Nutrition For Beginners - Part I

First of a 2 part series designed to help beginners who are learning how to build muscle. Learn how to work out and how many calories you need.

Ok. So now you So by now we can work out our BMR (Basal metabolic rate) plus the calories that we use up in our physical activity, then we add 10% for the TEF (thermic effect of food) So our calculation goes like this BMR + calories used in activity = ? + 10% = Total calories required in the day.

Once we have this calculation then we can split this up into food, the basic percentages of protein, carbohydrates and fats (PCF ratio) are for weight and strength training 30% protein, 50% carbohydrates and 20% fats. People who do other training than strength training do not need as much protein in the day and their percentage of protein per day is 15% (food groups and nutrition info are contained in the muscle and strength article mentioned above)

So we have our total calories required and now we know what percentages of each food group that we need.

Example: Total calories required 2600 calories per day:

  • 30% of 2600 = 780 calories for Protein
  • 50% of 2600 = 1300 calories from Carbohydrates
  • 20% of 2600 = 520 calories from total Fat

Protein foods contain 4 calories per gram, carbohydrate foods contain 4 calories per gram, and fat in food contains 9 calories per gram.

To calculate calories of food required into the amount of food (in grams) we need:

  • 780 calories from protein, divide by 4 = 195 grams of protein per day
  • 1300 calories from carbohydrates, divide by 4 = 325 grams of Carbohydrates per day
  • 520 calories from fat, divide by 9 = 58 grams of total fat per day

So now we know that we need 195g protein, 325g carbohydrates, 58g total fat.


We need to split this now into meals and the best way to eat is to eat frequently because the body works continuously and should be fueled as needs arise. Nutrients can be used more efficiently if a moderate amount of food is ingested on a frequent basis. If we only eat three meals a day and if you have a look at the food we need above per day then we would have to eat very large meals to get the required amount of calories needed in the day, but if the meal is too big then there is more chance that some of the food may be stored as fat due to the large rise in blood sugar and the body then will release the enzyme insulin to try to lower blood sugar back to a near normal range, Any sugars not used up in training, the insulin will push the sugar out of the blood and push it somewhere…..well guess what - right into your fat storage area, the fat cells mostly in the stomach area. So we are better to eat smaller frequent meals, so we need to aim for 6 feedings per day. Try not to go longer than 3 hours without food. We can split the meals anyway that we want but for weight training and building mass, try and get each one as near as you can to the same calorie content in each.

We can now calculate the required amount of food per meal (amounts rounded off)

Protein required = 195g divided by 6 meals = 33g protein per meal
Carbs required = 325g divided by 6 meals = 54g carbs per meal
Fat required 58g divided by 6 meals = 10g per meal

From the article that is mentioned above you will see which food contain what type of food (protein, carbs, fat) and what are the best choices, but basically:

Lean meats, Poultry, Fish, Beans, Eggs, Nuts. Protein drinks, Soya

Rice, Pasta, Breads, Potatoes, Cereals, Fruits, Veg, Carb powders.

Fat already in foods, or added with: Virgin olive oil, Fish oils, Flaxseed oil/seeds, Sesame oil/seeds, Nuts and nut oils, or blended oils like UDO’s Ultimate blend.

You can buy a book which details all the foods and the ratio’s of what nutrients are in which food, write a list of foods that you like and once you have written it down you can refer to the list and just by looking at a meal you can tell what is in it or work it the other way around and decide what you need in each meal.

Example of part of a completed list of foods.

