T Nation

Newbie Needs Food Advice


I'm as much looking for advice on what direction to go, as nutrition specifics.

20yo woman, 5'6'', 132 lbs
Longtime distance runner, started lifting almost five months ago; lift 3 days a week, run 6-8 miles 3 days a week.

I'm looking to lose fat and gain muscle, but I'm not sure how much weight I ought to want to lose; the lightest I've been (since I stopped growing) is 127, but that was with zero muscle in my upper body. I think I look all right now, but when you look all right you want to look better, right?

I've been tracking what I eat on fitday.com and I've been limiting my calories for about a month and a half.
calories 1350
carbs 160 grams
protein 66 grams
fat 52 grams

Today's food (fairly typical, though I eat fairly different things from day to day)
Early morning: half scoop of whey protein
Breakfast: PB&J on whole wheat bread, hardboiled egg
Lunch: Lettuce, canned mandarin oranges, hardboiled egg, and apple
Afternoon: scoop of whey protein
Dinner: piece of pizza, hardboiled egg, lettuce, and glass of milk
Total: 1355 calories
(note: today was a 6-mile run.)

So, am I eating too much, and am I eating the wrong things? Should I go on a capital-d Diet or just make some tweaks?

Personally I find it a lot easier to eat smaller portions but have my food be "tasty" (where tasty means carbs) than to eat large quantities of "clean" food. But is that going to bite me in the butt?


buy Precision Nutrition, well worth the money. It seems like a lot for nutritional info, but it's a great product.


Thanks, and I may check out the book, but in the meantime I was hoping for a few thoughts from more experienced forumites.


What's in PN? Just a big list of recipes?


At a quick glance I would say up the protein and adjust other macros accodingly to keep kcals around the same, say shooting for approx 25 grams/meal if you stick with the 5 meals. Are you a vegetarian? There is a distinct lack of meat in your diet.


it contains gourmet nutrition which is a recipe book, along with other information for someone that obviously needs more that just tips on what to do


I'm an RD and fitness fanatic; so I'd like to throw in my two cents.

When you ask, "should I go on a capital-D die?", are you really asking if you should go on a highly restrictive diet rather than a lifestyle diet?

That's up to you.

If you think you look good and are not carrying a lot of fat, I don't think a highly restrictive diet is necessary or desirable. But then again, you're also saying, "I'm not sure how much I ought to lose." You sound contradictory.

So, make up your mind on whether you want to lean out as quickly as possible with a restrictive diet or coast your way to your desired physique with a lifestyle diet.

Your diet is 47% carbohydrate, 20% protein, and 33% fat; that's an alright macronutrient breakdown, PROVIDING you do OK (stay lean, feel alright) with a high percentage of calories coming from carbs. Most folks on here ARE going to run their mouths with "EAT MORE PROTEIN!" First off, you probably need more total calories. You MIGHT benefit from more protein, but you are already eating more than 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. If you think you will do better with less carbs, than a higher protein diet might serve you well.

Your caloric amount is VERY low for any active person, man or woman: 1,300 kcals for someone with that amount of activity!

Your food choices are "OK", but not ideal. You also lack variety in your diet. I'm assuming the pizza is a treat.

A half or one scoop of whey protein powder (7 to 15 grams of protein; 30 to 60 kcals) doesn't qualify as a meal; a meal might be something like 2 to 3 scoops protein powder and a bowl of oatmeal with strawberries. One hardboiled egg, some lettuce, and a fruit might qualify as a small snack; a more wholesome meal might be something like a two or three hardboiled eggs and vegetable sticks with hummus spread or a large salad with olive oil and vinegar and a 4 to 6 oz piece of lean red meat.

Get the picture?

With better food choices and combinations, you might even be able to consume MORE calories AND improve your body composition!

Start reading food labels and pick up a nutrition almanac. If you must, hire a sports registered dietitian (look for the credentials RD and CSSD) or qualified bodybuilding or sports nutritionist.


brick, she's only at .5g/lb of BW, not 1.0 for protein


Oh, you're right!

