Get Up and CODE 43: Diet Plan Basics
This is my first solo episode of Get Up and CODE. Last episode was Iris's last episode. It was harder than I thought to record a completely solo episode, but I did it and here it is.
In this episode, I talk about how to figure out how many calories you burn in a day and how to plan a diet based on that.
Check it out below.
Full transcript below
John: Hey everyone! Welcome back to the Get Up and Code Podcast. I’m John Sonmez and I am here all alone today. It’s a little bit of a sad day. My first day recording all by myself. I guess we’ll see how it goes here. As you may have heard Iris has left the show, not for any kind of reason like we got into a big fight or anything like that. She just is very busy and she feels like it’s time for her to move on. You can listen to the last episode, I believe it’s episode 42 if you want to find out from her exactly what her reasoning is for leaving the show. Of course it’s very sad. I definitely enjoyed having her on the show, but hey, the show must go on so I’m going to try and keep this thing going.
It’s a little bit difficult running a one-man show so we’ll see how it goes. I’m planning on talking about today what I have in store for us as far as this show, where I want to take things in the future. Then I’m also going to talk about a topic that I think is really important which is how to basically set up a diet or how to achieve your goals as far as losing fat or gaining muscle, how to basically set up your diet plan. I think that’s something that’s really important that a lot of people struggle with and it’s really not that hard.
Before we get into either of those topics let me take a second to thank our sponsor for this show SignalLeaf. If you go to signalleaf.com you can find out information about creating your own podcast. It’s really easy to do. It’s at least easy to get started and SignalLeaf makes that really easy because they provide podcast hosting services that you can use to host your podcast. SignalLeaf hosts our podcast here at Get Up and Code and they can host your podcast too so don’t forget to checkout signalleaf.com if you’re interested in creating your own podcast.
Okay, so now let’s talk about what’s going to happen with this show. It does feel a little bit weird sitting here talking to myself. I’ve recorded a lot of Pluralsight videos and I’ve recorded YouTube videos but for some reason a podcast in solo mode seems really difficult. I’m looking at the time going by and I’m like, “Wow, I’ve only been talking for 2 minutes.” Most of our episodes are 20 to 30 minutes. How am I going to talk for that long? I guess we’ll see what happens here. It will be interesting. I’ll definitely have to have some interviews.
A lot of the format of the show will probably consist of having interviews from this point forward at least until I get another co-host if I do. I’m not 100% sure which road I’m going to go with this. I’m thinking about getting another cohost but I have to find the right co-host which I think is really important for this kind of show. If you have some suggestions or some ideas or if you think you’d make a good co-host I’m definitely open to hear them. You can just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and with that let’s talk a little bit about where I see things going with Get Up and Code.
Well, like I said, I don’t want to stop the show because I feel like it’s been really beneficial to a lot of people. I’ve gotten a lot of emails and responses from you listening to the show saying how much it has helped you, either be it motivated about fitness and diet and to achieve some of the results that you want to achieve. I definitely feel like this show should go on at least in some form or another. Like I said, I think we’re going to need to bring on more interviews because it’s going to be hard for me to just talk about a topic without some back and forth for 20 minutes or however long this show is.
If you have ideas for topics for this show let me know. I want to really make the folks of this show, from this point forward, on helping you to achieve your goals as much as possible. At least when we have one of these episodes where it’s not necessarily an interview and I’m just talking about a topic, even if I do have a guest on that we can talk about a topic together I want to know what are your goals. Are you trying to lose fat? Are you trying to gain muscle? Are you trying to train for some kind of a sport? Do you have some other type of goal in mind? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know what your goals are, what kind of topics you’d like to hear about.
Same thing if you have someone that you think would be good for an interview for this show, just go ahead and let me know, send me an email and tell me a little bit about them and their name and make that introduction and I’ll try to make it happen here.
