I like to think of the structure most things in the field of health & fitness as a pyramid.
Why a pyramid?
Because a pyramid can only be a tall as it’s base allows, therefor meaning that you need to have a solid and established base to that you can build on it.
If I was to use the pyramid structure for nutrition pyramid it would be as follows:
The base would undoubtably be a persons INDIVIDUAL caloric requirements
First tier is a persons INDIVIDUAL macro nutrients.
Second & Third tiers would be made up of meal macro composition/timing & food choices (I would go meal timing/composition then food choices personally).
Top tier of the pyramid would be extra supplementation.
This is pretty easy for a lot of people to follow and understand, thought establishing your required calories can be a touch trickier.
Over the years I personally have found that establishing sedentary peoples calories based of their LBM (lean body mass) in lbs with the following equation never tends to be very far from the mark.
LBMx 11-13 = Fat Loss Caloric Range
LBMx 17-19 = Muscle Gain Caloric Range
If I had a more active person I would opt for the Harris-Benadic formula, or use the one above and add 300-500 cals to their base line.
Using the info above you will now have the base of your pyramid, the next level up is your individual macronutrient ratios. This really is a personal thing but I shall endeavour to give you a baseline starting point that you can then tweak.
Protein – LBM x1 = Grams per day, multiply this by 4 to get calories of protein for the day.
Carbs – Protein x1-3 = Grams per day (depending on style of training/overall daily activity, desk jockeys use x1, site workers use x3 and people in the middle use 1.5 or 2), multiply this by 4 to get calories of carbs for the day
Fat – What ever calories are left divide them by 9 to get your fat in grams for the day.
175lbs x 19 = 3325 total cals
175lbs x 1 = protein 175g x4 = 700 cals
175g x 2 = carbs 350g x 4 = 1400 cals
3325 – (700 + 1400) = 1225 cals
1225/9 = 136g fat
So these example calories/macros would be:
3225 Total Cal
Get the idea?
Next up in the pyramid would be meal timings/food choices. This will again differ from person to person but here are some simple suggestions to help you.
*Eat mostly single ingredient whole foods to get the bulk of your calories, doing this will sort out your micronutrients without you having to worry too much. think 80/20 – 80% single ingredient foods 20% what ever you fancy. Just keep the callers correct and the overall macronutrient ratio sold and you can’t go far wrong.
Breakfast/AM – Fat/Protein
Snack/AM – Fat/Protein
Lunch/PM – Complex Carbs/Protein
Snack/PM – Complex Carbs/Protein
Dinner/PM – Complex Carbs/Protein
Post Workout Protein/Simple Carbs – regardless on time of day.
The tip of the pyramid would be Supplements, these being Whey Protein, Creatine etc etc. However I feel everyone does well having some extra fish oil, a multivitamin and magnesium added in to their diet.
Why those 3 sups?
A good fish oil will help boost your daily Omega 3 and lower inflammation.
A good multivitamin will just give you a little extra of everything else.
Magnesium is linked to over 300 different biochemical responses in the body, there have been tones of books and studies on this so feel free to delve in to the topic for yourselves.
There you have it. A simple and sensible guide to understanding the nutrition pyramid, or at least my version of it anyway :).