NF Mailbag – July 7th, 2009: Fix My Diet!

In this new segment of Nerd Fitness, I’ll be compiling some of the best emails and questions I receive each week (or every two weeks) and showcase them here on the site.  This is an experiment, so I’d love to hear from you on how informative these emails are and if it’s something worth continuing.  Now, just a warning.  I might have changed the name of the person who asked this first question just because I haven’t got his permission to use his real name yet.

Optimus Prime asks:

optimusprimeDiet. Obviously the most important part, right?  How does a person go about figuring out the right amount of calories a day?

I weigh 194 lbs (down from 225), and I have learned to incorporate exercise into my everyday life.  It hasn’t been easy, but the reward has been great.  I feel/look much better.  I want to take this more seriously, and eat better as well.  I already make sure to eat a good healthy breakfast (boost the metabolism) and I eat a healthy lunch/dinner.  However, I really only eat 3 times a day.

I need to determine how many calories I should be taking in, and then I would assume spread them throughout the day?  My fear is am doing all of this exercise, and not fueling my body enough.  However, I am also worried that I could take in too many calories, compared to what I am burning.

Steve says:

Thanks for the question Optimus!  First of all, congratulations on dropping 30 freaking pounds!  Most people struggle with the exercise part, because it’s tough to put everything aside and make time every day for getting in shape.  The fact that you’ve done that already is the easy part.  Onto the diet!

First – Figure out your goal weight, but DON’T GET TOO CAUGHT UP IN THE NUMBERS!  If you’re exercising daily, then I’m going to guess you’re building muscle as well.  Even though the number on your scale might not be dropping, keep an eye on what you look like!  If you look better, who cares what the scale says!  Broader shoulders and a bigger chest can weigh the same as a beer gut.

Okay, let’s say you like how you look, but you still want to lose another 10 lbs.  If you’re doing it the healthy, safe way you can expect to lose 1-2 lbs. every week.  I’d say 5-7 weeks for 10 lbs is an obtainable goal.

Next, set up a free account at (formerly Gyminee). I’ve been using this website for about a year now and it has really helped me keep track of my diet.  After you input your height, weight, age, and goal weight, it will tell you exactly how many calories you need to eat to lose the weight and how long it should take.  It will even tell you how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat you should be eating every day as well.

It will give you a range in calories, and you’ll need to experiment within that range to find the right balance for you.  If you aren’t dropping weight, aim towards the lower end of the calorie spectrum that they recommend.  If the weight is coming off too quickly, eat more!  It’s a balancing act.

Once you figure out that calorie amount to eat every day, take a look at your daily schedule and figure out how many meals you can eat; the more often the better. Let’s say they want you to eat 1800 calories – if you can eat 6 meals a day (spaced apart every 2-3 hours), then you want to try and eat 300 calories or so in each meal.  The reason you want to eat 6 smaller meals rather than 3 larger ones is because you want your metabolism to work as often as possible, firing on all cylinders.

Then, keep track of everything you eat. DailyBurn makes it easy by having a massive database of food that already has all the nutrition information loaded in.  Whenever you eat an apple, or a handful of almonds, just put it into the site and it will tell you where you’re at that day for staying within your calorie and nutrient goals.  NF Tip: if you eat the same thing every day, save those things as your ‘favorites’ on DailyBurn.

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind:

  • Try to get 20-30 grams of protein in each meal.  Lots of chicken, fish, eggs, almonds, lean ground beef, etc.  Protein shakes are great for the meals between the meals (which you can read about here).
  • Cut as much sugar out of your diet when possible – this will go right to your waistline (or ass).  Sodas, sugary juices, candy, etc.  Get it out of your diet.
  • Eat whole grains when possible – switch from white bread to wheat, from white rice to brown rice, etc.
  • Eat all the fruits and vegetables you want!
  • Some studies have shown that your metabolism slows down towards the end of the day, so try to cut back on the carbs you eat later on.  It seemed to work for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale and Ryan Reynolds in Blade Trinity.

To summarize: once you figure out your caloric intake over at DailyBurn, divide that number by 5 or 6 and figure out how many calories you should be eating every 3 hours.  Eat lots of protein (a high protein breakfast for sure), cut out the junk, lots of veggies and fruits, and try to eat your carbs earlier in the day.

For a related post, check out the 5 tips for weight loss article.


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  • Steve

    Great post! Thanks so much for answering my question. The DailyBurn is just what I need to get a plan together and help keep me on it!

    I will keep you posted with my results, and inevitably fire back with more questions.

    Great blog, keep up the excellent work.

    -Steve (Optimus Prime)

  • Steve

    Great post! Thanks so much for answering my question. The DailyBurn is just what I need to get a plan together and help keep me on it!

    I will keep you posted with my results, and inevitably fire back with more questions.

    Great blog, keep up the excellent work.

    -Steve (Optimus Prime)