The question I get most often as a trainer and health coach is how should I be eating? To many people’s dismay the answer I give is usually pretty simple, exactly how you want as long as you are within your calorie range and getting adequate amounts of macro and micro nutrients. Now, I usually dive into more detail with each person individually to help them maximize their health and whatever fitness goals they have, but the truth is nutrition is a lot more simple than people make it out to be.
So first, let’s explore the definition of nutrition. Nutrition is defined as: the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth (or loss), yes I added that last part. Basically, you need to provide your body with enough calories to live and breathe and hit whatever fitness goals you have. What those calories are made of is NOT as important as how many you get if you look at it from a general standpoint. Basically, if you want to lose weight and you burn 1500 calories per day and you consume 1200 calories per day you will lose weight. At that rate mathematically you would lose 1 pound of weight every 11-12 days. Your bodyweight will continue to drop until your body reaches homeostasis at the new calorie level. This usually takes anywhere from 1-3 months. Now let’s say you want to gain weight, if you burn 1500 calories a day and you consume 1800 calories a day you will gain 1 pound of weight every 11-12 days, give or take. And this will continue until your body reaches homeostasis at the new calorie goal and so on and so forth. So that’s it, It’s really that simple. Deficit yourself to lose and surplus yourself to gain. But, not really.
If you’re at least semi- educated in the fitness realm you know that two people who weigh the same amount can look very different. One person who weighs 190lbs and 8% body fat will look much different from another person the same weight at 25% body fat. Person one is holding significantly more muscle mass than person two and also significantly less body fat. So, when you’re looking at nutrition it needs to be something that’s viewed from a position of altering body composition. So most people who come to me that want to “lose weight” aren’t really searching for a number they’re searching for an image in the mirror. So, how do you eat to get that “dream body” you’ve been looking for? Well, let’s take a look at macro-nutrition to explain that.
There are three macronutrients; protein, carbohydrates, and fat. If you’re looking for a “toned” body odds are you need to build some muscle mass. If you are a female reading this and saying you don’t want to build muscle, relax having muscles isn’t going to make you look gross or bulky. Instead it’s going to make you look firm, toned, and curvy. So, building muscle mass will require a bit more protein than your body would need otherwise. How much will depend on how often you train, how hard you train, and how new to working out you are. The RDA of an inactive adult is 50 grams of protein per day. So, when talking about protein intake with a client we usually base needs off of how often they work out. If I am working with a female client who works out 3x per week with the goal of fat loss and building muscle who is new to working out I will usually recommend a minimum of 75 grams per day. If the client is male or is working out more often the recommendation will usually be higher. When you are new to working out I believe a less is more approach is better. If you wanted to see a more rapid gain in muscle you could increase the protein to as high as one gram of protein per pound of lean mass. Not getting enough protein is something that’s very rare especially in the US because most foods we eat on a regular basis have protein in them. However, the longer you train and more muscle you build the higher your protein needs become. So, now that we have protein covered let’s talk about carbs and fats.
The reason why I group both of these macronutrients together is because, even though they are different, as long as you consume both the distribution does not really matter all that much. Now, this only applies if you are a regular person. If you’re a competitive athlete there are proven methods of dieting that are superior, however that is not what this blog post is about. First, let’s talk carbs. Carbohydrates are your bodies main energy source. They can be broken down easily and converted to glycogen which can be stored in the liver or muscles and is basically the fuel for all human activity. Fat can also be used as energy. Your body has to use multiple processes to turn it to glycogen so it is not recommended as a “main” fuel source, but also can be used as one especially if you are following a ketogenic diet. Now, fat also plays a big role in hormone production and normal body function. So, consuming it is important in day to day life. So as you can see each of these macronutrients are important, but the distribution is not all that important. This is where I tell people to gravitate towards foods that they like. If someone loves peanut butter then we leave more room for fat in their diet. If someone is more in love with carbohydrates then we get more of our calorie content from carbs. But, at the end of the day if you’re a regular person the distribution between the two macronutrients is not that important as long as you eat some of both of them. Now, obviously this all sounds easy on paper, but application in real life is where things get tricky.