Food (Per 100g) Calories Protein (g) Carbs (g) Fat (g) Dietry Fibre (g)
Chicken (meat only) 148 24.6 nil 5.4 nil
Turkey 140 28.8 nil 6.5 nil
Salmon (canned) 155 20.3 nil 8.3 nil
Baked Potato (with skin) 136 3.9 31.7 0.2 2.7
Wheatgerm Bread (3) 212 9.5 41.5 2.0 5.1
Brown Rice 141 2.6 32.1 1.1 0.8
Oatmeal 364 11.8 62.0 7.6 7.2
Banana 95 1.2 23.2 0.3 3.1

Details taken from Collins Gem, Calorie Counter

Once we have all the foods that we like written down we can then work out how much of a particular food that we require for a meal. Maybe by now you may be thinking ‘I cant be bothered doing all that’ but I can assure you that it doesn’t take long to become quite an expert on how much of a food item that we require, how to work it out and how we can make a meal up. Most foods that you buy now have all the nutrients on the wrapping that the foods come in.

Further information on the subject of basic nutrition will be covered in the next part of this article.

About The Author
Doug is an ex-competitive bodybuilder with over 20 years fitness experience, specifically diet & nutrition, weight management and training techniques.

101 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Fri, 07/16/2010 - 04:08

I'm 29 years old, and looking to start Weight Training Asap.
I'm not looking to be a total 'meat head' but i would like to gain some nice muscle and have a decent 'frame' instead of looking pretty skinny.

I'm 6'3 around 168 pounds and right now i dont do ANY excercise atall. I sit at a desk all day, and watch tv when i'm at home.

I've done some working out for my BMI etc and how many calories i would need to consume in a day, and it's come back as around 4000 calories a day.

Broken down

50g of Protein per meal 6x a day
83g of Carbs per meal 6x a day
15g of total fat per meal 6x a day

Does this sound correct?

Also, when i do start to work out, would i have to up this calorie intake or keep it the same for now?


Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 07/16/2010 - 11:04

Hi Matt,

With your build, it is highly possible that you have a fast metabolism and may need to eat that per day. But because you are closing in on 30, a time when a man's metabolism can start to slow a bit, I would try to eat 3500 calories per day for 2 weeks while watching the scale. A beginner can gain around 15 pounds of muscle during his first year of hard training, so make it a goal to gain 2 pounds per month (or so), and adjust calories as needed.

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Posted Wed, 07/21/2010 - 22:49
Phillip Thomas

Hi, I am 5'6" I weigh 220 pounds and my age is 42. What type of diet I need to become more leaner. I am currently working out and I need help only because I am getting older.

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 07/22/2010 - 19:53

Hi Phillip,

Here is an article I recommend. let me know if you have any questions.

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Posted Thu, 12/04/2014 - 09:26

I am 29 Years Old height is 5'10 Weight is 70 kg. Slim Body. want to gain weight and body. advice me diet and exercise and for good supplements.

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Posted Fri, 07/23/2010 - 08:24

Hey Steve, thanks for the info. I'm confused by all the different types of info around. I've used the calculations in the method written in the above article. Which works out, after breaking down 3500 calories using the percentages etc.

262.5 protein per day
583.3 Carbs per day
77.7 fat per day.

Then I read somewhere else that you should eat 1.5g of Protein per pound of body weight, and 2.5g of Carbs per pound of body weight. Which works out

252 Protein per day
420 Carbs per day

As you can see, that works out alot less carbs per day. I'm confused as to which method would be better to use?!

Thanks for your help

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Posted Tue, 07/27/2010 - 13:41

Hello I have a question maybe you can help with. I am 30 years old and weigh just over 200 pounds. I have been working out for the past 8 weeks. 3 days a week I resistance train for 45mins in the morning, the other 2 days of the week I do 40mins of cardio in the morning. I don't workout at all on the weekend. I intake about 2000 calories and 150g of protein in my diet during the week. On the weekend I am less disciplined and eat probably 2500 calories and maybe only 80g of protein. My goal is to lose fat/weigh, and while I have gotten stronger in the gym in the last 8 weeks, my weight just stays between 200-204 pounds and shows no signs of getting under 200. Now I understand that building muscle will keep weigh up while burning fat, but shouldnt I stil lose some weigh overall? I mean I cant see how being over 200lbs for a 5'10'' man is an ideal body weight. When I look in the mirror I just dont really see the improvement.

