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 Mon, 03/16/2015 - 13:49

Helli I am 25 years old and weigh 120 kg, which, according to the BMI calculator, is considered as obese. I have been trying many diets and I lose weight but I don't manage to become muscular. The last time I was on a diet I went from 109 kg to 87 kg in a year. However, I still had droopy skin without any muscle gain. Then, I gained weight again. Today, I am 120 kg and counting. It is worrying me and I am desperate to get the proper diet to become lean and muscular. Please help

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Posted Sat, 11/01/2014 - 10:35

I'm 44 yrs old and 320 lbs. My goal is to rid myself of as much body fat as possible and become healthy. Can you give me some sound advise. I am not a hard gainer when it comes to weight training. Also can give me a list of supplements that really work and will help me along my journey.

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Posted Sat, 11/01/2014 - 10:30

Hi Steve. I'am 44 yrs old and 320 lbs. My goal is to lose as much body fat as possible. I am not a hard gainer when it comes to weight training. Also can you give a list of supplements that really works. Can you give me some real advice. Please!!

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Posted Wed, 10/01/2014 - 13:15

5'9 175 16% body fat I would like to lean bulk. Should I drop to under 15% and than start? What should my diet look like? I work out 4 days a week.

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Posted Thu, 08/21/2014 - 18:11


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Posted Thu, 08/21/2014 - 18:09

Hi .
I am 25 years old . My tall is 186 cm and 90 km ..Please give me some advice about using supplements to lose fat. I am beginner. Thanks

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Posted Fri, 08/08/2014 - 02:46

Hi....I am 23 yr old and 5'8" in height.I am about to start my fitness weight is 78...I need to control my weight and get 6 packs in 2 months.can you please guide me....

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Posted Sun, 07/13/2014 - 12:29
Jonathan Fox

Hay I'm just wondering what I should eat for a football lineman. I'm 15 and 6'4, 260lb and I wanna just a little fat for weight on the line but I would like to add weight in muscle. I drink a protein shake every day after working out but I don't know what to eat after I work out or what to eat for breakfast. Plz help me get bigger to get to college lol. Thnx

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Posted Tue, 06/24/2014 - 13:19

My name is Jasmin i am 21yrs old, i am 5ft and 116lbs.
I am starting weightlifting for the first time but i dont know how to start my diet. I wanted to know a little about what i would have to do.
I know i need to eat but how much do i need to eat. I dont want to loose weight i want to gain and turn into muscle.

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Posted Mon, 06/23/2014 - 19:30

Hi! ik it's a rather old website by now but i'm desperate. I'm 18 6'3 and 170 pounds. I just started taking working out seriously and idk where to start i think i have some muscle under a thin layer of fat but idk how to make it show, i'm kinda scrawny and i wanna gain some muscle and generally make myself feel good, any help?

- Sharif R

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Posted Fri, 05/30/2014 - 08:33

Im 18 6ft 4 and weigh 190 pounds. ive lost about 35 pounds in the past year. i know want to start to bulk up and get toned, but im unsure how much/if any protein i should take on workout days or on my off days and when should i take it . i workout usually 4-6 times a week depending on my schedule.

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Posted Fri, 05/23/2014 - 04:04

Hi! i am 21 years old, my height is 5.5 and my weight is 63 i am healthy and active
i want to know which protein to choose for muscle recovery and growth which i can take as per and on my post workouts coz i started gyming i feel weak after my workout............

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Posted Sun, 05/04/2014 - 11:04
ikjot singh

hi Steve,
i m 6 feet tall ,my age is 19 and my wheight is 154 lbs. i am working out since 3 months 5days/week . shouls i take whey protiene of mass gainer

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Posted Fri, 04/18/2014 - 06:22
Nilesh Pareek

i'm 22 yrs old,just kickstarted gyming ,still a naive in the world of gyming.
I am clueless how to progress in order to build a good physique.
Please guide me and what diet is to be taken,keeping in consideration of being a strict vegeterian. Hope to get a response. :)

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Posted Fri, 03/28/2014 - 07:55

Hi Stefe ek is 15 jaar oud en ek wil graag 'n bodybuilder word waar begin ek en wat moet ek eet.

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Posted Tue, 03/11/2014 - 14:28

Hi. My bf wants to lose belly fat and add muscle but not bulk. He's 6'4 . What do you suggest for just beginning a new nutritional and exercise plan?!

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Posted Fri, 03/07/2014 - 02:23

my height is 5'6 but weight 48kg so what can i do for gain weight and look healthy.

