In order to determine how many Calories (or kilocalories) you should be eating, it's essential to take into consideration five parameters:
Once known, the values from above can be plugged into an Estimated Energy Requirement (EER) equation* (the lean body mass value is added to or subtracted from the EER relative to whether it's a training or non-training day, respectively). There are three basic body composition goals:
- Bodyweight (kg)
- Height (cm)
- Age (yrs)
- Lean body mass (kg)
- Physical activity factor (i.e., sedentary=1; moderately active=1.12; very active=1.27; extremely active=1.45).
If your goal is to maintain your bodyweight, then the EER value (plus or minus your lean body mass (LBM) relative to training or non-training day, respectively) is sufficient energy for bodyweight maintenance. If your goal is to decrease your bodyweight, then the EER value (plus or minus your lean body mass (LBM) relative to training or non-training day, respectively) should decrease about 250 kcals per day in order to lose about a half pound of fat per week (Note: never eat less than 1500 kcals daily if you're a man or less than 1200 kcals daily if you're a woman). If your goal is to increase your bodyweight, then the EER value (plus or minus your lean body mass (LBM) relative to training or non-training day, respectively) should increase about 250 kcals per day in order to gain about a half pound of muscle per week. After calculating your recommended caloric intake, the next step is to determine your recommended macronutrient ratio. This ratio is dependent on one of four basic fitness goals:
- Maintain bodyweight while losing fat and gaining muscle mass
- Decrease bodyweight while losing fat and gaining muscle mass
- Increase bodyweight while losing fat and gaining muscle mass
- To gain muscle mass and strength
- To get lean
- To maintain bodyweight
- To gain power
If your fitness goal is to gain muscle mass and strength, your recommended macronutrient ratio should be about 65:25:30 of carbs to protein to fat. If your fitness goal is to get lean, your recommended macronutrient ratio should be about 40:30:30 of carbs to protein to fat. If your fitness goal is to maintain your bodyweight, your recommended macronutrient ratio should be about 55:20:25 of carbs to protein to fat. If your fitness goal is to gain power, your recommended macronutrient ratio should be about 80:10:10 of carbs to protein to fat.
Finally, the last step is to determine how many grams of each macronutrient you should be eating daily. This can be calculated based on your recommended caloric intake value and keeping in mind that there are about 4 kcals per gram of carbs and protein and about 9 kcals per gram of fat. For instance, if your current recommended caloric intake is 2300 kcals and your fitness goal is to get lean (40:30:30), then your macronutrient grams should be about 230g of carbs (2300 * 0.40 / 4), 173g of protein (2300 * 0.30 / 4) and 77g of fat (2300 * 0.30 / 9).
I recommend using the MealLogger app
compatible with your iphone to track your goal Calories and carb and protein grams. This app allow you to log the foods you eat by taking a picture of the food with your iphone. You may also network with professionals within the fields of nutrition or personal training for guidance. * EER (males) = 662 - 9.53A + PA (15.91W + 539.6H) or EER (females) = 354 - 6.91A + PA(9.36W + 726H) whereA = agePA = physical activity factorW = bodyweight
H = height
Analysis on this topic is largely based on research which is observational in nature rather than cause-and-effect. Nevertheless, there does seem to be an observational relationship between metabolic rate, circadian rhythm and meal intake times. When you eat affects your appetite hormone levels (e.g., insulin) which may cause disturbances in your circadian rhythm and lead to metabolic syndrome (i.e., obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.). Eating your biggest meal before 3pm tends to cause greater bodyweight loss than eating later.
A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity provides support that eating more food earlier in the day is more effective for losing bodyweight. This study compared two groups of participants: those that ate most of their food before 3pm and those who ate most of their food after 3pm. In both groups, caloric intake, macronutrient composition, activity level, sleep quantity, and appetite hormone levels were similar. The group that ate their biggest meal before 3pm lost more bodyweight at a faster rate than those who ate their biggest meal after 3pm. Other studies support this finding when it was discovered that those people who tend to skip breakfast are more likely to become overweight or obese than those who regularly eat breakfast. The reason for this may be because those people who skip breakfast tend to eat more food later in the day when their metabolic rate is usually reduced, thus perpetuating bodyweight increase.