Eating whatever you want to lose weight sounds like a dream come true, but it is the application that usually breaks peoples willpower. Staying in a calorie deficit is challenging. Its challenging because your body by nature does not want to lose weight. When you are trying to lose weight you are decreasing the volume of food that you eat. When your body, mind, and stomach are used to a certain amount of food there is usually a little backlash such as hunger which can be minor or major depending on the breakdown of your food. So let’s say person one gets all of their calories from low volume high calorie foods (basically foods that are packed with calories for how big they are I.E pizza, ice cream, chips, etc). And person two get’s all of their food from high volume low calorie foods (veggies, lean meats, whole grains, etc). Who do you think will be more successful? Probably person two for a few reasons. One, they can eat more food volume. Getting calories from more nutrient dense foods allows you to eat more total food which keeps the stomach full aiding in will power. Two, nutrient dense foods are hard to consume in high amounts. For example 2 slices of a large cheese pizza (no toppings) is around 800 calories. You would have to eat almost 4lbs of kale to consume the same amount of calories. An extreme example, but you get my point. Now, another thing is if your calorie goal is 1500 for the day and you just ate 800 of it in one sitting you only have 700 calories left over for the rest of the day. 2 slices of pizza is filling for some, but it will only keep you full for a couple hours. So, as you can see where you get your calories from may not matter, but having the willpower to eat in a calorie deficit becomes easier when you don’t feel starved at all hours of the day. This is why I recommend to my clients that they do not eat high calorie foods when trying to lose weight because it lowers their chances of being successful.
So, I hope I shed some light on some of the nutritional myths that exist these days. When you have any goal in fitness just follow the 80/20 rule. If you make 80% good decisions and 20% not so good decisions you will set yourself up for success and not lose your mind. If your goal is to lose weight try to eat a variety of foods and try and stick to nutrient dense high fiber foods. Fiber will keep you full and help you push through being in a calorie deficit. If your goal is to gain weight make sure you are getting adequate protein and adequate calories. Also, just because you’re trying to gain weight don’t go crazy and gain a ton of bad weight that you have to lose later. Regardless of your goals the most important thing is to stay within you calorie range. If you stay within your calorie range you will hit your fitness goals before you know it.
Picture this, It’s a beautiful Sunday you wake up and have a whole list of things planned. Mow the lawn, clean the house, cook for the week, spend time outside. You sit down to eat breakfast and flip on your favorite TV show with the promise that you will only watch one episode, which turns into two, three, four, ok maybe five. Then you suddenly feel tired and take a nap. You pass out for an hour or so and before you know it your entire day is shot. So you say, hey I’ll just do it tomorrow. I feel like this vicious cycle happens to a lot of people with their fitness goals. Except unlike the lawn outside it usually doesn’t get taken care of the next day. It can be months, years, or even decades before people start taking their health seriously. A few pounds are gained, then a few more, then maybe a medical diagnosis of high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes. Maybe heart disease. Does this sound like an extreme example to you? Well, unfortunately it isn’t. Heart disease is responsible for 25% of deaths in the United States every year. Genetics definitely tip the scales of the a bit, but for the most part it is sad that the number one killer in our society is preventable or at least reducible. So let me throw another statistic in your direction. According to the CDC only 23% of US adults meet the minimum requirement of physical activity per week. So why is it despite skyrocketing levels of disease that more people aren’t getting up and moving more?
Because its FUCKING HARD! If you’re reading this “sorry mom”. If you’re not extremely passionate about fitness actually doing it can be quite challenging. For one, you’re pushing your body to do things its not used to doing. This can lead to days of soreness, especially in the beginning. You’re also putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Gyms can be an intimidating place. You’re in a room full of beautiful people while you look in the mirror and are unhappy. You then proceed to try and exercise off a plan you found online, having no idea if you’re even performing the movements properly. Then you feel more insecure and end up worrying more about what’s going on around you or who’s watching you than actually working out. It’s not easy. Unfortunately, it can feel like we live in an eat or be eaten kind of world. So if that first gym experience was enough to deter you and you made it through the period of major soreness then you start to get into a routine. But, then life happens. You have a kid. You start a more demanding job. Your significant other demands moire time with you. Usually, (and I can only speak from my own experience) the gym is one of the first things people “don’t have time for”. Then many fall off and dread the process of getting back into it. And the vicious cycle repeats itself.
But, let me ask you all a question. When was the last time you were in great shape? How did you feel when you were in that good of shape? Would you rather feel that way than you do now? For some of you reading this, right now could be the best shape of your life (and you will understand exactly what I am about to say). For others it could have been high school, college, before you had kids, before you became a high level management exec, or maybe you’ve never felt comfortable in your own skin. I am going to be 100% honest, real, and raw with you. Being comfortable in your own skin is the greatest feeling you will ever have in your entire life. Because you know that no one can take that away from you. You aren’t dependent on others for feeling good because deep down you feel good. I will tell you that the farther I go into fitness the better I feel. And I know from first hand experience what it’s like to hate the way you look and be unhealthy. Just look at the pictures on the accompanying pages of this website. It’s not even just liking the way you look. It’s a feeling of health. That you’re doing good for your body. That you are adding years onto your time on this earth. Years for more traveling and experiences. More years with your children. More years to enjoy thew body you live in.
