One important thing to understand about nutrition is that it can be very relative. Relative to your goals, relative to your current physical health, relative to your health history, and relative to your lifestyle. What works for someone else might not work for you. It can become quite daunting, as I’ve learned through the years, to discover what works well for you and your goals. Before I give you a sample of what I’ve come to use as my personal “standard diet” I want to share with you the 2 biggest contributors to my personal diet design and what you should consider when designing your own diet: caloric deficit/surplus and protein.



I cannot vouch for this statement enough, “calories are KING!” Do you want to gain weight? You need to be in a caloric surplus. Want to reduce your weight? You need to be in a caloric deficit. This isn’t new news. Here’s why many of you fail: you don’t count your calories by the week. I’m sure many of you have tried counting your calories by the day using MyFitnessPal® and it’s one of the best tools out there to keep you honest (except when you leave out that delicious sushi dinner on Saturday night and that bbq brunch on Sunday). What helped me was counting my calories by the week for 2 reasons.


First, I didn’t have to spend minutes a day calculating out all the food I’ve consumed. Second, there wasn’t anything thinking required once I meal prepped. I’ve already completed this on Sunday when I meal prep. The math is quite simple. Most food is prepackaged with calories per serving; so all you have to do is write down the total calories of all the food you just purchased (this should take about 5 minutes). Since my goal was to continue decreasing my body fat I focus on a slight caloric deficit (about 10-15% of what I would need to sustain my current frame). If my body needs 3,000 kcal/day to sustain then I need to consume only 2,700 kcal/day to decrease body fat (that’s a difference of only 1 blueberry muffin!). That means all the food I purchased should come to 19,000 kcal for the week, roughly (I leave a little leeway for butters and oils). The years have taught me I will more than likely eat at least one meal out with friends or family. Knowing this information I drop the total calories down to 17,500 kcal for the week (trust me, you’re going to easily eat an extra 1500-2500 kcal with a meal out on the town). With 17,500 kcal being my “hard” number I only need to consume 2500 kcal/day. The beauty of calculating out the calories for the week is its simplicity. All I have to do to stay in range is consume all the food I’ve purchased, no thinking required. Ideally, I want to spread-load this food eat day, which isn’t very difficult. I don’t think it’s asking too much to take an extra 5 minutes to count your calories once a week.


So, how many calories should you consume? Well, you have to take into account 3 factors: resting metabolic rate (RMR), daily physical activity, and fitness/health goals. Your RMR is the biggest factor in determining your caloric intake. Many cities have trained professionals who can test your RMR (DexaFit.Com for example here in Atlanta). The process takes 15 minutes and is worth the time and money. If you can’t find someone to perform your RMR test use any site that has an RMR calculator. It won’t be 100% accurate but it’s a good starting point (BodyBuilding.Com). Your RMR will be used as your base for calorie counting. Next, your “passive” activity helps determine your calorie consumption. Your “passive” activity can be summarized by your general movements: walking to the car, moving around the office, doing laundry, etc. The number of calories burned climbs dramatically if your daily job requires manual labor. Finally, we take into account your workouts. While physical training can burn calories and help in weight loss it is at the bottom of the list when determining your total calorie expenditure for the day.




More than 40 years of research has concluded that any diet can work if 2 factors are considered: caloric intake and protein. When most of us hear the word “protein” we immediately think animal meat (beef, chicken, and fish). While animal meat is arguably one of the best, dense sources of protein we are not limited to it. Protein can come from beans, tofu, powders, yogurts, etc. I will say that I am an avid meat eater and consume several pounds of lean, red meat and several pounds of chicken every week. In recent years I’ve begun adding in yogurts, specifically low fat Greek yogurt.


No matter your source of protein you should consume it daily. Protein is, literally, the building block of every cell in our bodies. In addition, various sources of protein provide a plethora of other nutrients: calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B, vitamin E, magnesium, and omega-3 fat. Another benefit to adequate protein consumption is its ability to satiate your appetite. Your body doesn’t care what you look like. If you see or smell food that is appetizing your brain will send the signal to your body to eat. Protein helps keep this signal at bay. Not only can protein help keep you from overeating it can help keep your brain from thinking about food. This is very different than just being satiated from a meal. Typically, we will have our fill and still have room for dessert. A dense source of protein prevents the desire to consume more food later on. These reasons are why I put protein in EVERY meal. It does little to help curb your appetite if you’re eating oats and granola in the morning with 10 grams of protein from a fruit yogurt parfait. You need dense sources of protein throughout the day, especially if you’re goal is to increase lean muscle mass. Making up for your lack of protein consumption during the day by pounding down protein at night is not the answer and does not work. Also, protein has the greatest thermic effect of all macronutrients. So, by eating more protein your body has to burn more calories to process it for digestion. It’s a win-win!


For general weight management purposes you should consume roughly .8g of protein per kilogram of body weight, if you’re not performing rigorous exercise. However, if you’re training on a consistent basis (3-5x week) then you should increase your protein intake to 1.4-2.0g per kilogram per day. Stay on the lower end if your workouts are more cardio/endurance based and on the higher end if competing in sports or heavy strength training.



For those of you looking for a sample diet I have laid out what a typical day looks like for myself. Keep in mind I am not telling you the time I am consuming this food but, instead, labeling them as meals or snacks (you have to eat around your schedule but make the time to eat).


Meal #1

  • 6-8oz of lean meat (rump roast or 95% lean ground beef)
  • 2-3 servings of vegetables (okra, bell peppers, onions, zucchini, asparagus)
  • 2-3 servings of prepackaged guacamole OR hummus


Snack #1 (consumed post workout)

  • 45-50g protein shake with water or almond/cashew milk
    • I use Tera Whey Protein but any whey protein your body agrees with will suffice


Snack #2

  • 2 servings of Low Fat Greek Yogurt (Cabot brand is my favorite) or Cottage Cheese
    • These are arguably some of the highest protein dairy sources with the lowest amount of sugar on the market


Meal #2 (option 1)

  • 6-8 oz of plain chicken breast w/ spices
  • 2-3 servings of vegetables (okra, bell peppers, onions, zucchini, asparagus)
  • 2-3 servings of prepackaged guacamole OR hummus


Meal #2 (option 2)

  • 2-3 organic chicken sausage links (low sodium)
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1 full avocado
  • ¼ cup of shredded mixed cheese


To put this diet into perspective I am a 33 year-old male weighing 200lbs at 6’1 with 13.5-16.5% body fat (depending on the measuring method) and perform rigorous strength training 4-5x week….and this diet helps me lose fat! Something you should also consider is the amount of vegetables in my diet and lack of fruit. I see vegetables not as a great source of vitamins and nutrients but as a heavy fiber source that keeps my appetite in check. I used to be a very heavy individual (275lbs) and I still have the appetite of a larger person. I’ve tried using fruit but found myself consuming too much every day. Both veggies and fruits can contain high fiber content (great for satiation and digestion) but fruits carry far more calories per serving than vegetables. When in doubt go for the vegetables and consume fruit post workout (high glycemic foods help with protein synthesis).


Remember, your diet for your goals could be COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! This took years of practical application to realize what my body liked and didn’t like. What helped me stay the course and continue reaching my fitness goals was holding myself accountable (I do body fat testing every 8 weeks). Start with calories and protein. The rest will come with experience and time.



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