Diet is Everything. No, really.

February 11, 2017

Diet is Everything. No, really.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. Well, it’s not really a secret but a lot of people refuse to face the reality regarding the importance of diet. Getting into great shape is 70-80% diet. Boom.

The infomercials that you see on TV have done an amazing job of making people think that they can get rock hard abs and a tight rear in less than 6 minutes a day. The truth is that you can’t out-exercise a poor diet regardless of how much money you spend on a piece of equipment. Sorry. It’s a bummer…I know.

Leading a healthy lifestyle is hard work. Being a fit-body takes dedication, consistency and a willingness to forego tasty treats and adult beverages. I’m not suggesting that your diet has to be perfect, but I am suggesting that your diet is directly correlated to the results you’ll see…or not see. So, the question becomes “how bad do you want it?”

If you’re still reading this then I encourage you to not give up. I’m not all doom and gloom as the recipe for success is pretty straightforward.

Here are the steps:

Step One: Monitor your diet for one week

Step Two: Determine the number of calories needed to “run” your body

Step Three: Determine the appropriate amount of protein, carbs and fats

Step Four: Clean-up your diet

Step Five: Reach your caloric goals daily

Now that we know the process, let’s review each step in detail.

Step One: Monitor your diet for one week

For one week I want you to monitor everything that you put into your mouth. This includes meals, snacks, beverages and the random piece of candy you snag from the office candy dish. You will also keep track of the times that you consume your meals and snacks. This might sound like a tough challenge, but it’s only as tough as you make it. A few sheets of paper are all you really need, but for the more adventurous types, you can download any number of calorie counting apps on the market. I highly recommend MyFitnessPal.

At the end of the week, you should be able to look back and see exactly when, how much and how often you are eating. When I performed this exercise myself a few years ago, I was surprised at how little food I was actually eating. I also realized that I wasn’t eating as frequently as necessary for someone my size. I have a feeling that you too will have a few “aha moments” of your own.

Step Two: Determine the number of calories needed to “run” your body

Ok, this step involves some math so you might want to grab a pencil, paper and even a calculator if your math skills are rusty.

In this step we need to determine your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. Your BMR is basically the minimum number of calories that your body needs to function. The BMR is different for everyone and as you’ll see in a few moments, there are separate calculations for women and men.

Step 2A: First, take your current weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2 to convert it to kilograms.

Example: 215 pounds ÷ 2.2 = 98 kilograms (rounded)

Step 2B: Next, convert your height into inches.

Example: 6.1 feet × 12 = 73 inches (rounded)

Step 2C: Now, take your height in inches and multiply it by 2.54 to convert it to centimeters.

Example: 73 inches × 2.54 = 185 centimeters (rounded)

Next, we need to determine the number of calories that you’ll need to consume daily. Below are the two formulas needed for this calculation—note that there are separate formulas for men and women. All you need to do is to plug in the values from 2A and 2C where appropriate. Also remember to do the math inside the parenthesis first.

  • For Males: 5 + (13.75 × 2A above) + (5.003 × 2C above) − (6.775 × your age)
  • For Females: 1 + (9.563 × 2A above) + (1.850 × 2C above) − (4.676 × your age)

Example: 66.5 + (13.75 × 98) + (5.003 × 185) − (6.775 x 36)

                         66.5 + 1348 + 926 – 244 = 2,097 calories

Using the calculations above my BMR is 2,097 calories. Again, this is the minimum number of calories that I need per day just to run my body. This does not include additional calories that should be consumed because of an active lifestyle.

Step Three: Determine the appropriate amount of protein, carbs and fats

You’re almost home free. Step 3 only contains a handful of mathematical calculations. In this step we need to determine how to divide your calories into proteins, carbs and fats. In general proteins and carbs each represent 40% of your diet, and the remaining 20% is derived from fat. The math to determine how many grams of protein, carbs and fat is pretty straightforward.

To determine how many grams of protein and carbs you need, you just take your BMR calories and divide by .4 or 40% then divide that number by 4. Proteins and carbs are essentially 4 calories each.

Example: 2,097 x .4 ÷ 4 = 210 grams of protein and an additional 210 grams of carbs

To determine your fat intake, you take your BMR calories and divide by .2 or 20% then divide that number by 9. As you’ve already figured out, fats are higher in calories than proteins and carbs.

