Quite frankly your training, while being of fundamental importance, is only a fraction of the process. Your diet is where the bulk of your results come out of. Dieting can get very complicated, but for now, we will keep it simple. It must first be noted that even if you are wanting to lose weight, dieting does not necessarily mean you will eat less, but rather that you will eat better, and if you are looking to gain weight, you may not necessarily eat more, but rather better.
Better means being aware of what you are putting into your body, containing a macronutrient balance, calculated to your needs, containing a micronutrient balance by consuming mineral and vitamin rich foods, and maintaining a consistent frequency in your intake of your meals. If you do all of this correctly, results are guaranteed.
The general idea is that if you want to lose weight, be in a caloric deficit and if you want to gain weight be in a caloric surplus. This means that you need to figure out how many calories you burn in a day, which has become much easier to calculate with the influx of commercially available heart rate monitors in our cellphones and watches. When you know what your daily caloric use is in a day, you then need to either subtract or add roughly 15% of your total caloric use to determine what your caloric intake will be in a day. In other words, how many calories you will allow your body to consume.
From there, your protein intake ought to be 1 to 1.5g protein per lb bodyweight. So a 175lb person would eat somewhere between 175 and 260g of protein. I don’t advise jumping to the maximum amount. Rather start at the minimum grammage (of 1g per lb of weight), and see how your body handles it. There is only a certain amount of protein your body can absorb, so if you have not been eating high quantities of protein already, eating more than 1g per lb will probably be wasted.
As your body accustoms to the high protein, however, your ability to absorb will improve, and you can up the protein accordingly. Getting 30 to 60g protein per meal is a very hard endeavour for those not used to it. Your lean meats, nuts, eggs, and legumes are your starting point, but a protein supplement can be a big help. This can be in the form of a simple whey shake, or it can be protein bars, biscuits, or any of the other protein goodies available. Keep an eye on the nutrient values of your protein items alongside the protein quantity. People often forget to take account of the fat values in their meat items, or the carbohydrate value in their legumes. This then brings us to carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates have a fairly bad reputation these days, with phenomena such as the paleo diet. They are, however, an essential macronutrient. Most food items have carbohydrate quantities, even if it is in small quantity. Even in “no carb” diets, there are carbohydrates consumed, through vegetables and so on. Carbohydrates are fundamental and essential to energy. Without energy, you can’t train, thus you can’t enjoy the benefits of your results.
So, carbohydrates have to have some place in your diet, the question is just how much of a place. If you choose to omit your carb rich food from your diet (potatoes, pasta, bread, and so forth), then you need to make up for the drop in accessible energy in the consumption of fats, and the consumption of vegetables which at least provide a few carbs. If, however you do not have any digestive issues with carbs, they can provide good energy and generally good fibre.
Fats are an essential ingredient to any person’s diet. Fats value comes not only in providing energy for the body, but also being key in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. They are also essential in nerve and brain functions, and the regulation of hormones in your body. In the same way, oil is needed for the proper functioning of a car, fat is needed for the proper functioning of your body.
Exactly how much fat you consume is dependent on what sort of diet you follow. A standard bodybuilding diet will generally be fairly low fat, at around 20% of your caloric intake, however, some diets call for as high as 70% fat. The underlying factor, however, is that your fats are healthy fats – unsaturated in the form of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and saturated fats in small doses. Trans fats are inevitably consumed, as it can be naturally occurring, however too much of it, particularly unnaturally occurring, has been shown to be detrimental to one’s health.
Try and get in some vegetables in each meal, particularly green veg, like spinach. The best consumption of veg, however, is through variety. So try to change up what veg you are eating each day or each week. Fruit is important too, however, be aware of the sugar content of fruit. People often opt for fruit over vegetables, because it is, of course, sweeter, but fruits like apples have rather high quantities of sugar, which can be detrimental to results in the gym, especially with regards to weight loss.
Water is very important when you begin to diet. Especially alongside vigorous training, it’s important to stay hydrated. Water needs are variable from person to person, however generally try and get in a glass or two of water with each meal. Try to drink your water steadily – don’t try and down each serving of water, or the results can be quite dire.
Now that you have got a rough idea of how to diet, your next step is to fine tune your results through proper training, consistency in your diet, and good supplementation!