Q & A: Online Resources and Establishing a Caloric Intake

5 Sep

Here is a question (paraphrased a bit) I was asked recently and I hope the answer below helps out!

“Hi Greg. I’m currently studying to get my personal trainer certification, and I was wondering if you knew any good websites that help out? I’m having trouble with calorie count for an individual, such as how do you figure out how many calories one should be taking in each day? I’d really appreciate your help. I’ve always been involved in fitness and i’m so eager to get my career going!!” – Hanna

Let me start by answering question one. There are a lot of fantastic websites on the internet that supply a shocking amount of free quality information. I could compile an enormous list but instead I am going to say this:

Start by reading articles on the following sites:

T-Nation

Elite Fitness Systems

These two sites are invaluable because they feature great articles from lots of different coaches. About three years ago I would read the articles on these sites almost exclusively (I still read almost everything they put out). What I did from there was I began to gain an idea of who I enjoyed reading the most. From there I would follow the blogs of these coaches.

I signed up for newsletters and purchased products from my favorites. I even began to e-mail a few of the coaches and still do my best to attend their seminars, webinars and so on.

Next, I purchased memberships to the following member only sites and it has proven to be more than worth the admission:

Mike Boyle’s StrengthCoach.com

Precision Nutrition

Elliot Hulse and Mike Westerdal’s Hybrid Muscle Tribe

Lastly, a few coaches will include “Good Reads” in their weekly blog posts. Some that come to mind are:

Ben Bruno

Tony Gentilcore

Eric Cressey

Jon Goodman and The Personal Trainer Development Center

Additionally, many coaches will have recommended resource links on their websites / blogs. Hope this info gets you started!

As for question two here is my approach to caloric intake for an individual:

It is always going to be goal dependent. Is the person looking for fat loss, weight gain, performance improvement, and or health improvement? I am biased towards Dr. Berardi’s approach with Precision Nutrition. One thing Dr. Berardi drives home is that nutrition should improve body composition, performance and health. While there are a lot of approaches that get you quick improvements in one of those areas they tend to produce short term results that can cause a relapse eventually.

So while caloric intake is incredibly important, don’t lose sight of a few constants that should accompany the correct daily caloric intake (DCI). Those would be:

  • Food Quality
  • Correct Macro Nutrient Splits (Protein / Carb / Fat) These are based on Body Type (Ecto/Meso/Endo – Morphic)
  • Workout Nutrition
  • Healthy Habits (Food Prep, Meal Timing, Relationship with food)
I would steer away from being the trainer who says eat 2000 calories no more, no less, and leaves it at that. Educate the client on how different foods react within the body, what they should be consuming around training sessions, how to shop for and prep food, and monitor their eating habits / how they are effecting their quality of life. Forming good habits and breaking bad habits will ensure compliance. Take it one habit at a time and you will really make an impact.
Ok, so how do we get a baseline DCI?
First you need to account for the clients activity level and their goals.
I subscribe to Dr. Berardi’s recommendations with Precision Nutrition. This involves using an easy formula. In this formula you are going to multiply the person’s body weight by a number from 10 – 22 depending on their goal and activity level.
Sedentary – 10 – 12 for weight loss, 12 – 14 for maintenance, 14 – 18 for weight gain
Moderate – 12-14 for weight loss, 14-16 for maintenance, 18-20 for weight gain
Very Active 14-16 for weight loss, 16-18 for maintenance, 20 – 22 for weight gain
Example: 200lb male who is very active will eat between 2,800 and 3,200 calories per day for fat loss.
Although you didn’t ask for it, the macro nutrient split is also important. After figuring out the DCI you want to show them the correct breakdown of protein, fat and carbohydrate they should eat depending on their body type. To determine a body type there are a number of characteristics. The easiest way to get an idea of the body type is to observe and / or ask the client “what would they look like if they didn’t exercise or worry about what they ate.” It’s not to difficult to categorize people, although many will fall somewhere in between the three categories. Therefore, it is important to inform the client that finding the correct splits will be an ongoing process of trial and error. From the get go there will be improvement, and it is your job to observe the results and tweak things as necessary. So what are the three body types (Again these recommendations come from Precision Nutrition and Dr. Berardi)?
Ectomorphic (Inherently thin or skinny. Thin arms and legs but lacking muscle definition): Protein at 25% Carb at 55% and Fat at 20%.
Mesomorphic (Inherently muscular and athletic. Think, the “lucky ones!”: Protein at 30% Carb at 40% Fat at 30%.
Endomorphic (Inherently heavy-set. This will be the majority of fat loss personal training clients from my experience): Protein at 35% Carb at 25% Fat at 40%.
Once you have established the DCI and body type you want to multiply the DCI by the percentage of each macro nutrient. I would also find the approximate grams of each macro nutrient. To do so divide the DCI by the gram per calorie associated with each (Fat = 9cal/g, Protein and Carb = 4cal/g)
Example: 200lb endomorphic male who is very active and looking to lose fat (I will use the median DCI – 3,000cal):
Protein = 3,000 x .35 = 1,050cal / 4 = 262.50g
Carb = 3,000 x .25 = 750cal / 4 = 187.50g
Fat = 3,000 x .40 = 1,200cal / 9 = 133.30g
In the end your 200lb client should eat between 2,800 – 3,200 calories a day or to say he should consume about 260 – 265g of protein, about 185 to 190g of carbohydrates and about 132 – 134 grams of fat (just off the top of my head).
It seems like a lot of math but it’s really very easy. Armed with that detailed information you can set a client up for success.
I would strongly suggest investing in the Precision Nutrition system and eventually enrolling in their certification program as there is a lot more that goes into nutritional coaching than just laying the numbers on the table.
Hope this helps Hannah!
If anyone else has any questions please don’t hesitate to ask!
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