The foundation of The Easy Diet is the most basic principles of nutrition. To lose body fat, you calculate how many calories your body needs and consume fewer than that. To build muscle mass, you calculate how many calories your body needs and consume moderately more than that. You also need to balance your macronutrient intake and you can learn more about that in our introduction to essential macronutrients and micronutrients.
The steps below will get you ready for your fat loss or muscle building goals. Make sure you follow all of these steps before moving on.
Preparing For Your Diet
Step 1 – Determine your Basal Metabolic Rate: The first thing you need to do is calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your BMR tells you how many calories your body would burn if you were completely sedentary (for example, if you literally slept all day). These are the bare minimum calories you need for the functioning of vital organs and nothing more. Write down this number and continue to the next step. Do not use this number by itself as a baseline.
Step 2 – Calculate your calories burned in a day: Take the number you calculated for your BMR in step 1 and apply the Harris-Benedict Equation to it. I’ve provided the equation below. This equation tells you how many calories your body burns if you’re not literally sleeping all day. You take your BMR number and then multiply it by another number depending on how active you are on a daily basis.
Example: If you do little or no exercise, take your BMR and multiply it by 1.2 as in the first bullet point below.
Note: Even if you’re not exercising, you have to multiply your BMR by 1.2, as long as you’re not sleeping all day. Multiplying your BMR by this number will tell you how many total calories burned in a day (your Basal Metabolic Rate + any calories burned from any activity during the day). Calories burned from activity start adding up the moment you get out of bed.
Here’s a basic Harris-Benedict equation multiplication guide based on general activity levels.
- If little or no exercise, then calorie-calculation = BMR x 1.2
- If light exercise 1-3 days per week, then calorie-calculation = BMR x 1.375
- If moderate exercise 3-5 days per week, then calorie-calculation = BMR x 1.55
- If hard exercise 6-7 days per week, then calorie-calculation = BMR x 1.725
- If very hard exercise, then calorie-calculation = BMR x 1.9
Example: I have a BMR of 1536.4 and I exercise 5 days a week. Therefore, my maintenance caloric requirements are 1536.4 x 1.55 = 2,381 (i.e. I burn 2,381 calories per day on average and would need to consume 2,381 calories to maintain my weight). Since I’m trying to build muscle, I add 300 calories to that and eat approximately 2,700 calories. If I was trying to lose body fat, I would be subtract 300 calories from that and eat approximately 2,100 calories.
Note: You can also use a heart rate monitor or gadgets like Nike+ Fuelband to calculate calories burned. Just keep in mind, fitness gadgets, just like exercise machines, are somewhat inaccurate and generally overstate calories burned.
Step 3 – Set realistic, achievable goals: Everyone’s goals are different and The Easy Diet is designed to adapt to your goal, whether it is to lose fat or build muscle mass. While you can read more about each on their respective pages, the general rule is to create a 300 calorie deficit for fat loss and create a 300 calorie surplus for building muscle mass. Do not exceed these numbers. This means you should lose no more than 1 lb of fat every 12 days.
Step 4 – Record every possible thing: People who record their daily diet and exercise information are far more likely to succeed than people who just “wing it.” If you can at information on what you eat and drink every day, then you can figure out when you are over or under your caloric goals and decide which foods to eat less of or more of.
While there are a multitude of tools available on the web, my personal favorite is the My Fitness Pal website and mobile apps. The site’s database contains nutritional information for over a million foods and their mobile apps let you scan the barcode of any food item and instantly import the nutritional information as well as serving sizes to your food diary. I’m working on a complete guide to My Fitness Pal to be published soon.
Step 5 – Involve Everyone: Tell everyone you know about your plan, your goals, and your progress. Talk to friends, family, co-workers, and involve them in your journey. Make them hold you accountable if you’re at risk of falling off the wagon. The more people you tell, the less likely you are to quit. People around you are more likely to see changes in your body before you, simply because you look at yourself every day and are unlikely to see day-to-day changes. Rely on them for feedback when you’re feeling stuck.
The Easy Diet Ethos
Congratulations. You’ve done all the preparation work and are ready for principles of The Easy Diet. Whether you’re trying to lose body fat or build muscle mass, you’re going to follow the same steps laid out above and the points that follow.
1. Eat Healthy – The goal of The Easy Diet is not to make you eat less, it is to make you eat smarter and eat better, which surprisingly-often can mean eating more! For example, my typical breakfast includes: 4 whole eggs, 4 slices of bacon, and 360 ml of milk for a total of only 510 calories (or approximately 20% of my daily caloric requirement). Add in some yogurt (100 calories) or a slice of bread (110 calories) and it’s still approximately 25% of my daily caloric requirement. Compare that to McDonald’s breakfast nutritional information and you’ll realize if you pick the right ingredients, you can eat a lot more while still consuming fewer calories than when you eat unhealthy foods.
2. Drink Healthy – If you can, avoid alcohol and other calorically dense drinks (juices, smoothies, shakes, regular soft-drinks). Not only are they full of empty calories, but for some people (like myself) these drinks trigger poor eating habits. Instead opt for drinks like water, green tea, and coffee. As for fruit, instead of drinking then in the form of juice, choose to eat them instead.
- Water – Oftentimes when you think you’re hungry, your body is actually telling you it’s thirsty. Reach for a glass of water before you grab a snack and you can save yourself hundreds of unnecessary calories. It doesn’t stop there, drinking water with every meal can help you eat a little less while feeling fuller, plus water helps your body properly digest the food and extract the nutrients from it. Remember, drinking enough water can also help you get rid of water weight.
- Coffee and Green Tea – People get too wrapped up in the possible negative effects of caffeine. Caffeinated drinks in moderation are perfectly fine. Caffeine functions as a mild appetite suppressant and provides a small boost to your metabolism and energy levels, which is how green tea helps you lose weight.
3. Live Healthy – Keep in mind that good health isn’t just about losing excess pounds and building muscle. There are numerous irrefutable health benefits to being active.
Caloric Content of Alcoholic Beverages
If you absolutely must drink alcohol, opt to get drunk not fat and keep in mind alcohol provides 7 calories per gram but is not a macronutrient, i.e. it provides zero nutrition, only calories.