In the fitness industry, we hear people discussing about what foods to eat for specific goals and how eating smaller meals more frequently can “spike” your metabolism to increase weight loss at a faster rate. We also hear about how many people speak strongly about how low carb diets or Paleo diets are the best methods for burning fat. However, the only issue with all of these facts and so-called diets is that in the end, they are all going to rely on the same factors, Calories.
But before I get into how many calories you should eat, I would first like to note a few things to help anyone who is knew to fitness or exercising. It is important to note that meal frequency is a myth that is misunderstood by many people. It is said that one is able to “fuel” his/her metabolism or increase metabolic activity in the body by decreasing meal portions and increasing the total number of meals consumed. This means that if you were eating 3 large meals a day, you can break those down into 5 or 6 smaller meals to consume more frequently, such as every 2-3 hours, which is what most people claim to help fuel someone’s metabolism.
However, this is incorrect since the total number of meals you consume does not have any effect on your metabolism or thermogenesis. If your goal is to lose weight or build muscle, how many times a day you consume a meal or food will not matter. What will be responsible for the results in which you will achieve will be based entirely off of how much nutrients you are obtaining from your food and how much of a calorie expenditure you achieve through exercise.
It is also important to note that no specific diet plan is designed to lose weight or has a direct impact on fat loss if the human body is not in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time. The reason why some diets, such as the Paleo diet and Vegan diets often result in weight loss is due to the nature of the food choices being very calorie dense, and most often, these foods are mostly filled with water vs actual nutrients. When you eat calorie dense foods, most often you will begin to see a loss in weight if this low calorie diet is continued for an extended period of time, often a few weeks or months.
How Much Should I Eat?
When deciding how much food you should eat, I do not believe in sticking to specific foods that one diet plan claims to eat. Instead, I recommend figuring out what your goal is. If you want to lose weight, as mentioned, you will need to remain in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time. If you wish to gain weight or muscle, you will need to remain in a calorie surplus for an extended period of time.
I will show you an example of how to set up your diet based off of the standard 2000-calorie diet. It is important to note that this will not be sufficient for everyone as each person has a different metabolism which can mean you will require more calories or less calories to reach your goal. For a healthy ratio of macronutrients for your calories, I recommend setting your protein calories at around 0.8-1.6g per pound of body weight. For your fats, these should make up around 30% of your total calories consumed and should be focused on healthy fats. The remaining calories will be used up as your carbs.
This means that if someone weighs 160lbs for example, this person will consume around 240g of protein at 1.5g/lb of bodyweight, which yields around 4 calories per gram of protein, giving this individual 960 calories from protein. Next, we move onto fats. Fats should be set anywhere between 20-35% of your total calories, but for simplicity we will set our fats at 30% as mentioned previously. This is the ideal range for fats to help with body functions. At 2000 calories, and 960 used up for protein, we are left with 1140 calories. At 960 calories for protein and protein equal to 4 calories per gram, this yields the 240g of protein that we set our target goal at. If we have 30% used as fats, this means that 30% of our initial 2000 calories, or 600 calories should come from fats, which at 9 calories per gram, yields 66g of fat.. This now means we have 960 calories from protein and 600 calories from fats, which totals 1560 calories. This now leaves us with 440 calories for our carbs, or around 110g of carbs. These macros now equal:
2000 total calories
Although this may seem like an ideal range to lose weight, it is important to note that this ratio will not provide sufficient results for everyone. You will need to use the same formula for your own bodyweight to determine how many calories you should consume of protein, fats and carbs. What works for one person will not always provide you with the same results.
Now although in my example I also used a 2000-calorie diet, this often will not provide someone who wishes to gain muscle with adequate results as for your nutrients will be low. If your goal is to lose weight, 2000 calories will be sufficient and very ideal. This is why it is important to track your macros for a few weeks and track your body weight to get an understanding of how your metabolism works and what amount of calories help you lose weight or gain weight.
If one person is able to lose weight eating 2500 calories per day, it does not mean you can eat the same and expect the same results. So it’s important to figure out how much you are eating currently, find out what your weight is doing and make any adjustments accordingly as time progresses.
Calories Will Balance Out
The next thing I would like to discuss is that when tracking calories accordingly to your goal, you do not have to meet this daily calorie requirements every day. If you fall short in your macros or calories, do not stress about making sure to eat that extra meal to meet your requirements. Instead, add those missed calories to the following day. If you go over your daily limit and eat more than you should have, do not stress about it. Instead, take a little calories out of tomorrows day to make up for it.
It is better to view your food intake as a weekly range and not a daily range. When it comes down to how many times a day you should eat, this is entirely based on preference and what is easier for you. If you can only eat 2-3 meals a day, this is fine. If you prefer to have 4-6 meals a day or even more, this is fine, as long as your meals allow you to remain within your calorie range for your desired goal.
For how much you should eat, figure out how many calories a day you will need using the information provided earlier and make any adjustments you feel are necessary for your body. Remember, there is no special diet designed for any goal and that if one person is able to see results from a specific amount of calories, you will not see the same results from those same number of calories. So track your calories accordingly for a while and make any necessary adjustments as time progresses. I hope this helps give you all a greater understanding of how to figure out how much you should eat and what you can eat to meet your goals.