Example: 2,097 x .2 ÷ 9 = 47 grams of fat

Now that you’ve determine how your calories are broken down into the macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) you can start planning your meals. Your objective should be to consume a little of each macronutrient during each meal. Please note that I’m using the term meal very loosely because a “meal” can be considered a snack or a protein shake. Ideally you should consume a meal/snack every 2-3 waking hours.

Step Four: Clean-up your diet

This step is all about cleaning up your diet. Think back to the food log that you started building in Step One. You need to replace anything in your diet that’s unhealthy and/or exceeds your macronutrient targets.

You want to pay particular attention to processed foods and beverages, as they are often a source of big calories and few nutrients. Chips, crackers, soda pop, juices and specialty coffees can contain obscene amounts of calories and sugars, so those should be eliminated first and replaced with healthy alternatives. If you find it impossible to go cold turkey, then set a goal to wean yourself off of the unhealthy items by cutting back a little each day. If you drink one can of Coke per day, try cutting back to ½ a can per day, then ½ a can every other day and so on.

You might be wondering if coffee and/or caffeine are okay. The short answer is yes. According to the FDA, 400 milligrams of caffeine or less is generally not associated with any dangerous or negative effects for healthy adults. Four hundred milligrams equates to approximately 4-5 cups of coffee depending upon brew strength.

Your objective is to eliminate unhealthy foods and beverages from your diet as quickly as possible. And, by all means you should avoid fast food restaurants. Even those foods that appear healthy often have hidden calories from butter, cream and other additives.

If you’re unwilling to change your diet, then you’ll be unable to reach your goals. Period!

Step Five: Reach your caloric goals daily

Once you’ve established your caloric goals (Step Two), your objective should be to meet your goal on a daily and consistent basis. Notice that I said your objective is to meet your caloric goal. The downside of exceeding your caloric goal could be weight gain. If you fail to reach your caloric goals then you’re failing to provide your body with sufficient calories necessary for growth and repair.

Step Six: Supplements are not replacements

As I have mentioned previously, there is no magic pill that is going to do the hard work for you. Supplements are designed to support a healthy diet and regular exercise. With that said, there are several supplements which are critical and highly recommended.

Multi-vitamin: A good multi-vitamin will provide you with the basic vitamins and minerals to support a healthy body and immune system. There are several solid multi-vitamins on the market including those from Centrum and Body Fuse (Natural Selection.)

Creatine: There have been numerous studies conducted which demonstrate that supplementation with creatine can lead to increased muscle mass. Many of these studies have been conducted with creatine monohydrate, so be sure to read the label carefully.

Protein: Protein is required for muscle repair and should be consumed immediately following a workout in the form of a protein shake. I’ve tried products from countless companies including Gaspari, Nutrex, Isopure, MuscleTech, Universal and Controlled Labs. Based upon price, mixability, taste and nutrients, I recommend Dymatize Elite Whey Protein Isolate. I have also had a great experience with Iso-Fuse from Body Fuse as it has similar benefits to Dymatize.

BCAAs: Branch chain amino acids or BCAAs are consumed by athletes to improve exercise performance and reduce protein and muscle breakdown during intense exercises, like weight training and cardio. I am a huge fan of BCAAs from Optimum.

Glutamine: Glutamine is important for repair, recovery and removal of waste. Your body naturally produces glutamine, however, intense exercise depletes glutamine stores. Supplementation with a glutamine product is an effective way to insure that your body has what it needs. Glutamine is often included in protein powers, but it doesn’t hurt to supplement with a standalone product. I typically consume both a pill (Recovery AKG from Body Fuse) and powder (Allmax) on a daily basis.

Step Seven: Water, water and more water

Your body is up to 60 percent water, so it goes without saying that water is important. The age-old question however, is how much water should a person consume on a daily basis? It’s a great question that many, many, many smart people have tried to answer. The reality is that there isn’t a definitive answer despite countless recommendations that have been developed by health officials and training associations.

There are several factors that are fairly consistent:

1.) People don’t drink enough water.

2.) Water needs are variable and individualized.

3.) A person’s climate contributes to their water needs. For example, someone living in Arizona may require more water than someone living in Seattle.

4.) Water is lost during exercise and should be replaced.

5.) Water removes toxins from the body and transplants nutrients to tissue.

6.) Dehydration can have detrimental effects.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends 2.7 liters (.71 gallons) of water for healthy women and 3.7 liters (.97 gallons) of water for healthy men. The recommendations include water from all sources including beverages and foods.

While the IOM advisory panel did not set an upper level for water consumption, it should be noted that people who engage in regular and frequent exercise will require more water than the “average” health person.