When attempting to progress on a wellness program how many of you have heard the saying- 80% diet, 20% training.
For this article, let’s throw that phrase out the window, and discuss a different, more effective approach- 100% effort in the gym, 100% effort on your diet, 100% of the time.
If you are looking to take your lean muscle mass growth to the next level, I have an approach that will work for you.
There are several dieting methods that work for a variety of people. Some people like to intuitively eat, some like meal plans, some like to plan their day using a macro counting system, etc.
There is no way certain way ‘better’ than the other, but some plans do work better for specific individuals. What it comes down to is consistency, adherence to the method in which you choose, and an understanding of proper nutrition.
Another important aspect is your body’s metabolic rate (which I will explain later). In this article, I am going to explain ‘macro counting’, because from my experiences with coaching and experimenting on myself, I have witnessed first-hand the high rate of good results that a macro counting program provides.
First, let me give you a brief background about myself and exactly why I am qualified to explain this topic.
I have a 4 year B.S. Degree in Dietetics from Purdue University, my own health/wellness coaching business, and an upcoming fitness app. I am also a nationally qualified IFBB bikini Pro and I am a sponsored athlete by several incredible companies.
What is a Macro?
There are three macronutrients (debatably a fourth- alcohol, but that’s for another day): carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. There are also micronutrients which include all of the vitamins and minerals. They are essential to help all systems in the body function at its optimal level.
How/Why To Track Macro’s:
Each macro has a certain number of calories that it provides per gram.
Carbohydrates = 4cal/g
Fats = 4cal/g
Protein = 4cal/gram
You will have a set number of grams you will need to hit each day by tracking through an app or logging by hand.
Tracking allows for flexibility in the diet because no food is ‘off-limits’. It can help people look at food differently and not feel so restricted to only consuming x-amount of foods, simply because they are ‘healthy’. My philosophy- eat mostly nutrient dense foods to help the body function optimally, but always make room for processed foods if your heart desires. The results will still come, and occasional processed foods are NOT detrimental to one’s progress.
Eating Enough Calories:
You would be surprised to find that most people don’t eat enough.
Tracking your baseline macros prior to starting an actual plan shows how much you are consuming daily. Once you have an idea of how much you are eating (whether that be too much or too little), you can then go forward with your new plan. Like I said, most clients that I work with are initially not consuming enough food (especially women), so to begin the plan, macros and calories will be increased. I warn you, it may feel like you are forcing yourself to eat at first, but if you continue to push food each week, your metabolism (chemical processes within your body), will start to speed up, which is a good thing.
Eventually, you will get used to that amount of food!
Finding Your Maintenance Calories:
So, where do we start? Calculating your maintenance calories. I recommend tracking your meals for three consecutive days without adjusting your diet. Basically, try to track everything you usually consume on a regular basis. Out to eat with friends? Track it. Have a glass of wine every night? Track it. Once you are finished, add up your calories for all three days combined, and divide by three. That should give you an approximate number of calories you are consuming daily.
Finding Your Starting Macros:
When you find your maintenance calories, you then need to find the number of macros in grams you will be starting with. I recommend starting with a general guideline- 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 30% protein. I will show you the math on how to get these numbers into grams with an example below:
Carbohydrates = 4cal/g
Fats = 9cal/g
Protein = 4cal/gram
Maintenance calories = 2,000cals
Distributing 2,000cals into carbs (40%), proteins (30%), and fats (30%):
For carbs: 2,000cals x .4 = 800cals / 4cal/gram = 200g carbs
For fats: 2,000cals x .3 = 600cals / 9cal/gram = 67g fats
For protein: 2,000cals x .3 = 600cals / 9cal/gram = 150g protein
Total macros to hit each day = 200gC/67F/150P
After you find your maintenance calories it’s time to start your growing phase!
I recommend that you keep your protein where it is, and begin increasing your carbohydrates/fats each week, or every other week. Everyone responds differently to the reverse dieting process (‘growth phase’), so you need to be in tune with your body as much as possible to determine if you are going too quickly/slowly with caloric increases.
For those that gain weight very quickly, I would recommend increasing very slowly: 10g of carbs every week or every other week.
For those that don’t gain weight easily: add 25g carbs every week. With fats, I recommend adding in about 5g every few weeks.
How Long Should I Do This For?
There is no strict time limit as to how long someone should be reverse dieting to grow.
Some take months, some take a couple of years! It all depends on how much work your metabolism needs and how much you are looking to grow your lean muscle mass (just note that quality muscle gains can take years and years!).
My Favorite Sources of Carbs:
Cream of Rice
Caramel Rice Cakes
Baked Red Potatoes
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
My Favorite Sources Of Fats:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Animal fat (ground beef, salmon, etc.)
My Favorite Sources Of Protein:
99% Lean Ground Turkey
Eggs (whole eggs and egg whites)
Raw Yellowfin Tuna
96% Lean Ground Beef
Love your body at each stage it is going through whether that be growing, cutting, or maintaining; don’t love your physique in just one phase of the process. You are always striving to become your best self and at the end of the day, that is what truly matters.