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Posted Fri, 03/07/2014 - 02:18


i am 23 years old and my weight is only 48kg so what can i do for gain weight and look healthy.

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Posted Fri, 02/14/2014 - 08:14

my hieght is 5"5 and my waight are 61kg please give me some tips for gain musle

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Posted Fri, 02/07/2014 - 12:18

Hi. I'm a female, aged 53, starting lifting 4 days a week about a month ago (with moderate cardio on training days and 2 days of HIT, plus one day off all exercise). My BMR is 1315. (did a body fat BodPod and have lean muscle weight of 49.5 kg and total percent fat of 23.8). I would like to get way stronger and build more muscle mass but obviously want to get the fat % down...I'm 5'9" and weigh 132. So NOT clear on how many total calories to eat every day to do both

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Posted Wed, 12/11/2013 - 18:26

Hi ,
I'm in need of diet advice if at all possible please?
I'm a short 4'10 and weigh around 121 pounds ,I'm looking to lose fat and gain lean muscle but have no idea on what diet plan I should follow! So many out there and so very confusing.
I train hard at the gym at least 6 times per week doing cardio & weights but don't see the results I'd like to because of my diet I think.

Any help would be greatly appreciated :)
Thanks Emma

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Posted Thu, 11/14/2013 - 15:33
Aaron LaRelle Dozier

Hello Steve I'm 6'4 33o pounds. I'm looking for a great way to drop pounds and drop them quickly. I have police exam to take and the physical exam is pretty intense. I'm willing to work hard to loose weight for my health even if I don't pass the exam. I need to loose weight also to tone up. HELP HELP HELP

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Posted Wed, 10/23/2013 - 11:20

Hi Steve. I've been reading a lot of the threads regarding beginner workout sessions and this one regarding nutrition for beginners, and although there's been tons of information, to be honest, it's all quite confusing. I am 5'4" weigh 128 lbs and I'm 44 years old with no weight training experience. I've done walking for years on and off, but I find it boring now. I would like to loose a few pounds first, but more importantly, loose fat and tone up. I don't want to get big, just toned. What would you recommend for me? Please help!

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Posted Wed, 10/16/2013 - 14:49

hi, i'm 21 yrs old weighing 55kg.i've just started gym.i want to get a very nice looking body like that of a football player.i want to gain mass(weight). what should i eat per day or week to achieve a weight of 65kg or 7o kg. plans for workouts i really need this please.

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Posted Wed, 07/24/2013 - 00:54

hi ,,,
iam 5.9 and 147lbs . i wana maximize my weigth as much i can withn coming two months .i take admission in a gym a week ago . yesterday i take a whey protein mega mass for gaining wait. that mega mass has 1000 calories 59 g protiens and carbohydrates . how much should i take at start and tell me the 2 months plan . i will be thankfull to you .

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Posted Fri, 07/05/2013 - 11:34

hi steve i have just started weight training and i working out my bmi and how many calories i should have but iam stuck at this part BMR + calories used in activity = ? + 10% = calories used in activity ? any help would be great cheers davie

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Posted Mon, 07/01/2013 - 03:18

I am 20 years height is 5.10 inches i weight 83 kg....i have started going to gym since 2 months from now. I am bit bulky and i want to reduce weight and get my body in a perfect shape. How can i do that as fast as possible?

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Posted Sat, 06/15/2013 - 17:56

Hi just starting to try whack on a few pounds and get little bit bigger, weight swings between 11.11 and 12.1 I'm 30 and 6 ft, do footy and bootcamp but wanna get bigger so lifting weights required I guess. Also I'm trying to eat right food but always seem to want more. so a shake a day a protein cookie plus granola or porridge in morning and then decent meal fish,stk chicken wit veg and rice/cuscous. Is it ok to eat late before bed and also is 2 shifts lifting enough a week? Bearing in mind do a bootcamp sesh and footy tues n sats?

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Posted Sun, 06/09/2013 - 21:53

I know this is probably a silly question....but are you supposed to eat the calories you would usually burn in exercise on your rest days too, or do you reduce your calorie intake to correspond with your level of activity for the day?

I'm thinking you lower your intake because eating extra calories on a rest day would just convert into more fat for you to burn off the next time you exercise, yes?

Newbie to fitness and nutrition here, working on a meal plan now.