BOTTOM LINE: Eating most of your food before mid-afternoon when your metabolic rate is elevated may be an effective and healthy habit for you to lose bodyweight. Certainly, avoid eating large late-night meals when your activity level is low--this is a recipe for weight gain!
When you feel fatigued or tired it may be because you're not eating enough food or eating the wrong kinds of foods. Remember, it's food that fuels your body. Your body needs food to function properly. Failing to fuel your body in a healthy manner surely will have consequences such as feeling sluggish and lethargic. Here are some suggestions you should consider if or when you feel tired:
- NEVER skip breakfast--this important meal of the day helps to improve alertness and concentration. Eating breakfast can also reduce appetite during the day so you'll eat less and therefore lessen your risk of becoming overweight or obese. Breakfast may also lessen your risk of type-2 diabetes and heart disease. Recommended foods for breakfast include whole-grain bread or cereal, fruit, plain Greek yogurt, peanut butter, eggs, and oatmeal.
- Eat carbs--your body prefers carbs as its primary fuel source. A combination of simple and complex carbs is best to provide an optimum supply of quick- and long-term energy, respectively. Quick-term energy is the energy your body uses for a relatively intense activities for short durations. Your blood sugar level rises and falls within a short time period lasting from about 30 minutes to an hour. Examples of simple carb foods include fruits, vegetables, white rice, white bread, pasta and honey. These are the types of foods you should eat soon after completing a workout. Long-term energy is the energy your body uses for less intense activities for long durations. Your blood sugar level is relatively maintained for longer periods of time (e.g., several hours). Examples of complex carb foods include whole-grain bread and starchy vegetables (e.g., potatoes, carrots). These are the types of foods you should eat before your workout. Complex carb foods have fiber to allow for slower digestion and absorption of nutrients.
- Eat fats--fats are a concentrated source of energy (i.e., 7 kcals per gram compared to 4 kcals per gram found in carbs). Stick with unsaturated fats like olive oil, avocados and nuts.
- Eat protein--you should think of protein as the macronutrient that's responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of your body (i.e., bones, muscles, etc.) as well as the functioning of hormones and enzymes. Protein is needed for a healthy immune system. Recommended protein foods include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and dairy products.
- Drink plenty of water--water is essential for your body to transport energy molecules and vitamins and minerals.
- Eat more frequently--providing a continual source of fuel for your body every three to four hours is a healthy way to eat and may prevent feelings of fatigue or malaise. This also ensures your body receives a regular supply of vitamins and minerals.
The benefits of eating nuts far outweigh the risks. Nuts are high in fiber, healthy unsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds which promote good health. Nuts improve cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and help keep arteries flexible which minimizes elevated systolic blood pressure. Eating nuts regularly can also reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. The risks of eating nuts is excessive consumption of calories since nuts are relatively high in calories. This should NOT be of concern since the cardiovascular benefits of nuts (i.e., reduced risk of heart disease) far outweigh the risk of weight gain. In fact, eating nuts may actually reduce your bodyweight due to their relatively high protein and fiber content which makes you feel fuller longer so that you're less likely to eat as much food later. So go ahead, eat nuts but do so in moderation--think one handful per day.
