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America loves dieting. Whether it’s a paleo, keto, vegan or the Mediterranean diet. Everyone is always about the new “fad diet” and believe that it is the best nutrition plan for them. Here’s the thing. They don’t almost NEVER give you the proper nutrition you need for your goals.

When people start one of these popular diets, they think they can just eat whatever they want in unlimited amounts as long as it fits in rules of the diet.

However, most of these diets DO help people get better nutrition overall. They just never get the number of calories and macronutrients correct to supercharge their goals. Let alone ever start a proper training routine to work with their “magic” nutrition plan.

Furthermore, whenever people think of getting healthier and changing their body, they mostly think of just the fitness aspect. The actual training is vital to build muscle and lose fat, no doubt about it. Nutrition and diet are the other side of the coin that is just as, if not more important!.

When I first started my fitness journey it didn’t take me long to figure out that my nutrition directly affected my performance and ability to build muscle.

It has taken me years of trial and error and experience to really get the hang of the type of diet and nutrition that works for me. I continue to experiment with my nutrition to find out what best helps me build muscle and lose fat faster.

I’ve been doing this for over 10 years and am still finding out how well my body responds to certain nutrition habits.

In this nutrition guide, we will cover proper nutrition for gaining strength, building muscle, losing fat. They are all directly related. You can use the helpful information in this guide to start utilizing a proper diet to build muscle and lose fat. You can change your body forever using the information on this page.

The fitness industry has complicated nutrition to confuse its consumers to market meal plans, training routines and supplements. It does not need to be that complicated. You can drastically change your body and improve your performance by changing your nutrition and the amount you consume.

Read on to learn what YOUR best nutrition plan will be based on your own goals. You will also see that a nutrition plan that manages your calorie and macronutrient intake can be the best and easiest way to the results you want.

This is a hefty yet helpful guide. Let’s begin!

Track Calories In Your Daily Nutrition

meal planning

Almost everyone has heard of calories and that you need to watch how many you eat in your nutrition plan in order to build muscle and/or lose fat. Calories are a unit of measure that tells you an estimated amount of energy that particular food could give your body.

Think of calories sort of like gasoline for a car. Your body is the car and calories (that comes from food) are the fuel that power it.

The number of calories needed will vary wildly from person to person. One person could need 2000 calories a day and another could need 4000 a day. It all depends on the individual’s goals, activity levels, size and metabolism.

Let’s look into how many you will need in your nutrition plan to lose fat or build muscle.

Calculate your Nutrition Numbers

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) are extremely helpful tools when figuring out how much to eat for your goals.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

BMR is the amount of energy (calories) your body needs to function and does not factor in any activity whatsoever. It is how much energy your body burns in 24 hours if you stayed still.

You can figure out your BMR with a mathematical equation using the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation. Here it is:

BMR = 10 x weight (in kilograms) + 6.25 x height (in centimeters) – 5 x age (in years) + 5

Let’s see how it looks for me as an example:

  • 10 x 90.718kg +6.25 x 187.96cm – 5 x 30 + 5= 1936.93
    • First you can use Google in a new tab to find out your info in kilograms and centimeters.
    • Then you plug in your numbers and do the multiplication first. (Ex. 907.18 + 1174.75 – 150 + 5)
    • Then just do the addition and finally subtraction and your good!
 

Use your phone’s calculator to do it in a couple minutes or less.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

lose fat and build muscle

This number is exactly what is sounds like. This is the total amount of energy (calories) you burn in 24 hours.

This your BMR and the amount of energy you exert through activity in a total number.

To calculate your TDEE you need to know your BMR which we just did. It is more complicated to find out the additional energy you’re burning through activity but luckily for you I have done the research for you.

I have found the most effective method that I have used to alter my diet and build muscle and lose fat the fastest I ever have! So, I know firsthand that it is accurate and effective.

You can find your number of calories burned in a couple ways, like trackers on your phone and exercise machines, but they are pretty inaccurate. By all means use them if you please, but know that they generally over estimate your energy expelled.

The most accurate way is with another equation. We are after the best way to make ourselves better right?! You can also use a TDEE calculator to get similar numbers but honestly they are pretty generic.

Most TDEE calculators on the internet use the Katch-McArdle formula.

However, I have found and used this modified formula through research and experimenting and it has been the best for me in terms of results!

This formula uses your BMR and multiplies it by slightly modified “activity multipliers” corresponding to a given activity level.

The following slightly modified list of activity multipliers has worked great for me. You just plug in the numbers that best fit you:

  • Your BMR x 1.15 = Little to no exercise.
  • BMR x 1.2 to 1.35 = 1 to 3 hours of exercise or sports per week
  • Your BMR x 1.4 to 1.55 = 4 to 6 hours of exercise or sports per week
  • BMR x 1.6 to 1.75 = 7 to 9 hours of exercise or sports per week
  • Your BMR x 1.8 to 1.95 = 10 plus hour of exercise or sports per week
 

These won’t give an exact amount of energy burned on a particular day since every day varies so much. They will be an accurate estimate of the average amount of energy you burn on any given day and that is good enough for what we are after.

Here is a TDEE as an example: 1936.93 x 1.65 = 3195.94

How Many Calories Do I Need In My Nutrition Plan?