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Posted Sat, 05/25/2013 - 03:41

hey steve im 5'7 165 lb ive just started trying to gain muscle but i dont know if im doing it rite . im currently up to 173 lb but my frame is still off. how much time a day should i work out i dont want to look like a model just stronger

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Posted Mon, 03/11/2013 - 03:35

Hi I am Harry
I am 19 years old. I am gym beginner and had no knowledge about diet chart plan . I am very slim. Plz tell me what to eat to increase fat, size and shape of my body. I belong to India. Also recommend me any supplement to increase my weight and size. But don't have any ill effect on my health.
Thank you

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Posted Sun, 03/10/2013 - 23:56

Hey I'm 15 and I am looking for a plan I do eat a lot but I don't notice any gain can you help? I am currently doing p90x and I weight 149 and I'm 6,1 I am very active and have a very fast metabolism I also am very very active as a teenager what plan can I get ?

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Posted Wed, 02/20/2013 - 12:28
Anthony Taijeor...

I am a 19 year college student and former high school cross country runner and wrestler. I never had a six true six pack but I did have a pretty solid 4 pack of abs. Currently, I have spring break in exactly 3 weeks. Is there anyway I can get the solid 4 pack and the semblance of a six in this span if I do a bunch of running and ab workouts. I weigh 168 and can only truly see my top two abs regularly.

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Posted Wed, 12/26/2012 - 13:55

Hi, can anyone give advice to a 35 year old guy who's 6,3 in height and weighs 19stone,6 llbs I dont do any exercise in a long time and iam looking to get back to gym, anyone recconend what calorie intake I should b consuming and protein intake, also gym work ,can anyone recommend a good plan please, as Iam finding it hard what i should b doin best, thank you guys

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Posted Wed, 12/19/2012 - 23:39

I'm 26 years old. 230 lbs and 6 ft 1. I use to be a cross country runner, soccer player, and basket ball player. During those years I maintained a 210 body weight and did a lot of weight training but since leaving college I've done a lot of nothing and gained a bit of weight. I have dropped from 230 to 200 about 3 times in the past 3 years using hydroxy cut but I woul much rather not run for an hour in the gym every day losing what muscle I have left with my gut. Is it possible to turn this fat and squishy muscle lean at this weigh or should I just buckle down, drop 30 lbs and then work on getting muscular at 200lbs?

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Posted Tue, 10/30/2012 - 08:03

Hi Steve,

This is great!

Im 161cm and i weigh about 55kg. Looking to lose 5kg bump the BF percentage down and gain some serious muscle. I already lost 4% body fat but the weight hasnt gone down. Im also eating more protein than carbs in a day as thats why I was recommended to do. I really want to cut down in the next to weeks. Im on 1200 calories a day and i excersise 6 times a week sometimes twice a day with intense cardio but I'm just not getting fast results! Would LOVE your input :) Ive heard so many people saying this and that. I just want nice delts and triceps to show, all round toned body. I know this won't happen in a day - But maybe I can speed up the process by changing the diet?

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Posted Tue, 09/11/2012 - 16:57

i'm 41,5'7" and weigh 190lbs,i've been training 6 months or so and have seen good results i have a physical job ,workout 4 days a week, with a little cardio
and have had my skin fold fat checked and it says just over 16 % although i have
a bit of a pot belly my stomach is firm , the visceral fat is my problem any suggestions on losing this with diet/training

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Posted Mon, 07/30/2012 - 11:35

Hey, my name is Reese and I've been lifting now for about 2 1/2 to 3 years solid, but I can't seem to gain the muscle mass that I want. I work 3rd shift so it's a little bit harder for me to have a good schedule for eating. I've been eating a lot of chicken and I drink a protein shake before and after my workouts. I guess what I'm asking is when would be good times to eat, how many times to eat(I've heard 5 small meals a day but that's just what I hear), what else is good to eat. I'm not a hardcore cal counter, I just want to get a basic plan for getting bigger without packing on fat. Thanks for your time.

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Posted Sat, 06/02/2012 - 09:37
emma smith

hi i'm five foot weigh 53 kilos and want to go in the figure comp sep 15th. i'm trying to figure out how much protien to drink after a work out to put on muscle but still strip fat ie not too many calories. also does anyone know any good online muscle building and nutrition sites other than this. this one seems good.

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Posted Sat, 05/05/2012 - 14:39

Hi, I am 45, 5-9, 166 lbs. I have been working out about 4 months and I have gain 16 lbs from 150 lbs. However, I am not doing any cardio to gain more muscle. I do not know if gaining 16 lbs in 4 months is a slow or fast gain. I would like to know how much calories, carbs and protein do I need per day. I want to gain more muscle faster, and could you slso tell me how much cardio should I do per week? Thanks a lot!!!

