By Adam Bisek
The Assessment Phase: How to Adjust
Assessing how you respond to the numbers we calculated is equally, if not more important. Remember, at this point, we have assessed the number of calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight, this is important to remember for the initial “metabolic audit” we are conducting over the first couple weeks of your diet.
If you want to be the most successful with any dietary practice you need to track your food and track it as accurately as possible. If you’re not capable of tracking your food for at least two weeks you need to reevaluate whether or not you’re ready to partake in the process outlined by this article. In reality, you don’t need to be 100% accurate to the TDEE caloric number you calculated above so long as you accurately track your food, we just need to know your average caloric intake over this time compared to your weight change, but I would recommend being as close as you can.
Alongside tracking your food for two weeks you’ll need to record your daily AM waking weight. Take this measurement right after your roll out of bed to keep things standardized. This can be a mentally and emotionally inflammatory practice for many, so again, if you cannot do this you probably shouldn’t be partaking in the process I am illustrating, let alone a strict diet. By gathering your daily weight you will be able to see your average weight and average weight change from week one to week two, along with any trends across that period of time.
If you gain weight over this period, for all intents and purposes the TDEE you calculated IS NOT your maintenance calories/metabolism, your true TDEE is, in fact, lower by definition. If you’re trying to lose weight you now know that you need to eat fewer calories or exercise/expend more calories. I would say, however, that if your actual TDEE/metabolism is far lower than our estimate came out to be you may need a different approach to intrinsically increase your metabolism over time. The process of doing that is absolutely more nuanced than I am going over here and professional coaching supervision may very well be advised. Conversely, if you’re trying to gain weight and you didn’t see the scale number rise you now know that you need to eat more calories than you calculated. How much? Well, I will extrapolate here in a moment.
For simplicity's sake let’s say your weight did not change. If you want to lose or gain weight adjust your caloric intake ~10% up or down if you’re trying to gain or lose weight respectively. A good rule of thumb moving forward is that you don’t want to move in either direction at a rate of more than .5-1% of your body weight per week. This is a very general rule of thumb, but quite applicable to the masses.
The process that I have gone through above I do with all clients that start with me. I call this a “metabolic audit,” and I haven’t seen it referred to it as such anywhere before, so if you see it hereafter somewhere you know they ripped it off of this content; I kid, but seriously, let me know, haha. Nonetheless, you can use this process as an ongoing method to make sure you’re consistently consuming the right amount of food or keeping the correct energy balance for your current goal. You can also use it from time-to-time during your more concerted dietary efforts to recalibrate your protocol.
What About Macros?
When it comes down to purely weight change the macronutrient composition of your diet matters less than the total calories. Notwithstanding, body composition matters a great deal to most people, and I imagine you, the one currently reading this article as well. In this case, consuming an adequate-to-optimal amount of protein is pretty essential. A generally well-accepted amount of protein to consume is 1 gram per pound of body weight (2.2 grams per kilogram) for those who are physically active, especially those partaking weight training.
Looking at the other two macronutrients, carbohydrates and fats, filling the rest of your calories with any percentage of both of these is mostly based on personal preference. Sure, there are absolutely more complex approaches that cater to one’s particular activity, training state, recovery state, current metabolic flexibility, and many other variables, but that, again, is just a hair out of the scope of this article and most certainly a topic I will touch on in the near future.
So, there you have it, how to start your own diet. You should feel quite empowered and excited to get going. When it comes down to it, strategic dietary practices, such as this “metabolic audit,” are a measured attempt at using quite finite numbers that in reality are just an educated approximation of a very dynamic, ever-changing, and complex system; your metabolism. We most certainly are not employing the exactness we think we are, but we sure as hell are light years closer than if you eyeballed things. The true power of this process doesn’t come with how you start, but rather how well you measure things and adjust. Sometimes this can very much so be an art and a skill acquired over time, that’s why I have a job. However, I do my best to show others how to serve themselves, gain autonomy, and make a lifelong change. I hope I was able to impart at least a little education and empowerment over the last twenty-five-hundred words or so, but if not, you know where to reach me.