have eaten each day.
Bodybuildling.com has a food database that you can use. Another good program (that is free) is www.fitday.com. Fitday.com will automatically sum up your calories, protein, carbs, and fats for each day.
The next step is to find the average amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats that you have eaten each day for that week. For example:
Your baseline diet contains 200 gram of protein, 250 grams of carbohydrates, and 65 grams of fat. Now, look back at your training journal (as you can see recording your progress is very important). Let's just assume that you haven't gained or lost any weight over the past couple weeks.
Baseline Caloric Need:
- 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories
- 200 x 4 = 800 calories
- 250 x 4 = 1000 calories
- 65 x 9 = 585 calories
We now need to calculate how many calories your baseline diet contains. To do you need to know 3 facts about calories.
So multiply each of the numbers in your baseline diet by the number of calories per gram
Now add all the calories up.
800+1000+585 = 2385 calories
This is your initial baseline caloric need.
|BASELINE CALORIC NEED CALCULATOR|
Enter your average dietary intakes and press "Calculate".
Maximum Baseline Needs:
Next regardless of your goal we are going to increase you calorie consumption to determine your maximum baseline needs. This is most food you can consume without gaining any weight. What is the difference between the maximum baseline needs and the initial baseline needs?
You may be chronically under-eating and this would cause you metabolism to slow and down regulate but by slowly increasing your caloric intake above your initial baseline needs you will be essentially "rehabbing" your metabolism and getting it up to functioning at maximum capacity. The added bonus is that you get to eat more!
During the re-feeding and rehabilitation of your metabolism you should increase your calories by 250 each week and check your weight and body composition measurements (waist, skin folds, etc) every two weeks.
During this time it is important to keep your activity levels (cardio, weight lifting, and other activities) at a constant level. Once you reach your maximum baseline needs keep your calories at this level for another two weeks to verify that you are truly at baseline.
The following is a great side benefit to achieving your true baseline caloric needs.
Now that you have scientifically and methodically determined your true baseline needs you are in a position to test the influence of various factors on your physique. Here I will discuss supplement testing and in part two of this article I will discuss optimizing your body composition through fine tuning your nutrition and exercise programs.
Is there a supplement that you have wanted to try? Something that people have been going nuts over in the forums but you're not really sure if it will work? You are now in a position that 95% of all the readers have never been in. You can definitively test to see the effectiveness of specific supplements.
Most people will buy a new supplement, add a new weight training program, and change their diet all at the same time. They may or may not see benefits in their physique but they will automatically attribute their physique changes (or lack of) to the supplement. When in reality they have changed so many variables in their life that they couldn't possibly tease out the effect of the new supplement.
Well this isn't you. Find that supplement that you've wanted to try. Take it as the label recommends but keep your diet at the determined true baseline and continue with your current weight training program. This way the only thing that will have changed is the addition of the supplement.
Continue this way for two weeks then check your weight and body composition measurements. Have they changed? Are you leaner? Did you gain a pound or two of muscle? If so this changes are most likely due to the addition of the supplement. If nothing happened then toss the supplement in the trash and move on.
Above & Beyond The Hype:
Let me stress this again. This level of supplement testing is something that hardly anyone does! Your goal is to determine that most effective way to achieve your ideal physique, right? This method of supplement testing (granted it is very involved) will save you TONS of time and money because you are able to run mini-studies on the effects a certain variable (in this case a supplement) on your body.
This method of testing will get you BEYOND all the hype and straight to determination of results. Again not many people have the drive and discipline to run this kind of testing on their physiques but those that do will reap unbelievable benefits and save tons of time.
In the second part of this article I will cover how to methodically change your diet and exercise plans to fine tune your physique.