Nutrition for strength

In my experience, this is the best way to explain how it works when trying to tell someone how to change their body composition and set up a nutrition plan.

You just need to think about how many calories are going into your body in relation to how many are being burned off throughout the day.

This is referred to the “calories in versus calories out” idea. It will help you grasp the big picture of manipulating your nutrition to build muscle and lose fat.

It puts it into really simple terms because in all actuality changing your body with your nutrition is pretty simple to grasp. Just try and see past the fitness industry’s marketing traps and be willing to accept that it takes patience, discipline and hard work.

The industry will attempt to make you believe that you need a certain product or meal plan or workout routine in order to succeed quickly. Which is true to some degree and some genuinely help, but you can drastically build muscle and lose fat with only proper nutrition and exercise.

Furthermore, if we are aiming to lose fat, we need to think about taking in less calories in our nutrition plan than we are burning. This leads the body to use some of the stored energy (fat) as fuel to get through the workouts and your day.

In contrast, if you want to gain muscle then you need to consume slightly more calories than you’re burning over time. Your body will use the extra energy that is consumed to pack on the pounds. Set up a correct nutrition plan and you will gain minimal fat along the way.

Generally speaking, I find it is easiest to find your “maintenance” number of calories first. This is the amount your body needs to just function and stay alive with the activity levels you do currently. This is not taking your goals into account unless it is to maintain your current weight.

Without being too redundant, this is what we just did earlier. So, go back and get your BMR and TDEE numbers if you skipped them! (Hint: your TDEE is your maintenance calories). You can also use the calorie counter on this page if you need to speed things up a little bit.

Once you find out your estimated maintenance calories (the same as your TDEE), you can then use that number to estimate how many calories you need in your diet to either lose fat, build muscle or maintain weight.

Odds are you are here to change your body so we will start with losing fat.

Use a Caloric Deficit to Lose Fat

lose fat

You need to eat less calories than you’re burning to lose body fat. This is called putting your body into a caloric deficit and is known as cutting.

If you are aiming to lose fat, you need to think about taking in less calories than you are burning off throughout the day. This leads the body to use some of its already stored energy (fat) as fuel to get through your day and workouts.

Although, if you put your body in too much of a caloric deficit you will lose weight fast, but a lot of it will be muscle and not just fat. That’s not a good thing for strength and performance and if you want to build more muscle.

We want to lose fat as fast as possible while still minimizing muscle and strength loss. We also want to minimize the fatigue that comes with cutting.

To do this, the best way I have found through research and in my experience is with an aggressive approach but not over the top. A caloric deficit of about 25% is what I have used recently with lots of success.

Eating about 75% of your TDEE is the magic number to cut fat fast while keeping your muscles. This can equal close to 10 to 12 calories per pound of body weight for a lot of people.

Studies have shown that this works very well for both fat loss and for muscle preservation when used with a good strength training routine and a lot of protein in your diet which we will cover shortly.

Here is a snap shot of the macronutrient breakdown I have used with great success with cutting if you can’t wait until I break it down further:

  • 40% of calories from protein
  • 40% of calories from carbohydrates
  • 20% of calories from quality fats
 

That is a cutting cycle put in a straight forward and concise way. It works great and is not over complicated! I have just completed a phase of cutting and I went from 17%-19% of body fat down to 12% body fat faster than you would think.

Now let’s look at bulking and how to do it properly.

Use a Caloric Surplus to Build Muscle

build muscle while training for hypertrophy

Again, using the idea of calories in versus calories out. You need to take in slightly more calories in your diet than you are burning over time to build muscle. This allows your body to use that extra energy to steadily gain muscle over time.

To gain weight/muscle you need to eat more calories than your maintenance amount. This is called a caloric surplus.

When you consume more calories your, body optimizes its muscle building hormones, boosts protein synthesis and increases your overall performance.

Your body adapts to use the excess calories to fuel the muscle building mechanism it has become especially if you are on a good strength training routine.

If you are interested in how strength training can benefit you, then read my ultimate guide to building strength. You can apply your new nutrition plan to build more muscle, lose more fat (or both) and make the most progress you ever have!

Anyways, if you eat too much over your maintenance calories you will gain muscle but you will also gain more unnecessary fat as well. A lot of people do this thinking they will make serious gains. You can but you will gain more fat than you probably want.

Research has shown that there is a point when eating too many calories over your TDEE only adds additional body fat and no extra muscle. So just gorging on all the food does not add endless muscle with no fat.

So, at what point should you stop with the calories to gain the most amount of muscle with as little fat as possible?

Through my research and experience, I have found that eating about 10 to 15 percent over your TDEE is a good place to be. So about 110% -115% of your TDEE will give you the total amount of calories to consume.

As an example, for me it is 3195 x 1.10 (110%) = 3514.5.

I have been using this calculation while writing this article and have noticed great results. Having just come off of the cutting phase described earlier, I have noticed a large increase in my strength and performance since starting this clean bulking phase. I have also noticed some muscle gain but zero noticeable fat gain.

In addition, it is worth mentioning that I have upwards of 15 years of strength training and weight lifting experience. This means that gains and progress come A LOT slower to me than to someone just starting their fitness journey. I have already made the initial gains that the first 6 months to a year of training allow.