With that said, let’s talk a little bit about the subject that I wanted to talk about today which is basically how you set up a diet and some of the basic dieting guidelines in order to know how to lose weight or gain muscle. When I am trying to do something to change my body in some way I set up a diet. That’s the first thing that I do before I even set up some kind of a fitness program because a diet is so important. It can be confusing to figure out exactly how to do this. I’ve figured this out through trial and error. There are a lot of different pieces and tips that I have in there that help me to do this.
I’ve tried a lot of different things. I’m not going to say that I have just one successful formula that works. But before we can really get into creating a diet, we need to know the basics. There are a couple of basic things that we need to basically calculate or figure out. We’ve talked about this a little bit on the show, but I want to drill down into this a little bit more and just talk about how we can put these numbers together to figure things out.
First of all you need to know how many calories that you are basically burning in a day. This is a key number to know if you’re going to create any kind of diet plan because you’re going to have basically 2 kinds of diets, well rather there are 3. You have diets where you’re in a calorie surplus so you’re going to be gaining weight. You have diets where you’re in a calorie deficit so you’re going to be losing weight. Then you have maintenance type of diets where you’re going to try and stay at the same weight as much as possible.
The way that you calculate your current calorie needs is you have to look up your base metabolic rate. If you just do a search for base metabolic rate, I’m going to do it right here. You should find plenty of calculators for doing this. There’s a BMR calculator. You can put in your height. For example, I’m going to put in my height. I’m 6’ 3”. My weight right now is about 230 lbs and my age is 33 and I am male. I’m going to calculate my BMR and then it’s going to tell me that my BMR is 2227 calories. That’s the base amount of calories that my body needs that it will burn not doing anything else.
We still need to factor in the activity level using this Harris-Benedict equation. Some of the calculators can already do this for you, but you can see if you do a search for Harris-Benedict formula if your calculator doesn’t already do it there are some different levels. There’s sedentary so little or no exercise and that is going to be a BMR x 1.2. Even if you’re basically doing almost no exercise it’s going to be BMR x 1.2 or 120% of your BMR.
If you’re lightly active, light exercise, sports 1 to 3 days a week then it takes BMR x 1.375. Moderately active, moderate exercise, sports 3 to 5 days a week that’s probably where I would say that I’m at, maybe one above that and that’s going to be your BMR x 1.55, so over 150% of your BMR. If you’re very active that’s hard exercise/sport 6 to 7 days a week, not too many people fall into that category. I suppose I might be in that category because I am lifting weights 3 times a week, running 3 times a week and doing some other things. On the conservative side, see I’m always going on the conservative side. I’m going to say that I’m at the one before that the moderately active not the very active.
If you are at the very active then it’s 1.725 x BMR. Then there’s the extra active, very hard exercise, sports and physical job or 2 times training, so this is like you’re training for the Olympics type of deal. Not many people are going to be here. It’s BMR x 1.9.
I’d recommend that you pick the conservative side of where you think you are so that you can calculate this accurately. In my case my conservative side is 1.55. That’s the moderately active.
So I’m going to take that 2227 x 1.55. That’s going to tell me that my base calories I should be burning everyday is about 3451 calories. I round this down, again, I try to be as conservative and possible and say, “Okay, I’m burning about 3400 calories in a day.” This is an important number to know because if I want to maintain the weight I’m at I need to eat 3400 calories. If I want to gain weight obviously I need to eat more than that amount. If I want to lose weight I need to eat less than that amount of calories.
I can also add activities to increase that. If I walk for an hour a day or go for an extra run I can calculate how many calories extra that I would burn doing those type of activities.
So this is really important. Know what your base rate is. I will say that this isn’t going to be 100% accurate because the thing is here remember these numbers are … we’ve got a factor from 1.2 all the way up to 1.9 times this BMR the base calculation. It’s based on how active you are. It’s not going to be 100% accurate. That’s why I say go on the conservative side if you’re trying to lose weight especially because you want to underestimate the calories that you burn so that you’re not being frustrated by trying to create a diet that doesn’t get you anywhere.
