The best strategies that I suggest for all beginners starting out:
- Eating 4-6 times per day
- Consuming more fruits and vegetables
- Drinking more water and cutting down 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, 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 Composition
There are several formulas out there that you can use to determine your Body Composition needs but they are based on group and population averages from scientific studies and not your body.
What we require 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 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 as 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.
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.
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 grams 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 of weeks.
Baseline Caloric Need:
We now need to determine how many calories your baseline diet contains. To do, you need to know 3 facts about calories.
- 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories
So multiply each of the numbers in your baseline diet by the number of calories per gram
- 200 x 4 = 800 calories
- 250 x 4 = 1000 calories
- 65 x 9 = 585 calories
Now add all the calories up.
800+1000+585 = 2385 calories
This is your initial baseline caloric need.
Maximum Baseline Needs:
Next, regardless of your goal, we are going to increase your 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 your metabolism to slow and downregulate. Still, by slowly increasing your caloric intake above your initial baseline needs you will be mostly “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 that time, it is essential 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 genuinely 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 actual baseline needs, you are in a position to test the influence of various factors on your physique.
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 truly determined 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 these 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 the 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 can run mini-studies on the effects of 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 the 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 incredible benefits and save tons of time.
In my future article, I will explain on how to methodically change your diet and exercise plans to fine-tune your physique.