This initial period, known as the “newbie gains”, is a great time for someone just starting out. You can get away with a little higher calorie intake for the first 3-6 months of serious training effort. You will still gain some fat but the amount of muscle you will gain will be worth it.

People in this position could use 115-120% of your TDEE for a few months. The choice is yours! Just know that some fat might be added as well. Then you can just follow cutting guidelines we covered afterwards and get ripped to show all that muscled you earned!

If you can’t wait to get started on completing your nutrition plan, here is a snap shot of the macronutrient ratios you can follow for your clean bulking phase:

  • 25% of calories should be from protein.
  • 55% of calories should be from carbohydrates.
  • 20% of calories should be from fats.
 

So that is that! When it comes to calorie intake and gaining muscle it’s just as easy (it is definitely easier) than cutting fat!

Next, we will briefly talk about your calorie intake for maintaining your current weight then we will get into your proper macronutrient amounts.

Maintaining Your Current Weight

lose weight from strength training

I know I said that it was best to figure out your maintenance calories first and I meant that. In order to figure out your calorie and macronutrient numbers to start a proper cutting or bulking phase you need to know your maintenance calories which is your TDEE (the baseline for all our calculations.

However, I should say that you should not begin this phase until you done several cycles of cutting and bulking until you have reached the physique that you want.

On the other hand, if you are fully satisfied with your body composition then this is the appropriate nutrition phase to maintain that physique.

Otherwise, start with a cutting phase and get yourself down to 12-15% body fat before transitioning over to a clean bulking phase. Do this until you get to where you want to be and then just maintain it.

When you are completing these phases and start to see the results, (you will faster than you think), it is an amazing feeling of power and control over your own body and your life.

I cannot explain the sense of accomplishment you will feel when you look in the mirror at the end of a good cutting phase and see what you have created. It really boosts your confidence in yourself.

There are two approaches to maintaining your current weight and body:

  1. You can eat the same amount every day. This is whatever your TDEE is. It is probably the simplest approach because you can plug in whatever foods fit your calorie and macronutrient needs and just keep at that every day.
  2. You could also eat more on your workout days and then equally eat less on your fewer active days. Although this would require more work and you should figure out your TDEE using the calculations we learned for those individual days and use them accordingly. It is more work but may give you a more diverse diet to eat.
 

Both approaches can be good but I prefer the first option because it is much easier to set up and follow. I love the food I choose to eat so I don’t mind eating it regularly.

The first method means that you will technically be in a caloric deficit one day and a surplus the other. They will balance each other out in the long run so it will work out to just about even by the end of the week.

The second option gets more into calorie cycling and that is for another article and much more advanced. However, it can be a good option for people who have drastically different days in terms of activity levels throughout the week.

For the sake of this article, we will only break down the first option.

Most of the work is already taken care of. Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is your daily calorie goal to consume. All you need to do is figure out your macronutrient goals and that’s it.

You can use your TDEE number to calculate your macro needs. Here is a snapshot of the macro ratios you can use for a maintenance phase:

  • 25-30% of calories should be from protein
  • 40% of calories should be from carbohydrates
  • 25-30% of calories should be from good quality fats
 

You should adjust protein and fat intake within those percentages to equal 100%.

That is it for your calorie intake! I know it was a lot to take in. Just take it one step at a time and find your starting point. You can then move on to the next step and it will all make sense once you have your set numbers and start following your new diet.

Now that you know your estimated caloric amounts, you can use that information to help put your results on the fast track!

Next, we will move onto macronutrients. These are the nutrients that make up calories so read on to see more!

Macronutrient Needs in your Nutrition Plan

how to gain weight with a fast metabolism

We talked before about how calorie intake is the main component to changing your body composition. This is true.

However, your macronutrient breakdown and the amounts you eat also play a huge role to what your body looks like and is very important to our goals.

Macronutrients (“macros”) are nutrients that humans need in larger amounts to survive. For nutrition and planning meals, we all know these are protein, carbohydrates and fats.

A dieting method called “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) relies on adjusting your macronutrient intake based off your needs and has been very successful for a lot of people. It is part of what we are using here with the addition of manipulating calorie amounts to better gain muscle without fat.

Calories and macros together have an overwhelming influence on your body composition and taking control of both of them can get you into phenomenal shape.

It also allows you to enjoy “cheat meals” fairly often, as long as you are sticking to your calorie and macro intake numbers. This is why you see pictures of ripped guys and girls eating huge amount of junk foods at times.

Let’s get into it!

Protein Intake in your Nutrition

protein for recovery

Protein is by far the most important macronutrient, especially if your workout.

No nutrition plan is perfect, but one that is will be high in protein. Multiple studies over such a long span of time have confirmed that it is better than a low protein diet.

A diet that is high in protein shows that people can:

 

  • Gain more muscle.
  • Burn more calories.
  • Lose fat faster.
  • Build stronger bones.
  • Be hungry less often.
  • And so much more.
 

Your body increases its demand for protein when you work out regularly. This makes protein our number one priority when it comes to figuring out our macros.

Whether you’re trying to gain muscle by doing a clean bulking phase or lose fat through a cutting phase, protein is super important.

