For full transparency: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through a link I would earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Only personally used or thoroughly researched products are recommended. Learn more.

Nutrition for Fitness: The Ultimate Guide

Photo of author
Last Update

Nutrition for fitness is one of the most over-complicated topics in the health and fitness world. 

Honestly, if I were a beginner in this field I’d have no idea where to start. Magazines run articles that contradict one another. Everyone claims to have the ‘secret’ to weight loss and abs.

Should you be eating low fat or high fat? Low carb or high carb? High protein or vegan? The advocates of each seem to say the others are a waste of time. Where do I start? Who’s got the answers? Panic!

My advice? 

STOP! 

Take a breath!

In this ultimate guide to nutrition for fitness, I’m going to distill 20+ years of personal training and nutrition coaching experience into a single article. 

I’m going to show you the EXACT methods I use to put together nutritional approaches for clients. This guide will help you to build a diet to lose weight, gain weight, maintain weight, and maintain great health.


Contents


The ultimate guide to nutrition for fitness – clearing up confusion

Before you go any further into this article, I’m going to explain how it has been put together.

The article is a mix of scientific literature, 20+ years of coaching experience and anecdotal evidence. I won’t be making any specific claims I can’t back up with research. If I make a suggestion based on experience, it’ll be labeled as so. 

There are also registered dietitians at Strong Home Gym who have helped to contribute to this article. 

We’re not selling weight loss tea or a keto shake here. We’ve got zero agenda beyond wanting to help you live a healthy life. This is advice that has been tried and tested. There are no fads or fashions here. 

This method has been refined over the years and has helped thousands of clients get into shape. It has simplified nutrition for physical fitness for everyone who has followed the approach.

I can say with confidence that if you follow this method properly, it’ll do the same for you. 

All of this is in one place to help you:

  • Understand complex topics in simple English
  • Use scientific evidence on how to burn fat safely
  • Learn how to put together an effective diet 
  • How to still enjoy an indulgence whilst losing weight
  • Make sure you the weight off long term
  • See real life results of people who have followed the plan

Without further ado, let’s get you started. You’ve got a lot to learn, so perhaps take some notes. Either that or bookmark this page and re-visit it to cover bits you don’t understand, or that didn’t go in the first time!


CHAPTER 1:

Chapter 1 -  Dietary Fundamentals

Dietary Fundamentals

When you understand these, you understand nutrition…

There are certain dietary fundamentals that remain the same regardless of what you’re trying to do with your fitness and physique. Essentially, they’re the building blocks to a good nutritional plan. 

I’m going to teach you these first, so the rest of the article will make more sense. You’ll understand the terminology I’m using better this way.

We’ll start with the basics…

What are calories?

A calorie is simply a unit of energy. It’s the amount of energy required to heat 1 liter of water by 1 degree Celsius. To establish its caloric value, a food is burned in a device called a ‘bomb calorimeter’.

Calories are not to be confused with fat, protein or carbohydrates. They are simply the amount of energy contained within a food.

What are macros?

Macros is a shortened version of the term ‘macronutrients’. These are the three major food groups – carbohydrates (carbs), fat and protein. 

Foods are divided into their respective groups depending on their chemical makeup. Some foods such as meat or fish will have both protein and fat in them. They’re considered protein though, because they contain more protein than fat.

Generally, foods from an animal source are protein. Foods from a plant source are carbohydrates, and foods containing fats can be either.

Some dietary approaches will determine precise macro splits, whereas many others won’t. 

When you hear the term ‘macros’ or ‘macro split’, it’ll be regarding the amount of protein, carbs and fats the person is eating, or the diet is structured to contain.

Personally, I use macros as a guideline only. I won’t be expecting you to precisely shave off bits of food to hit a rigid target. The idea is to make building your healthy diet as easy as possible. 

How many calories are in the different macros?

Each macronutrient has a set amount of calories it contains. Here’s the breakdown…

  • Protein – 4 calories per gram
  • Carbs – 4 calories per gram
  • Fat – 9 calories per gram

This is the same across the board, regardless of the type of protein, fat or carbs. The reason a food might contain more or fewer calories will be because of the structure of the food.

At a molecular level though, these are the calories contained within each macronutrient.


