DIET, CALORIES AND SUPPLEMENTS - MY TOP TIPS!

Gaining muscle, losing body fat, diet, calories, macro’s and supplements

Before I talk about my diet, supplements and what I do day to day, I thought I would share a little backstory about my weight and goals.

Last year I really struggled with my weight and maintaining muscle mass. My work load had increased and I was taking around 10 classes a week (including spin) which was pretty taxing on my energy expenditure. On top of this, my step count on my Fitbit was easily 20K steps per day which was taking my energy expenditure even higher and forcing my calorie requirements through the roof! I was ‘too busy’ and rushed to really think about planning food or when I would eat. It’s also not something I really do! I never make meals the night before (despite the ‘fail to prepare to prepare to fail’ quote!). The Tupperware life just isn’t a part of what I want my fitness journey to be about as I like variety in my diet and I love food. That said, I will always make sure my plate is balanced with carb, fat and protein sources.

What I did this year, was make a conscious effort to factor time into my day to fuel my body appropriately. I set myself a goal of gaining 3kg in 3 months and have been pretty determined to hit my goal. I wanted to stay fairly lean throughout (like we all do!) and I also didn’t want to have to count each calorie I ate.

How do I know how much food I ate? Well I had a rough idea. I’m sure some days and I went over my kcal requirements (3500-4000 kcals) and some days I went under. But, the beauty of how calorie requirements work is that you can take a weekly average and still hit your targets. In simple terms, if you over eat one day and under eat the other, generally you end up with a balance.

My knowledge of what is in the food I eat is fairly good from years of counting calories previously. I wouldn’t recommend years of counting calories but using an App (Myfitnesspal or LFG App) for a week or 2 is actually a great way of understanding what you eat and how much you eat. It’s worth noting that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having an aesthetic goal. I see so much on social media about body confidence, and don’t get me wrong I am 100% for body confidence but that doesn’t mean we can’t be confident and set our own personal goals. After-all, our goals are exactly that – personal!

The biggest challenge for me is consuming enough food to be in surplus. If like me you struggle to keep the calories up – fats (peanut butter, oils, nuts) are great as they are calorie dense. This means you get high calories for a relatively small amount of food.

So when it comes to your goals, here are some questions that I get asked frequently about diet.

Should I try to gain muscle or lose body fat?

Trying to gain muscle and lose body fat at the same is a big ask. If you feel you have built enough muscle and you are ready to drop body fat to show your hard work, then it’s a great time to do so. If you feel that perhaps you need to gain more muscle before you start to drop body-fat, I would recommend keeping to a small calorie surplus. That choice is yours to make. Remember that typically to build muscle we require a calorie surplus, and to drop body fat we require a calorie deficit. This is why trying to achieve both at the same time is challenging!

What are calories and macros?

Food gives us energy and calories are units of energy. The energy delivered to our body is what fuels us day to day and typically we have calorie requirements for our activity levels. Generally, if we are gaining weight then its because the calories we consume exceed what we expend and if losing weight, then we are consuming less than we expend.

Macro-nutrients are essentially the foods that we eat – broken down into the food groups of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Ideally, we should aim for a balance of all of the above.

Protein: Chicken, Fish, Tofu (vegetarian option)
Fats: Oils (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), Nut Butters, Avocado, Nuts
Carbohydrates: Fruits (sugars), Bread, Pasta, Rice

How do I know how much I should eat?

One of the easiest ways of understanding your food requirements is to use a calculator online (https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/macronutrients_calculator.htm). Remember this will be a guide and it’s not 100% accurate but will give you a far better idea than not knowing at all.

So I know my calories, what about the foods I consume?

I am not a qualified nutritionist and always want to make that absolutely clear, but I really do believe your mood and energy are a product of the foods you eat. Protein is always the foundation of my meal and the remainder of the plate is filled with a carb, fat and green veg course (most of the time!). Protein is essential for muscle growth and maintaining muscle mass as it’s vital for repairing cells. When the muscle is damaged for growth by resistance training, protein helps to repair the cells but is also used when other sources (carbs/fats) aren’t available for energy.

Do I need to eat at certain times of the day?

Calories are consumed throughout the day and whether you eat those calories over 2, 4 or 6 meals the total calorie intake will be the same. Intermittent fasting restricts the period you eat the calories – but the total calories are still the same if you ate them over 12 hours! Personally I prefer to eat 3 normal sized meals and 2 snacks/light meals. I prefer not to eat a heavy meal before a workout, but if you feel like you need to eat before a workout because you perform better whilst you workout, then I would suggest you do it!

What role do supplements play in helping me reach my goal?

If you are looking at adding supplements to your diet, the main thing to ask yourself is what and why. Knowing when to and why to take supplements is really important. Protein has always been a staple of my supplementation for 2 main reasons:

  1. I am always on the go and consuming enough calories / meeting my protein requirements can be quite challenging.
  2. Generally I believe that using a protein supplement is more cost effective for me.

My go-to supplements and what I use daily:

Whey Protein

Whey Protein is an absolute must for me, not only for its role in repairing muscle tissue but also for convenience. I generally consume 1 scoop in the morning, 1 scoop post workout and 1 scoop in the evening. Generally in the morning I mix it with oats and add a teaspoon of peanut butter. I say convenience, because if you struggle to consume enough protein during the day, its a nice easy top-up at 20g per serving and you can have it at the desk whilst you work.

https://www.optimumnutrition.com/en-gb/product/gold-standard-100-whey

Creatine

Creatine helps muscle cells to produce more energy through the formation of ATP. When we exercise this ATP is used for energy. There is some debate, however overall research suggests that creatine improves strength. It’s also noted as a useful supplement for vegans who cannot consume creatine naturally through meat.

https://www.optimumnutrition.com/en-gb/product/creatine-powder

BCAA

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Taking before or during exercise they can increase muscle synthesis. I use these when I train fasted (before eating) in the morning or during my workout.

https://www.optimumnutrition.com/en-gb/product/gold-standard-bcaa-train-sustain

Amino Energy

On days when I feel sluggish or need a little pick up during a workout, I use Amino Energy. It’s not like pre-workout drinks that leave you with a crash as the caffeine content is quite modest, but this is the reason I love it. I fill a bottle of water with 2 scoops, consume half pre-workout and then fill up the bottle again with water (now half diluted) to drink during my workout. It’s essentially Amino Acids with caffeine.

https://www.optimumnutrition.com/en-gb/product/essential-amino-energy

ZMA:

My sleeping supplement! Zinc and Magnesium are suggested to maintain normal levels of cortisol and improve sleep function. I consume 3 tablets x 30 minutes before I go to bed (10pm for those wondering!).

My typical diet

I don’t really like to share my diet as I don’t like the idea of people thinking this is what they ‘should’ eat, but I get asked quite often so it’s something I feel I should share. As I previously said, I try to keep variety in the my diet as much as I can, but a typical day might look something like this:

Breakfast

1 cup of coffee (usually with oat milk)

Oats with 1 scoop of Gold Standard Protein

1 Tbl Peanut Butter

Post Workout: 

1 Shake ON Gold Standard

Snack:

Protein bar (ON whipped bites) or Yoghurt with seeds, nuts and handful or raisins.

Lunch:

Chicken, Turkey or Salmon

Eggs and Beans

Broccoli/greens

Snack:

Fruit

Protein Shake

Scrambled egg

Bagel

Dinner:

Meat or Fish Source

Sweet potato

Green Veg

Snack

Dark Chocolate

Remember that this is just an example of what a typical day would look like. Your diet has to work for your lifestyle, your job and your goals.

I hope you found this useful and as always, please feel free to message me with any questions you might have.

James