Getting your diet on lock-down is one of the biggest challenges every bodybuilder faces. We’ve all heard the expression – abs are made in the kitchen – that’s because without the right diet you will pretty much be busting your ass in the gym for nothing. This is where most guys mess up – they think if they just eat lots of protein and “clean foods” that they will completely transform their bodies. Now, while eating clean foods is definitely important, you want to make sure you are consuming the correct quantities of these foods.
Did you know it’s possible to get fat from eating a 100% “clean” diet? Many popular bodybuilding foods such as nuts, olive oil and avocado are very high in calories due to their high fat content. That means simply eating a few extra servings of these foods can actually make you go over your maintenance calorie level instead of staying below it! This can obviously be pretty frustrating – spending months working hard in the gym and eating clean to try and get shredded for summer only to watch yourself gain mass!
So how can you avoid falling into this trap? It’s simple – you need to count your calories. We know, it sucks, but unless you have Greek God genetics and / or you are taking steroids you don’t have a choice. Today we are going to show you how to make the process of counting calories not suck!
1) There’s an App for That
If your plan is to write everything down on a pad of paper there is a good chance you will mess it up. First, who wants to carry a stupid notebook with them everywhere? Second, you will have to do all the calculations manually and chances are you probably suck at math. Third, you won’t be able to take advantage of the number of benefits that calorie counting apps provide you.
The great thing about nutrition aps is that there are tons of free ones out there and they will do all the calculations for you. Additionally, you can group ingredients together which is super helpful for those of us who make our own food. That way you don’t have to submit each ingredient individually. The app will tell you how much more of X nutrient you need to hit your daily targets and will usually provide some features to export to excel so you can watch your progress over time. The best part? It’s all on your phone which you will be carrying with you anyway – every time you eat just whip out your phone and add it to the app!
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2) Get Used to the App
Before you start setting some crazy objectives for your calorie intake and nutrient breakdown, start by recording what you eat on a normal day. This is important because if your weight has been stable for the last few weeks chances are whatever amount of calories you are currently consuming represents your daily calorie needs. In other words, if your weight isn’t going up or down your body is getting exactly what it needs to remain status quo. If you are looking to gain weight, you need to consume more calories. If you are looking to lose weight, you need to consume less.
3) Assess the Damage
When you input your usual diet into the app you might be surprised to find out you were consuming more (or less) calories than you expect. For example – that sugary yogurt with added fruit is a few hundred calories more than you expected which could be enough to keep you from losing weight. This is the easiest way to identify problem areas in your diet. On the other hand, some foods you really enjoy and make you feel full might contain fewer calories than you expected – that means you should eat more of these foods if you are looking to diet.
Another factor you will want to look at is how much sugar you are consuming. So many processed foods we consume each day are loaded with sugar which leads to fat gain and energy crashes. Substitute these for foods with less sugar and more healthy dietary fats and you will notice your physique improving.
4) Figure Out your Best Meals
If you love cottage cheese, chicken breast and whey protein powder and the macros for these foods are favorable (they are) you should build your diet around these foods. That doesn’t mean you need to have them every day for the rest of your life, but if you know you enjoy them you will be more likely to actually follow through on the diet. On the other hand, if you can’t stand the taste of fish yet you designed a diet around salmon you are probably setting yourself up for failure.
One of the other advantages of eating the same foods on a daily basis is that it makes planning out your diet easier. You will know exactly how many calories you’re going to be consuming making it more likely that you will hit your macro targets every day.
5) Design Your Diet
Once you know your baseline calorie level (the number of calories you can consume each day without gaining or losing weight), as well as your favorite foods and problematic foods you can start to design your diet. Make sure you chose the right balance of nutrients for your goals. If you are looking to lean out, ease up on the carbs. If you are looking to get bigger, don’t allocate too many of your calories to protein.
6) Take Advantage of your App Features
As we mentioned earlier, the app can help you track your sugar intake as well as fiber, vegetables, water, vitamins, etc. Getting shredded isn’t just about calories. You will want to make sure you are consuming a variety of helpful nutrients to ensure you get the best results.
7) Take the Right Supplements For You
Once you have all the information from the app in front of you, figuring out what the ideal supplements are becomes easy. If you realize your basic metabolic rate is low, or that you are struggling to get all the nutrients you need, taking a high quality fat burner can help you. These products will help boost your metabolism when your body would otherwise be looking to slow it down. Remember that your body doesn’t want to change – when it realizes you are consuming fewer calories it will bring that metabolism down to a crawl if it has to in order to hold on to those precious pounds.
8) Follow Through
Now that you have the tools and knowledge you need to make sure your diet is on track – make sure you stick to it. Tracking your calories is pointless if you stop doing it after two weeks. Remember that as you program more of your recipes into the app it will become way faster to get things done. Tracking your calories will become second-nature to you. Finally, always remember that as long as you are consistent with it you will see the gains continue to come!