So my question is, is my loose weekend undoing what I do during the weekdays? Why can I not seem to shed the weight?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 07/27/2010 - 18:44

Hi John,

Can you detail for me exactly what you eat on an average week day. Your calories are within reason, so you should be losing weight. Even 2500 on the weekends should be enough to lose weight. I just want to look at a sample day, and then we'll go from there...

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Posted Wed, 07/28/2010 - 07:35

A typical weekday goes like this:
Wake up at 5am and get to the gym about 6am. 45mins of a full body lifting routine(on tuesdays and thursdays its 45mins of cardio instead), then about 7:15 I have a EAS Myoplex Lite mixed with 2% milk and a piece of fruit like a bannana. At 10am I have a cup of yogurt and two serving of turkey breast, usually in the form of sliced deli meat. At 12:30 I have another EAS Myoplex Lite with milk and a piece of fruit like an apple. At 2:30pm I eat two 5oz cans of tuna or chicken breast mixed with a little miracle whip and relish. Then at about 6pm I have a normal family dinner with my wife and kids, anything from meatloaf, spaghetti, pot roast, baked fish, etc. Always have a serving of fruit and a serving of veggies with it. Sometimes have a bread product with it depending on the dish.

Thats all I eat during the week, which other than the normal family dinner, I thought I was doing pretty well. By dinner time, Ive already consumed about 125g of protein from the 4 meals before it.I don't eat out ever during the week, on the weekend I limit my wife to one eating out meal.

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 07/28/2010 - 13:36

By the look of your diet, you should be losing weight. The only possibility I can think of is that you are eating more calories at night than you think. But I can't say that for certain. They only way to know for sure is to count every calorie, and if you're doing that currently then something else is going on.

Have you been to the doctor lately for a checkup? I might suggest having your thyroid checked. That could be causing you some weight loss issues.

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Posted Wed, 07/28/2010 - 13:48

I haven't been to a doctor in quite some time, I should probably do that. I will also start counting the dinner calories better to get a more acurate number. Last year I did nutrisystem and went from my original 260lbs to about 218lbs. I then got off of nutrisystem and started working out with straight cardio and trying to eat better and slowly went down to where I am now at 200lbs. I've just been stuck there for several months now.

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 07/28/2010 - 14:44

Sometimes you simply hit a weight plateau where it might take a month or two for your body to adjust.

I would get your thyroid checked, and count calories during the week. Then from there we can make adjustments. I hate to make you jump through hoops, but I am hesitant to tell you to eat less if it's not needed.

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Posted Sat, 07/31/2010 - 13:38

Great Article! How does this diet plan sound for bulking?
My BMR is 2,596 Calories so to bulk, I'm going be consuming 3,096 Calories. Here are my protein, carbohydrates, fat amounts, can someone tell me if they are correct? Thanks...
Protein=928 calories from protein which is 232 grams of protein

Carbohydrates=1548 calories from carbohydrates which is 387 grams of carbs.

Fats=619 calories from fat which is 68 grams of fat

Is this correct?

Thank you!!

Steven's picture
Posted Sat, 07/31/2010 - 13:44


That sounds really solid. Watch the scale closely, especially if you are younger. You may need to add 300 calories (or more) to that to get the scale moving.

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Posted Sat, 07/31/2010 - 14:59

Okay thank you very much Steve ! and yeah Im still young, im only 15 . But thanks for the help

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Posted Fri, 08/06/2010 - 17:11

Hi I'm 14 years old and I am 6"2 and way 240. How many calories sould I eat so I feel healthier and stronger during work outs thanks tyler

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 08/09/2010 - 15:04

Hi Tyler,

I would guess at your age, height and weight you may need to be eating at least 3000-3500 calories per day to maintain weight. This is a good place to start. I would try eating 3500 per day for two weeks and watch the scale. You don't want to lose weight. A beginner can gain up to 15 pounds of muscle during his first year of training, so a good goal is to gain about 1-2 pounds per month. If you're not gaining weight, add a few hundred calories each day.

