I recently joined LA Fitness with the following goals: to reduce body fat (measured as 38% in my assessment) and to build lean muscle. I’m working with a trainer for some of my cardio and strength workouts. Also, I’ve found some additional workouts that I have been doing on the LA Fitness blog, Living Healthy. My question is in regards to what my calorie, fat, protein and carb intake should look like to help me with these goals.
Scouring the internet is just too confusing. With some saying stay away from carbs, yet other saying carbs are needed to fuel workout energy and recovery. I’ve also read that reducing my calorie intake can lead to muscle loss. Help!!! I’m 33, 5’4’’ and 207 lbs. I go to the gym 4-5 times a week, doing strength training 3 of the days along with cardio and the other 2 days are strictly cardio. I appreciate any advice you can give! – Renee
You are certainly on the right track with your overall exercise routine, Renee! For your diet, your intake should be somewhere in the range of 1500 to 2000 calories for the next several months. I’d advise to break that up into 25% fat, 25% protein, and 50% carbohydrate. Taking the midpoint of the suggested calorie range, or 1750 calories, these percentages equate to 49 grams fat, 109 grams protein and 218 grams carbohydrate from wholesome food. What these numbers look like in terms of actual food choices could be a myriad of things, which I’ll discuss below.
You can definitely begin with the ChooseMyPlate.gov recommendation of “make half your plate vegetables,” about 1-2 cups at each meal. If that’s not practical at breakfast, it’s okay to substitute a fruit. Next, add a lean protein source, about 2 ounces for breakfast and 3 ounces each for lunch and dinner. A handful of starch, approximately 1 cup or 2 ounces, should fill out the rest of your plate. For baked items, this equates to a full sandwich bun or 2 pieces of bread. Just choose the highest whole grain you can find. A small spoonful of fat rounds out the meal. Plant-based choices are best, like nut butter, oil, pesto, avocado/guacamole or non-cream dressing. Lastly, include a glass of milk (or vegan alternative), a half-cup of beans and a couple more pieces of fruit somewhere in the day.
A meal plan consisting of 4 servings vegetables, 8 ounces lean protein, 6 servings starch, 3 teaspoons fat, 1 Cup low-fat milk, 1 serving of beans and 3 Cups of fruit would provide 25% fat, 25% protein and 50% carbohydrate at less than 1600 calories. Why didn’t we shoot for 1750? Because it’s okay to start near the bottom of your calorie range, plus there is wiggle room for error in portion sizes since exact quantities are unlikely. If you are a stickler for measuring and weighing your food, then adding another vegetable serving, one ounce of protein, and a starch will bring your total energy up over 1700 calories without affecting the ratio.
Your current true intake also needs to be taken into consideration in order to make the most relevant changes. Do you eat when not hungry? Are you in the habit of cleaning your plate? Do you eat out often? Are you eating late at night? Identifying and addressing the factors that have contributed to your weight gain are essential for your plan to be effective. For some people, changing their pattern and style of eating will do the trick, not hitting a magical set of target numbers.
– Debbie J., MS, RD
Do you have a question about your diet or nutrition? Ask our dietitian by submitting your question to firstname.lastname@example.org or simply ask it in the COMMENTS section below.
To learn how to follow the “Ask Our Dietitian” Q&A CLICK HERE!