Lots of protein is required when you are cutting because it will help you to keep all of the muscle that you earned. It preserves it while you are cutting and you will lose minimal muscle when cutting on a high protein regimen.

Surprisingly, you do not need as much protein when you are trying to pack on muscle with minimal fat gain. It is still very important to building muscle however.

We need to eat a lot of protein but what about exactly how much in our nutrition?

If you are going to start a cutting phase you want a minimum of 1 gram of protein per body weight and up to 1.25 grams. This worked FLAWLESSLY for me on my last cutting phase.

If you are going to bulk up, a protein intake of about 1 gram per body weight is a good place to be. You could go down to 0.8 grams/lb. of body weight as well.

Keep in mind of you are overweight then this will not give you appropriate numbers for your intake. Using percentages of your total daily calorie intake based on your goals is more accurate like I mentioned earlier in the article.

Let’s set our protein intake for our goals.

Protein Needs for Cutting, Bulking and Maintaining

protein for strength training

Now that you have your daily calories figured out for your own needs, let’s get your protein intake set using your total daily calories.

The percentages I have mentioned earlier are what I have used with GREAT success.

  • Roughly 40% of your daily calories should come from protein during a cutting phase.
  • Only 25% of your daily calories should be from protein when you are on a clean bulking phase.
  • About 30% of your daily calories should be from protein when you are just maintaining.
 

Protein contains roughly 4 calories per gram so we will use this to calculate your needs.

I will use a 2000 calorie daily calorie goal as an example. All you have to do is the following steps:

Cutting
  1. Multiply your daily calorie intake by 40%. (2000 x 0.4 = 800 calories).
  2. Divide the rest by 4 to figure out your daily protein intake. (800 / 4 = 200 grams of protein).
Bulking
  1. Multiply your daily calorie intake by 25%. (2000 x 0.25 = 500 calories).
  2. Divide the rest by 4 to figure out your daily protein intake. (500 / 4 = 125 grams of protein).
Maintaining
  1. Multiply your daily calorie intake by 30%. (2000 x 0.3 = 600 calories).
  2. Divide the rest by 4 to figure out your daily protein intake. (600 / 4 = 150 grams of protein).
 

Just plug in your daily calorie total and the appropriate percentage based on the phase you are going to begin. Then divide that result by 4 and you will have your protein intake.

You can do these calculations in seconds on your phone’s calculator. I suggest writing them down so you can clearly see all your numbers to hit each day.

It’s as simple as that. Now you have your protein intake for whichever phase you are going to start.

Foods to Eat for Protein

Quality protein can come from multiple sources, including supplementation. Here is a list of protein sources that I eat:

  • Grass fed lean beef (Sirloin tip, Top round, Eye of round, Bottom round)
  • Wild caught fish (Salmon, tuna, etc.)
  • Boneless/skinless free-range Chicken (Breast and thighs)
  • Turkey and lean ground turkey
  • Cage free eggs (whole and/or whites)
  • Greek yogurt and Icelandic skyr yogurt (Plain/Vanilla)
  • Protein powder
  This is not an exhaustive list but rather a list that I currently consume.

Now that you have protein squared away, let’s look into carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates In Your Nutrition

calories for muscle recovery

Carbs are probably the most controversial and misunderstood macronutrient.

With a surge in low-carb diets people are led to believe that carbohydrates are all bad for you. This is far from the truth.

It is well known that nutrition is very important to optimize results. We just spent this entire article discussing how getting enough calories will grow muscle, eating fewer calories will burn fat.

The focus of what we talked about was how consuming enough protein will build larger muscles and preserve them when you cut fat.

But what about carbs? Some people despise them and some worship them. Are carbs a great fuel source for hard training or a sure fat gain indulgence? What is the truth? Carbs are a huge and indispensable advantage to hard-training athletes, including those that want to better their endurance, add size, or get leaner.

How Carbs Work in the Body

gain weight with fast metabolism

The science behind how carbohydrates help your body is extensive and deserves an article of its own and will not be covered here. The key takeaway, carbs are fuel for our bodies and we need them to perform at our best.

Since carbohydrates are so “controversial” I want to clear the air a bit with carbs. I will share the absolute basics on how they work in the body.

Carbs are produced almost exclusively by plants and found mostly in plant foods. Carbs provide about 4 calories per gram.

When humans ingest any kind of carbs, they undergo an extensive process of digestion and absorption. They are finally converted into glucose (sugar) if not ingested as glucose already. All eaten carbs pass through the liver and are mostly either converted to glucose and sent out into the blood or stored in the liver as glycogen (linked together glucose molecules that are stored for later use).

The glucose that isn’t stored is sent out into the body via the bloodstream. Glucose fuels all the cells in the body. The nervous system and brain cells are always craving glucose to fuel them and they control the skeletal muscles. These systems prefer glucose as a fuel source over protein or fat as a fuel and work much better when glucose levels are higher.

Finally, when the muscles take in blood glucose, they can use this fuel to power muscle activity and repair. Muscle stores glucose that arrives from the blood as glycogen right there in the fibers much like in the liver. This is good because glycogen can fuel the muscles much faster than blood glucose can.