Once we have that the next thing we need to do is figure out what is our goal. Are we trying to gain weight? Are we trying to lose weight? Or trying to stay the same? Now most people, I’m going to venture to guess out here are trying to lose weight. The reason why I’ll guess this is because 90% of the products out there that are sold in the fitness industry are about losing weight. 90% of the television program is about fitness or losing weight.
If you’re trying to lose weight what you need to do is to figure out how many calories in deficit that you need to be per day in order to lose that weight. That’s how you’re going to come up with your diet plan. If you hire a personal trainer or a nutritionist to create a diet for you they’re basically going to do these same steps that I’m doing here. I’m not licensed in any way to do this, but this is common sense. Bodybuilders do the same type of thing.
Before we get into exactly how we’re going to do this let’s talk about approximately how much calories are in a pound of fat. If you want to lose a pound of fat and by the way, you’re not just going to lose a pound of fat, you’re going to lose some muscle as well. It’s impossible to just lose fat. A basic amount of calories in a pound of fat is 3500. Again, this is an estimate. This isn’t perfect. It isn’t absolutely accurate. This is approximately how many calories are in a pound of fat.
If you want to lose, let’s say you want to lose a pound a week, you need to be in a calorie deficit of about 3500 calories per week. We could basically say 3500 divided by 7 days in that week would put you at a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day.
Let’s imagine that I want to lose a pound a week. I know that my burn is around 3400 per day. I know that my deficit needs to be 500. What I need then is to consume no more than 2900 calories. In fact, I want to get pretty close to 2900 calories per day. Now, again, because things aren’t exactly accurate and because we’re using some averages, some estimations here. If I do that calculation I come up with 29, I’m probably going to drop that down and I’m going to drop it all the way down to either 2800 or 2700.
Now, obviously if your smaller and your calories are less you’re not going to drop it by maybe 200 calories maybe it would be less, a smaller percentage but I want to make sure that I’m not messing up. It’s more likely that you’re going to eat more calories and burn less. You’re going to be frustrated if you’re wasting your time. I might estimate that I need to eat 2800 calories a day.
Now the next step, I know how many calories I need to eat per day. Let’s say I want to lose 2 lbs a week, well then my deficit needs to be a 1000, so I need to eat about 1800 calories a day. In fact right now, that is a exactly what I am doing. I just went off a phase of gaining muscle. I was eating at calorie surplus and lifting really heavy and trying to gain some muscle. I got up to about close to 240 lbs and I’m at 230 now. I want to get down to 220. I’m trying to lose 2 lbs a week.
You can see already a 1000 calories per day deficit is about what I need to do that. If you try to go any further than that your deficit is going to be really, really high. For example, I’m a pretty big guy at 230 lbs, 6’ 3”. I’m going to eat just 1800 calories a day. That’s not a lot of calories believe me. That’s not very much at all. Imagine if I wanted to lose let’s say 3 lbs a week, now I’m going to take 500 off of that so I’m going to eat 1300 calories a day or if I want to lose 4 lbs a week now I’m going to take 500 off of that and I’m going to eat 800 calories a day? No way. It’s not going to happen. It’s crazy.
This is something just to keep in mind is I’m bigger. I burn more calories and I’m active so I have more calories to work with in order to be able to lose weight. If you’re half my size you’re going to have even less flexibility in your range. Someone of my size of around 230, 240 lbs you’re not going to be able to really lose more than 2 to 3 lbs a week. 3 lbs a week is pushing it. If you think you’re going to lose 5 lbs a week you’re absolutely crazy. You’re not going to do that unless you’re way, way overweight it’s just very, very unlikely to happen. You would need to be having a maintenance level that’s somewhere over 4000 or so or more than that in order to even have a chance at doing that.