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Posted Sun, 09/12/2010 - 22:39

im 18 years old and im 6"3 and weigh 150 pounds im trying to gain weight and muscle. im tired of being a stick and i want to get big. i dont know where to start and im open for any suggestions. I need help with everything. i was wondering if you could help me get started. i need all the help i can get. if you would please help me out i would greatly appreciate it. thank you, sean

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 09/16/2010 - 13:38

Hi Sean,

Let's get you on the right track. I first need to know your training long have you been lifting, and how much experience do you have with big lifts like deep squats, deadlift, bench press, barbell rows and dips?

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Posted Sat, 10/16/2010 - 02:40

i m 21yr old. My weight is 75kg and my height is 5.5fit. Can u give me some advise for loose my weight n i have to build my body. Give me some exercise n some diet chart.

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 10/18/2010 - 19:07
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Posted Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:53


Im 6ft3 around 230lbs and wanting to lose weight and tone up, i havent done any excersie for around 6 months. Im looking at starting the gym in the next week or so, mainly to do cv and some weights, any advice on what training i should be doing and how i should be eating.

Thanks in advance.

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/07/2010 - 14:16

Hi Lee,

You want to focus on two things to maximize results:

1) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

2) Eating to maximize muscle retention while cutting fat. Here are two articles that can help:

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Posted Wed, 12/15/2010 - 12:59

i am 18 years old .my weight is 55 kg and am approximately 5 feet and 6 inches.can u please give me some advise to increace my height naturally if possible , not through pill i mean if possible.
thanks in advance....

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/21/2010 - 09:06

Hi Matt,

I have never heard of a way to increase height. Sorry.

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Posted Sat, 01/15/2011 - 18:05

how is possible to consume so much protein? i would need about 200g of protein and i find it hard to believe to fit that much into one day. Even if i tried i would have to go to the bathroom like 5 times a day and it would seem majority of that protein im trying to eat is a waste.

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 02/21/2011 - 12:37

200 grams of protein is only 800 calories. Try eating a couple chicken breasts, a few whey shakes, several serving of dairy products (milk and cheese), and a serving of beef or fish. That's about 200 grams of protein.

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Posted Wed, 02/09/2011 - 06:56

This is an awesome article for beginners like me. I'm glad i found this.

I'm a lil' confused with the numbers and formula. After reading through the comments, i was pretty shocked to find that my daily calorie requirements (based on the BMR link) is 12,112 (58kg,158cm,29 years old, moderate activity) and the rest of the peeps in the group tend to have lesser calorie in take than that.

So if the calculation goes like this - BMR + calories used in activity = ? + 10% = Total calories required in the day. How do I count my "calories used in activity". does this mean on the calorie that i will use in a typical day eg: sedentary activity, moderate activity etc?

If you could help me out with this, it'll be awesome.. cause i'm trying to do a meal plan for myself. :) Thanks

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Posted Wed, 02/09/2011 - 09:01


I am 23 years old I am 5'5" and I weigh in at about 120lbs. I have tried just about everyting to gain weight and build muscle. The only way I could see gaining anything is if i were to eat 5 meals per day.

50g protein
120g carbs
8-10g fat
this is per meal.

This would mean I would be consuming approximately 3850 calories per day.

Is this healthy to consure with a moderate exercise routine?
And should I see results with the two?

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Posted Mon, 02/14/2011 - 02:46

Hello Steve

Im 22 years old, about 5 foot 9 and weigh 147 pounds.

i did the bmr, which says 2,332 to maintain, so for good progress i will need about 3000 cals a day

I been told an 40, 40, 20 split would be better for lean muscle gain as more protein will help!

my working out says this

3000 cals needed a day

1200 of cals - protein 40%
1200 of cals - Carbs 40%
600 of cals - fats 20%

300grams of protein per day
300grams of carbs per day
66grams of fat per day

50g protein per meal x6
50g carbs per meal x6
11g fats per meal x6

Does this sound ok?