In summary, carbs get eaten and then broken down into glucose and glycogen. These are preferred fuel sources for the brain and nervous system and they both fuel the muscles themselves. The muscles receive glucose from the blood and store it in their fibers as glycogen, which fuels the muscle much more rapidly than glucose from the blood. End result, much more energy for the muscles leading to much higher sports performance.

That’s a brief rundown of how carbs fuel your body. The advantages to consuming carbs are abundant if you train hard and regularly. Some of the are:

  • Higher training intensity
  • Quicker recovery between your sets
  • Better recovery between workouts
  • Ability to keep up the intensity during a long workout
  • Higher training volume capability
  • Carbs play an anti-catabolic (muscle breakdown) role and an anabolic (muscle building) role when consumed before, during and after workouts.
 

Now that we have talked about how carbs work and their benefits, let’s get into actually how much you’re going to need for your goals.

Carbohydrate Needs for Cutting, Bulking and Maintaining

macros for muscle recovery

If your physically active and healthy you will most likely be much better off with carbs in your nutrition. Especially if you lift weights in particular.

Carbs can help you both gain muscle and lose fat faster. As we discussed, carbs fuel your muscles and your workout intensity which leads to more muscle gained and more fat lost over time.

What amount of carbs is good for me to have better results?

There isn’t a blanket answer for everyone but the consensus is that about 1-3 grams per pound of body weight works for most. However, you want to be more accurate to assure results for your own goals, right?

  • Roughly 40% of your daily calories should come from carbs during a cutting phase.
  • About 55% of your daily calories should be from carbs when you are on a clean bulking phase.
  • Nearly 45% of your daily calories should be from carbs when you are just maintaining.
 

Carbohydrates contain roughly 4 calories per gram so we will use this to calculate your needs.

Again, I will use a 2000 calorie daily calorie goal as just an example. All you have to do is the following steps:

Cutting
  1. Multiply your daily calorie intake by 40%. (2000 x 0.4 = 800 calories).
  2. Divide the rest by 4 to figure out your daily carb intake. (800 / 4 = 200 grams of carbs).
Bulking
  1. Multiply your daily calorie intake by 55%. (2000 x 0.55 = 1100 calories).
  2. Divide the rest by 4 to figure out your daily carb intake. (1100 / 4 = 275 grams of carbs).
Maintaining
  1. Multiply your daily calorie intake by 45%. (2000 x 0.45 = 900 calories).
  2. Divide the rest by 4 to figure out your daily carb intake. (900 / 4 = 225 grams of carbs).
 

Just plug in your daily calorie total and the appropriate percentage based on the phase you are going to begin. Then divide that result by 4 and you will have your carbohydrate intake.

Like I have said before, you can do these calculations in seconds on your phone’s calculator. I suggest writing them down so you can clearly see all your numbers to hit each day.

Now you have your carb intake for whichever phase you are going to start.

Foods to Eat for Carbohydrates

carbs for strength training

Quality carbs will come from primarily plant sources. The best in my opinion is going to be from natural whole foods that are unprocessed.

Here is a list of the sources of carbs I eat and believe are best:

  • All fruits (Bananas, Apples, Etc.)
  • All vegetables (Brussels, Broccoli, Etc.)
  • Sweet potatoes/Yams
  • Oatmeal/Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Greek/Icelandic Skyr Yogurt.
  • Whole grain bread
  • Potatoes (Red, Gold, Russet, Etc.)
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
 

There are other sources of carbs that you can utilize as well. This is just a list of my choices.

It is generally best to eat your carbs surrounding your workout sessions. There is the whole topic of Carb Timing, but that is for another article and is more advanced in nature.

That is carbohydrates in a nutshell. There are more in-depth topics on carb consumption alone. Carb Timing and Carb Cycling are more advanced methods of consuming carbs you can feel free to read about.

Let’s move into our fat consumption to wrap up our macronutrient intake.

Fat Intake In Your Nutrition

fats for nutrition

Fats are probably the most underappreciated macronutrient in your nutrition. I mean its fat. Why eat the same thing we are trying to avoid gaining, right?

Wrong.

Society and mainstream dieting practices have praised low fat diets and fat free products, leading everyone to believe that fats will make you fat.

The fact is that dietary fats offer numerous health benefits for humans. There are also many different types of fats that affect the body differently.

Fats help the body absorb vitamins. They are used to create various hormones and they help keep your skin and hair healthy. That is not all either.

What is Fat and the Different Types?

Let’s talk briefly about what fat is and the types of fat there are so we can somewhat understand how they work for us. This will also help us determine how much fat we need daily.

Fat is found in two different types in food. They are called triglycerides and cholesterol.

Triglycerides are in the bulk of our fat intake and are in a wide variety of foods. Cholesterol is scarcer and you have more than likely heard that it is bad for you and can cause heart problems.

I won’t go far into cholesterol in this article but we now know that it is not that simple. Two “types” of cholesterol exist and one is known to be good and the other bad.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) can increase heart disease from fat accumulation in your arteries. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are known as “good” because it helps remove cholesterol from the body.

