Best Diet For ‘Insert Goal Here’ – Step 1
The ‘best diet’ for losing fat, gaining muscle or performing well has been a thing of myth and legend as long as the fitness industry has existed. Much like your training program, the best diet is the one you will stick to!
We all know someone who eats super high carb but is still lean. Or who eats pretty low carb (maybe even no carbs at all?) and doesn’t feel run down or lethargic. Of course, we all know someone who eats like garbage and still looks great and lifts well.
This should be a clue! The best diet/nutrition approach is what works best for YOU. Step one in this process is to find your ‘maintenance calories’, the amount of calories per day (on average) that you maintain your weight (not gaining, not losing).
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How To Track Your Calories
With modern nutrition apps like MyFitnessPal finding your maintenance calories is easier than ever. The idea is simple – if you put it in your mouth, put it in the app. If you eat something that came in packaging you can simply scan the barcode to add it into your day. If you eat something home made, you simply weigh the ingredients pre or post cooking and enter them into the app.
You can save meals you have regularly so that can be added simply and quickly. If you get take out, chances are that you can enter that by searching the franchise name (eg KFC Zinger stacker combo if you’re me) and at the very least you’ll find a reasonably close item to enter in.
So, why are we going to all this effort? To find our maintenance calories. This number will become the baseline from which we can experiment with what works and what doesn’t, and find the best diet FOR YOU.
To find your maintenance calories, you’re going to track what you eat for a week (preferably two) without necessarily changing anything. Just see where you’re at. If your weight stays the same during this period, you average out your calories and bam there’s your maintenance level!
So let’s say this was my week of tracking: Monday 2500cal / Tuesday 2650cal /Wednesday 2550cal / Thursday 2600cal / Friday 2800cal / Saturday 3200cal / Sunday 2550cal
This may or may not be a week of my eating, demonstrating my tendency to indulge on the weekend. No judgement!
That’s a total of 18,850 calories over the course of a week. Divide by 7 (days of the week) to find an average daily calorie intake of 2693 – this would be my maintenance calorie level assuming I had not gained or lost any significant weight in this week.
As you can see my ‘maintenance calories’ are more than I eat most days. So why am I not losing weight? I’m eating less calories than I ‘should’ five days a week, right? The answer is that consistency is key. If my Friday and Saturday food fiestas are high in calories, this will impact the rest of my week by increasing my ‘average calories’.
For me, this is a ‘necessary evil’ as I’m not going to take tupperware full of chicken, broccoli and rice out to eat with friends and family. My goals don’t require this level of commitment. So I leave myself room to have a bit of a food binge, or a few drinks, by leaving a few calories on the table each day throughout the week.
There you have it! The first step on your way to discovering the best diet (for you). It can sound like a pain, but I promise you that tracking your calories is easier than you think – and it gives you a base of knowledge from which you can make educated decisions about your nutrition. Give it a go!