CHAPTER 2:

Chapter 2 -  How Do We Lose Weight

Use Science To Lose Weight

Understanding the energy balance to unlock the secret to weight loss once and for all

In this section we’re going to explain the basic principles of weight loss. In particular, we’ll focus on how energy intake and expenditure work to determine weight loss.

Let’s explain metabolism…

You’ve probably heard of a mythical process known as ‘metabolism’, but there’s a good chance you don’t have a clue what it means! Let me explain what it is…

Metabolism is the conversion of the food we eat into usable energy for the body. It’s a biochemical process that your body is permanently performing.

Your body needs this, because it is constantly using energy. Your heart is beating. Your brain is working. Your digestive system is dealing with food. Messages are being sent along your nervous system…

Not to mention the trillions of other processes going on within your body at any given moment.

These processes all require fuel, meaning your body has a base-level demand of energy. The amount of energy your body needs to simply function at rest is known as your ‘basal metabolic rate’, or your ‘BMR’.

Your BMR is determined by a lot of factors… age, activity levels, muscle mass, previous activity etc. 

This is the amount of calories your body needs simply to maintain its current state.

You can influence your BMR by strength training. In fact, research by Johnstone et al in 2005 concluded that ‘63% (of metabolic variation) was explained by fat free mass (muscle, bone, connective tissue)’.

You can easily see your BMR in action. Weigh yourself just before you go to bed. Then weigh yourself again in the morning. You’ll likely be anywhere between 1 and 4 pounds lighter.

You haven’t lost that weight through exercise – it’s your body using energy to simply function. 

Science has finally established there’s little to no good evidence in support of people having a ‘fast’ or ‘slow’ metabolism. It’s largely down to energy balance. 

What is the energy balance?

You might have heard the energy balance explained as ‘calories in versus calories out’. That’s essentially the energy balance. 

Energy balance is absolutely fundamental to weight management. When you get the energy balance in your favor, you can control your weight easily. You can gain or lose weight, depending on your goals.

This has been researched extensively and is consistently proven to be true. In a paper by Hill et al, titled The Importance of Energy Balance, they conclude that…

‘A positive energy balance, in which energy intake exceeds expenditure, causes weight gain, with 60–80 % of the resulting weight gain being attributable to body fat. In negative energy balance, when energy expenditure exceeds intake, the resulting loss in body mass is also accounted for by 60–80 % body fat.’

So to put things simply, if you want to lose weight, your absolutely fundamental concern is addressing the energy balance, and make sure you stay in a calorie deficit until you reach a desired weight or body fat goal. 

The reverse is true for weight gain.

You can increase the amount of energy your body burns by exercising. The role of exercise in weight loss is two-fold…

  1. Preserve muscle mass
  2. Increase energy expenditure

This is why we favor a resistance training approach over pure cardio. Resistance training helps us to maintain muscle more effectively. This in turn ensures we burn more calories at rest.

Steve working out with a heavily loaded barbell

Does food type matter?

This is a never-ending debate amongst the weight loss professionals. To be completely transparent, I’ll give you an overview of the three main arguments. I’ll then give you my take.

On one side you have the ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ (IIFYM) crowd. They argue that the most important element of the weight loss equation is calories, so you can eat what you like, as long as you stick to your calorie target and hit your macros.

They argue it’s easier to stick to a diet that way, because you have more food choices open to you. 

On the other side, you have people who say that calories don’t matter so much, and that food quality and macro choices are more important. You’ll see this argument largely coming from the Paleo, low carb, keto diet communities.

They argue fat loss/gain is determined hormonally (largely driven by insulin), so management of blood sugar is more important.

The third community is the one I feel more part of. It borrows from both, I suppose. 

I think that if you want to look, feel and perform well, you absolutely have to make good food choices. You can’t expect to be optimally healthy if you live on a diet of cookies and pizza.

I also believe fundamentally in the science of weight loss – if you want to manage your weight, you have to be aware of your calorie intake, and manage it accordingly. You can sum it up by saying I believe in eating good quality foods in the right portions. 

I know people who have followed all three, and the most consistently effective approach is the third one. It’s why I use it. I’m paid to help people, not force an agenda on them.

What should my diet look like?

Before we get onto quantities of food, let’s discuss food types. In my career as a personal trainer, I’ve noticed that people look, feel and perform better when they eat a diet based around high quality, natural foods.