There are also many different forms that dietary fat can take:

  • Saturated fats are solid at room temperature (meat, dairy, eggs, bacon, etc.)
  • Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature (olive oil, avocado, nuts and fish)
    • Monounsaturated fats solidify when cooled (nuts, peanut/olive oil, avocado)
    • Polyunsaturated fats stay liquified and think omega-3’s and omega- 6’s (sesame/sunflower seeds, corn, nuts and their oils)

  • Trans Fat is the BAD fat and a type on unsaturated fat. It’s mostly manufactured and should be eliminated from our diets. (in most processed foods and naturally occurs in some meats and dairy which is not as bad)
 

Now that we have briefly shed light on dietary fat, let’s get into our intake for our goals.

Fat Needs for Cutting, Bulking and Maintaining

So, we looked at what fat is and what types there are. How much do we eat if we are trying to get stronger and in better shape?

In my research and experience most active people, myself included, are going to do best with a high protein, high carb and moderate fat intake. Think around 20% of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) depending on your diet phase.

You will hear so many different opinions on how much to eat. I can tell you from personal experience that this amount has worked for me FLAWLESSLY.

So how much dietary fat should I eat for each phase?

0.3 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight is a general recommendation. But let’s talk about actual percentages.

  • Only 20% of your daily calories should come from healthy fats during a cutting phase.
  • Roughly 20% of your daily calories should be from healthy fats when you are on a clean bulking phase.
  • About 25-30% of your daily calories should be from healthy fats when you are just maintaining.
 

Fats contain roughly 9 calories per gram so we will use this to calculate your needs.

Again, I will use a 2000 calorie daily calorie goal as just an example. All you have to do is the following steps to find your fat intake for the phase you want to start:

Cutting
  1. Multiply your daily calorie intake by 20%. (2000 x 0.2 = 400 calories).
  2. Divide the rest by 9 to figure out your daily fat intake. (400 / 9 = roughly 44 grams of fat).
Bulking
  1. Multiply your daily calorie intake by 20%. (2000 x 0.2 = 400 calories).
  2. Divide the rest by 9 to figure out your daily fat intake. (400 / 9 = roughly 44 grams of fat).
Maintaining
  1. Multiply your daily calorie intake by 25%. (2000 x 0.25 = 500 calories).
  2. Divide the rest by 9 to figure out your daily fat intake. (500 / 9 = 55.5 grams of fat).
 

Just plug in your daily calorie total and the appropriate percentage based on the phase you are going to begin. Then divide that result by 9 and you will have your daily fat intake.

Like I have said before, you can do these calculations in seconds on your phone’s calculator. I suggest writing them down so you can clearly see all your numbers to hit each day.

Now you have your daily fat intake for whichever phase you are going to start. But what about what fats to eat when there are so many types?

Foods to Eat With Healthy Fats

food for muscle recovery

Dietary fats come from a lot of different foods. Natural whole food sources that are unprocessed are going to be the go-to for all your foods, especially fat sources.

Some of the foods I eat for fats, I also eat for protein. Here is a recommended list of foods with high quality fats:

  • Grass fed lean beef (sirloin tip, top round, eye of round, bottom round)
  • Wild caught fish (salmon, halibut, etc.)
  • Boneless/skinless free-range Chicken (breast and thighs)
  • Cage free whole eggs
  • Nuts and nut butters/oils
  • Avocados
  • Olives/olive oil
  • Higher fat dairy
  • Coconut oil
 

There are other sources of good fats out there but this is some of the stuff I have eaten in the past to satisfy my daily fat needs.

This is a somewhat low-moderate fat intake. If you want to eat more fats you can also do so. Just be sure to adjust your calorie and macro numbers accordingly. Also be sure that you have a high protein intake and are making good progress!

That wraps up fat intake and macronutrients! Let’s talk about supplementation!

Supplementing Your Nutrition to Build Muscle and Lose Fat

best pre-workout for men

First things first. I will only very briefly talk about nutritional supplements. This topic needs its own article to fully cover. However, it is a part of good nutrition in the fitness world so let’s take a look.

Supplements aren’t nearly as important as some people would have you believe. The fitness industry has hyped them up to make sales to desperate people wanting results. The marketing gimmicks can also be very enticing.

The first thing you need to accept is that you don’t need supplements. Absolutely none of them are needed for reaching your goals of losing fat, gaining muscle or building strength. This might be a hard pill to swallow (pun intended) but it is the truth nonetheless.

They not required for your success. If anyone tells your otherwise, they are most likely going to try and sell you a magic pill or powder that will help you gain 20lbs of muscle in 30 days. That sound familiar?

Although, the right ones can help speed up your results. Even so, they are supplementing your diet which is the core of what will get you the results you are after.

That being said, you should consider including some of the effective supplements in addition to your nutrition because research has proven they can help you build muscle and lose fat faster.

They can also boost workout performance, post-workout recovery, and improve your general health and well-being.

Here are some of the most popular supplements that people use. We will look at them and analyze their effectiveness:

  • Protein powders
  • Pre workout boosters
  • Fish oil
  • Multivitamins
  • Vitamin D
  • Fat burners
  • Creatine
 

I’ll briefly break these down to give an overview of the most effective supplements.

Protein Powder

Protein powder is probably the most popular supplement around. With good reason too. It is extremely convenient for a quick 20-30 grams of protein. Most also have added BCAA’s (branched-chained amino acids) included in them.

