Diet basics - how to plan a diet

There are a million and one different diets out there that you can follow. All of them are easily laid out and couldn’t be easier to follow. Just go on the atkins website, go to a weightwatchers class or just google the word ‘diet’ and you will have a myriad of options at your fingertips. However none of these have been written for you and you alone. They are all just standard diets aimed at anyone and everyone that doesn’t know how to write a diet for themselves. If a diet is not specific for your personal lifestyle or needs then it is not going to be as effective as if you had done it yourself with a bit of guidance. What you can take from diets like these are the food choices and recipes. Most of these diets have been designed by chefs who have an undeniable talent of making even the healthiest foods taste fantastic. There is no denying them of that. In my experience if the diet is bland and boring it is more effective, however not everyone would find this appealing so having a bit of nice tasting food every once in a while is no crime.


So when you are planning your own diet you need to know where to start. Well diets are progressive and so is the learning curve. The more diets you do, the more you will know what works for you. Your first diet or certainly the first few weeks of your diet may not be as successful as you hope as you don’t know how your body will react to different diets. For example some people love carb free diets, whilst others will diet with high carbs and low fats. It all depends on your own body. However the undeniable starting point is achieving a calories deficit. This is the basis of any diet. So this is where we will start.


Finding your calorie requirement:


In order to lose fat you must achieve a calorie deficit. If your body requires more calories than you are giving it, then it will go to body fat stores for energy. This is the basis of dropping body fat. So the first thing we need to do is find where your calorie deficit starts. You can work out your BMR (base metabolic rate) online on sites like this ( Your BMR is the amount of calories you burn just by staying alive, without exercise included. You must then add on your exercise and how many calories you burn in the gym or on your runs. You may not know this exactly but just hazard a best guess. From there you will have your maintenance level calories. You aren’t in a deficit or a surplus. If you eat this amount you will break even and stay the same. From there I recommend taking 300-500 off that amount and that is the amount of calories you need to be eating. A weekly calorie deficit of about 3500 calories will help you drop roughly 1-2lbs of fat. So if you work out your BMR to be 2000 calories per day and you burn 500 calories per day in the gym on average then you will need to eat 2000 calories per day to drop fat. On days you don’t train you will need to adjust this number as it will be 500 calories less.


Choosing your ratio:


Now that you know how many calories you need to consume you will have to pick your breakdown of nutrients. This is how many grams of protein, carbs and fats you can have to make up your calorie requirement. I will give you some examples.


These ratios are all done on a protein/carbs/fats basis.



40/0/60 (carb free diet)

30/60/10 (carb heavy diet)


I personally tend to use a diet similar to ratio one. It is mainly protein and carbs with a small amount of fat. It is fairly well balanced which keeps the foods generally interesting and because there is low fat and quite a bit of carbs, the foods you eat will not be too calorie dense so will be quite filling.


Lets take the first ratio and a diet that requires 2000 calories per day. If that is the ratio and you need 200 calories then you will need the following calores from each nutrient:


Protein – 1000 calories

Carbs – 800 calories

Fats – 200 calories


The calories in each gram of the nutrient is as follows:


Protein – 4 calories per gram

Carbs – 4 calories per gram

Fats – 9 calories per gram


So the math dictates that you divide the calorie number on your ratio by the number per gram to work out how many grams of each you need:


Protein = 1000 / 4 = 250g per day

Carbs = 800 / 4 = 200g per day

Fats = 200 / 9 = 22g per day


So there you have a diet and your nutrient breakdown. Now for the next step.


Splitting these numbers up into meals:


Now that you have the numbers for the day you can split them up into meals. It is good to try and eat regular small meals rather than 3 big meals. Lets split it up into 5 meals. If you are having small meals every 3 hours this should work out perfectly for your day. If you have 5 small meals each of your meals will look like this:


400 calories:

50g protein

40g carbs

4g fats


This could be 200g chicken, 150g sweet potato and a small salad with ½ table spoon of olive oil.


Each of your meals can be different but try to stick to basic principles like this. You can also make a couple of meals smaller and lower calories and make up for that with a protein shake in between meals or post workout. Now to help you pick the foods to make up your meals.


Choosing the foods to make up these numbers:


Now that you know how much you should be eating you need to know what you should be eating. You need to know where to get your protein, your carbs and your fats. There are basic things to avoid like low quality protein, sugary carbs and saturated fats. Here is a list of protein, carbohydrate and fat foods that you can pick from to use in your diet. You can mix them up and create your own recipes:


Excellent Carbohydrates


  •  Spinach
  •  Kale
  •  Romaine lettuce
  •  Broccoli
  •  Cauliflower


  •  Blueberries
  •  Blackberries
  •  Strawberries

Very Good Carbohydrates


  •  Eggplant
  •  Brussels sprouts
  •  Red pepper
  •  Cabbage
  •  String beans
  •  Onion


  •  Plum
  •  Pink Grapefruit
  •  Tomato
  •  Kiwi

Good Carbohydrates


  •  Yellow squash
  •  Celery
  •  Cucumber


  •  Pear
  •  Orange
  •  Red grapes
  •  Green grapes


Excellent Protein

  •  Mackerel
  •  Turkey breast
  •  Haddock
  •  Cod
  •  Salmon
  •  Soybean hamburger crumbles
  •  Tuna steak
  •  Turkey breast, deli
  •  Lobster
  •  Sea bass
  •  Snapper

Very Good Protein

  •  Chicken breast
  •  Freshwater bass
  •  Trout
  •  Cottage cheese (1%)
  •  Chicken breast, deli
  •  Tuna, canned in water
  •  Soy imitation meat products
  •  Emu

Good Protein

  •  Pork tenderloin, well-trimmed
  •  Tofu, extra-firm
  •  Beef tenderloin, well-trimmed
  •  Tofu, firm
  •  Tempeh
  •  Tofu, soft

Low-Quality Protein

  •  Ground beef (27% fat)
  •  Sausage
  •  Bacon

Excellent quality fats -

  •  Macadamia nuts
  •  Olive oil
  •  Olives

Very Good Quality Fats

  •  Avocado
  •  Canola oil
  •  Almond butter
  •  Almonds

Good Quality Fats

  •  Cashews
  •  Peanuts

Poor Quality Fats

  •  Lard
  •  Butter
  •  Safflower oil
  •  Soybean oil




So from this list of foods and the numbers that you have worked out you can start to put together your own diet of foods that you like, in ratio’s that suit you and what you like. I recommend trying lots of different nutrient ratios to see what works best for you.


The last thing that you need to do to have a successful diet is to make it progressive!!!


In order to progress your diet and avoid hitting plateaus with your results you must reduce the calories as your bodyweight drops. The longer you diet for and the more weight you lose the lower your BMR will be. This means that you will lose your calorie deficit and your results will stall. You therefore need to either increase cardio as you go along or drop calories. I recommend doing both in small amounts.


In order to progress the diet simply try to drop the daily calorie level by 50 – 100 calories every time your weight loss stalls. Have a look at which meals you could cut some calories from and try to do it evenly. For example at the first stall you could cut 10g protein from meal 2 and 15g carbs from meal 4. That would be 100 calories. Do this evenly across all the meals as you progress.


So there you have it. A full diet that you have written yourself and that you fully understand. You know why you are eating what you are eating and you know how to adapt it to carry on making gains. If you pick a fad diet off the internet then it is unlikely you will know why you are eating what you are eating or how to adapt it to carry on improving.


If you do decide to plan your own diet and need it checking to see if it looks good then you can e-mail me on



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