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Nutrition

10 Key Rules To Set Up A Nutrition Plan

While many people think that a well-designed nutrition plan is just based on a calorie deficit and macros, any expert trainer will dig a layer deeper to really personalized the plan to you, as an individual.

Although calories and protein are certainly key, there are many other specific aspects of a nutrition plan you must consider if you really want maximum, long-lasting results such as personal preference, hormones, lifestyle and more.

Thanks to the internet, the world of nutrition has become a confusing mess and it is nowadays only too easy to find “fake experts”, who preach ‘one best method’ based on their own personal beliefs. Therefore I have compiled some of the most important considerations that actually matter when setting up a nutrition plan to help you cut through all the mess and focus on the 80/20 that will move the needle the most.

Here are 10 factors you MUST consider before programming or following a nutrition plan, most of which are overlooked or unknown to the average trainer / fitness enthusiast.

1. Consider Your Primary Goals First When Planning Your Nutrition Plan

The first consideration should always be tailoring your nutrition plan to both your short- and long-term goal.

This means it should be changing daily, weekly and monthly, in line with a variety of factors. What you are aiming to achieve at 1 meal, may be the opposite goal for your meal 4 later in the day.

For example, if you have a day in the office, breakfast may be structured to enhance cognitive function and keep calories in line with activity/energy requirements, which are likely low. In contrast, if meal 4 is pre workout, it may be focused on optimizing performance, training adaptations and be higher calories to provide fuel for the workout.

As you can see, even within ONE DAY your diet may need to be different. Extended over weeks or months, you should be further tailoring your nutrition plan to reflect your goals and other factors, including:

  • Hormonal and metabolic adaptations,
  • Changes in training phases,
  • Body composition results and progress,
  • Menstrual Cycle,
  • Menopause,
  • Activity levels and more.

Ultimately, your nutrition plan and specifically your calorie and macro intake must be tailored to your goal, whether that be fat loss, maintenance or muscle growth/sports performance.

2. Consider Your Current Situation When Planning Your Nutrition Plan

Following on from the point above, your nutritional regime should be adapted to fit your current situation.

For example, right now you may be focusing on a strength phase, a fat loss phase, or a de-load phase, so it should be pretty obvious that all of these require different nutritional approaches and calorie intakes.

The first consideration is calories, as they are still key. If you are de-loading or dieting, your calories will clearly need to be lower than when you are bulking or trying to add strength/optimize performance. Here are two very basic guidelines (remember, these are just guidelines to help you start) I like to use:

Weight Loss: 11-12 calories per 1lb bodyweight. For example, 12 x 150lb = 1800 calories

Strength / Muscle Mass Gains / Sports Performance:  16 calories per 1lb bodyweight or more. For example, 16 x 150lb = 2400 calories

3. Consider Previous Attempts At Dieting, What Worked? What Didn’t?

Your previous dieting history is also an important consideration when programming your nutrition plan.

If you’ve been on a certain nutrition plan and achieved a certain result, then you should be able to analyse what worked well and what didn’t work so well. For example, if you’ve seen good results with a specific style of eating like Intermittent Fasting, it’s not a bad idea to consider that route in the future.

In contrast, if you have tried low-carb diets 3 times and always got good results for a few weeks then quit and started binge eating, that would clearly be a sign it’s not a good, long-term or sustainable nutrition plan for you.

Don’t make it over-complicated, pick what works and do an analysis of what didn’t, and why. Once you’ve identified that, get to work to find an alternative to fix the issues so this time you succeed in the long term.

4. Consider That Different Genders Require Different Approaches

There are some fairly obvious differences between males and females.

Firstly, differences in lean muscle mass should alter macro and calorie intake, especially as muscle mass is a key factor of Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) and also a big component of fuel utilization (carbs vs fat) and overall carbohydrate tolerance.

Accompanying this, carbohydrate and fat ratios will likely affect recommendations, even if you compared a male vs. a female on exactly the same nutrition plan.

For a female, hormones and menstrual cycle alterations and adaptations may also be programmed in and considered in the long term.

Just keep in mind that the same nutritional approach used by your male friend might not exactly work for you if you’re a female – this is why so many females get rapid success in my famous 90 Day Bikini plan vs all other plans as it was specifically designed for females.

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 5. Consider Your Age When Designing Your Nutrition Plan

People often overlook age as a nutritional consideration.

As we age factors such as insulin sensitivity, amino acid sensitivity, macro and micronutrient requirements will all vary.

One prime example is the micronutrient requirements for an older individual, along with the protein, specifically Leucine requirements per meal to elevate Muscle Protein Synthesis and achieve a positive, net protein balance.