Whey protein is probably the king of protein powders. There are many other types but that is for another article.

Whey protein is the most popular and gets the job done with the best bang for your buck.

I feel that a good protein powder will follow certain criteria. It should need to meet these to be worth spending your hard-earned money on:

  1. It should be pretty affordable. Some are wildly overpriced and aren’t sustainable to keep buying unless you want to and make a good amount of cash.
  2. It should be high in protein and low in carbs, fats and calories. It should also have a good dose of amino acids.
  3. Lastly, it should taste okay at the very least. It shouldn’t be something you force down. However, I find it necessary to avoid any that have artificial sweeteners, dyes and other chemicals that aren’t natural. This is good practice for anything you consume. I opt for plain/unflavored whenever possible.
 

I recommend looking at a whey protein supplement if you decide to use a protein powder. It is great for muscle building. My go-to brand is Legion Athletics.

Again I know times are tough right now so you can get by without it. It might be cheaper than some meat though.

Pre-Workout

Pre-workout is a supplement that’s meant to be taken before your workout to boost your performance and workout intensity.

Typically, the ingredients are a mix of stimulants, like caffeine, and other substances that boost strength and endurance and reduce fatigue.

Many companies boast their product’s “proprietary blends”. These supposedly unique combinations of ingredients you can’t find elsewhere.

They are just a marketing gimmick to get you to overpriced buy their product. These blends do no show the amounts of whatever ingredients are in them. That means you cannot verify if they are effective doses.

The three most effective ingredients in a pre-workout supplement are caffeine, beta-alanine, and L-citrulline malate according to research and multiple studies.

Although, there are other ingredients that are beneficial that a lot of companies include. Yet most never seem to get the effective dosing for performance gains on actual people.

Just because a pre-workout supplement contains effective ingredients doesn’t mean it’ll improve your performance—it also needs to contain the full, clinically effective doses of those ingredients. Legion Athletics products do just that.

 

Fish Oil

Fish oil is a great supplement for your overall health. I have not fully taken advantage of this supplement in the past when I definitely should have.

Fish oil is oil that is obtained from salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies.

Fish oil supplements are around because they’re a very good source of two nutrients that we need. They are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

EPA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids and our bodies can’t produce them on their own. Which is why they’re so beneficial for you to take.

Studies show that the average person’s diet provides just a fraction of the EPA and DHA needed to preserve health and prevent disease. This is concerning because studies show that low EPA and DHA intake can increase the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.

Although, when EPA and DHA intake is too low, increasing it can benefit you in many ways, including:

  • Elevated mood (lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress)
  • Higher cognitive performance (memory, attention, and reaction time)
  • Less muscle and joint soreness
  • Faster fat loss
  • Slow fat gain
  • Faster muscle gain

You can find fish oil supplements at your local grocery or drug store or at Legion. I recommend adding to your regimen.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has always been known as the vitamin to take for your bones. This is true but research has found that it does a lot more than just aid in bone health.

Studies have shown all body tissue and cells in the body have vitamin D receptors. This includes your heart, brain, and even fat cells. This shows us that vitamin D plays a large role in a large number of processes in the body.

We cannot make vitamin D on our own. We have to get it from food, the sun or supplementation. Depending on your lifestyle, location and diet, it might be hard for you to get enough for your own body’s needs.

This is why I recommend supplementing with vitamin D. It is pretty cheap and can do a lot for your health and wellbeing.

Multivitamins

In a perfect world, we should get everything we need from the food we eat. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, as we all know. Most people tend to be deficient in a number of nutrients. This is due to the bad eating habits that people have on a general scale.

Even “healthy diets” like vegan or keto can leave holes in your nutritional needs. Our bodies need a variety of vitamins and minerals to help all the vital growing and repairing our body does to keep us alive and functioning.

A multivitamin can help to bring up any of these deficiencies and can help you to feel a lot better in day-to-day life.

Make sure you eat plenty of nutritious fruits and vegetables and you will get most of the vitamins and minerals that you need. It is best to get all you can from a good diet.

If you find that you are deficient in something either take a supplement to aid in that particular deficiency, or if there are many, I recommend a quality multivitamin that actually has everything that you need and nothing you don’t like. I love Legion’s product.

Fat Burners

Like I stated at the beginning of this section, NO amount of weight loss pills and powders are going to make you lean. It takes pretty strict adherence to a proper diet that is regulated by calorie intake and macronutrient intake. Period.

However, if you know how to remain disciplined to proper dieting and exercise, there are a few supplements that can accelerate fat loss for you.

In my experience, and my own research, proper fat loss supplements can increase fat loss by about 30 to 50 percent with few side effects. They can also help get rid of the “stubborn” body fat that is hard to shed off, like lower back fat.

There are many fat burners out there but here are some of the ingredients that are effective for fat loss:

There are others out there but they may not be as effective or as safe for you to use. Any quality fat burner will have these three ingredients in it and I recommend one, especially if you are beginning a cutting phase. Just remember that it is no substitute for a proper diet.

*Update: Be careful taking Yohimbine. It can have nasty side effects on people who are sensitive to it.*

Creatine Monohydrate

If you look at all of the workout supplements on the market today, creatine stands out as one of the absolute best.

