If you’re a fitness enthusiast, I’m pretty sure somewhere along your journey you’ve heard the saying “working out is 30% training and 70% diet”. I’m not saying this is a perfect science, but it simply shows the importance of diet in one’s fitness journey. Another similar quote many of you might have heard is “abs are made in the kitchen”. This basically means that you can spend hours a day doing crunches and other fancy ab workouts, but if you neglect your diet, your hard work will be in vain.
You might be wondering where I’m going with all these diet quotes; well, you’re about to find out! Think of food as fuel: it feeds your body the nutrients it needs for optimal performance during your workouts, thus helping you take one step closer in achieving your desired physique.
With that being said, if you put low quality food in your body, expect low quality results. You can’t outwork a bad diet.
The Mechanism of Weight Loss/Gain
However, there are a few things you should know. Every individual has their own specific goals and should work according to their own body types. To explain, there are three known somatotypes: ectomorphs are known as the hard gainers, mesomorphs are in the middle (neither overweight nor underweight), and endomorphs gain fat easily. Knowing your body type is the first step in choosing the right diet plan for YOU.
Managing weight loss/gain isn’t as complicated as it may seem. It’s a simple difference of calories in minus calories out. If you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll be in a caloric deficit and consequently lose weight. However, if you eat more than you burn off, you’ll be in a caloric surplus and thus gain weight.
Count Your Calories
Now that we’ve established the mechanism of weight loss/gain, you’re probably wondering how to determine how many calories you should eat or burn off to get the body you’ve been working so hard for. One of the best and most accurate ways of determining one’s calorie expenditure is the Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA), which uses a special kind of weight balance scale to estimate one’s body composition. It measures the amount of fat, muscle, and water one has in their body, which in turn helps to determine your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
Your BMR is an approximation of the number of calories your body naturally burns off at rest. From there, you can calculate how many calories you should eat depending on whether you want to put on or lose weight.
Keep in mind that the value of your BMR does not include calories burnt off during exercise. Let’s suppose your BMR is 2,000 calories and that you train seven times a week, burning on average 500 calories/session. That will bring your daily expenditure to 2,500 calories. Scientific studies proved that if you are in a 500 calorie deficit /day, in a week that’ll make 3,500 calories, which is equivalent to one pound of fat! So if you eat 2,000 calories while burning 2,500, expect to lose one pound of fat after a week. Of course, you can go at a lower rate, meaning it will just take you a bit longer to get there.
I say this because we as humans have a tendency to take things a step further. We often assume more is better. However, if you were to approach weight loss with this mentality, you could end up doing more harm than good. For example, if you reduce your intake by too much in an attempt to lose weight faster, that could have serious repercussions on your body. There’s a minimum caloric recruitment for healthy functioning.
I always advise my clients to consult a certified nutritionist or doctor before going on severe diets. You need to make sure you’re getting the proper nutrients in the right doses. The same principle applies for those looking to put on weight: simply eat more than you burn; just be cautious not to eat in an excessive surplus, or you’ll gain extra body fat and will have to work hard to remove the fat you gained. An excess of 200-300 calories is a good place to start. You can decide to add/reduce according to weekly increments in body weight.
If your local gym or nutrition center does not have the BIA scale, many websites offer a BMR calculator simply by putting in your height, weight, and age. Although this method is not nearly as accurate as the scale, it will give you a rough estimate to work with.
The Physical Aspect
Now that we’ve covered the nutritional aspect of training, many of you are probably wondering about the physical aspect – the actual workout. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just suppose the goal of working out, in this case, is just to look good in terms of physical appearance. If that’s the case, then both individuals – the one wanting to add some size and the other who wants to lose fat or slim down – train the same. It’s shocking, I know!
The only difference is the one aiming to lose fat will spend a bit more time doing post-workout cardio to make sure they burn more than they eat.
The Perfect Workout
Many believe that in order to lose weight, their workouts should look something like this: two mins of Burpees followed by a minute of jumping jacks and long cardio sessions. NO! As long as you exercise with proper technique and execution, don’t fear stepping into the weight room.
On the contrary, science shows that lifting weights also releases “stress hormones” responsible for burning fat along with hormones responsible for building muscle. And a higher muscle mass will increase your BMR, making you burn more calories at rest. It’s a win-win situation!
As for those looking to gain lean muscle mass, you have to make sure you’re getting in your daily macros, meaning your daily protein, carb, and fat requirements. If you go hard in the gym but are slacking in the kitchen, it might get frustrating, as you won’t see the results you were hoping for. Just as I mentioned earlier, think of food as fuel. Make sure you have plenty of energy to work out, but even more so, think of food as your recovery source. Feed your body all it needs to get bigger and stronger after those taxing workouts.
The Bottom Line
In summary, a proper nutrition plan tailored specifically to one’s goals is a crucial part of body transformation alongside proper training and adequate sleep. Especially if you’re a fitness beginner, it’s essential to understand that progress often comes with small and deliberate steps. Maybe you were training hard and either eating everything in sight or not eating enough. If that was the case and you weren’t seeing the results you wanted, now you can learn from your mistakes and ultimately succeed in achieving your fitness goals.
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