Think realistically with this which is probably for most people that don’t have the discipline that I’ve developed over time especially if you have a track record of failing, setting a goal of 1 lb a week is perfectly acceptable. You might even set it to less than that to start out. I definitely try to make it big enough where there’s a little bit of enough of a fudge factor. Remember, we’re using estimates here that if you mess up a little bit it’s not going to totally throw you off and put you at zero loss. 1 to 2 lbs a week, 2 lbs a week like I said, for me, is going to put me on the 1800 calorie diet which is not making me a happy camper, but it’s a doable diet range.
Now you should have calculated this for yourself if you want to lose weight and you should know how many calories that you need to eat in a day. The next thing to do is to divide this up into what we call the macronutrients. What is our percentage of protein, of carbohydrates and fat? I’m not going to get into a big debate and discussion about this, but I found some levels that work optimally for me at least for keeping muscle mass and losing fat. The more rapidly that you lose fat the more likely, unless you’re eating enough protein and fats, that you’re going to lose muscle.
I tend to find, you might have to experiment with this a little bit, but a lot of the data suggest that this is true for a lot of other people is that having a nice high fat, high protein diet with low carbs is going to be the best especially if you’re trying to lose 2 lbs a week for preserving the muscle. Along with that you need to be lifting heavy so that you’re giving your body a reason to keep that muscle.
What I typically do is I have percentages. I don’t want to quote exact percentages because I don’t want you to just go off my percentages, but I’ll typically have diets that are around 50% protein and maybe 30% fat and 20% carbohydrates. I might play with that a little bit and move the protein down a little bit to say 40% protein and 40% fat and 20% carbohydrates. I try to keep the fat really high and the protein really high and I’ll tell you why I try to do this.
There are 2 basic reasons here. Let’s look at first of all we don’t have many calories to play with here. I have 1800 calories a day. In order to get everything that I need to keep my muscle I have to be very conservative with what I spend the calories on. I want to spend a big chunk of calories on protein because I know that my body needs protein in order to maintain my muscle especially I have a pretty high muscle, I have a low body fat percentage so my body is going to need a lot of those amino acids and that protein to rebuild the muscle that I’m breaking down and to keep that.
The second part of this is the fat side. Fat is actually not so bad for you. It’s higher calories so you’re going to be perhaps able to eat less. You’re going to have more dense food, but eating the fats especially for a male is going to increase testosterone production. Rather if you don’t eat enough fat you’re going to have a lower testosterone. We want to have high testosterone because that’s going to help you to burn fat. It’s going to help you to be more lean. Testosterone does all kinds of good things for men, for women as well. We want to make sure that we keep our fat pretty high there. It’s also going to be very helpful for your joints when you’re lifting heavy weights. You’re on a calorie deficit, you don’t want to get injured so it’s definitely good to keep those fat levels high.
That’s my thinking. Carbohydrates don’t really do a lot for us but I do keep some in there. If you try to make your carbs go to low you’re going to be very cranky. You’re going to be very moody. It’s going to be very difficult to stay on the diet. I find by keeping the ratio, as long as I have high enough fat I feel better in general. I’m not just hungry. That seems to be the key thing so I can keep those carbs down a little bit lower.
What the next thing you need to calculate is what your percentage is. There are some diets where you could do equal portions like 33% protein, 33% fat, 33% carbohydrates. That’s probably okay. I’m just telling you what I do. You should think about this and figure out how you want your ratios to be.
Once you’ve got that figured out then you need to figure out the foods that you’re going to use to make those up. I try to keep with simple foods. Right now I am actually still doing the lean gains, the type of intermittent fasting. I’m only eating 2 or 3 meals a day. One of those meals being a protein shake when I left but I’m basically keeping things very simple so that it isn’t hard for me to create a diet.
Now I’ve done diets before in the past where I’ve eaten 6 or 7 meals in a day and that is hard especially if you’re trying to do all natural foods because you have to cook up those foods and your whole life becomes a diet. That’s not something that’s really practical unless you’re going to make a profession out of this. You’re going to train for a competition or a photo shoot like I’ve done before. It’s really going to be hard to stay motivated.
