I am currently 5’10”, 164 lbs., 16.5% body fat, and not toned. I have been a runner and I am training for a half marathon in 7 weeks.  I want to tone up and lose the body fat in my abs / midsection area. What calorie type and number do I need to take in to have ideal toning and fat loss?

– Cory D.


Based on your anthropometrics, Cory, you are at an acceptable weight for your height (BMI 23.5) and you are not far off from a typical male runner’s body fat range (5-12% for 30-39 years old, 6-15% for 40-49 years old). By subtracting the amount of body fat you have, you have138 lbs. of lean mass. Keeping that stable and dropping 5-10 pounds of body fat would put you in the 11-14% body fat range. In order to tone up and shed belly fat down to a such a goal, you’re going to need to go from good to great.

However, cutting calories while ramping up your training may negatively impact your performance more than a lighter weight would benefit your performance. I’d suggest a modest reduction in calories for now, then tightening up your diet after the half-marathon. Not knowing what your current diet is like, I can share what a runner’s diet looks like for an estimated need of 2700 calories (3000 calories – 300 for mild fat loss). 60% calories (1670) should be from carbohydrate = 405 grams

20% calories (540) should be from protein = 135 grams This equals 11.8 gm protein/kilogram your body weight which is suitable for endurance running with modest caloric deficit.

20% calories (540) should be from fat = 60 grams You could attain these targets with 8 ounces lean protein, 3 servings plain milk or yogurt, 11 ounces grain, 4 cups vegetables, 4 cups fruit, and 2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons) of added fat. Making sure that you choose great options in each food group*, in order to maximize both macronutrient targets and micronutrient delivery for the best muscle and cardiovascular functioning. Here is one example of a day’s meals that hit these numbers:

  • 2-egg omelet with spinach and mushrooms cooked in teaspoon oil
  • Banana
  • Multigrain bagel with tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1.5 cups of nonfat milk
  • 3 oz. chicken breast and ¼ cup whole beans in large 13” wheat tortilla with ¼ avocado, unlimited salsa
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • Orange
  • 6 oz. plain non-fat Greek style yogurt with ¼ cup dried fruit and ¼ cup granola
  • One bag of low-fat microwave popcorn
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables and 3 oz sirloin stir-fried in teaspoon oil, with 1 cup brown rice
  • Apple

*See with the extension: Fruit; Vegetables; Grains; Protein-Foods; Dairy; or Oils for descriptions of serving size and healthy choices in each group.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.


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