Sure, you can lose weight by only eating Mcdonald’s, but that’s not the point. We want to optimize for health, not just a weight target. 

A diet high in good quality protein will enable tissue regeneration, cell repair, satiety and food satisfaction. You also need plenty of fruits and vegetables for the vitamins, minerals and fiber content.

Finally, a good quality carb source, ideally rice, potatoes and fruit will supply sufficient energy. 

Round this off with 2-3 liters of water per day and you’re good to go.


CHAPTER 3:

Chapter 3 -  How Many Calories Should I Be Eating

The Truth Behind Calorie Counting

Establishing calorie amounts you need to eat to lose weight

We’ve already established that calorie control is integral to weight management. Whether you want to gain or lose weight, you have to consume the correct number of calories. In this section, we’re going to discuss all things calories.

I’m going to use a 200 lbs man who trains 4 times per week and wants to lose 20 lbs as my example here.  

Establishing your calorie target

First of all we have to establish a calorie target. Once you have this figure, you can begin to set out a dietary approach.

There are different equations you can use to establish your calorie target. 

My advice? 

Don’t bother. Use MyFitnessPal instead. 

Weight loss can be confusing enough without making it more difficult by involving equations. MyFitnessPal is fast, it’s accurate and personally, I don’t believe in making this process any harder than it needs to be.

Enter your details into the app (it’s free) and it’ll spit out a calorie target for you. 

You can pay for a subscription that gives you macro guidance, but you don’t need to do that. I’ll teach you how to do that for yourself in a moment. 

In the case of a 200 lbs man who exercises 4 times per week, for 45 minutes per workout, the calorie target is 1880 calories per day.

Above EVERYTHING else, we have to make sure we don’t exceed that figure if we want to lose weight. 

Setting out (an approximate) macro target

Here’s where I can get a little controversial. 

There’s only one macro I really care about. 

That’s protein. 

And most people vastly under-eat enough protein to maintain and build muscle.

The others (carbs and fats), I’m willing to be more flexible on. But I insist on my fat loss or muscle building clients hitting a protein target. 

If you’re an active person (like our guy in the example is), then protein takes on an even greater role. It helps to build muscle. It helps to repair tissues damaged by exercise.

It helps us to feel full when on reduced calories. It also acts as a secondary energy source.

For these reasons, I like my client’s diets to be high in protein. 

There’s all kinds of discussion around protein intake in the nutritional science world. Some of the recent science suggests there’s no ‘unsafe’ top level amount of protein to eat.

Personally, I’ve always gone with the target of 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. 

In this case, our man will be eating 200g of protein per day.

Depending on your viewpoint, this may seem too high or too low. I’m using this as my guidance – International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. In the article, the ISSN states…

‘Higher protein intakes (2.3-3.1 g/kg/d) may be needed to maximize the retention of lean body mass in resistance-trained subjects during hypocaloric periods.’

Hypocaloric periods refer to periods when we’re consuming a calorie deficit. It suggests that in order to maintain muscle mass when we’re dieting, we need higher protein intake. If the ISSN says that, I’ll go along with it! 

The advice hasn’t steered me wrong so far.

We know from our macros chat earlier that 200g of protein is 800 calories. We have a daily target of 1880, so the protein target takes up 42.5% of that. I’m not going to freak out about 2.5%, so let’s round it down to 40%.

Our guy is eating 800 calories of protein, so that leaves us with 1080 calories to split between fats and carbohydrates. We can split these in half, giving us 540 calories each from carbs and fats.

Remembering the calories per gram of the macros we discussed earlier, it means our guy can eat…

  • 135g of carbs (4 calories per gram)
  • 60g of fat (9 calories per gram)

This gives us an approximate macro split of…

  • 40% protein
  • 30% carbs
  • 30% fats

This is merely a guideline. You might prefer more fat and less carbs. Some people prefer more carbs and less fat. 

Do what works for you, just make a point of always achieving your calorie and protein target

This meal is an example of a high protein, low carb and moderate fat meal. Thanks to the low calories in the salad, I have been able to eat a large salad with the steak and still hit calorie and protein targets.

Lower-calorie foods allow for a greater volume of food, so bear that in mind if you like big portions. 

