How much do I have to eat? How long do I have to stick to it for? When can I get a cheat meal?
These are all common questions that are asked for most people who are on a ‘diet’. But what is the best diet out there??
For the majority of the population, it is simply the one you can stick to the best, without ‘cheating’ and that will get you the best results. It doesn’t have to be too complicated, its merely about finding an energy balance and adjusting calories from there (increase in calories for weight/muscle gain or decrease calories for weight/fat loss). An energy balance is when the amount of calories you consume is equal to the amount of calories your body uses resulting in no weight loss or weight gain.
The initial stages for most individuals (unless you’re an athlete or physique competitor/bodybuilder) is as simple as you want to make it. Get an estimate of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and adjust your intake of calories from there. There are tools available online to calculate TDEE. An individuals TDEE is the amount of energy that the body requires every day to carry out it functions, from basal metabolic processes to energy required for exercise to anything and everything in between. If you want to lose fat mass, then decrease your calories below the TDEE and your body will burn more energy than you’re feeding it so it will use stored energy reserves as fuel. If you want to gain muscle tissue you need to feed your body more than your TDEE and it will use the excess to build mass provided training type and intensity is correct.
Keeping your body in extremes of either an increase or decrease of calories for prolonged periods of time can lead to detrimental consequences for your physique, but more on that in another post.
Once you have found your TDEE you can use an app or online resource to track your calories and to ensure you stay within the daily limits you have set. Now obviously if your daily allowance was 2400kcal a day it wouldn’t make much sense to eat all of that in one sitting as you would be hungry at some other time of the day and the risk of you overeating on something else would be massive leading to an excess of calories for the day. Be as sensible as you can, try to stick to whole non-processed foods for the majority of it, but don’t ‘ban’ any foods, just be sensible, and if you really must have that bag of crisps/bar of chocolate then make sure it doesn’t send you over your daily calorie allowance.
When you feel that you can stick to this then the next step would be to look at your macronutrient levels (macronutrients are the levels of carbohydrates, proteins and fats contained in food) and become more specific. However, for the majority of cases the calories in vs calories out approach will be enough to start your body on its way to fat loss/muscle gain and get you started on the road to the body shape you want.