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Posted Tue, 04/12/2011 - 06:48

I am 29 years old and started a diet and weight lifting program. I am intaking 1800-2000 calories a day at 5'11-200. By diet consists of
1230a. Fiber bar
430a protein drink mixed with soy milk
845a protein drink mixed with soy milk
915a amino acid liquid 2tbls
930a -1030/1100a workout
Protein drink with soy immediately after workout
330p lunch(400-500 calories)
400-500. Cardio (usually an hour brisk walk with light running)
500p protein drink with soy
600p sleep

Currently I am at around 26% body fat and looking to cut and build muscle. Is my diet and calorie intake good or should I be doing something different.
I intake roughly 200g protein, 35-45 g fat and 400 carbs a day.
Also my workout is a six day split. I hve lost 7 pounds in two weeks but want to make sure it's fat and not muscle at the same time.

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 04/12/2011 - 07:39

Hi Ricky,

Your calorie intake looks good for weight loss. To maximize muscle retention while losing weight, I recommend 2 things:

1) Aiming to lose no more than 2 pounds per week. You may need to eat a bit more to hit this level.
2) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

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Posted Tue, 04/12/2011 - 09:34

I should have mentioned that with the 7 pounds in two weeks I had lost 5 pounds of it rather quickly in about three days. After that my weight has leveled off and slowly decreased the point I am at now. I don't know if it might have been scale error or just the shock to my body if eating a lot healthier. I have noticed in the past when my water consumption has went up (taking the place of soft drinks), my weight would drop rather quick. I also wanted to thank you for the quick response.

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Posted Thu, 04/14/2011 - 15:34

Hey Steve,

I'm 24 years old... weigh 168 lbs with a height of 5'9. Interesting article... I was wondering if you could provide me with additional information to help me. I'm currently on a pro-anabolic stack while drinking lots of water per day as well as taking milk thistle to coat my liver. Im aware of the dangers... but I had a question for you. A few years ago, I had a real high metabolism and couldn't gain weight. My metabolism has slowed down a bit and have managed to gain somewhat of a gut. I'm real intersted in adding muscle mass (hence the pro-anabolic stack) but am also interested in losing my gut. Is this possible? How do I focus on adding muscle (taking in enough carbs, protein, fats, etc.) while also focusing on not taking in "too much" to get rid of the extra weight in my stomach? Does the meal plan apply to me? Eat more heatlhy food with less sat fats and I should see the extra weight in my stomach deplete?

Thanks so much in advance,

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Posted Fri, 05/13/2011 - 09:01


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Posted Sat, 05/14/2011 - 13:09

I'm 19 years old and have worked out three times a week minimum for about a year now. I have gotten much more tone, and have seen increases in my biceps and triceps. I want to take my lifting to the next level and get big. I weigh 170 lbs and an 6'4. My goal is to gain 15 lbs. What would you suggest I do to reach my goal.

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Posted Wed, 05/18/2011 - 16:38

hey Steve, I am 24 years old and I'm 163 cm and 53 kg. I workout for 1 hour 2-3 times a week, usually cardio and light weight lifting. I did my calculations but I don`t think I can manage to eat that much during the day!!
I have yet another problem. Every time I try to increase the weight I lift I have severe pain in my knees and extremely stiffed shoulders.
I really want to get stronger and shape up faster!

What would you suggest to get over my extra-weak body!

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 05/19/2011 - 13:00

Hi Zina,

If you are experiencing pain while using moderate to light weight something is wrong. Either you have improper lifting form, or some sort of lingering injury. It's not normal to experience pain with a lighter weight. Study up on your exercise form, and if the pain persists, see a doctor.

The only way to get stronger is to push yourself during every workout for more reps and weight when possible.

