The cornerstone of any good fitness plan is getting your diet right, and to do that, the first thing you need is, to determine what your daily caloric needs are. A crude way to find out your daily caloric need is to multiply your target weight (not your present weight) in pounds with 12. As an example, my target weight is 67 kgs which is 148 pounds. That makes my daily calorie intake 148 X 12 = 1776 calories.
If you wish to look like a fitness model, then you have to fine tune it. But if your goal is to get in really good shape, lose weight and look lean and fit then managing your calories this way will work well.
Now that you know your caloric needs, it will be good to know your macro nutrient breakup. This is a guideline. First determine what your body type is
Ectomorph: Naturally thin. Skinny limbs. Struggles to build muscle/gain weight.
Mesomorph: Naturally muscular. Wide shoulders. Fits right between ectomorph and endomorph build.
Endomorph: Naturally broad. Wide hips. Shorter limbs. Gains weight easily.
Now convert these percentages into calories. I am an Ectomorph. So, in my case, Protein = 444 calories, Carb = 977 Calories, Fat = 355 calories. Total 1776 calories as determined earlier.
Converting those calories to grams: Protein and Carbohydrates contain 4 calories/gram. Fat contains 9 calories/gram. So, my protein requirement becomes Protein = 444/4 = 111 gms, Carbohydrate = 977/4 = 244 calories, Fat = 355/9 = 40 gms.
So, my baseline macro nutrient requirement is as follows:
Protein = 111 grams, Carbohydrate = 244 grams, Fat = 40 grams.
Design your own meal
Now that I know this, I can design a meal plan dividing them over 3-4 meals. While making your diet just keep two thumb rules in mind: Keep Protein and Vegetables in every meal and keep refined Carbohydrates and Processed food to a minimum. Pay attention to calories when choosing food and avoid high caloric food when you can find a healthier substitute. I will prefer to top up my salad with lemon and vinegar instead of salad dressings.
This one goes without saying. The bulk of our diet should consist of whole foods that are nutrient dense and provide real nourishment for the body to perform optimally.
Sugary drinks, sweets, biscuits, ice cream etc should be kept to a minimum. They cause sharp spikes in the hormone insulin, which sends blood sugar levels all over the place. This is often why so many people feel sluggish throughout the day.
Some basic principles I follow while designing my diet
I prefer to eat three meals a day. I avoid snacking. I don’t try to do any fancy diets plans. Something which can be managed for ever is better.
I prefer whole grains over refined grains.
I am not into supplements too much. I get all my medical tests done annually and anything that’s in deficit, I supplement that. Usually it’s Vitamin D once a year and Whey protein which I take every day. I try to reach my daily protein intake with my regular food but when in deficit, I supplement with Whey.
I avoid Sugar and fried food or limit it to my cheat day.
I limit Bananas and Grapes in my fruit basket as they are high in carb and sugar.
I never eat fried potatoes or Rice
I restrict all form of processed food severely.
Protein is extremely important to build lean muscles. So, all my meals have an abundance of protein. But consuming 111 gms of protein in a day is a challenge specially since I am a vegetarian. It’s not that there are no options for vegetarians but they usually need lots of preparation and planning. I have been asked many times about what choices vegetarians have as sources of protein. I am listing a few here to help you to plan your meals
Almonds – 6 g per 28 gms almonds, 164 calories
Chia Seeds – 5 g per 28 gms, 138 calories
Lentils – 18 g per 1 cup, 230 calories
Peanut Butter – 7 g per two spoon, 191 calories
Beans – 8 g per ½ cup, 130 calories
Cashews – 5 g per 28 gms, 157 calories
Spinach – 5 g per 1 cup cooked, 41 calories
Sun dried Tomato – 6 g per 1 cup, 139 calories
Greek Yogurt 20 g per 200 ml, 150 calories
Swiss Cheese – 8 g per 28 gms, 117 calories
Pumpkin seeds – 9 g per 28 gms, 158 calories
Soya bean – 17 g per 100 gms, 173 calories
Peas – 8 g per 1 cup, 118 calories
Teff – 7 g per ¼ cup, 180 calories
Remember Protein is a Forever Fuel for your body. While some fundamental principles can guide your nutrition choices – a diet void of protein and high on saturated fat and sugar will leave you feeling sluggish and of course without the body you desire.
Remember, initially dietary changes will not show results. Small changes will support weight management, muscle building, help keep Blood Pressure in check and lower risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart diseases and diabetes.
What you drink is crucial
Hydration and what we drink is also a very important part of your dietary plan. In one evening, you can gulp down thousand calories without even realising it. Sodas, Packed juices etc contain a lot of sugar. The American Heart association recommends 36 gms sugar per adult per day. You will consume more than that in your daily meals of fruit and vegetables. There’s more than that in just a 300 ml of soda drink that you enjoy with your pizza. And then there’s Beer, wine, and cocktails. A lean body depends a lot not only what you are eating in your plate but also what you are pouring in your glass.
Frankly it should be just water and nothing else. Staying hydrated with pure water benefits your health, energy level, and body composition. Consuming anything else than water should be limited on some occasions. I recommend drinking 3-4 litres of water a day. You will reduce your calorie intake if you drink sufficient water. I drink one or two glass of water before my meals. And if you don’t like taste of pure water put some Basil leaves or Cucumber to make it tasty.
Coffee and Tea both provide health benefits. However, adding milk and sugar adds calories and promotes fat storage. Alcohol metabolises to sugar, yielding empty calories and hindering muscle growth and fat loss. It does not make sense to work hard for a lean body and then having alcohol that sabotages your efforts.
Maximise your results and motivation by intelligently indulging in food. It’s not that you have to eat just boiled broccoli for life. Never put yourself on restrictive diet. You are bound to fail. If you deny yourself your favourite food, it will increase the odds that you will turn to it, when hunger craving strikes.
Keep a daily food journal. There are various apps that can help. You are going to lose weight better if you journal your food. Change your language. Instead of saying I can’t eat, say I don’t eat.
A beginner’s guide to eating healthy
Move to three meals a day
Fix two days a week to have nothing packaged, sugary.
Increase these two days to three, after you get used to it.
I am now at four days. So, I eat clean for four days and then cheat one day. I don’t want to restrict my favourite foods. So currently, instead of seven-day week food cycle, I do five-day week. I eat clean four days and enjoy my cheat day on the fifth day.
Make your own new power plate. Load yourself with perfect foods for building muscles and stay healthy always.