How to Properly Design Your Diet – Part Two

In part one, we laid the groundwork and defined some terminology that will be used throughout these posts.  If you have not done so already, I’d urge you to read through it to make sure you are up to speed before reading on.

This post is going to focus on the first steps associated with finding your TEE, using a lit bit of trial and error.  To get the process started, I’ll be using myself as an example.  If you are following along, you can use the same steps however some of the numbers will likely differ according to your own figures.  The Katch-McArdle formula is as follows: BMR = 370 + (21.6 x LBM) – where LBM = [total weight (kg) x (100 – bodyfat %)]/100.  Seems pretty easy to calculate free-hand, right?  Okay, okay – maybe not.  Fortunately, there is another shortcut available to us so you don’t have to do much arithmetic.  I frequently will share this site with folks I’m working with; it just requires that you have a pretty good initial grasp on your current body fat percentage.  As we’ve already mentioned in part one, calipers are an easy way for beginners to get a rough estimate for our purposes here.

The first choice you will be presented with is asking how active you are.  This is also known as the “activity factor” but I will leave it at “little or no exercise” for this example to keep it somewhat simple.  Hopefully this will accomplish our goal of simplifying things for first time diet designers without adding the extra complexity of exercise.  We will likely talk about exercise’s effects on required intake in a later post within this series.  Next, I will enter my current weight of 190 pounds and my current body fat percentage as 10 percent (I fluctuate between 7-12 depending on whether I’m eating in excess to gain size or in a deficit to reduce body fat but we’ll take the middle ground here to again keep the example simple).  You can also enter your desired body fat level but we will be doing this calculation ourselves so the output would simply be for the sake of seeing how close the calculator tool comes to being accurate, nothing more.

The Katch-McArdle calculator came up with the following output based on the numbers I used:

Caloric Need:

Estimated Base BMR: 2045 Calories.
Estimated TDEE: 2454 Calories.

From the first post, you now know that BMR is simply the amount of energy the body requires in basically a comatose state but it’s the TDEE we’re especially interested in here.  This will be our baseline number we’ll use for designing phase one of our diet plan; 2454 calories.

Now that we have our TDEE number, we know how many calories we would be required to consume in order to keep weight at a steady figure.  I will likely say this many times so I may as well start now – the human body does not necessarily work on a 24 hour clock in the sense that missing your target one day will ruin your diet. That is a great oversimplification of how things work so try not to become focused simply on day-to-day intake goals.  In fact, I often design plans that call for weekly caloric intake goals specifically for more advanced folks as many prefer to do calorie cycling (eating more on days in which they need it – think intense training).  We won’t jump ahead though as this is a more advanced topic that we’ll talk about later.

The next tool we’ll need in our toolbox is a way to track our calorie intake so it doesn’t become overly cumbersome to a first time dieter.  I would urge you to read up on the many free calorie counting applications that exist in the market.  Many folks have their own favorites; some of the more popular versions that I’ve used include myfitnesspal, FitDay, Livestrong, and others.  At this point, familiarize yourself with the various apps and choose one that feels the best to you as logging your dietary intake will be one of the most important tasks we’ll be doing and these apps do most of the heavy lifting for you.  It’s also a good time to mention food scales.  Although advanced folks can usually “eyeball” their food, I’d highly recommend the use of a food scale at this point so that you learn the difference between various weights of foods.  For example, there can be a pretty big caloric difference ounce per ounce of certain foods.  As we dial in our caloric needs, it’s good to be as accurate as possible.  There are many great digital scales that can be had for under $25.

That’s it for now, in the next post we’ll be taking our initial 2454 calorie figure and go over the steps to determine how accurate this figure is.

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