The fat on the meat has largely been removed, and I won’t eat the fatty ‘eye’ in the steak. I have a small amount of parmesan on there, and a little pesto. 

The nutritional info comes in at…

  • Calories: 706
  • Protein: 65g 
  • Fat: 42g 
  • Carbs: 17g 

It shows you can cycle the carbs and fats up and down to suit as you need.

Salad and steak - a well balanced fat loss meal

Protein distribution

There’s solid research that suggests that protein intake is better when spread over several meals, rather than consumed in a single dose. 

In 2014, the Journal of Nutrition published a paper titled Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults by Mamerow et al. 

In the study, they compared a diet where protein intake was spread evenly throughout the day, with a diet where protein was skewed towards a higher intake later in the day. They concluded that…

‘The consumption of a moderate amount of protein at each meal stimulated 24-h muscle protein synthesis more effectively than skewing protein intake toward the evening meal.’

I prefer this approach too. I think asking someone to consume a huge amount of protein in one go is a bit much. 

A huge, high protein meal late in the day is usually hard to digest, can negatively impact sleep and as the research shows, isn’t as effective for helping muscle growth and repair.

Our aim during weight loss is to maintain as much muscle as we can, so we have to stack the deck in our favor.

To summarize… spread your protein intake across several meals. You’re not a lion. Don’t eat like one.


CHAPTER 4:

Chapter 4 -  Calculating Calorie Content Of Meals

Calculating Calorie Content Of Meals (Quickly)

The quickest and easiest ways to ensure your calories are in check

Whether you like it or not, your success in weight loss is determined by how well you can track your calorie intake. In this section, we’re going to discuss a range of different methods to keep your calories in check.

Getting technology on your side

I suggest you pick up a set of digital weighing scales for your kitchen. That way, you make calorie counting a doddle. They cost a few bucks on Amazon…

An example of a digital kitchen scale

But how do you calculate the calories of foods without a label?

Say you buy your meat from a butcher, or your fish from a fishmonger and it doesn’t have a label with calorie content on it. What do you do then?

Back to our friend, MyFitnessPal.

Nowadays, the food libraries and databases in calorie tracking apps are fantastic. You simply weigh your portion of whatever food you’re going to eat, find it on the app and it’ll give you a calorie content. 

Say for example you were going to eat 250g of lean ground beef. You’d find ground beef in the app, type in ‘250g’ in the portion section and it’ll give you calorie content and macro information. You would then save this in your food diary.

It doesn’t matter if you weigh your foods in metric or imperial either – the app can deal with both.

If you’re eating food from a packet, you can simply scan the barcode on your MyFitnessPal app and upload it straight into your tracker. It’s really that simple. 

That’s the easiest way to keep track of your calorie intake. 

Counting calories without weighing everything every time

I’ve said before, I’m a believer in making things as easy as possible to follow. I also don’t believe that many people want to weigh everything they eat. So with that being said, what can you do to make the process easier?

Here’s a few tips…

#1 Batch cook meals

If you do a large batch of a meal, you weigh everything once and then divide the calories and protein per portion. It’s a great way to stay on top of things. It also saves time in the week when you’re busy.

Say for example you made a large batch of meatballs and the whole thing came to 2000 calories and 400g of protein, you’d divide that between the amount of portions it contained.

If you divide it into 4 equal portions, you’d know each one contained 500 calories and 100g of protein per portion. 

Here’s an example of my batch cooking. I’ve done chicken breasts, soups, and ragus to be used later.

An example of batch cooking

This one cooking session created several portions of meals. I’ve calorie counted the batch, then divided them equally. Makes life so much easier. 

#2 Use standardized ingredients

I have a ladle at home that I know can hold 75g of rice. I always use it when I’m cooking rice, because I know straight away that the rice portion will be around 260 calories. It saves me weighing it out every time.

I know that a lean 8oz sirloin steak will be around 400 calories and 70g of protein, so I get my butcher to cut them into 8oz steaks. He does the work for me. I buy large eggs, because I know a large egg will be about 70 calories and 6g of protein.

I try to standardize where possible, because it makes the process easier.

Two pieces of fresh steak

These steaks weigh the same. I’ve asked my butcher to do this, so I know the approximate calorie content each time. I’ll cut the fat off these, saving myself more calories.