Here’s what I would recommend. Here’s what I am doing now that’s easy is keep it to simple foods. For protein and fat eggs are great. You can do lean meats like chicken or fish and then there are things like spinach or broccoli which are going to fill in a little bit of carbs. They’re going to be good type of carbohydrates for you to eat because they’re going to be high in fiber as well. They’re not going to be very many calories so you can fill up on those things. That’s going to give you more bulk to be able to eat which is going to help you to not be as hungry.
I also try to get things as instant as possible. I can cooks eggs in the microwave really easily. I can throw some cheddar cheese on there to add some fat in the right amount of calories that I need plus the eggs are a great protein source. For lunches I can do things like use some of the light can soups and put some spinach in there or some other vegetables to give it a little bit more bulk or throw some cottage cheese in there. Yeah, I know canned things are not quite the most healthy for you, they have high sodium, but hey, it’s as matter of convenience.
I also do frozen chicken breasts that are precooked like teriyaki chicken breast that I’m able to find from Sam’s Club or BJ’s out of some different grocery stores carry those here in the US and also turkey meatballs which again are very high protein and fat combination with very low carbs.
I pick those staple foods and maybe you have some staple foods that you like. I’d probably pick like 5 or 6 staple foods that you’re going to stick with some of those being vegetables, some of them being protein sources and some being fat or fat/protein sources and just divide those up in portions that you can. A lot of the foods that allow you to easily portion them up to adjust the calories in your content whether it be fat, carbs and protein are going to be really useful.
Figure out some of those basic foods and basic meals that you can cook with that and then make a couple of menus, a day A and day B or maybe a day A, day B, day C. I just have a day A and day B. I can do without the variety. The more variety that you throw in there the more difficult it’s going to be but it probably will be a little bit more interesting for you. You have to balance out do you prefer to have variety or ease. I tend to prefer on the ease side because I don’t like spending a lot of time cooking and preparing meals and thinking about that. It’s up to you to figure that out.
The other thing like I said is with my preparation I’m using a lot of frozen stuff now. It’s not fresh ingredients. Some people are really big on that. I haven’t found much of a big difference in my physique from doing frozen or fresh so I tend to go with frozen. For vegetables especially there’s definitely nothing wrong with going frozen. In fact, they’re better than fresh in a lot of cases because they’re actually flash frozen right when they’re picked so they actually are picked at ripeness and not shipped out early like you might find in a lot of grocery stores.
So we have the basics down here. This is a lot to cover here. Just to recap here, the first thing you’re going to do is to figure out what your BMR is. Use the calculator and then use the multiplier to figure out what it actually is. Once you have that BMR then you’re going to figure out what your deficit or surplus needs to be. We’ll talk about surplus in a little bit here, but let’s assume you’re losing fat or trying to lose weight. Figure out what your deficit is. Like I said, 1, 2 lbs, if you try to do too much more than that it’s going to be really crazy for you. You could add some cardio if you want to help with that, but again, don’t go too crazy. You’re going to fall off the wagon. You’re going to just eat a whole bag of Oreos and 2 cartons of ice cream in one night and that’s going to be like 10,000 calories. Try to be reasonable here.
Then you’re going to figure out what your macro ratios are and then you’re going to plan out your foods like that. Like I said, the number of meals doesn’t matter so much anymore unless you’re really tweaking it down to the minute details if you’re in a bodybuilding competition or something. If you’re that kind of person you already know for an average person 2 to 3 meals a day just to figure out your calories just try to make sure that you’re hitting that calorie and that macronutrient goal.
