By Elliot Fisher MS, CSCS, PES
The information in this article is not medical advice. Any nutrition questions should be referred to a Registered Dietician or your Physician. This article is based on the cited references.
Step 1 – Determine Goal
Gain Muscle – Should be in caloric surplus. Gain 0.5-2 lbs body weight/week.1
Gain Strength – Should be at caloric maintenance or slight surplus. Stay at same weight or gain 0.5 lbs/week.1,2
Lose Fat – Should be in a caloric deficit. Lose 1-2 lbs body weight/week.1
Maintain or Recomp – Should be in caloric maintenance. Maintain weight on average.1
Step 2 – Determine Calories
Use a calculator/formula to get a baseline idea of what your total daily energy expenditure is.3
Determine calories based off this calculation.
Add/lower 500 kcal/day for 1 pound increase/decrease, 1000 kcal/day for 2 pounds, or 250 kcal/day for 0.5 lbs.
Weigh yourself daily around the same time/same circumstances (right when you wake up or right before bed as examples). Record these weights and average them at the end of the week. See if your average weight is changing as desired. For example, if you want to gain weight at a rate of 2 pounds/week. Check the weekly average, if it goes up by about 2 pounds (maybe account for 0.5 pounds standard deviation) then you’re good, if it’s only about 1 pound a week add 500 kcal/day. If it’s staying the same add 1000 kcal/day.
Step 3 – Determine Macronutrient Ranges
Protein should be around 1.7-2 grams/kg of bodyweight.4
Fat should be no lower than 0.3 grams per pound of bodyweight. – test this amount, some people need more or less for proper hormone production, if you find you feel off or have lowered sex drive modify this amount.5
Carbohydrate – try to get at least 2 grams per pound of bodyweight on training days. If dieting and don’t have enough calories, then it’s fine to lower this. Try to get 10 grams of fiber/1000kcal/day (example 3500 kcal/day = minimum 35 grams of fiber ideally).
If there are extra calories in your diet then you can fill them with any macronutrient!5
Step 4 – Get enough micronutrients
Eat mostly healthy and nutrient dense foods. General recommendation, eat mostly these foods.5 Try to get 2-3 servings from each category, this might be tough when dieting so if you can’t fit 2-3 servings in, then just try to fill most of your food choices with them.
Whole grains/nutrient dense starches
Healthy fats – mostly monounsaturated, and omega 3’s
Step 5 – Nutrient Timing
Try to get most nutrients spread relatively evenly to 3-4 meals (protein has the most impact from being spread evenly).
Try to eat mostly protein and carbohydrates around exercise/training, fats and high fiber foods can slow down digestion, slowing nutrient utilization during activity, and can potentially cause GI issues if too much is consumed. Sugar is good before, during, and after workout.1
1. Israetel M, Case J, Hoffman J. The Renaissance Diet. Renaissance Periodization.
2. Israetel M, Hoffman J, Smith C. The Scientific Principles of Strength Training. Renaissance Periodization.
3. McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., & Katch, V. L. (2010). Exercise physiology: nutrition, energy, and human performance. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
4. Schoenfeld, B. (2016). Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy. Human Kinetics.
5. Israetel M, Case J, Pfaendtner T. Understanding Healthy Eating: A Science-Based Guide To How Your Diet Affects Your Health. Renaissance Periodization; 2016.