#3 Don’t be afraid of microwave meals

Processed foods, like a lot of products, come in different qualities. You can get some utter crap that you shouldn’t feed to a dog, but you can also get some good stuff. If you find good quality processed foods, don’t be afraid to put them in your diet. 

They’ll come with nutritional info printed on them, so you can scan them into your app easily. This makes calorie control simple.

It’s not my go-to, but I don’t want perfect to be the enemy of good. Don’t base your entire diet around them, but when it’s appropriate, go for it. You won’t do yourself any harm and if it makes life easier, use them.

#4 Don’t count everything

This tip is one I suggest to make things quicker and easier. There are some foods which are so low in calories, I basically give my clients a free pass on them. Essentially, it’s anything green and leafy. 

For example, 100g of steamed broccoli is going to come in at 34 calories. The same amount of spinach is 23 calories. A 100g serving of rocket is 25 calories. These are such small amounts, I don’t even expect people to weigh them.

They’re also taking space on a plate that could otherwise be filled with higher calorie foods, so they’re saving you calories!

#5 Take pictures for size guides

A tip I’ve used before is for people to weigh a food to establish its nutritional info, then take a picture of it for reference. That way you only have to measure the portion size once and can refer back to a picture of it.

This can save you time and effort with meals. Over time you build up a library that you can quickly scan over. It’ll make life significantly easier when it comes to meal times. 

How many calories should my meals contain?

Let’s go back to our 200 lbs guy in the example, and look over what we know so far. That way we can look at meals and calorie distribution. 

We know that he has a calorie target of 1880 per day. We know that he has to hit 200g of protein. We also know that best results are achieved when we spread the protein intake relatively evenly throughout the day. 

So let’s base our plan around that. 

To prevent hunger, and too long between meals I suggest that my clients eat 4 meals per day, or 3 meals and a couple of significant snacks – whatever works for them.

In this example, here’s how I’d want our guy to eat…

Breakfast:

50g of protein (could be eggs, meat such as sausage and lean bacon, fish) and carbs in the form of fruit. I’d also want him to drink a significant amount of water – maybe 500ml to 1 liter to rehydrate after being asleep.

I’d want this meal to be around 400 calories ideally. 

Lunch:

I’d want another 50g of protein here, served with some easy digestible carbs, such as a small portion of white rice and a salad. Fats could be added in the form of an oil-based dressing.

This meal would be around 500 calories. Another 500ml of water should be drunk. 

Training – around 45 minutes of whole-body resistance training at a high intensity. 1 liter of water during the session. 

Evening meal:

Another 50g of protein, with another serving of natural carbs (rice or potatoes) and appropriate fats. Plenty of vegetables here, for the fiber and the vitamins.

If they were green and non-starchy (broccoli, spinach, spring greens, cabbage, lettuce etc) I wouldn’t count them in my calories.

I’d want this meal to be around 700 calories. 500ml – 1 liter of water.

Night time snack (at least 2 hours before bed):

This would be around 300 calories and contain around 50g of protein. You could have something like a protein shake with some yogurt, or maybe cold meats etc.

Whatever you want, as long as you hit your protein and calorie target. No other liquids – we don’t want our guy having his sleep interrupted with toilet visits!

Total protein and calories on this meal plan

You’d be looking at this for the day if you eat like this:

  • Under 1,900 calories
  • 200g protein

Why should I eat in this kind of split?

There are several reasons why I’ve split his food intake up this way. I’ll explain them both scientifically, and anecdotally…

#1 – We want an even spread of protein

As we saw in the research earlier, an even spread of protein helps with muscle protein synthesis. We want to maintain and even build muscle mass if we can, so we need to spread the protein intake.

It’s also easier for a person to deal with smaller, more frequent doses of protein than one single hit later in the day. 

#2 – We want to manage blood sugar and hunger

Research by Wyatt et al in 2021 researched the influence blood sugar lows had on hunger. Their study was titled ‘Postprandial glycaemic dips predict appetite and energy intake in healthy individuals.’ They say…

‘In conclusion, our data show for the first time in a large-scale controlled study of healthy individuals representative of the general population that postprandial glucose dips are common and lead to increased hunger and energy consumption in real world conditions.’

