If the you need more structure to your diet than the guidelines
outlined on ExRx, you can develop your diet using certain tools
Whether your goal
is to gain muscle, lower body fat, or both, you need a way to
accurately monitor your progress. Looking at yourself in the
mirror or assessing how you fit in your jeans is too subjective
and dependent on extraneous variables other than your actual
body composition. Although factors other than diet often effect
continued strength gains, strength gains should also be monitored.
This is particularly relevant if your goal is to lower body fat
while maintaining strength.
Have your body composition measured along with an accurate
body weight every month. A fitness club or nearby college with
a PE department typically offers this service. Ideally you would
be best suited to find an experienced tester who would be available
consistently for at least the next several months. Along with
a body composition test, an accurate weight is required to estimate
changes of fat and lean body weight. Weigh your self the same
time of day every time you have a body composition test. Also
use the same scale every time, weigh with no or minimum clothing,
and have the same tester test you each time. The data can be
enter and assessed using the Body
After the first body composition, be prepared to follow the
initial diet you designed using the ExRx diet calculators.
If you do not find a food on the lists. Guess on the most
appropriate exchange category, note the calories per exchange,
look up the calories per serving on the label or other source,
and calculate the quantity of food per exchange.
Lose Body Fat
Before decreasing your calorie intake, consider changing the
foods you eat first. See:
If you decide to decrease your carbohydrates, consider experimenting
with a moderately low level initially and adjust according to
your energy requirements. Take some time to experiment with the
ideal amount of carbohydrates. Your body can take some time to
adjust. If decreasing calories from the diet, make the smallest
changes necessary to illicit a change (eg. -250 kcal to -500
kcal). This will minimize your metabolism slowing down too much,
making it easier for future progress.
A regimented diet with periodic body composition tests to
monitor your progress can help you adjust your diet and workout
according. The trick is to get enough calories to put on muscle,
but not so much you gain fat. See Muscle
Measure and Adjust
Do the best you can the first few days. Weigh, or measure
all food until you are able to estimate
portions accurately. It may take some time to familiarize
your self with the exchanges and to make other adjustments to
your diet. It is important to be fairly consistent with your
calories. Try to make up for a deficit or surplus in calories
within the next day only up to 500 calories. Others may choose
to alter and monitor their carbohydrate intake, but not lowering
to the point they begin to loose strength or are unable to maintain
intensity for their sports training.
After a month on this diet, measure changes to your body composition.
Analyze if you need to make any changes to your exercise program
or diet. Don't fret if the changes to your body comp were not
as great as you had expected. Learning from your failures as
well as your successes will allow you to better understand what
best works for you. Also see Interpreting
Changes in Fitness Test Results. Make the necessary adjustments
and retest the following month. Continue to make the necessary
changes to both your diet or exercise program until you are making
Initially this structured diet program takes considerable
effort. The most common complaint I hear even on diets designed
for weight loss is "I can't possible eat all this food".
Persevere, your body will adapt. After sometime using the food
exchanges and measuring your foods, your diet will become second
nature. At this point you may decide you do not need to keep
a written record nor measure everything you eat.