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Posted Wed, 03/14/2012 - 23:07


My names jesse, Im 36 at 6' and weighing 300lbs my arms are large, im strong like a bear but i look like on as well with less fur. I was wondering, I travel alot for work, like always, I ride hotel recumbent bike for around 30 minutes a day a few times a week that ive been doing a few weeks now. I have resistance bands to keep the travel weight down that i try to use in my room or the hotel gym when i get it to myself. But im not seeing any results anywhere. I control my diet loosely, i dont eat fat food and stick to the leaner items on the menu.

Im looking to shed pounds seriously. i dont want to loose muscle. in fact i was hoping this bulk would convert to muscle to help me in 2 ways? What might be your suggestion? perhaps a certain routine for exercise that you could jot down? ive looked through the forums and this site and others. Im finding it diffcult to pull out the info that pertains to me.

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 03/15/2012 - 16:13

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, 02/01/2012 - 08:36

Hi, I'd like to get some input please. I've just completed P90 and was moving on to the 4 day split this week. I want to know if my nutrition is right. I'm 185lbs, 6ft, and I have a desk job. I can rep bench/squat/deadlift of 60kg (which I don't think is great as I have an atlethic frame). I eat very healthy, I follow a loose paleo diet. I want to lose the last of my abdominal fat while building muscle. I take one scoop of protein and one animal pak at 6.30 every morning. My intake is as follows;

Calories: 1,591 Carbs: 165g Fat: 51g Protein: 122g

Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.

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Posted Wed, 02/22/2012 - 07:27

Figured out the reason why my compound lifting was poor, my form was poor. Only realising now that the bench is a full body exercise. "So you think you can bench part 1-7" on YouTube is an excellnt series.

I'd still like some feedback on my nutrition, I think I may not be eating enough but I fear putting on fat with my desk job and commuting to work for 2 hour roundtrip 4 days a week.

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Posted Sun, 01/15/2012 - 19:35

Hi there,

I'm 44 years old, 5'6" and 125lbs. I'm trying to put on some muscle mass, but have always had a pretty hard time and I'm trying to shed the love handles. My typical workout routine consists of weights in the morning 4X a week and I run 1.5 hours 3 nights a week and spin 2 nights a week with a long bicycle ride on saturdays of about 4+ hours.

I eat about 1500 calories a day and my body weight stays the same. I've tested my BMR and it says I need 2500+ calories a day, but I see myself gaining a ton of fat if I up the calories. Because of the sports I participate in, I do more cardio type workouts, which I know can hurt muscle building, but no way around that.

My diet is pretty clean. oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder in the morning, protein shake for snack, chicken, veggies and a carb for lunch, non-fat greek yogurt with honey for snack and then more fish/chicken and veggies for dinner.

What am I doing wrong?

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Posted Thu, 12/15/2011 - 10:31

My Name is Harry Iam 41 years old I weigh about 350 my height is 6"1 maybe 6"2 on a good day.I just started training with weights I tried before but this is the first time Iam really starting to get into training. I know I have to lose alot maybe get down to 260 would be great Iam big bone if you can call it .My problem is eating Iam clueless I usually have EGG WHITES ON WHOLE WHEAT ROLL FOR BREAKFEAST FOR LUNCH HIGH PROTEIN BLEND SHAKE FROM GNC,THEN HIT GYM AFTER WORK AROUND 5:00PM THEN AFTER TUNA FISH WITH LITTLE MAYO .Thats my normal day I need help with more variety to eat if someone could help I would deeply appreciate.I dont weigh myself I do have very low self -estemm .I know Iam fat I just want to lose the weight.My workout is usually one body part a day and finish with treadmill for about 40-45 minutes.SO if somebody out there can help.Would love to listen to some ideas.

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Posted Tue, 12/06/2011 - 01:57

I am 16 and currently working out in the off season waiting for base ball to start and i have a question about your baseball workout. Is the workout supposed to be broken into 3 different dayys or is it the whole workout 3 days a week? and then cardio the other days?


Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 12/16/2011 - 14:42

Hi Chance,

Are you referring to any specific workout on M&S?

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Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 13:54


I used the BMR calculator to see how many calories i need a day based on the days i workout. I workout 4-6 days/week depending on my schedule. According to the BMR calculator, i need 3,113 calories/day. I'm 5'11 and weight 190 and also 21yrs old. Since i want to get bigger, i added another 500 calories which totals to 3,613 calories. Do you think that amount of calories is enough or is too much?