How to Set Up Your Diet

In this section of the website I’m going to show you how to set up your diet for fat loss, muscle gain and health. This is the method I used in my transformation and that many successful coaches and industry leaders use and recommend (Alan Aragon, Lyle McDonald, Eric Helms, Martin Berkhan, Andy Morgan).

The Basics

The most important aspects of a good diet regimen are (from most important to least important):

1. Calories
2. Macronutrients or macros
3. Micronutrients or micros
4. Meal frequency and timing
5. Supplements

Calories

energy-balance

The most important thing for weight loss or muscle building is energy balance. It dictates whether you will lose, maintain or gain weight:

calories consumed < calories burned = weight loss

calories consumed = calories burned = maintenance

calories consumed > calories burned = weight gain

Counting calories is a valuable tool when starting on a weight loss or muscle-building journey but it’s important to remember that it’s just an approximation. If I’m not mistaken the (in)accuracy of the food labels can be as much as 25%.

For more details on calorie calculation read my Calorie Guide.

Macronutrients

If the energy balance dictates whether you lose or gain weight, macronutrients determine if that loss/gain is from muscles or fat. This very simplified, of course, but it’s just to illustrate how important the macros are to body composition.

There are three types or categories of macronutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrates. Together they create the caloric content of a food:

1 gram of protein = 4 calories

1 gram of fat = 9 calories

1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories

These numbers are also approximation because exact numbers measured by bomb calorimetry are 5.7 kcal for protein, 9.4 kcal for fat and 4.2 for carbohydrates. The 4-9-4 values were estimated by Dr. Wilbur Olin Atwater, taking into account our bodies inefficiency to extract 100% energy from food.

How to set up your macros? Read my Macros Guide.

macros-micros

Micronutrients

There are two types of micronutrients – vitamins and minerals. Vitamins come in two forms: water soluble and fat soluble. Minerals also in two forms: macrominerals (you need larger amount of these) and microminerals (needed only in small amounts)

Micronutrients are a very important aspect of human nutrition considering their effect on human health. Deficiency can lead to various diseases such as scurvy (deficiency of vitamin C) or osteoporosis (lack of calcium).

How to cover micronutrients needs for health and performance? Read my Micros Guide.

Meal Frequency and Timing

When I first started going to the gym (high school, in 2000) the best diet that was recommended was to eat many small meals during the day to keep your metabolism working at full throttle.

When I started seriously training in 2013 I’ve learned that this isn’t necessarily true and you can achieve the same results eating only two meals during a day.

So the frequency and meal timing isn’t as important as was thought before. How to approach this topic? Read my guide on Meal Timing and Frequency.

Supplements

Supplementing can help you squeeze the last bits of your progress but the impact isn’t as big as we are led to believe by supplement companies and their attractive advertising.

Which supplements are worth it and how to take them? Read my guide How to: Supplements.