Eating 4 times per day helps to manage blood sugar and prevent hunger – a huge issue when dieting. 

#3 – He’s fuelled his workout, then fuelled his recovery

I don’t want my guy training on an empty gas tank. He needs to have eaten something before training in order to maximize his time in the gym.

Having tried both fasted and fed training and seen clients try both approaches, I believe that people generally train with more intensity when they’re fed.

Post-training, he still has a meal to consume so we will replenish glycogen and give his body another dose of protein. This is also supplemented with more vitamins, minerals and fiber. These will help to reduce hunger and promote general health.

#4 Night time snack means better sleep

Anecdotally I’d noticed that trying to sleep on a really full stomach was an issue for me. I still wanted to consume protein relatively close to bedtime, but a big meal was out of the question.

To combat this I went with a high protein snack or protein shake around 2 hours before bed time, and it seemed to work. 

It turns out I wasn’t alone in experiencing the waking through the night when sleeping with a full stomach.

Research from 2020 by Chung et al investigated the question ‘Does the Proximity of Meals to Bedtime Influence the Sleep of Young Adults?’ They concluded…

‘Meal timing appears to be a modifiable risk factor for nocturnal awakenings and disrupted sleep.’

They’d noted that a large meal before bed increased the chances and frequency of nighttime awakening. We want to avoid that, so the final food intake before bed is relatively light. 

#5 – It allows for a normal life

In order for a diet to be stuck to, it needs to allow for a sense of normality. Any diet that’s too restrictive, forces odd eating patterns and generally isn’t compatible with the rest of the family is likely to be unsuccessful.

In this case, our guy will be eating in line with the rest of society. He isn’t going to be forced to eat 10 tiny meals per day, he isn’t going to be eating in compressed windows etc.

It allows him to lead a normal life and eat when his friends and family are. This may sound like an odd thing to put in this section, but I can assure you it’s not!

The ability of a person to stick to a diet is dramatically improved if you can make the process as easy as possible. These tips will help you do that.


CHAPTER 5:

Chapter 5 -  Supplementation

Supplements To Boost Fat Loss & Muscle Gains

Useful, or a waste of money?

There’s a multi-billion dollar global industry built on supplementation, but are supplements worth it? If so, which ones do we need, and why? Learn more here…

Supplements – my overarching viewpoint

Before we get started on this topic I want to say that I believe that in an ideal world, we’d get all of our vitamins and minerals from our diet and lifestyle. However, I know this isn’t an ideal world and that sometimes, we could use a little help. 

Here’s a list of the supplements I usually suggest to my clients, with a caveat as to the circumstances and why I suggest them…

There are plenty of other supplements out there. But for the most part I think they’re not especially useful or are difficult to get right. And in some cases they are a complete and utter scam.

These supplements should have your bases covered.

1. Protein shakes

Full disclosure – I don’t take protein shakes, but that’s because I consume plenty of protein in my diet.

However, some people who either don’t have the appetite for high protein consumption, or follow a diet plan making protein intake more difficult (vegetarians and vegans) would benefit from protein shakes.

Whey is excellent, but the main thing to focus on is getting a powder without added sugar and other junk. Just hit the protein target in a way you can cope with…

Shakes are a super easy way to get an additional 50g+ protein per day.

2. Multivitamins and minerals

I suggest these not for the vitamins (the quality of which can be questionable), but more for the mineral content.

  • The zinc,
  • magnesium,
  • iron,
  • copper etc.

This is my ‘nutritional insurance’ approach for most people… especially if you’re restricting calories.

Whilst I don’t believe that by simply taking a multivitamin you can ignore all food-based sources of vitamins and minerals, I’ve seen enough evidence to make me believe that on balance, they’re a worthwhile supplement. 

3. Vitamin D3

If you live (like me, unfortunately) in a place where over the winter you don’t get much/any sun exposure, then a vitamin D3 supplement is a very good idea.

I live in the north of England, and take a vitamin D3 supplement between the months of October and April.

The evidence in support of this is too large and strong to ignore, so I consider this a non-negotiable for people who don’t enjoy winter sun exposure. If you get plenty of year-round sun, don’t worry about taking it. Nature takes care of it for you. 