One quick tip I’ll throw in here. For example, I went to Miami to Code Camp and I knew that I’m not going to be able to stick to my original plan and I’m going to eat out or do something so I just skip breakfast and lunch for those days and left myself the full 1800 calories for dinner. Your body doesn’t really know the difference very much so that’s one—you won’t do that all the time but you can do that on certain day when you’re travelling or you know that you’re not going to be able to basically stick to your plan.
That’s fat loss. The same thing is going to apply for gaining muscle except that you’re going to be in a calorie surplus. Now you want to be in a clean surplus of calories. You don’t want to just eat as many calories as you want. You want to make sure that those calories are of quality, things that are going to actually help you build muscle.
Again, with gaining muscle it’s a lot like losing fat. You’re not going to be able to gain 5 lbs of muscle a week. In fact it’s going to be even smaller. It’s harder to gain muscle than it is to lose fat in general and you’re going to gain fat with it. Let’s say you wanted to gain perhaps somewhere around a pound of weight. Remember that may be 70% muscle and 30% fat or whatever it is. Let’s say you need a calorie surplus of 3500. Again, we know that that means that for every day we need to be in a calorie surplus of 500. You can do the math here and maybe for me if my base is about 3400 calories then I need to hit about 3800 calories. I’m going to estimate a little high here, I want to say, okay, well let’s make sure I hit 4000 calories just to make sure that I’m hitting my goal of eating enough calories if I’m trying to gain.
Now, notice I’m not jumping my calories up to 5 or 6000 calories. If I did that I would gain muscle, yes, but I would gain a large amount of fat with it. We want to gain mass slowly. We want to be careful especially if you’ve lost some weight and now you’re trying to gain some muscle. You want to dial that up slowly. See how many calories, what’s the least amount of calories, how slowly that you can gain so that you’re gaining mostly muscle and not fat. It can be real easy to let things go and let them slip and just eat a bunch of calories and then all of a sudden you gain all this fat.
That’s basically same strategy you’re going to do except the opposite side if you’re trying to gain muscle. Obviously you’re going to be in there in the gym lifting heavy because you need that in order to gain the muscle. When you plan out your meals it’s the same exact thing except you’re just increasing the portion sizes. This is one thing that you should keep in mind. Your diet for gaining muscle should look just like your diet for losing fat except it should be bigger portions. You should be eating the same foods, the same healthy foods. You shouldn’t be eating a bunch of cake and pizza and all this junk just because you’re going to calorie surplus, instead you should be eating the same clean types of foods that you would eat on a diet.
That’s it. That’s the basics. Hopefully you found this useful. If you have any questions don’t be afraid to ask. Just send me an email at email@example.com or just send them out on Twitter or on the blog or the Facebook here. Let me know what you think about this format. Like I said, I need some more ideas for episodes that can keep this going and for guests and things like that.
Good luck with your goals here. I just want to say this is a point where a lot of people drop off. We’re here at the end of February and a lot of people started out their New Year, “Yeah, I’m going to lift weights. I’m going to lose weight.” Got through January and towards February most gym memberships or gyms count on people petering out at this point. That’s okay. It’s going to happen but here’s the thing, here’s how you’re going to succeed is you’re going to get back on the horse. You’re going to keep going again and you’re not going to let a minor setback stop you. If you’ve messed up, if you’ve kind of given up now is the time to reboot, to reset again. Use this kind of information that I gave you in this episode to figure out—once you have your mind wrapped around how it works, how weight loss and weight gain works then you can be a little bit more motivated because you know you’re going to see results.
If you’re using these numbers, these numbers that I said here and you are following the diet and building a diet from this you’re going to see the results from it. I just started to lose weight. You’re going to have to adjust your numbers obviously because it changes how much you burn. The same thing if you gain weight. If you are doing this, science, mathematics, physics says that you will lose or gain weight if you’re on a surplus or deficit. You’ve got to give it enough time too. You want to give this at least a few weeks because you can have minor fluctuations between different days if you step on a scale.
Hopefully this is useful to you and I will talk to you again next week. Take care.