Formulating your diet for beginners
written by Jimmy
this s written for those who don't have a clue on how to prepare a decent
nutrition plan for a bodybuilding lifestyle.
I want to make 1 thing clear right now.....Its what you eat that makes you grow
Training and indeed steroids ( if that's the route you choose) do play a major
part in building that massive physique we desire, but without the correct
nutrition we wont get very far at all!!
So the point of this post is really to outline a few basic rules for a newbie to
adhere to, so that they all have a good idea of what foods to eat, how much and
when to eat.
I will write another thread on more advanced nutrition techniques soon.
Firstly we need to know how many kcals we need to grow or maintain our muscle
tissue. To do this we need to know what macronutrients are, and how many kcals
Protein 4kcals per gram
So what is protein and what does it do?
Protein is made up of amino acids. These amino acids are what our bodies require
to exist, to build muscle, skin, bone, hair...the list goes on. When we eat
protein our body breaks it down into amino acids and uses them as and when it
needs them, for what ever it requires.
For our interests its building muscle so we need to make sure that we have an
abundance of amino's to satisfy our bodies needs, so that we have enough to grow
We do this by eating quality protein sources at regular intervals. This is so
that our body doesn't turn catabolic and start to break down its hard earned
muscle due to not being fed regularly!! In short, if we don't eat enough
protein, we shrink!!!
The amount we need to eat in each meal depends on A.. the amount of meals, and
B.. the lean mass we hold. The bigger we are the more we need in a day and the
more meals we eat the less we need in each meal.
Some good protein sources are
Human tissue has an individual string of amino acids as do all protein sources.
Some are better than others for building muscle.
Whole eggs for instance, are near perfect for this purpose. We need not worry
too much about amino spectrums as beginners, as long as we are eating a
variation of some or all of the above choices through the day.
Carbohydrates 4kcals per gram
Carbs are used as an energy source for our bodies. We need energy to go about
our daily lives and if in abundance, carbs give our bodies the calories it needs
to grow. This energy is stored in the muscles, as well as the liver as a
substance called glycogen. Its muscle glycogen that gives our muscles the energy
to perform. It also is what gives them that full look. Liver glycogen is what
gives our bodies the energy to live out our day to day lives.
Carbohydrates are all different. Some have a low glycemic index, whilst others
are medium or high. What is the glycemic index (GI)?
The glycemic index is used to determine how quickly a particular food is
absorbed and is principally used in reference to foods which are high in
carbohydrates. The quicker the carb is absorbed, the shorter the burst of energy
we get due to a sudden raise in blood sugar.
The slower the absorption, the lower the blood sugar and a long sustained amount
of energy provided.
The higher the blood sugar, the more insulin the body provides to counter act
that sudden raise.
So what will insulin do??
For the basic content of this beginners article, I wont go deep into insulin.
Lets just say that insulin helps the uptake of all nutrients consumed. This
means that while protein is stored more efficiently, so are fats and carbs. This
may make a person fat, and we don't want that!!!
Although low GI carbs are a better source of energy, there are still times that
we can manipulate hi GI alternatives such as before, during and after a workout.
We need fast energy to train and a spike of insulin post workout PWO will
obviously be handy to absorb protein when we need it most .
What happens if we eat high GI carbs all day long such as chocolates, sweets,
Well it doesn't take a brain surgeon to work out that body fat may increase, but
what else can go wrong??
If you think about it, high GI sugars raise blood sugar, which the body produces
insulin to lower again. Now when this happens our blood sugar takes a nose dive
which has the opposite effect and makes us feel tired and low. We then start to
crave sugar again in order to raise those blood levels. Can you see what is
happening here? Yes, we are on the slippery slope of raising and lowering our
blood sugar which in turn makes us feel up and down in energy and mood! Anyone
ever experienced this?? I think so!
So we can see that a long sustained release of energy is better for keeping our
blood sugar stable, which is done by eating low GI carbs.
Examples of low/high GI carbohydrates are hard to put forward as there is a vary
long scale of variables. The best thing to do is buy a book on GI which you can
get in any good bookstore.