It is the most well-researched supplement in all of sports nutrition. Creatine has been the subject of hundreds of scientific studies and the benefits are clear:

  • Creatine helps you build muscle faster.
  • It helps you get stronger.
  • Creatine improves your endurance.
  • It improves muscle recovery.

The main thing is it does all these things naturally and safely that has been proven through years and years of studying and use in the public.

Creatine is a natural molecule that is produced in the body and found in foods like meat, eggs, and fish.

When you supplement with additional creatine, your total body creatine stores increase. Most of it is stored in your muscle cells and is essentially energy that is ready to be utilized. Your performance is enhanced when your muscle cells have significantly higher levels of readily available energy.

A lot of people discredit creatine because they’ve heard it makes you bloated. This used to be a problem a long time ago, but the processing methods have been improving over the years so it no longer an issue with today’s creatine supplements. If you get a quality product you shouldn’t notice much bloating when you supplement with creatine.

Creatine comes in many forms like creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester, buffered creatine, and some others. 

When deciding on what to take, do not listen to all of the hype surrounding creatine products. The original creatine supplement is creatine monohydrate and it is bar none the best. It’s the most researched form by which all others are judged, and it’s the best bang for your buck.

It deserves a full article of its own so I will leave it at that for now. I recommend creatine monohydrate supplement if you are engaging in any sort of strength training regimen.

It only has the purest creatine monohydrate and two other ingredients that are scientifically proven to help you recover faster and build more muscle.

And that’s that for supplements! These are some good suggestions to start. Check out Legion Athletics for some great products and SAVE 20% off your first order! Now let’s set up a diet for you!

Setting Up Your Nutrition Plan

Nutrition for strength

Now you can start setting up your meal plan to fit you daily calorie and macronutrient needs. The best way to go about this is to use something that can track all of the foods that you are eating.

An app like myFitnessPal works great and it is what I use. You can use the free version and set your calorie and macro goals.

Once you have whatever your method you choose to use to track everything set and ready to go, begin to fill out one day of meals.

Be sure to use foods that you like to eat, can afford and have easy access to so that your diet is sustainable.

The easiest way to get your nutrition properly set up is to plan out one day. Get it all dialed in to your numbers and then just eat that plan every day. That way you can just repeat it daily for however long you want.

You will have to do this differently for each phase you decide to do because of the different calorie and macro needs.

The foods I listed in each macronutrient section are nutrient dense whole foods that are natural and not processed. That is how I choose to eat and I recommend you dose do it also.

How you eat is your choice. You can set as many different meal days as you’d like, follow a different diet every day or eat the same thing every day. Just know that you will only see the maximum results if you strictly follow your personal calorie and macro numbers.

I know some people like a visual so I will show the daily meal plan I follow. This is set up for me, my calorie/macro needs and for my food choices. It is not a definite meal plan to follow. It can be used as a reference to help you.

Breakfast:

  • 4 whole cage free brown eggs
  • 6-6.5oz Homemade ground turkey patty
  • 1.5oz of baby spinach
  • Large cup of coffee with half and half
 

Mid-morning Snack:

  • 1.5 cups of cooked brown rice
  • Half peanut butter sandwich
 

Lunch:

  • Roast beef sandwich
  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Tangerine
  • 1oz of raisins
  • 5oz of Icelandic Skyr yogurt
 

Afternoon Snack:

I blend up the following:

  • 2 cups of Oats
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter
  • Scoop of protein powder
  • 2 cups of milk
 

Dinner:

Varies day to day based on what I have to cook and how many calories/macros left in the day, but generally I’ll have:

  • Boneless and skinless chicken breast/thighs
  • Lean beef.
  • Sweet potatoes,
  • Potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
 

This meal plan is my current clean bulking phase. It comes out to roughly:

  • 3,500 calories
  • 215 grams of protein
  • 470 grams of carbs
  • 80 grams of fat
 

You can use my meal plan as inspiration to create your own and be on your way to some serious muscle gains and fat loss! Also go check out Legion Athletics for some supplements to toss in there!

Conclusion and Closing Thoughts

muscle soreness recovery and muscle growth

So you have made it to the end! I know this was a lengthy article, but that’s why it was titled as an ULTIMATE guide to the best nutrition plan to build muscle and lose fat. This article will help you move toward your goals in a tremendous way if you stay true to the process.

Lets recap what we have learned so you can put it into action as soon as possible. It was a long article but it can be summarized in a few steps:

  1. Calculate YOUR daily calorie needs based on your current goal (BMR and TDEE).
  2. Calculate your daily macronutrient needs based on your current goals.
  3. Formulate a daily meal plan using the foods listed in each macro section to meet your daily calorie and macro numbers.
  4. Consider supplementing your diet with sports supplements that are proven to aid your progress.
  5. And the last step is to TRAIN HARD!

You have the power to change your body through proper nutrition and training. How fast your results come will be up to you and the work you put in. If you follow this guide, even relatively well, I promise you will see good results. It is the best diet to build muscle and lose fat.

Be sure to read these articles as well to help you build muscle and lose fat. They can show you how to start if you need it:

I want to thank you for reading this far and I genuinely hope that you found this guide for proper nutrition helpful.

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