All foods are made up of macronutrients and micronutrients that are absorbed by the body for energy and wellbeing. Micronutrients are things like vitamins, minerals and fibre that are essential for optimal functioning. Macronutrients contribute to our daily caloric (energy) intake and include carbohydrates, protein, fats and alcohol. Each macronutrient has a certain amount of calories/kilojoules (1 calorie = 4.2 kjs) per gram: Nutrition is extremely important when it comes to body composition goals. We don’t want to make too many drastic changes straight away, otherwise, it may become too overwhelming and you won’t stick to it. This article will give you the tools to work out your own daily calorie intake, macronutrient targets and hence create your own meal plan based on the food you love to eat. NB. I have also included a generic sample meal plan at the bottom of this email. If you have any questions, please post them in the Facebook group.
1g Carbohydrate = 4 calories (16kjs) 1g Protein = 4 calories (17kjs)
1g Fat = 9 calories (39kjs)
1ml Alcohol = 7 calories (29kjs)
Therefore, based on our individual energy requirements and body composition goals we can work out the breakdown of optimal macronutrient ratios, and using an app such as MyFitness Pal, be able to track what we are eating.
TDEE or “calories out” equals the combination of your:
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
- Thermic Effect of Eating (TEF)
- Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)
Your BMR (based on your specific age, weight, height, sex, etc.) makes up the majority of your TDEE, followed by your NEAT. TEE and EAT contribute relatively little to your daily energy expenditure.
Weight Loss = calories in < calories out
Weight gain = calories in > calories out Weight maintenance = calories in = calories out
*NB: “Weight” can refer to either fat and/or muscle
Step 1: Calculate TDEE
– Use an online calculator such as tdeecalculator.net. – Input your data such as age, weight, height, sex and activity level.
– Receive your maintenance calories.
Example: 28 year old female, 175cm, 70kgs, moderately active TDEE = 2314 calories per day
So, to maintain her current weight this female would need to be eating 2314 calories per day or 16198 per week. To lose weight, she would need to eat less than 2314 calories per day (a calorie deficit) and to gain weight she would need to eat more that 2314 calories per day (a calorie surplus). The caveat to this is that her output (NEAT and EAT) needs to remain the same.
Step 2: Protein Target
After you’ve worked out your daily calorie requirements, the next step is to work out your protein target. Protein is an important macronutrient for repair and synthesis of tissues including muscle. It is also helpful for feeling satiated when you eat a meal. A lot of people tend to under-eat on protein when aiming for body composition goals. To work out your protein target, multiply your bodyweight by 2.2. E.g. 70 x 2.2 = 154g of Protein (this equals 616 calories if 1g of protein = 4 calories)
Step 3: Carbs & Fats
For the purposes of this 4 Week LEARN Phase, we will take an “isocaloric” approach to count macronutrients. This means is getting the same amount of calories from all three macronutrients. This does not mean your Carbs, Fats and Protein will look the same though if we remember that Fat contributes more calories per gram. What we will see is more of a high protein, high carb, lower-fat diet.
We often see diets promoting high fat (Keto), low carb (Atkins), high protein (Dukan), intermittent fasting (5:2 or 8:16), Paleo, very low calorie – you name it! These are all just marketing tools for a calorie deficit and very extreme measures to take. I prefer to educate my clients on nutrition so they are empowered to make decisions regarding their nutrition. The truth is the best diet is the one you can stick to and is sustainable for your lifestyle.
I used to fear eating Fats growing up, however, they are important for hormone regulation, especially in Females. We know there are “good” fats and “bad” fats, and that they contribute more calories than carbs and fat. This means we don’t need to need to eat as much to reach our daily calorie intake. If you prefer to eat a higher volume of food (like me), I suggest you keep your Fat intake between 50-70g.
As a general rule, set fats at 1g per kg of ideal body weight.
E.g. 70kg BW (goal = 65kg) = 65g Fat (65g fat x 9 calories per gram = 585 calories)
Carbohydrates are often feared but are actually our most important macronutrient for energy and brain function. You can also eat a higher volume of carbs as they are not as calorie-dense as fats.
To calculate your carbohydrate allowance, divide your remaining calories by 4.
E.g. 1113 / 4 = 278g Carbohydrates.
Step 4: Tracking
Download a fitness tracking app such as My Fitness Pal to help you keep track of everything you eat. You will also need a set of kitchen food scales. This may seem a bit arduous to begin with, but once you start to learn what macronutrients are in certain foods you can start to see food as a way to fuel your body and create better conscious eating habits.
Start by tracking a normal day of eating so you can gauge the number of calories you have currently been consuming and what your macronutrient breakdown looks like. Do this for an entire week, including the weekend so you can find your weekly average. What often happens is a lot of people eat well during the week and then binge on the weekends and wonder why they aren’t losing weight.
After doing this for a week, start to make little changes towards your ideal macronutrient breakdown that you have calculated. This may take some time so don’t be disheartened if you aren’t perfect straight away. Little changes build up over time so it may be as simple as leaving out the oil in your cooking or adding in an extra serve of protein.
Step 5: Track Your Progress
Weighing yourself and taking photos are just two potential ways you can keep a track of your progress. Sometimes you may not notice any change on the scales but your body composition (muscle to fat ratio) may be changing. As you go your calories and macronutrients may need to be adjusted (this is where it is helpful to work with a coach to help you). Remember that weight loss isn’t always linear. There are a number of other factors that contribute to weight loss including stress levels, sleep, your monthly cycle, water retention, whether or not you have eaten and/or had a bowel motion when you weigh yourself, etc. Be patient and trust the process, but also be honest with yourself if you haven’t been entirely consistent or compliant.