Basic Diet Information
The forum gets plenty of brandnewbies that have absolutely zero idea how to go about dieting to add muscle or lose bodyfat. This article will not be an in depth summary of all the diet types and how to implement them, but a very basic overview of how to get started with a diet. There are plenty of articles on actual diets if you will take the time to do a few searches on the forum.
The numbers given are basic starting points and will NOT be correct for all lifters--they are starting points and will work for getting you in the ball-park. Everyone has different metabolisms and some people are quite frankly gifted metabolically and some are genetic trash. That is reality.--deal with it.
First, I will put in a shameless plug and tell you that the easiest way to get started on a diet is to sign-up for an account on Redpointfitness.com. I am part of the design team and Redpoint will truly take the guesswork out of both diet and training for you. That said, lets get started!
Part one, and the most important part is determining your maintenance level caloric number. This is easiest if your current diet is neither adding or losing scale weight. If that is the case, go to fitday.com or one of the other free calorie counters on the web and WEIGH and enter your EXACT diet WITHOUT CHANGING ANYTHING. Do 5-7 days of this and take the totals and average them. That will be your starting number.
If your diet is slowly adding weight, or slowly losing weight, do the same thing and then add or subtract 200-400 calories a day from the number you get. That will be your starting point.
If you are trying to add mass, the guidelines are simple:
1. Protein at 1.5 grams per lb of bodyweight unless you are over 20% bodyfat. If you are over 20% bodyfat you should not be massing and should lose the fat first.
2. Complex carbs and fats make up the rest of the diet. Complex carbs should be 60 or under on the GI scale. If you are an ecto, mesomorph, teen or in your early 20’s you may do well on 40% or even more carbs. If you are and endomorph, or 23+ you will likely do better on 20-35% carbs.
3. You need essential fatty acids. 5-8 grams of fish oil will do. The rest of the calories will come from fats, these can be mono, poly, or saturated depending on what you believe about saturated fats.
4. You need a caloric surplus of 200-400 calories a day depending on how long you have been lifting. If you are a newbie, you may be able to eat 500-700 extra calories a day—I said MAY—not can. Most people will just get fat doing this. Muscle is built relatively slowly and adding ½ lb of muscle a week will result in gaining 24 lbs in a year. How many people other than pure beginners actually do this?
If you are trying to reduce bodyfat, the guidelines are also simple:
1. For MOST people trying to reduce bodyfat, carb control is an extremely big part of the equation. Unless you are a teen, or an extremely fast metabolism ectomorph, carbs should not be more than 20% of overall calories when trying to lose fat, SOME people are exceptions to this, but if you want to go with the odds, assume you are not
2. You need to coax the body into losing fat, not force it. The biggest mistake people make is trying to lose fat too fast. This usually results in the metabolism just slowing down so much it matches your caloric deficit. A 200 lb male should NEVER attempt to lose more than 2 lbs a week and that is an absolute maximum, and only works for people with good fat burning metabolisms. 1.5 lbs a week is a better goal for a 200 lb male, 1 or 1.25 for a lighter guy—sorry, most of you simply don’t want to hear this, but that is the reality. And BTW, this is not MY standards, but the standards of every single good strength and conditioning coach and dietician you will find that has any credentials.
3. If you create a 500 calorie a day deficit AND carbs are reasonably reduced, you will lose approximately 1 lb a week. If you are going to be doing cardio, factor the calories used doing the cardio into your deficit. A 4 mile per hour walk for 45 minutes burns approximately 300-350 calories for a 200 lb male.
4. Fat loss will NOT be linear and you will lose the most weight when first starting the diet.
5. Dieting for more than 16 weeks without a break is NOT recommended for Most people.
6. Diet types for MOST people should work around the principle of having long periods of the day where carbs are low or not included. This can be a ½ day timed carb diet, a timed carb diet (TCD) or a keto. Teens should NOT be doing a keto diet unless they are obese and very insulin resistant. Most teens can just cut carbs to 20-30% of the diet, create a calorie deficit and do some cardio to drop fat. They should NOT be doing any kind of drastic diet like a keto and should not do an aggressive caloric deficit diet.
The concepts are all simple—the disclipline is what is usually lacking. See this article for more info: