Training hard in the gym is only one aspect of leading a fit and healthy lifestyle. Beyond putting in the hard work during training, there are several other factors to get right in order to achieve the health and fitness results you want. Enough sleep, stretching and recovery activities and eating the right foods at the right times are crucial to your fitness success.
Let’s discuss some basic nutrition planning for the two most common gym goals: losing fat and gaining muscle.
Eating to lose body fat
The first point about eating to lose body fat is the most important: you muscle consume less calories (energy) than you expend in order to lose fat. It has been estimated that a deficit of about 8000 calories equates to one kilogram of body fat loss. Tracking apps such as My Fitness Pal are currently popular and effective tools for measuring the amount of energy (and types of nutrients) you consume. Typically, a safe and healthy fat loss deficit will be about 300 calories per day. Coupled with an effective exercise regime, this will allow most people to lose about 0.5 kilograms of body fat per week.
The second most important aspect is making the right food choices. You want to ensure the calories you are consuming are supporting your body’s essential functions and delivering the nutrients it needs. Avoid empty calories – such as highly processed, sugary and fatty foods – at all costs. A good rule of thumb is to eat foods that are processed/adulterated as little as possible. This means you will be eating plenty of fresh vegetables and some fruits. You will also include quality lean protein sources, such as salmon, tuna, chicken, turkey breast, and lean red meats. Quality fat sources are important too; oils from nuts and fish are typically the best bet here.
Eating to gain lean muscle
Contrary to those seeking to drop body fat, those looking to add size will need to have a surplus of calories available to them in order to grow. A similar caloric amount – about 300 calories – is a good starting surplus to make quality lean gains. Essential to building size is getting your macronutrient ratios right. While those looking to lose fat will often restrict the amount of carbohydrate they consume, those looking for more muscle will need to have carbohydrate readily available.
A strong macronutrient split for gaining lean muscle is 40% carbohydrate, 40% protein and 20% high quality fats. This is not difficult to achieve with correct planning and meal organisation. Similarly to those losing fat, you will need to make excellent decisions about which foods comprise your calories. Low GI carbohydrates – such as dark breads, basmati and brown rice, oats and quinoa should be your staples here. The same high quality protein sources are applicable. However, you may need to supplement in order to consume enough protein daily. Typically, muscle gains are made when you consume 1.2 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day.
For more detailed information about how to structure your nutrition and achieve your fitness goals, speak to Mind+Body staff. Enjoy your training!