Meal Plans

The 2017 Starter's Guide: Nutrition

Even the most exquisitely designed workout program isn’t going to get you the gains you seek unless you demonstrate self-control and eat healthy and in the correct amount.


food pyramid

Whether you're looking to gain muscle or lose fat, there are certain rules that everyone must adhere to to get the physique of their dreams. Follow these nutrition guidlines in conjuction with our 2017 Starter's Guide Workout Plan to be on your way to building the ultimate figure. 


Calculate Energy Burn 

Figure out how many calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight, aka your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), using an online calculator. Or, estimate your TDEE by taking your current weight and multiplying by 16. Add about 300 to 500 calories above that to gain more weight, but knock it down by around the same amount if you’re looking to shed some fat. 

Count Calories 

Track your calorie intake and school yourself on hidden calories in foods. “If you are not weighing and measuring every ingredient or food and you are eating out often, your numbers can be way off,” says Jim White, R.D., spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. Smartphone apps like Lose It! or MyFitnessPal make tracking nearly effortless. Use the table below to adjust your daily macronutrient breakdown depending on your physique goals. 

bag of spilled groceries

Eat Well 

Eat whole foods whenever possible. “It’s a lifestyle approach to food that helps to eliminate added sugars, sodium, and fat,” says White. Include food from all food groups, with extra attention to vegetables, and ignore anything that is in a box, or has more than four or five ingredients in it. Stick with lean meats like chicken or turkey, pork tenderloin, or fatty cold-water fish like salmon and mackerel. Consume unprocessed carbohydrates from potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, fruits, and vegetables. Get your fats from fish, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds—avoid reduced-fat products because when companies take out fat, they add more sugar to maintain the flavor. 

Match Macros 

The three nutrients your body needs to function, aka macronutrients, are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. When starting an intense workout regimen, getting the right amount is key for building mounds of muscle. Shoot for protein at 10 to 35% of your total calories, with carbs accounting for 40 to 60% of total calories. Fat, which should not be limited as it is vitally important for absorbing vitamins and keeping cells working properly, should consist of 20 to 30% of your total daily calories. Check out the Nutrition Facts graphics (page 104, 106) to see the requirements for a 180-pound man looking to gain muscle, or lean out. 

Feed Frequently 

Eating small frequent meals— breakfast, lunch, and dinner with small snacks in between—is important when trying to pack on muscle, but the timing is also a critical part of seeing gains. Eating about 20 grams of protein and carbohydrates one hour before and after a workout will help with the bioavailability of protein for muscle hypertrophy,” says White. “The timing of your meals can depend on your individual lifestyle, but always make sure you are fueled for a workout and for the recovery.” 

Macro Guidelines

To Build Muscle*

  • 14-18 calories
  • 0.4g fat
  • 1-1.5g protein
  • 2g carbs

To Lose Fat*

  • 10-12 calories
  • 0.4g fat
  • 1-1.5g protein
  • 1g carbs

*All numbers expressed indicate amount per pound of body weight per day. For example, a 180-pound athlete wanting to gain muscle would aim for 2,520 to 3,240 calories per day, depending on his goal.  

For access to exclusive fitness advice, interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!