It can be challenging to find the perfect diet for both your body type and goals. In order to dissect your nutritional requirements, the best approach to understand the foundation of nutrition. Regardless if your goals concern fat-loss or muscle-gain, there are certain rules that need to be respected in order for you to see any meaningful progress:
1. Understand your caloric requirements
Be in a caloric deficit for fat loss and be in a state of caloric surplus for total body mass gain. It's important to keep track of your weekly caloric intake as it will be the primary determinant of whether you lose or gain weight.
You can be in a caloric deficit by decreasing your food intake or by increasing your physical activity levels gradually. While it might sound tempting to reduce your daily caloric intake by 800 calories, it might not be sustainable and would come as quite a shock to the body. The best combination is to start with a deficit of 400 calories while merging it with a cardio activity that helps to burn 100-200 extra calories per day.
2. Learn the math behind body composition
Everybody dreams of being an overnight success when it comes attaining their dream physique. However, such things take a fair amount of time, especially if you wish to go about doing it healthily
For fat-loss: Aim for 0.5-1 kg per week if you have more than 10 kg to lose, or 0.25-0.5kg/week if you have less than 5kg to lose
Taking an overly aggressive approach (e.g. slashing calories, regularly taking workouts to the extreme, etc.) can have a negative effect, resulting in a catabolic effect on lean body mass.
For muscle-gain: Aim for a gain of 0.2-0.5 kg/week
While it may not sound like much, you need to focus on the long-term picture for a complete body transformation. Putting on too much, too fast will just leave you feeling bloated and miserable. Chances are that most of that sudden weight will be due to increased water retention as well. Putting on muscle mass is a time-intensive process and cannot be rushed.
3. Play with your macronutrient profile
For fat loss: Manipulate macronutrient intake – reduce carbohydrates, increase protein
It's important to understand that carbohydrate isn't the enemy of fat-loss but rather it’s the most convenient form that excess calories come in, which is why it’s typically the first macronutrient to see a reduced intake. Regular overconsumption of carbohydrates can also blunt insulin sensitivity, which can hamper fat-loss. While it’s important to maintain a caloric deficit, maintaining a protein intake of around 2g per kilogram of bodyweight will allow you to preserve muscle mass.
For muscle-gain: Increase all macronutrient intake to meet calorie goal
Hitting your protein goals is still a priority but you can afford to include more calories for your daily intake, preferably from carbohydrates. The recommended intake for protein is around 1.4 to 1.6g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. As much as possible, source your calories from whole foods while only using supplements to plug in the gaps.
4. Macronutrient timing
For fat-loss: Consume your carbohydrates around your workout
Carbohydrates can still be useful even in a fat-loss programme and are essential for training days that are higher in intensity. Consume your carbs about 1-2 hours before your workout. Post-exercise carb consumption will also aid in glycogen re-synthesis along with prevention of muscle protein breakdown.
For muscle-gain: Adjust your carbohydrate intake if you are gaining fat too quickly
You can afford to be a bit more liberal with your timing of nutrients since size is the goal. Carbohydrates should still be increased following a training session, but you can taper your carb consumption if you find that you are gaining weight too quickly.
5. Don't ignore nutrient density
It goes without saying that you should keep your intake of nutrient-dense foods in your diet on the high side as they are responsible for the essential functions of your body. Furthermore, micronutrients play the important role of helping your body to recover and adapt to whatever conditions you put it through. Such foods are usually vegetables, fruits, whole grains and animal protein. Try to include as much of these foods as possible into your diet without straying too far from your calorie goal.
Getting a handle on your nutrition provides you with a greater degree of control over what kind of results you get from your body transformation journey. Do note that no nutrition plan survives “first contact”, so don’t hesitate to adapt things accordingly. Even if it doesn’t turn out exactly the way you’d hoped, you can always improve the odds of success the next time around by learning from your oversights. At the very least, these 5 tips will help you avoid the more common mistakes out there!