Revolutionize Your Health – Nutrition

There is one simple truth to shedding pounds: consume less calories than you expend, and you will lose weight.  It’s seriously that simple.  There is a process to calculating how many calories you expend, and that’s what I’ll walk you through today.

Read: Part 1 (Motivation)

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

The first thing you’ll need to learn is how to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR).  This important step is the key to laying a solid foundation for your new nutrition plan, as it ties directly with many other calculations later on.

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy you expend at rest.

There are a few different ways to calculate your BMR, with the first dating back to 1919.  Commonly used is the Katch-McArdle method, which I personally use as well.  You’re going to need a two measurements to get started:

  • Your weight (in lbs or kg)
  • Your body fat percentage

If you’re stumped on calculating your body fat percentage, you can purchase a body fat caliper.  If you’re fortunate enough to have access to a bodpod, that’s definitely the way to go.  The body fat calipers I personally use are the ones from Accu-Measure.

How It Works

BMR = 370 + (21.6 x Lean Body Mass)

Weight in lbs: Lean Body Mass (kg) =[(total weight (lbs) x 0.45359237) x (100 – bodyfat %)]/100
Weight in kg: Lean Body Mass (kg) =[total weight (kg) x (100 – bodyfat %)]/100

You can go ahead and start calculating now if you’d like, or follow along a bit later in the post when I calculate it for myself as an example. In the future, you’ll want to revisit your BMR as your weight increases or decreases to keep your calculations accurate.

Total Energy Expenditure (TEE)

Now that you know how to calculate your BMR, it’s time to calculate your total energy expenditure (TEE) by multiplying your BMR calculated above by an activity factor below.  Your TEE is actually as sum of various other figures, such as the energy you expend while eating and exercising, but using an activity factor is an easier way to get a very similar resulting figure.

1.2 = Sedentary (Little or no exercise and desk job)
1.3-1.4 = Lightly Active (Little daily activity & light exercise 1-3 days a week)
1.5-1.6 = Moderately Active (Moderately active daily life & Moderate exercise 3-5 days a week)
1.7-1.8 = Very Active (Physically demanding lifestyle & Hard exercise or sports 6-7 days a week)
1.9-2.0 = Extremely Active (Hard daily exercise or sports and physical job)

The resulting formula is:

TEE = BMR x Activity Factor

It’s important to be truthful to yourself when choosing this number.  When in doubt, choose a lower activity factor.

How To Lose, Gain, or Stay the Same Weight

Assuming you’ve done the calculations above, you have your TEE calculated. You will use this number along with your current goals to proactively alter your weight as you see fit.

To gain weight, simply consume more calories that your TEE on a daily basis. To lose weight, consume less, and to stay the same – well – you get the idea. 🙂

Is it really that simple? Yes! You have full control over your weight loss and gain. This should work for a majority of people, but if you have a medical condition or are on a particular type of medication known to cause problems with weight loss or gain, consult a doctor or nutritionist before altering your current diet.

I’ll Be The Guinea Pig

Body Shots - August 16, 2010

BEFORE - February 2011 - 176lbs ~ 20% Bodyfat

Steve Castaneda

AFTER - June 2011 - 162 lbs - 13% Bodyfat

Let’s walk through an example of how this would work for someone. Who else better to be the lab rat than me!

  • Weight: 162lbs
  • Bodyfat: 13%
  • Activity Factor: 1.5

I would say that I’m of average build. I’m certainly not ripped but I know that if I continue on my pursuit of personal growth in regards to my health, getting a perfect body is inevitable.

The first thing we need to do is to calculate my lean body mass.  Let’s plug in the numbers:

  1. LBM = [(162 x 0.45359237) x (100 – 13)]/100
  2. LBM = 62.93 kg or about 140.65lbs (multiply your answer by 2.2 to get an rough conversion of kg to lbs)

This means that out of the 162 lbs on my body, we can estimate that 140 lbs are muscle. The remaining 22 lbs are a combination of fat and other necessities.

Next, we’ll need to use my lean body mass to calculate my BMR.  Make sure you keep your lean body mass in kg for this calculation:

  1. BMR = 370 + (21.6 x 62.93)
  2. BMR = 1729 calories (calories expended at rest)

Finally, to get my total energy expenditure (TEE), I’ll need to multiply my BMR by an activity factor. In this case, my chosen activity factor is 1.5:

  1. Total energy expenditure = 1729 calories x 1.5 activity factor
  2. Total energy expenditure = 2,594 calories (calories including training, eating, daily activities)

If you’re following along with a calculator, notice that I have a tendency to round numbers. You don’t have to do that. If you want to calculate it down to a fraction of a calorie, then be my guest.  The only reason I round is because I understand that all these formulas are close estimates of my actual BMR, LBM, and TEE.  I would drive myself insane trying to count every single decimal in these calculations, but if I get close I’ll be just fine.

