When you’ve got your nutrition dialled in you will be – among other things – properly controlling your energy balance. But it isn’t always necessary to count calories, especially if you find this tedious or if you haven’t got the basics consistently.

Before learning how to fine-tune your nutrition, it is important to get the simple but not necessarily easy foundational habits in place first. One of the biggest reasons people give up on achieving a nutrition goal is because they take on too much change at once and that they do not have the skills to maintain the new nutritional habits.

Assess your basic skills here first. If you decide you need to work on these basics first, then pick your weakest skill and work on that for as long as needed. Until it becomes automatic. Even if you add no further refinement to your nutrition, most people can get a long way towards their goals with just those habits.

 

How To Fine-Tune Your Nutrition

 

Once you have the basics dialled in you may want to go to the next level. This won’t be for everybody, and you need to decide what you are willing to do to reach your goal. It might be that you are very happy just doing the basics, focusing on intuitive eating and basic food choices. In my experience, most people can achieve their goals with these habits – no need for further refinement.

We could make fine-tuning your nutrition endlessly complex but in my experience, my clients don’t have time for complexities. They just want to keep things simple. If you’ve decided you want to go to the next level, here are 4 steps to take made as simply as possible.

 

Step 1 Determine Your Calorie Needs

 

The first thing to do is to determine your calorie needs. Here’s how:

 

If you have a weight loss goal

  • If you’re sedentary multiply your weight in lbs by 10-12
  • If you’re moderately active multiply your weight in lbs by 12-14
  • If you’re very active multiply your weight in lbs by 14-16

 

If you have a weight maintenance goal

  • If you’re sedentary multiply your weight in lbs by 12-14
  • If you’re moderately active multiply your weight in lbs by 14-16
  • If you’re very active multiply your weight in lbs by 16-18

 

If you have a weight gain goal

  • If you’re sedentary multiply your weight in lbs by 16-18
  • If you’re moderately active multiply your weight in lbs by 18-20
  • If you’re very active multiply your weight in lbs by 20-22

 

Step 2 Macronutrient Split

 

Next step is to determine your macronutrient split. Once you know your calorie needs – or goal – you need to know how much of your food needs to come from protein, carbohydrates and fat. Here’s how to calculate your macros:

If you are ectomorphic

You are naturally thin with skinny limbs and you tend to enjoy endurance exercise. You are thyroid dominant with a fast metabolic rate, high sympathetic nervous system activity. You’ll tolerate more carbohydrates.

 

Typical goals

  • Gain muscle, strength and size.
  • Maintain body weight and strength during high volume/endurance exercise.

 

Suggested average macronutrient starting percentages

  • 25% protein
  • 55% carbohydrates
  • 20% fats

 

If you are mesomorphic

You are naturally muscular and athletic and you tend to enjoy bodybuilding and strength exercise. You are testosterone and growth hormone dominant with a moderate to high sympathetic nervous system activity. You’ll tolerate a moderate amount of carbohydrates.

Typical goals

  • Gain lean mass while maintaining lower body fat percentages.
  • Support athletic performance.

 

Suggested average macronutrient starting percentages

30% protein 40% carbohydrates 30% fats

 

If you are endomorphic

  • You are naturally broad and thick-set and enjoy absolute strength exercises.
  • You are insulin dominant with a slow metabolic rate, low sympathetic nervous system activity.
  • You’ll tolerate carbohydrates poorly.

 

Typical goals

  • Lose body fat – especially in the central region.

 

Suggested average macronutrient starting percentages

  • 35% protein
  • 25% carbohydrates
  • 40% fats

 

Don’t overthink this. Get started with the recommendations above, and make outcome-based decisions and adjust as you go.

 

Step 3 Nutrient Timing

 

If you want further refinement it is worth considering that nutrients are handled differently at different times within the body – for example, the times during and post-workout.

If you are ectomorphic

  • Include sugary carbohydrates during and after exercise.
  • Starchy whole food sources of carbohydrates can be eaten at every meal.
  • Vegetables and fruits should be eaten at each meal in a ratio of 3:1.

 

If you are mesomorphic

  • Include sugary carbohydrates only during and after exercise.
  • Starchy whole food sources of carbohydrates can be eaten at breakfast and after exercise.
  • Vegetables and fruits should be eaten at each meal in a ratio of 4:1.

 

If you are endomorphic

  • All starchy and sugary carbohydrates should be consumed during and after exercise.
  • Vegetables and fruits should be eaten at each meal in a ratio of 5:1.

 

 

Step 4 From Calories And Percentages To Real Food

 

After going through the above exercises, calculating your calorie goals and macronutrient splits, it will take practice to apply this into real food in real life.

You’ll need to do the maths, plan ahead and be prepared to make mistakes.

Planning your menu

Let’s imagine you’re:

  1. 140lbs and need 1750 calories per day from 153g of protein, 109g carbohydrates, and 77g of fat
  2. Assuming 3 meals per day and only one carb-rich meal post-exercise.

 

Example menu based on 1750ckcal

Breakfast 600kcal, 50g protein, 24g carbohydrates, 35g fat would look like:

  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup cooked black beans
  • 1 cup vegetables
  • 2oz cashews

 

Lunch 600kcal, 50g protein, 24g carbohydrates, 35g fat would look like:

  • 3oz beef
  • 1/3 cup cooked lentils
  • 1.5 cup vegetables
  • 2oz almonds

 

Evening meal 530kcal, 50g protein, 60g carbohydrates, 10g fat would look like:

  • 2 scoops protein powder
  • 1 banana
  • 1 date
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (not the full-fat canned version).
  • 2 cups raw kale

Note: This evening meal is a smoothie.

 

I hope this helps you fine-tune your nutrition, or at least decide if you are ready and willing to, or if you need to at all. Most people don’t need to go into this detail.

If you are going to count calories and macros, a tool such as My Fitness Pal can be very helpful, as can the USDA database and a host of other trackers that are often available as apps.

You will need to weight food so a digital scale can be helpful, as can reading labels. Keep in mind, even the most diligent tracking can see errors of 25%. Does this mean it is not helpful? No, it just means you need to be aware and make decisions based on your own experiences – outcome-based decisions based on the results you get.

 

Next Steps

 

 

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