Nutrition 101 – How to manipulate your diet to achieve your goals!

meat-and-vegetablesNutrition… Possibly the topic that more people are confused about than any other! All for good reason though. It’s a massive topic, and with so much rubbish information out there on the internet and in magazine’s, how can anybody expect to learn what they really need to know?! Well its a good job you’ve found your way to my blog, because in this somewhat lengthy post, I’m going to explain all the basics to constructing YOUR diet, to ensure YOU achieve YOUR goals.

Notice the words in that sentence that stand out, that’s not by accident. The reason I have highlighted those words, is so that you realize that a diet that works for your buddy, or for a Victoria’s Secret model, may not work for you, and a diet that works for somebody trying to gain weight, is unlikely to work for you if you’re trying to lose weight!

Diets can be divided into two sections, those that make you lose weight and those that make you gain weight. The main difference between these two diets is that one will put an individual into a calorific surplus, and the other into calorific deficiency. Don’t be scared by the word deficiency it simply means that in a 24-hour day you have eaten fewer calories than your total energy expenditure (TEE), which will make you lose weight. Whereas a calorific surplus means that you ate more than you’re TEE, which will make you gain weight.


Total Energy Expenditure (TEE)

Your total energy expenditure is the amount of calories that you burn each day. It is made up of four things, these are:

  • Your BMR (basal metabolic rate) – This is the amount of energy you would need to maintain exact body weight while in a coma. This is often called the base level.
  • Exercise associated thermogenesis (EAT) – This is the amount of energy required to carry out purposeful exercise for example training for a specific sport, going for a jog or going to the gym. Unless you are doing one of these things for 2+ hours every day it doesn’t make a massive difference.
  • NEAT (Non-exercise associated thermogenesis) – This is the amount of energy that is needed to carry out non-purposeful exercise for example washing, cleaning, talking and walking. By doing less of these things you can reduce this amount.
  • TEF (thermic effect of feeding) – It is a percentage of the total calories consumed while eating a meal, it tends to be around 15% but varies with different people.

Adding together all the calories needed for these four things gives you your total energy expenditure.


How to gain weight

For your body to store energy from the foods that you’ve eaten in the form of muscle or adipose tissue (fat), you must eat enough food to ensure that your calorie intake is higher than your total energy expenditure for the day. The magnitude of your calorific surplus can be changed to determine the amount of fat and muscle you gain from the diet. If you are to eat a 700 calorie surplus you are going to gain more fat than if you were eating a 350 calorie surplus combined with an effective weight training program. That is not to say that you would gain no fat when eating in a lower calorie surplus and doing an effective weight training program but the amount of fat gained will be less. You have to juggle this though with the fact that eating a higher calorie surplus gives your body more potential to gain muscle.  Deciding how much of a calorific surplus you want to be in can often be a difficult task, typically if you want to gain weight quickly and go for sheer size and strength most athletes tend to eat 500 to 750 calories over maintenance. If you can be patient, and want to keep those six-pack abs and keep fat gain to a minimum but still increase lean muscle mass most athletes tend to eat 250 to 500 calories over maintenance.


How to lose weight

To lose weight the process is similar to gaining weight but you need to eat under your total energy expenditure. This will cause your body to burn adipose tissue (fat) for energy to carry out those four aspects of total energy expenditure. Similarly to gaining weight the magnitude of your calorific deficiency has an impact on body composition. If you are to eat 700 calories under maintenance you are going to lose an increased amount of muscle and fat, as opposed to eating 300 calories under maintenance. So again determining the magnitude of your calorific deficiency can be difficult. If you want to keep as much lean muscles possible then it’s advised to eat 250 to 500 calories under your maintenance. If you want to lose weight quickly and I’m not concerned about the amount of muscle loss it is advise you eat between 500 and 750 calories under maintenance any more than this amount can start to have adverse effects on your health.

How do I know what my TEE is?

This is a question a lot of people asking often get wrong, it differs with every person and can ultimately only be decided with trial and error, but there are ways that you can estimate this amount. One of the quickest and easiest ways is to use a calorie calculator, hundreds of these can be found if you Google calorie calculator but the one I like to use and is the most detailed is Fatcuda, you just enter the details it asks you for and click calculate.


Ok so I’ve decided how many calories I need to eat, but what should I eat?

This is where it starts to get slightly difficult. Regardless of your goal the diet needs to be made up of a least three macro-nutrients these are carbohydrates, protein and fat. Each gram of these macro-nutrients contains a certain amount of energy as follows:

  • Carbohydrates – 4 kcal (Kilocalorie)
  • Proteins – 4 kcal
  • Fats – 9 kcal

So you now need to how many of each of these  you need to make up your calorie goal.



To work out how much protein you need is quite simple, as I’m sure most of you want to, to either preserve lean muscle mass whilst losing weight, or gain lean muscle mass while gaining weight, you are advised to eat 1 g of protein per pound of bodyweight. For example if you weigh 160lbs you should be using 160 g of protein. By using the values above you can then work out how many calories that amount of protein will take out of your calorie goal. For example if you were 160lbs you will require 160 g of protein, which when multiplied by 4, gives you 640 kcal. Subtract 640 from your calorie goal, and this gives you the amount of calories you need to make up from carbohydrates and fats.



You might think that you want to keep fat consumption to a minimum, but you can’t do this as it will have adverse effects on your health and please believe me when I say this. Most people suggest that you eat 0.5 g of fat per pound of bodyweight. You can reduce this amount, but I would suggest you do not go below 0.3 g per pound of bodyweight. So for example if you weigh 160lbs you should eat 80 g of fat per day. By doing the same as we did for proteins we can work out how many calories of our calorie total are used up by fat. Just multiply your fat requirement by 9 and this will give you the amount of calories taken up by fat. For example if your fat requirement is 80 g, then the amount of calories this will take out of your calorie goal is 720.



For carbohydrate there is no requirement from your body. But unless you’re in a state of ketosis (which I will explain in a later post), you will need carbohydrates for energy, making them vital for athletes, active people and people trying to gain mass.  To work out how many carbohydrates you need you need to divide your remaining calorie goal after subtracting your fat and protein calorie requirements by 4.  For example if you weigh 160lbs and your calorie goal is 3000 kcal per day, then you need to subtract 640 and 720, this gives you 1640. That is the total amount of calories that you need to make up in carbohydrates to hit your calorie goal. So divide that value by 4 to give you 410, which represent how many grams of carbohydrates you need to eat in your day.


How do I count my calories?

After working all this out you still have the difficult job of counting your calories every day. There are loads of ways to do this including a food diary, 24-hour food, recall 48-hour food recall and many more, but I feel the quickest and most effective way is a calorie counting website or app. There are loads of these out there but my two favourite are, Fitday and My Fitness Pal, both of these have a website and an app downloadable for iPhone/android. By scanning in the barcodes on your foods, searching their extensive food database, or reading the label and entering the details of your food, you can track your calories and amounts of fat, protein and carbohydrates easily.

So there you have it even though this is a pretty long post, it’s just covering the basics of diet manipulation. I really hope this information helps and you can use the skills learnt from this post to create an effective and efficient diet that will help you reach your goal as quickly as possible.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post and please check out the links below! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to comment!


Twitter: @SMsimplefitness