4. Fish oil capsules/omega 3’s (optional)

I don’t eat any fish (thanks, allergies), but recognize there are health benefits to fish oils. To make up for my lack of fish consumption, I take a daily Omega 3 fish oil, just to plug a nutritional gap.

If you eat plenty of fish, don’t worry about taking it. You’re already covered!


CHAPTER 6:

Chapter 6 - Dealing With Real Life Events On A Diet

Dealing With ‘Real Life’ Events On A ‘Diet’

Worried about missing out on fun whilst dieting? Don’t be – here’s how you can do it without impacting results!

The elephant in the room when discussing nutrition for fitness with a client is…

‘Can I still eat and drink the things I like?’

Or

‘I’ve got a party in 4 weeks that I want to enjoy myself at – can I?’

The answer is…

Absolutely! Yes, you can.

You just need to know how to prepare yourself for it, so you can indulge without ruining your progress. You don’t want to limit your fun, nor do you want your fun to limit your results. 

It all starts with the prep…

Regardless of your party, you’ve got a calorie target to hit if you want to lose weight. The good news is, you can ‘save up’ calories for a blow out. I’ll show you how. Let’s use our guy again…

His calorie target is 1880 per day, but he’s got a party on Saturday. 

I’d tell him to eat 1600 calories per day, but still hit his 200g protein target (remember, after calories protein is the next most important element of this) in the week leading up to the party. 

Doing this means he’s ‘saved’ nearly 2000 calories for the party, plus his 1880 he’s already set. It gives him nearly 4000 calories to enjoy – meaning he can basically double his intake without hurting his results.

Earn a few more calories through training…

I’d also be telling him to get a great workout BEFORE the party (never after – I’ll explain why in a moment). Something like an intense HIIT workout from the Strong Home Gym archives would be ideal.

You want to create an even bigger calorie deficit by getting plenty of training done before the party!

I always say you should train before the party, because if you think you’ll be able to train hard after a big night on the booze… you’re wrong! Alcohol impacts sleep, focus, performance and physical capabilities.

The day after the party, keep it gentle. Maybe a walk, but don’t kid yourself by saying you’ll work hard afterward. 

Then get back on track quickly

A single party, when it has been factored into your calorie target by ‘saving’ them up through the week won’t do any harm.

When that single party becomes several, or that party then spills into two days… that’s when results are impacted.

Have your fun, then get back on track. The sooner you get back to normal, the less impact there is on your progress. You won’t even notice the difference after a few days.

It’s the post-party window that is often the most important to get right, because it can lead to the diet breaking down if you don’t get back to normal quickly. This is where people can have the ‘I’ve already ruined my diet, so I’ll just carry on this way’ moment. 

You want to avoid that at all costs.

When you eat bad… you crave bad stuff so it’s important to be aware of this stage.


CHAPTER 7:

Chapter 7 - Dealing With The Hunger

Practical Tips To Reduce Hunger

Weight loss and hunger are unfortunate bed fellows. Luckily, I’ve got a few suggestions…

Here’s an unavoidable truth. In order to lose weight, you’ll have to eat less than you’re used to. You’ll also have to make food choices you’d prefer not to. Stay disciplined though, and the results are worth it.

Here’s a few tips to make the journey easier…

Fit a meal schedule to suit you

I gave an example earlier where our guy ate 3 main meals and a pre-bed snack. That might not work for you. Instead, you might prefer more frequency in your meal times.

That’s cool – stick to your calorie and protein target, but split it more ways. You won’t harm your results and you might deal with hunger better.

Stay hydrated

A lot of hunger is actually thirst. By drinking plenty of water, you occupy stomach space with zero calorie content. This keeps hunger at bay, keeps you hydrated and helps you to lose weight. It’s a triple win!

Chew gum

A common complaint amongst dieters is that they need to taste something – it sounds odd, but it’s true. By chewing gum, you give your mouth and brain something to taste, but you don’t have the calorie content with it. Just opt for sugar free gum.

Keep low calorie snacks close by

I mentioned earlier that I basically give a free reign on greens. If I’m dieting and feeling hungry, some cucumber helps to fill me up at a negligible calorie cost. Other people like celery for the same reason.

Just don’t go dipping them into something – those calories impact you! Some opt for a black coffee with no sugar. Just do whatever works for you, with very low calories. 