Older individuals will likely require higher amounts of protein to stimulate muscle growth to the same extent as a 20 year old.

For protein, research shows people over the age of around 40-50 will need about 30% more protein or leucine per meal to stimulate Muscle Protein Synthesis. This is a key factor for fat loss but also to maintain muscle mass and bone density as we age.

6. Consider Your Athletic Goals 

Training is probably the biggest daily variable on your nutritional plan and daily needs – training phases and even individual training sessions must be considered.

As mentioned at the start in section 1, there should be a glaring difference depending on training day / type. Additionally, different styles of training should and do require different nutritional approaches.

For example, an endurance athlete should likely be consuming different macronutrient ratios to that of a bodybuilder or someone who is overweight and working a typical 9-5 job at the desk.

Ultimately, your training will drive how you eat and how much, so all of these factors must be considered for optimal performance. For fat loss, your training will also determine how many calories you can consume. While you obviously need to be in a calorie deficit, you may get to eat 300 calories more per day if you use advanced metabolic resistance training vs a regular workout.

7. Consider Your Training Variables (Sets, Reps, Weight, Etc.)

Diving deeper into your workout, the actual training protocols will impact your diet.

For example, the average 15 – 20 set bodybuilding workout, which incorporates shorter rests, 8 – 15 rep ranges and advanced training variables such as drop sets, etc., is clearly creating a different nutritional demand compared to that of a strength or power session which may only be 8 sets of 5 reps.

So … 8 x 5 reps is 40 reps for the strength workout. Contrastingly, 15 sets of 10 reps is 150 reps; as you can see the energy and metabolic demands are far different here. Using this example, you would need more calories to support this on the higher set and rep days and lower calories on the strength days.

This thought process should also be applied when working different muscle groups, performing cardio vs. a weights day and, of course, total volume for the each training session.

For example, you won’t need the same calories on a cardio or ab day, vs a metabolic circuit day with extra HIIT intervals.

8. Consider Your Occupation And Lifestyle Outside Of Exercise

What you do outside the gym is also vitally important.

Some days you may be active, walking or playing sport, whereas others you may be sat at your desk for 8 hours straight. Studies have shown manual jobs can cause your energy requirements to DOUBLE when compared to an office-based job.

For example, working as a waiter or in a bar could burn 1000 more calories per day than a desk job. The same applies to other manual jobs, such as manual labor etc.

Consideration of these factors is important, especially as the general guidelines for men and women is often very inaccurate. Get an accurate idea of how many calories you burn per day, then manipulate that accordingly to pinpoint your nutrition.

9. Consider Your Protein Intake

Although your protein intake may be a little more basic, it’s important to be eating a sufficient amount each and every day.

Based on coaching 1000s of women, I’ve noticed that over 50% of those who come to me, (many of whom are themselves personal trainers and should have an above average level of nutrition knowledge), are still undereating on protein.

Protein is key for fat loss, hormone optimization, muscle growth, recovery, reducing hunger and improving overall health.

To tailor your intake to your bodyweight, it’s fairly simple. The easiest calculation I like to use is to take your current bodyweight in pounds (lbs) and multiply it by 1 gram of protein. For example, 150lb would simply equal 150g of protein per day.

The best protein sources you should include at each meal are: all meats, fish, eggs, high protein milk, high protein yogurt, cottage cheese, whey protein powder and protein bars. 

10.Your Current Progress

Finally, one other consideration should be to assess whether your current nutrition plan is helping you achieve your goals.

Is progress slower than planned? Based on the points above you can hopefully see areas that need tailoring and improving!

With both training and diet you should be constantly striving for the most optimal plan you can stick with. This combo gives you fast results that add motivation, but also forms a plan which is sustainable in the long term.

If you’re just turning your wheels, and eating meat, potatoes and vegetables at every meal, then it may need to change for both adherence reasons and to become more specific, in order to help accelerate results, tailored to you as an individual.

If you want help with this, you can now get a full personalized 1:1 training and diet plan, at just 25% of the regular price, with this unique link from one of the world’s leading female-specific experts.

Learn more about a personalized training & nutrition plan now.

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About the author

Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN

Rudy has a 1st class BSc in Exercise, Nutrition & Health and a Masters in Exercise & Nutrition Science from the University of Tampa. Rudy currently works as a Human Performance Researcher, Sports Nutritionist and Physique Coach. Over 7 years he has helped over 500 people around the world achieve long last physique transformations.

He now works closely with a variety of professional athletes and teams, including the NBA, USA Athletics, World Triathlon Gold Medalists, Hollywood Celebrities and IFBB Pro Bodybuilders. If you would like to get in contact or work with Rudy please contact him on social media.

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