Alternatively you can find a GI database as well as learn more on GI at this
One last point regarding GI
The GI of any given food is affected by a number of other variables. Fats, fiber
and protein consumed with carbs slows down the absorption considerably. In fact,
hi GI foods will slow quite a bit if eaten with low GI foods. This leads us to
the fact that its good to eat well balanced meals containing protein, fiber and
fats to keep our blood sugars stable.
Fats 9kcals per gram
Fats are also an energy source which some people prefer to carbohydrates
A further point to note is that fats will not spike insulin levels.
There are 5 different types of fats, all of which are beneficial in optimum
health, some more than others.
polyunsaturated fats or omega 6 poly's
omega 3 fish oils, a type of poly
*should be kept restricted as can lead to heart disease and cancer if taken in
Ok, again I wont confuse the issue here as it is a beginners article so I will
only state that which applies to our beginners diet.
If we are using carbohydrates as our main energy fuel, we then need to keep fats
to a moderate level. Although a small amount of all the above fats are needed,
we as bb'ers should eat mainly monounsaturated fats i.e.
and omega 3 oils
tuna (to a lesser degree)
There are also some good omega oil blends on the market such as udo's choice or
Holland and Barrett optimum oil blend. Note that vegetarians cant have the fish
oils that the above oils contain so flax seed oil would be a good choice for
The fats that come naturally in foods such as eggs and meats are ok as long as
they are not over eaten.....the only one that possibly could be over eaten would
If you are using fats as the main source of energy then more than moderate
amounts can be consumed as long as carbohydrates are kept down somewhat.
So what should I use as my main source of fuel for energy??
This is a complicated question as we are all so different. There are technical
computerized machines which measure our co2 levels that can determine our exact
ratios of fats and carbohydrates needed as an individual but again, this is more
advanced than we need to concern ourselves with as beginners.
I feel that trial and error is the best way to learn about our bodies and so
what better than to try all the options for a period of X amount of time and see
what suits us best?
Low fat, high carbs
Low carbs, high fat
Even a mix of the two (my favorite option)
I feel that if the low/zero carb, high fat route is the one you wish to follow
then at least one carb meal a day is needed. Alternatively, some go for a "clean
carb up" day once a week, finding it good to replenish depleted glycogen stores.
The ratios we eat will effect the amount of meals necessary in any given day. We
already know fats and fiber slows the absorption of carbs we eat, but it also
slows the whole meal down. So if we eat high fat and low carbs, we need not eat
much more than 3 or 4 meals a day (as long as sufficient protein is present). On
the other end of the scale a high carb, low fat meal requires as many as 6-8
meals with moderate protein in each portion.
Other key things to remember when formulating our diets are
To drink plenty of fluids a day (2-3 liters)
Keeping hydrated is a must for optimum performance as an athlete as well as
keeping in good health.
And eat plenty of fiber
Fiber comes naturally in countless foods but fruit, veggies , nuts, beans and
pulses are some of the best sources of fiber and some or all of the above should
be incorporated daily in your nutrition plan.
An example daily food intake would look something like this
whole meal toast
serving of whey
Meal 5 PWO
whey in water
glucose powder OR
So now we know what to eat and when to eat it, how much do we need to consume
for optimum growth with minimum body fat BF?
Some bb'ers prefer to eat what ever they can get their hands on "if it aint
nailed down then eat it!!" I have heard some say before. This can be an
effective way of eating if you want sheer bulk, but has a few drawbacks.
1 Its very easy to gain a shed load of body fat
2 sometimes a person may eat too much of the wrong types of foods which can
hinder their gains. For example, eating KFC all day long is great for protein
and fat, but neglects carbohydrates.
Also eating food from the bakery down the street will fill you up on plenty of
carbs and fat, but the protein will be lacking!!
So what do we do? How do we calculate our intake?
First off we need to know how much of each macronutrient is in the foods we eat.
Again, any good bookstore will have a nutrition guide, or hit this link
Next we need to work out our calorie requirements and I must credit the next
section to J. Beradi as it is an extract from his Massive Eating Article.....
Step #1: Resting Metabolic Rate
Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the energy it costs the body to basically keep
alive. This doesn't include the costs of getting your butt out of bed and moving
around; those numbers are calculated in later. Although you might not guess it,
about 50 to 70 percent of your entire day's calorie expenditure is a result of
the RMR. So, let's figure out your RMR right now.