To Summarize

As long as I consume less than 2,594 calories on a daily basis, I should lose weight. If I want to gain weight, then I simply consume more.

Typically, you’ll subtract 20% from your TEE if you’re trying to lose weight, or add 20% if you’d like to gain.  It’s probably a wise choice to not do this all at once. Gradually increase or decrease your calories and let your body adapt to the new routine.

Proteins, Carbs, and Fat (Macronutrients)

Now that you know how many calories to aim for on a daily basis, it’s time to break those into individual macronutrients so you know what to eat.

I don’t subscribe to any fad diet of totally eliminating carbs or fat out of a diet.  I tend to gravitate towards experts who are objective in their research, like Alan Aragon, Emma-Leigh, and Mark Berkhan.  All three have done a tremendous amount of research in nutrition and visiting their blogs is time well spent.

Once you have your target calories, then you can begin to break down your required macronutrients to consume on a daily basis.  Based on my research, I break down my nutrients into the following:

  • Proteins: 1.0 grams – 1.2 grams per lb of body weight
  • Fat: 0.4 grams – 0.5 grams per lb of body weight
  • Carbs: Whatever is left (read below)

There are 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrate, and 9 calories per gram of fat. Once I’ve calculated my protein and fat, I can calculate the calories left over, divide by 4, and have the total grams of carbs I can consume.

I’m going to subtract 20% from my TEE (2,594 calories) because I still have body fat to lose.  If I wanted to focus on gaining weight, then I would add 20% to my TEE.

Target calories: 2,594 x 80% = 2,075 calories (same thing as subtracting 20%)

  • Protein = 162lbs x 1.2g = 195g (780 calories)
  • Fat = 162lbs x 0.5g = 81g (729 calories)
  • Carbs = (2,075 – (780 + 729)) / 4 = 142g

To summarize…

  • Protein: 195g
  • Carbs: 142g
  • Fat: 81g

With this in hand, I can begin to plan my meals in accordance to hitting these goals. You could strive to eat whole, unprocessed foods to really ramp up the fat loss progress. Alternatively, you can eat whatever you want as long as it fits your nutrient goals.  This is commonly referred to as IIFYM (if it fits your macros).

I’ve met people in both lines of thinking and both have experienced success. It’s best to see who your body responds, but you can’t go wrong by trying to focus on whole foods.

Recipe Recommendations

By far the most helpful to me has been a book by Bill Phillips titled “Eating for Life”.  It’s filled with gorgeous recipes, each with pictures of both the result and what ingredients to look for on the store shelves.

I’ve also stumbled on a great blog by Angeline Talens with gorgeous looking recipes I’ll try very soon.  Check her out at The Epicurean Bodybuilder.

Here is a screenshot of a spreadsheet I use to plan my meals on a daily/weekly basis.  If you’re interested in the spreadsheet, I’ll be happy to share.  Simply post a request in a comment below!

My Meal Plan

Notice it's not exact to the gram, but it's close!

Commons Sources for Macronutrients

I want you to explore and see what fits you and your family well. This article at details common sources of protein, the heart foundation focuses on fat, and you can read about carbs at Wikipedia.


  • Dairy Products
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Poultry
  • Soybeans


  • Fruits
  • Sweets
  • Breads
  • Pastas
  • Beans
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Cereals


  • Nuts
  • Peanut / Almond Butter
  • Avocados
  • Olive oil
  • Fish


You can get a leg up by considering to take supplements.  Common supplements include:

  • Multivitamin
  • Fish Oil
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Creatine Monohydrate

Martin Berkhan has a fanastic post on supplements that you should definitely take the time to read.  I’ve found any brand to do the trick, but with a multivitamin I tend to stay away from ones that include iron to avoid an upset stomach.

Here is a list of the supplements I currently take:

You can also supplement your protein intake by adding in some protein shakes.  Whey and Casein protein are essentially the same.  The key difference is that Casein protein is slow-digesting, and I’ve found better results with this before bedtime.  Casein takes longer to absorb in your body and helps you keep a feeling of a full stomach throughout the night.

I love the chocolate flavors but I’ve I’ve also enjoyed their strawberry banana version.  There’s tons to choose from so feel free to experiment.

Don’t Procrastinate – Commit to Change Today

Remember that the only thing holding you back from making a change is you.  Make a commitment to remove any obstacle that you feel is stopping you from hitting your health goals.  You’re worth it!

Tomorrow, I’ll go explore workout programs and my thoughts on weight training.  However, you would be wise to get your nutrition in check before moving on. Everyone needs a training plan, but a majority of people I meet could make an immediate, positive impact on their lives by simply changing their diet first.

If you missed yesterday’s article about motivation, you might have missed the catalyst that’s missing to drive your fitness to the next level. Read up!

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