Fruits and vegetables should be eaten regularly throughout the day (read: each and every meal). Why is it so important to eat fruits and vegetables? Here are the most notable benefits:
- Vitamins and minerals--prevents malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies
- Phytonutrients--reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancers
- Antioxidants--reduces free-radical damage
- Alkalinity--balances out acidic foods (e.g., grains, proteins)
- Fiber--improves blood sugar level, reduces appetite and increases digestive health
Inadequate nutrition is continuing to affect the health of most Americans, contributing to chronic health diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, vascular disease, kidney disease, joint pain, arthritis, and cancer. Such a shame since all of these diseases can be alleviated by eating a more healthy diet along with exercise. Here are the most prevalent problems associated with the American diet that need to be corrected:
- Excess sugar intake (i.e., typical American consumes 34 tsp of sugar daily--the USDA recommends no more than 10 tsp daily)
- Eating ONLY two to three meals daily
- Inadequate healthy fat intake (i.e., monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats including olive and fish oil)
- Inadequate fruit and vegetable intake
- Eating too many calories later in the day (i.e., the biggest meal of the day should be breakfast, not dinner)
- Inadequate water intake (i.e., the recommendation is to drink at least 2 oz of fluid per pound bodyweight daily)
- Skipping breakfast
In no particular order, here are some ways you can lessen your risk of incurring the most prevalent disease in America:
- Avoid trans fats
- Increase fish oil intake
- Increase fiber intake
- Reduce sugar intake
- Eat a balance of healthy fats (i.e., 30% each of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats)
- Increase niacin intake
- Increase folic acid intake
- Increase calcium and potassium intake
- Eat more garlic
Here are the most popular hurdles which may prevent you from following a sound nutrition plan along with healthy habits that may be the perfect solution to lessen each hurdle:
- Choose restaurants that provide healthy fare
- Order custom meals (don't be afraid to ask for what you want--most establishments will accommodate)
- Be sure your order contains a complete protein, vegetables and healthy fats
- Too busy to prep food each day
- Prepare your meals in advance for an entire week (Sunday is a good day to do this)
- Prepare your meals for each day while making breakfast
- Pack frozen fruits, vegetables and nuts in tupperware containers
- Utilize your work refrigerator to temporarily store your snack foods
- Choose a hotel near healthy restaurants
- Travel with a cooler to store snack foods
- Download restaurant menus from the internet to decide what foods to order in advance
- Pack whey protein powder and bars
- Bring you own healthy food to social engagements rather than eat other people's food
- Add spices and herbs to your food
The following is a listing beginning with the more essential supplements:
- Whey and casein protein--adequate protein is absolutely needed by your body to maintain muscle mass
- Fish oil--anti-inflammatory properties
- Multivitamin and/or multimineral--complementary to your diet and as insurance for good nutrition
- Workout drink (e.g., protein plus carbs, BCAAs)--supports muscle strength and size as well as fat loss and performance
- r-alpha lipoic acid--increases insulin sensitivity
- Tyrosine--may reduce central nervous system (CNS) fatigue
- Caffeine--increases CNS output
- Sodium bicarbonate--increases blood pH by buffering hydrogen ion buildup to lessen lactic acid burn
- Beta alanine--enhances workout recovery
- Creatine--increases ATP amount for quick energy and strength
- Green tea extract containing EGCG--increases metabolic rate during weight loss
- CLA--increases metabolic rate during weight loss
- Valerian root--may increase sleep quality
- PS--may increase sleep quality
Very low-calorie and very low-carb diets consist of eating about 10 calories per pound bodyweight and 10 to 15% carb intake daily, respectively. Usually professional physique competitors eat this way in order to achieve single-digit bodyfat percentages or to lose bodyweight/bodyfat. The trick to eating this way is to do it for only a relatively brief period (i.e., no more than four months) so as to not allow the body to go into starvation mode in which bodyfat storage occurs. To avoid plateauing when eating very low calories and/or low carbs, you should cycle your caloric or carb intake up and down to keep your body guessing and to prevent stagnation. In other words, decrease caloric/carb intake for a relatively short duration before increasing caloric/carb intake to fool the body so that is doesn't go into starvation mode. If the person dieting is very disciplined, dietary re-feeding every 3 to 4 days (or one to two weeks) in which caloric/carb intake increases by a factor of 1.5 (or 3.5) may be beneficial in obtaining an optimum physique. The risks of eating this way for a relatively long duration is the following:
- decreased metabolic rate
- decreased bone mass
- decreased muscle tissue
- nutrient deficiencies
Very high-carb diets consist of eating about 3.5 to 5g of carbs per pound of bodyweight or more than 70% carb intake daily. Usually endurance competitors or ectomorphic athletes eat this way in order to increase performance in long-duration events (e.g., marathon). Just as for very low-carb diets, very high-carb diets should occur for a relatively brief period (i.e., no more than four months) so as to not allow the body to convert carbs to fat when an excess supply is available. The risks of eating this way for a relatively long duration is the following:
- chronic elevated insulin levels
- increased bodyfat storage
- decreased insulin sensitivity