To start off with, you need to take your body weight in pounds and convert it to
kilograms. (International readers, please bear with us silly non-metric
Americans for a moment.) This is a simple conversion. Just divide your body
weight by 2.2.
Next you take your percent of fat and multiply it by your body weight (which is
now in kilograms). This will give you your fat mass (FM) in kilograms. Next
simply subtract this number from your total weight in kilograms and you'll have
your fat free mass (FFM) in kilograms.
Before we go on, why don't we try this out on me. Since I'm an athlete with a
body weight of 200lbs at 5% body fat, I'd take my total body mass and divide it
Total body mass in kilograms = 200lbs / 2.2 = 91 kg
Next I'd multiply this kilogram number (91 kg) by my percent of body fat.
Remember, percents are really decimals so 5% equals 0.05, 12% bodyfat will be
Fat Mass = 91kg x 0.05 = 4.55kg FM
Next I subtract this fat mass number (4.55 kg) from my total body mass (91kg):
Fat Free Mass = 91kg - 4.55kg = 86.45kg
Therefore my fat free mass is 86.45 kilograms. From that I can determine my RMR.
The formula for RMR is as follows:
Resting Metabolic Rate for Athletes (in calories per day) = 500 + 22 x fat free
mass (in kilograms).
Again, for me, I'd multiply 22 times my fat free mass and add 500 to that number
as shown below:
RMR= 22 x 86.45 + 500 = 2402
Therefore my resting metabolic rate is about 2400 calories per day. Everyone
have their RMR figured out? Good, let's move on.
Step #2: Cost of Activity
The Cost of Activity represents how many calories are required to move your butt
around during the day. This includes the cost of walking out to your car,
scraping the ice off the damn thing, driving to work, pinching the secretary's
ass, going to lunch with the boys, and of course, training after work. These
factors make up about 20 to 40% of your daily caloric intake based on your
activity level. So let's figure out your costs of activity. I'll use myself as
an example again.
Determining Activity Costs:
Cost of Daily Activity is equal to the RMR you calculated above multiplied by an
activity factor that fits your daily routine. I've listed some common activity
1.2-1.3 for Very Light (bed rest)
1.5-1.6 for Light (office work/watching TV)
1.6-1.7 for Moderate (some activity during day)
1.9-2.1 for Heavy (labour type work)
Note: Don't consider your daily workout when choosing a number. We'll do that
With this information we can get back to determining my calorie needs. Since I
work at a university, most of my day is pretty sedentary. Even though I run back
and forth between the lab and classes, I've selected 1.6 as my activity factor.
Therefore the amount of calories it takes to breathe and move around during the
day is about 3800 calories as shown below:
RMR x Activity Factor = 2400 calories x 1.6 = 3800 calories
Costs of Exercise Activity:
Next, we need to determine how many calories your exercise activity burns so
that we can factor this into the totals. Exercise activity can be calculated
simply by multiplying your total body mass in kilograms (as calculated above) by
the duration of your exercise (in hours). Then you'd multiply that number by the
MET value of exercise as listed below. (MET or metabolic equivalent, is simply a
way of expressing the rate of energy expenditure from a given physical
MET values for common activities:
high impact aerobics… 7
low impact aerobics… 5
high intensity cycling… 12
low intensity cycling… 3
high intensity walking - 6.5
low intensity walking - 2.5
high intensity running… 18
low intensity running… 7
circuit-type training… 8
intense free weight lifting… 6
moderate machine training… 3
So here's the formula:
Cost of Exercise Activity = Body Mass (in kg) x Duration (in hours) x MET value
And here's how I calculate it for myself:
Exercise Expenditure for weights = 6 METS X 91kg x 1.5 hours = 819 calories
Exercise Expenditure for cardio = 3 METS X 91 kg x .5 hours = 137 calories
Add these two together and I burn 956 total calories during one of my training
Since my training includes about 90 minutes of intense free weight training and
30 minutes of low intensity bicycling (four times per week), my exercise energy
expenditure might be as high as 1000 calories per training day!
The next step is to add this exercise number to the number you generated when
multiplying your RMR by your activity factor (3800 calories per day in my case).
So 3800 calories + about 1000 calories = a whopping 4800 calories per day! And
we're not done yet! (Note: I rounded 956 up to 1000 for the sake of simplicity.