Getting started is by far the hardest part of this journey. It always is. The first time you do anything new in life it is. But, the longer you do it, the easier it gets and the better it feels. Getting off the couch is hard. Driving to the gym is hard. Running down the street is hard. Doing that home workout off of Youtube is hard. It’s never going to be easy. Even now there are days I wake up and don’t want to go to the gym, or go to work, or even get out of bed. But, I do and I always feel better afterwards. Because I know that I am doing something for myself that no one can take away. And I love that I get to do that everyday for other people. You can see the look in people’s eyes, and the change in their demeanor when they start to get stronger and feel better. The first couple weeks I always get text messages about how sore my clients are. Then the following weeks, months, and years it’s all about how great they feel and how glad they are that they made the decision to take control of their health. I’m not saying that you have to get a personal trainer. I’m not saying that you have to lift weights. Take a yoga class, go for a walk, go swimming, hike a mountain, go running. Just get up and do it. It’s always hard to get started. But, I promise you wont look back. No one ever said to themselves “I regret that workout today”. Stay strong everyone.
Personally, I would love to train everyone. Working with clients is the best part of my life. You build a bond with someone, you watch them succeed, and then they refer more people that you can help. But, some people can’t afford trainers. Others may believe they don’t need a trainer. And, some may just prefer working alone. Whatever your reasoning is, you can still get results without a trainer or coach. I’m going to give you 5 tips that I have for people who train without a coach.
My biggest tip for being you own coach is knowing exactly what your goals are. If you don’t have a clear outlined goal then you cant develop a plan to work towards that goal. Most people who don’t have a plan go to the gym and do aimless workouts that they see on Instagram, or whatever they FEEL like doing that day. This is no way to make actual progress. Also, if you don’t have a goal you’re working towards odds are motivation will be lost and consistency will go out the window. This is exactly why you have to have a goal. When you’re setting you “goal” make sure it isn’t too vague. “I want to get big” isn’t really a good goal. My best advice would be to make your goals SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time sensitive). Once you have a SMART goal you’re ready to move on to step two.
The second thing you need to do when coaching yourself is do your research. Everyone who is at the top of their fitness game has hundreds of thousands of hours of research under their belt. I’m not saying you have to go to school and get a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science. But I do recommend surfing on amazon and picking up a few books at least once or twice a year. Even scrolling through some reputable articles on bodybuilding.com or google is a good way to get the information you need. However, I would recommend being specific in what you are looking for. If you want to get big arms don’t just search “how to get big arms” because you will be bombarded with thousands of articles, most of which are bull****. Instead I would search “fitness level”, “goal”, “reputable coach”. For example you could search “how to build you best deadlift by Layne Norton”. This is going to lead to much better information than just some bro-ey article written by no one. If you’re not sure if someone is a good coach, again DO YOUR RESEARCH.
After you have your goals outlined, and some useful fitness advice from good coaches it’s time to develop a plan. Developing a plan involves outlining how often you will work out, what types of exercises you will use, and what rep ranges you will be working in. If you do good enough research you can usually find pre made programs on bodybuilding.com, many of which work very well. But, if you’d like to build your own that’s ok too. But, have a plan, because if you don’t odds are you will end up doing random workouts that wont get you anywhere.
Now that you’ve made your plan using the good research you found built off the goal you picked it’s time to TRACK YOUR PROGRESS. Tracking your progress is imperative because there is no other way to know if you’re actually making progress. Progress can be tracked in a number of different ways, and whatever your goal is there will be different methods for tracking the progress you make. If you want to lose weight then you need to weigh yourself (I would also recommend tracking body fat because you want to make sure you’re losing the right “kind of weight”). If your goal is to build muscle then you need to measure your body with a tape measure and also track your body fat to make sure that the inches being added to your body aren’t just fat. If your goal is to get stronger then simply make sure you’re adding weight to the bar (with good form of course). Good form brings me to my next point.
When you are your own coach it is crucial that you workout with good form. One of the biggest things I Do for my clients is correct them when their form is off. Especially with big movements like the deadlift and squat because improper form can lead to major injuries down the road. There are two ways to go about this. One is, find a good training partner. A good training partner can be an extra set of eyes and if they know what they’re doing they can give you tips on how to improve. Two is, take videos of big movements. Taking videos may look douschey, but it’s actually a really smart way to train. How do you know if you’re doing something right if you cant see it? Even if a movement feels good there could be minute things that are off that can lead to problems down the road.
So, let’s go over what was talked about in this blog post. When you are coaching yourself always remember to: have a goal, do your research, develop a plan, track your progress, and monitor your form. If you follow these five rules you can see excellent results. Now, is everything going to be perfect. No, but thats life. If you hit a plateau just repeat the process. Check your goal, do your research as to what’s holding you back, research how to fix it, track your progress, and monitor your form. Its simple and effective. Thanks for reading everyone hope you enjoyed it. Now go crush your goals.
My name is Patriel Dunford and as the owner of Infinite Fitness my main goal in life is to spread good advice in the health industry and help people live healthier, longer, more fulfilling lives.