How to Properly Design Your Diet – Part Four

In the first parts of this series, we went over definitions and the basics on how to find your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) using the Katch-McArdle formula. Please read the first three parts of this series if you have not done so already.

Let’s start off talking about what type of foods make the most sense when designing your first diet. Most likely, if you’ve spent any time researching this topic online, or watching television, you’re already well aware that a new fad diet is invented, seemingly, every few minutes – eat this, don’t eat this, don’t eat at all, cleanse this, detox that, etc. They all range in their level of absurdity but the fact remains that dieting is not a complex endeavor, no matter how hard these celebrities and Internet marketers want you to believe that it is. Want to skip the rest and go right to the punch-line? Eat less than you require (TDEE) and you will lose weight. Conversely, if you eat more than you require then you will gain weight. Quite an astonishing concept, isn’t it? Now let’s expand upon that principle so that you, Educated Reader, will not be miserable when you start.

My, admittedly oversimplified, mantra has always been that your goal with food intake should be that the majority of your calories come from whole, minimally processed foods while limiting potentially harmful agents such as trans fats. So what does this mean exactly? I’ve explained it to folks in numerous, comparative ways such as asking yourself “would my great grandparents recognize this food item I’m about to ingest”. Does this mean that you can never have that slice of pizza, cake, or other treat which you thoroughly enjoy? Absolutely not, and we’ll talk more about this after a brief recap from a topic discussed in part three of this series.

As you recall, there are generally three recognized macro-nutrient groups and they are PRO, CHO, and FAT. Two of these (PRO and FAT) are required and the third is a non-essential macronutrient (CHO). The first goal is to ensure that your essential (required) macro requirements are fulfilled and then we can continue filling the rest of our caloric budget largely with whole, minimally processed choices.

To continue using myself as an example, I’ve already determined that my TDEE is 2454kCals and in order to hit my minimum recommended PRO intake levels, I will need at least 95 grams (~380kCals). To hit my minimum recommended FAT intake levels for the day, I will need at least 57 grams (~513kCals). This leaves me with around 1561kCals to do with what I please. At this point, let me take a step back and say that the person who knows you, Educated Reader, the best – is you. If you have been largely subsisting on a diet of Cracker Jack and root beer then it may shock the system to eat chicken, broccoli, and rice all day, every day. In addition, if you currently have a diet that consists of primarily processed carbs then going full-blown Ketogenic might not be the best idea for you either. The reason is that the key to any diet is long term compliance, success, and yes – even enjoyability. I often see folks who dive into a new diet headfirst only to begin hating life within a week or two. I’m writing this shortly after New Year’s and continue to see this every day with folks who have resolutions related to new and healthy lifestyle choices. Remember, results does not equal sustainability

I used the word “budget” a few paragraphs back for good reason. I see caloric intake very analogous to financial budgeting. Although there are arguably right and wrong decisions, these are largely subjective. For example, even though you may be craving that Quadruple Bypass Burger doing so may be about as intelligent of a choice as buying that gold plated iPhone 5 when you don’t have enough extra cash left over to pay the rent/mortgage…

The best budget choices in the dietary context are those that allow you to hit macro, micro, and caloric goals while leaving you satisfied, happy, and healthy. In the next part of this seemingly never-ending series, we’ll finally setup my example diet and determine if my calculated TDEE is too high, low, or just right…

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