Please specify...what is the total amount of daily calories you feel you feel you would be unable to eat?

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Posted Mon, 06/06/2011 - 15:17
ayanda s didi 20 yrs old and i just started a gym this week and im thinking of taking same supplements,is that okey to do as i have just started? and what effect will that have on ma diet?

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Posted Tue, 06/14/2011 - 01:17

im 18 5'7 - 5'8 270 pounds i have never really worked out or done diets or cared too much and im a little confused as to what i should do with my diet and excercise so i thought maybe you could help out some, i have heard so many different things i just need to be told exactly what i should do

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Posted Thu, 07/07/2011 - 08:52
John White

hi steve,

Im around 5"8 & 150pounds. I have ordered alot of supps including creatine, arginine ethyl ester, multivitamin, glutamine, bcaas,zma,weight gainer & a whey protein. i am currently trying to pound on mass but struggle, i am currently going to try a nutritonal diet plan of this site heres the link:

The question is will i gain weight of this program?


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Posted Wed, 07/13/2011 - 16:08

Hi, I'm 18, 6 feet tall, and weigh 145 lbs. I'm really skinny but have and oddly large gut. How many calories do you think I should be consuming each day? I don't really mind being skinny, but I want to get some more muscle, and this gut HAS to go. I work out every day and run every other day.


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Posted Wed, 07/20/2011 - 20:51

I'm a bit worried. So far I've been simply trying to meet my daily calorie requirement while taking care to not eat any junk food. While trying to bulk up if I'm not able to follow these numbers gram for gram will I be destroying my body by adding more body fat? or will a little less/extra not be a big deal? I have a hard time calculating how much food contains what when it's prepared at home. Especially since I don't do most of the cooking.

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Posted Fri, 07/22/2011 - 16:41
Henry Barrow

I am curently looking to turn some "stored fat" into muscle. I am 5'6" 168. I am 42 y/o and work out 5 days a week. I am about to start a workout the says it will pack on 25% more muscle in 8 weeks. I am not loooking to loose any weight but make this fat into muscle. Can you help me with a nutrition plan.

Thanks , Henry

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Posted Sat, 08/20/2011 - 05:35

hi steve
I am going to start bodybuilding, i have bought a supplement called "Pro complex augmented protein system", my height is 5.6ft and weight is 45kg.. is this supplement good for me?? i want to gain a lot please help me steve..

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 08/29/2011 - 15:00

Hi Usman,

Yes, that product sounds ok. You want to focus on two things to maximize results:

1) Pushing yourself in the gym. Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight.

2) Eat to maximize muscle gains. Here is an article that can help:

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Posted Fri, 09/02/2011 - 00:16

Hello! Im in a 50 minute weights class, im doing a 4 day split with wed. as a break day. Im 145 lbs. 6'2, Im 17 and im about to begin taking Jack3d Pre workout, Creatine and gold standard 100% whey post workout. I eat about 4k cals per day with about 250g being protein, 336 being carbs and like 60grams being fat. Is that ok?? Or what. Idk give me some tips. Thanks

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 09/15/2011 - 11:44

Ho Joe,

Sounds like you have a solid plan. My main piece of advice is this...Using good form, always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight. This will help you maximize gains.
Need more help? <a href="">Ask me on the forum.</a>

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Posted Sat, 10/01/2011 - 04:40


I am a 29 year old woman and I am about to start my fitness program. I have recently started to have health issues and I think I may be gluten intolerant. nausea, waterretention etc . (still waiting for my 5th doc appointment for the dr. to find out) Nevertheless since this happend I tried my usual way of loosing weight which didn't work as soon i took in some carbs i drastically took weight back. How can I avoid this? Are there any fitness diets for people like me?

thank you,

Steven's picture
Posted Sat, 10/01/2011 - 10:47

Hi Jessica,

I recommend asking your question on the forum. You should receive some great advice.