Stay busy

Many people (myself included) are boredom eaters. If this is you, keep yourself busy between meals. If you’re occupying your brain, it’s less likely to drift toward thoughts of food! A busy brain is a dieter’s friend, I can assure you!

Follow these tips and it’ll help you stick to a calorie target even when the tough times kick in. Having a strategy to deal with hunger makes it far easier than just ‘ignoring it’. Most people run out of willpower sooner or later.

With these strategies, it won’t get to that point.


CHAPTER 8:

Chapter 8 - Weight Loss Case Studies

Fat Loss Case Studies

Real life people, with real life results

It’s fine sharing the theory side of things with you, but what do the results look like in real life? Here’s a few examples of guys who have transformed their health, fitness and physique with this approach…

Ashley – lost 44 lbs and 11% body fat

Ash was an interesting case, because we quickly found out that a lot of the foods he’d based his diet around just didn’t agree with him. Prior to working with me, he’d live on a very high carb diet, but he felt sluggish all the time. 

Having established calorie and protein targets, it forced him to reduce his carb intake. In doing so, he noticed that he felt better and was suffering fewer energy crashes throughout the day. 

His strength flew up, the body fat dropped quickly and he changed his nutrition approach forever. He essentially now lives on a high protein, high vegetable diet and fills in the rest with white rice around training.

Case Study 1 - Ash

Wes – lost 50 lbs in 14 weeks

This was a typical case of lack of movement with poor lifestyle choices. Wes was eating a generally crappy diet. Junk food, too much alcohol, not enough sleep.

Once he had a calorie and protein target established, a frequent workout schedule (that he could stick to, importantly) and a regular check in cycle he was transformed. Seeing results quickly (5 lbs gone in the first week) helped him to stay motivated.

As you can see, the lifestyle changes paid off! Wes maintains the weight loss to this day, he’s still training hard and following the principles he learned during his weight loss journey.

Case Study 2 - Wes

Lewis – a return to athleticism

Prior to his weight gain, Lewis had been a very high level soccer player, playing for an academy team (a professional club’s junior set up) until his late teens. Having had his career cut short, he steadily gained weight. 

He was unhappy, lacked confidence and didn’t know how to structure a diet or training program. 

It was the usual drill… Set a calorie target, set a protein target. Teach him strength training, and as he started to drop the weight, we pushed his workouts to the next level.

He followed a workout program that was very similar to the Superhero Program on the Strong Home Gym site.

In the end he was so driven, he booked himself a professional photo shoot so he could capture the end result properly!

Case Study 3 - Lewis

The point of showing you these people is to highlight what is possible when you follow a sensible approach. These guys are just like you – normal life, normal jobs, starting from a range of different positions. 

By following some basic rules…

  1. Hitting a calorie target
  2. Hitting a protein target
  3. Resistance training 4 times per week

They have made sustainable, lasting changes to their health. They’ve used an approach that doesn’t impact their social life or their family life.

None of this is complicated. It’s a simple process, but it’s not easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it. You have to ride out the tougher days, stick to the principles and watch the changes bear fruit. 

We’re with you every step of the way!


The Ultimate Guide to Nutrition for Fitness: The bottom line

We’ve covered a lot in this article, so I suggest you go back and re-read the key points. Download the MyFitnessPal app, and if you haven’t got any, get some digital kitchen scales. Together, they’ll make this process so much easier.

Don’t over-think the exercise. Follow the Superhero Program, pair it with your dietary approach and I promise you, it’ll transform your health and fitness. 

Chart your progress with a diary and pictures. It’ll help keep you motivated, and show you how far you’ve come.

I’m genuinely excited for anyone reading this with a view to embracing this approach – you’ve just made the first step on the road to a brand new you!

Want to improve your home gym?

Use the hours of research, testing and experience inside the ultimate guide to build a home gym. Find out…

  • The 4 items of kit every gym needs
  • What you should avoid
  • Where to find bargains and discounts

Click here to learn more about how to build a home gym.

Photo of author
Steve Hoyles is a certified personal trainer and gym owner. Since graduating with his Sports Science degree in 2004 he's worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. His writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries as he inspires to help as many people as possible live a healthy lifestyle.

Leave a Comment