Brad Borland is a strength & conditioning specialist, cancer survivor and the founder of WorkoutLab.
Overcomplicating the simple things in life seems to be a trend these days in hopes to confuse the consumer into thinking they need rescuing with a pricey product or service. Of course this rings so true regarding training, but it seems to go to extremes when it comes to diets whether they happen to be for fat loss or muscle gain.
I am a firm believer in keeping things simple not only for sanity’s sake but more importantly for practical reasons. The more extreme a plan is the more time, detail and, unfortunately, stress develops. You need a plan that is simple to follow, makes practical sense and most of all something you can live with.
In a general sense everyone can follow a simple plan of action when it comes to losing fat, gaining muscle or just maintaining your weight. Understanding the macronutrients, what they represent and throwing in a little simple math will be all you need to help you reach your goals.
A few brief points about this plan.
- There are plenty of diet plans out there some that work great and others not so much. This plan, in particular, is for those who want to proverbially wipe their diet slate clean and start up with a healthy, clean diet from the ground up keeping it simple.
- Stripping away fat, packing on muscle and everything else in between isn’t rocket science requiring long algebraic equations. The simple laws of calorie deficits, surplus and expenditure are still strong. Other diets try to complicate things, but the human body is still a simple animal of survival.
- Don’t overthink things. This diet is meant to establish a baseline of eating regarding your specific goals. Try the guidelines, give it time and adjust if needed. No stressing, constantly changing or mental frustration allowed. Everyone is a bit different so don’t be afraid (of course after several weeks) to adjust your macronutrients up or down.
And now, some math
Protein has four calories per gram. These are your building blocks for muscle, metabolism and assisting with fat loss among many other things. Protein levels will stay relatively consistent throughout your diet plan. Take in one gram per pound of desired bodyweight per day.
For example, if you are currently 225 pounds and your goal is 200, your intake will be 200 grams per day. Conversely, if you are 150 pounds and your goal is to bulk up to 180, 180 grams per day will be your intake.
Some great sources include fish such as salmon, tilapia and tuna, lean steak, lean ground beef, chicken breast, lean ground turkey, eggs (including the yolk), beef jerky, low fat cheeses, fat free milk, Greek yogurt and whey protein powder.
Fat has nine calories per gram. Healthy fats are essential to any diet with such vital functions as metabolism and hormone regulation, diet satiety and overall health management. Your intake will stay at no more than 0.5 grams per pound of desired bodyweight per day.
For example, if you are 200 pounds and desire to be 180, your intake will be 90 grams per day of healthy fat sources. Some great sources include avocado, olive oil, nuts, natural peanut butter, eggs (yolks) and omega-3 supplements.
Carbohydrate has four calories per gram. Although not an essential nutrient for the human body (more on that in another article), they are still incredibly important for energy, fat loss, muscle gain, satiety, well-being, organ function and performance. Carbs have gotten a bad reputation over the last few years much like fat had at one point.
Carbs are not the devil. Our overabundance and overindulgence in carbs and overall calories is the real culprit. Carefully regulating your carb consumption while keeping your intakes of proteins and fats at optimal levels can make a simple, satisfying diet a reality.
Good sources include potatoes (sweet and white), rice (white, brown and wild), oatmeal, wheat pastas, 100% whole wheat bread, Ezekiel bread and all kinds of vegetables and fruits.
Your carb levels are where you will make the most adjustment. Again, as stated earlier, these are not hard and fast numbers. This will simply establish a baseline to start from and leave plenty of room to make necessary adjustments based on your personal goals, body-type and lifestyle.
- Goal: Fat Loss - If your goal is fat loss go for one gram of carb per pound of desired bodyweight.
- Goal: Maintain - If your goal is to maintain a specific bodyweight shoot for two grams of carbs per pound of desired bodyweight.
- Goal: Gain Muscle - If your goal is to gain muscle aim for three grams of carbs per pound of desired bodyweight.
These calories can be split into 3, 4 or 5 meals per day with most of your carbs bookending your training. Stick with this plan for four to six weeks, assess your progress then make the necessary adjustments. Most, if not all of your adjustments will be in the carbohydrate category increasing or decreasing these levels and giving your modifications a few weeks to take effect before reassessing.
Eating plan examples
Let’s take a look at some examples:
A 225 pound individual wants to cut some body fat and be 200 pounds.
- Protein = 200 grams (x 4 = 800 calories)
- Fats = 100 grams (x 9 = 900 calories)
- Carbs = 200 grams (x 4 = 800 calories)
- Total calories = 2500
A 150 pound individual desires to add some muscle and wants to be 180 pounds.
- Protein = 180 grams (x 4 = 720 calories)
- Fats = 90 grams (x 9 = 810 calories)
- Carbs = 540 grams (x 4 = 2160 calories)
- Total calories = 3690
Be sure to weigh yourself every few weeks to make adjustments to these numbers if necessary regarding your goals. One week you may be 200 and in a few weeks you may be 195 so the numbers will change regarding proteins, fats and carbs.
These numbers are also based on an individual resistance training intensely most days of the week. The numbers will be lower for someone on a moderate training plan or not training at all.