If you're a thin guy trying to gain muscle, it's better to round up anyway than
to round down.)
Step #3: Thermic Effect of Food
TEF is the amount of calories that it takes your body to digest, absorb, and
metabolise your ingested food intake. This makes up about 5 to 15% of your total
daily calorie expenditure. Since the metabolic rate is elevated via this
mechanism 10 to 15% for one to four hours after a meal, the more meals you eat
per day, the faster your metabolic rate will be. This is a good thing, though.
It's far better to keep the metabolism high and eat above that level, than to
allow the metabolism to slow down by eating infrequently. Protein tends to
increase TEF to a rate double that of carbs and almost triple that of fats so
that's one of the reasons why I'm a big fan of protein meals.
Determining the Thermic Effect of Food:
To determine the TEF, you need to multiply your original RMR value (2400 in my
case) by 0.10 for a moderate protein diet or 0.15 for a high protein diet. So
this is what the formula looks like:
TEF = RMR x 0.10 for moderate protein diet (1 gram per pound of bodyweight)
TEF = RMR x 0.15 for high protein diet (more than 1 gram per pound of
Since I eat a very high protein diet (about 350 to 400 grams per day), I use the
0.15 factor and my TEF is about 360 calories per day as displayed by the
Thermic Effect of Food = 2400 calories x 0.15 = 360 calories per day
Now add that to your calorie total.
Step #4: Adaptive Thermogenesis
I like to call Adaptive Thermogenesis the "X factor" because we just aren't sure
how much it can contribute to daily caloric needs. Some have predicted that it
can either increase daily needs by 10% or even decrease daily needs by 10%.
Because it's still a mystery, we typically don't factor it into the equation.
Just for interest's sake, one factor included in the "X factor" is unconscious
or spontaneous activity. Some people, when overfed, get hyper and increase their
spontaneous activity and even have been known to be "fidgety." Others just get
sleepy when overfed — obviously the fidgets will be burning more calories that
the sleepy ones.
Other factors include hormone responses to feeding, training, and drugs, hormone
sensitivity (insulin, thyroid, etc), stress (dramatically increases metabolic
rate) or temperature induced metabolic changes (cold weather induces increased
metabolic activity and heat production).
With all that said, you don't need to do any math on this part or fiddle with
your calorie total. This is just something to keep in mind.
Step #5: Putting it all together
Okay, so how many damn calories do you need to consume each and every day? Well,
adding up RMR plus activity factor (3800 calories in my case), cost of weight
training (819 calories), cost of cardio (137 calories), and TEF (360 calories),
we get a grand total of about 5116 calories! (Remember, that's just my total.
You'll get a different number.)
Now that's a lot of food! And I must eat this each and every day when I want to
gain weight. Are you surprised at how many calories I need? Most people are. So
the next time you complain that you're "eating all day and can't gain a pound"
you'd better realistically evaluate how much you're really eating. If you're not
gaining a pound, then you're falling short on calories.
Thank you John....Back to me now.
So this may seem like a lot of food and you may wonder where you will put it
all. We must remember that the above article is only an example and can be
modified a little. For instance there are a lot of whey powders, meal
replacements MRP and weight gainer drinks available. These are very good for
getting in those extra few kcals. Maybe one can eat 3-4 whole food meals and 2-3
liquid meals. That makes it a little easier doesn't it?
What if I am still struggling?
Well we can build up to this massive amount of food slowly. Start by eating half
to two thirds of the suggested total calories. Once you can easily manage that,
add one more meal, or up the kcals a little in your existing meals.
How ever you do it, you will get there in the end.
There will be some days that we just cant stomach all the food and other days,
we will be as hungry as a horse...that's bodybuilding guys
So to summarize
Eat plenty of protein, every 2-3 hours. I suggest 1.5-2g per approximate LB of
lean mass throughout the day.
Eat the rest of your calories from low GI carbohydrates and/or quality fats
(both in the ratios that you have chosen)
Drink plenty of fluids.
Eat lots of fibrous foods like vegetables and fruit
Work out your individual calorie requirements and devise a well balanced food
plan using correct nutrient data/guide.
I want to thank a few guys for helping me write this article...
One Smart Cookie....(Biohazard)
James Collier BSc(Hons)....(Muscle talk)