How to Properly Design Your Diet – Part Three

In parts one and two, we laid out the foundation for the concepts we’ll be covering in part three. If you haven’t done so I would urge you to read them now.

As you recall, we’ve calculated our TDEE at 2454kCals/day. In theory, this would be the amount of calories we would need to consume to stay at our same body composition where no other variables change (also sometimes referred to as maintenance calories). You will also likely recall that this figure was derived from the Katch-McArdle formula, which is simply that – a formula. Although it is my preferred formula for initial baseline testing, I’ve also found that it can be upwards of 200-300kCals off depending on the individual.

To find the individual’s TDEE we need to design a diet that works out to ~2454kCals/day and begin carefully monitoring both weight and body composition for changes (either positively or negatively). Many folks simply measure weight but I feel that can paint an incomplete picture of what is going on (for instance, simple changes in water weight can cause spikes and drops of pounds per day and give false hope and/or anxiety). For completeness, I would highly urge the individual to grab a tape measure and log measurements in addition to weight. The more data points, the better – but, at a minimum, measure the waist, chest (around nipples), and glutes (at widest point). It would be even better to also measure arms, quads, calves, and shoulders but that isn’t an absolute requirement. Just remember, the more data the more complete the progress picture you can paint.

I don’t intend to dive deeply into macro and micro-nutrition since that would, in itself, be an entire article series however a brief overview will be required at this time. Generally, there are three major recognized macro-nutrient groups and they are Protein (PRO), Carbohydrate (CHO), and Fat (FAT). One could argue that there are more (think water, alcohol, fiber, etc) but that is beyond the scope of this article. Micro-nutrients are generally vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and other essentials required to maintain healthy being. Further reading on the topic can be found here for those inquiring minds.

As we design our 2454kCal diet, we must focus on macro/micro nutrition and then fill the rest of our intake with intelligent food choices which we’ll take about in more depth later. Of the macro-nutrients listed above, there are two essentials (PRO and FAT) and one non-essential (CHO). To quote Lyle McDonald, to be considered an essential nutrient, it must meet these two criteria:
– Nutrient is required for survival
– Nutrient cannot be made in sufficient quantities (or at all) by the body

CHOs are actually not required in the dietary sense as the body can convert other nutrients to glucose via a process called gluconeogenesis, but I really don’t want eyes to start glazing over at this time so we won’t get further in depth than this. Just realize that two of the macro-nutrient families are required via dietary intake and one is not (again, this isn’t entirely true in certain cases but for the rest of this series it will be referred to as such).

The first thing we’re going to do is take care of the essential macros (PRO and FAT). In general, when designing a diet where calorie intake will be restricted (assuming if you are reading this then that is the case) then higher PRO intake generally becomes more important. Besides PRO being a very satiating macro, it also has been shown to help retain lean mass during long-term dieting as well as many other benefits. General recommendations would be 0.5-1.0g of PRO per pound of body weight. In my case, continuing to use 190 pounds as our example, this would equate to 95-190g/day of PRO.

FAT is our other essential macro and maintaining FAT intake is crucial as it relates to hormonal processes, protecting against inflammation, etc. General guidelines would indicate that it is optimal to shoot for 0.3-0.8g of FAT per pound of body weight. Again, using the example of 190 pounds, this would equate to 57-152g/day of FAT.

Assuming we hit our bare minimum requirements of 95g PRO and 57g FAT, this puts us at 893kCals for the day; well short of our 2454kCal target. One gram of PRO = 4kCal and one gram of FAT = 9kCal. This leaves us with well over 1500kCals to play with. This 1561kCal bucket can be filled with either more PRO, more FAT, or you can introduce CHOs (which also have a relative value of 1g = 4kCals).

That concludes this post, in part four we will talk more about the types of foods we’ll want to include in the diet and get further into how to measure the data for progress.

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