Perhaps I confused it with another amount.

OK, correction: you're diet is WAY LOW in protein!


Thanks a lot!
A couple clarifications:

  1. No, I don't think I'm all that fat. Size six, no gut or anything. I have no special reason to lean out as fast as possible (I'm not competing in anything.) Mainly, what I want to improve is strength, and I've been steadily going up in weights, but looking good naked is a powerful motivator.

  2. Yes, the pizza is a treat. Though I probably have too many treats.


You didn't answer my question as to why you are avoiding meat i.e. are you a lacto-ovo vegetarian (I think that is the term for vegetarians who drink milk and eat eggs)?




Since you are a vegetarian, I would def recommend picking up the new version of Precision Nutrition (I believe it's version 3), since it has the plant based eating guide, and also there are quite a few vegetarians/vegans on the PN board who are more than willing to help with diet advice.


By the way, what do you folks do with protein?
Normally I eat it dry, with a spoon, and a little Splenda; it's okay, but not great.


I agree with Brick that your calories seem very low, especially if you're looking to gain strength and you're running.


You don't even make a shake out of it? o.O

Protein is incredibly versatile. I mix it with ice, cocoa powder, frozen fruits, vegetables, peanut butter, pumpkin, etc, all sorts of combinations...

At the very least you might find it more palatable mixed with water. (it's meant to dissolve in water)


Thanks, I'll try some of that; it sounds a lot more appetizing.

If my cals are low, what would be an estimate of something more normal? (My weight's been constant over the past couple of weeks, which I guess means this is maintenance? But cutting more seems unappealing as well as counter to what you guys have said. I know what a <1100 day feels like and it isn't comfortable.)

Today was a bit cleaner.
Breakfast: cheerios, energy bar
Lunch: egg white omelet with vegetables, smoked salmon (yeah, I fell off the veggie wagon), half bagel with jam, pineapple with light whipped cream
Afternoon: yogurt, skim latte
Dinner: lettuce, two hardboiled eggs, asparagus, tofu, sauteed peppers, salsa, apple
1328 calories, 34.7 g fat, 171.8g carbs, 83.3 g protein


I currently am having a heaping scoop of vanilla casein with a few ice cubes, most of a cup of frozen mixed berries, about a cup of OJ, and a splash of pomegranate juice. it's delicious and nutritious, but very sugary. i may remake this w/ a bit more protein after my next workout.

i cant imagine just munching on some dry powder... more power to ya.

edit: this was meant as an idea, not an off topic rambling. i realized i didn't really respond to anything with my post.


I wouldn't worry about weight so much but pay more attention to the measuring tape: arms, chest(full and ribcage),hips, thighs and calves to check for changes. For monitoring fat, my bust size is a good indicator but I also am familiar with how much I can pinch in my suprailiac and notice changes there too.

As far as the normal amount of calories it does vary a lot between people. Myself at 5'5" and 140 lbs, I eat ~3000 (or more) calories a day on leg days and ~2500 on other days. Any less than 2200 and my runs and lifts suffer. My abs are showing in the right light so it seems to be I'm not eating too much.

When I was trying to figure this out I think it was Cheeta who said she couldn't do on less than 2500 a day. Court has also had some discussion in her log a while back about how much she eats and Oleena has been logging her diet too and she's been making some nice gains. I'd recommend looking/asking at what the other women in PW are eating just to get an idea.

I don't mean to say you should go out and double your calories, but maybe increase by 500 a day and see how it feels. Add and subtract as you feel you need more or less and continue to adjust as you gain more muscle and increase/decrease activity.

You haven't said how you feel on this many calories but I can't imagine all that good! You're a student too (right?) and you do need to have enough enough energy for that! Don't underestimate your needs for thinking also. Have your grades changed much since dieting/training?

One concern about going too low is your metabolism might respond badly and give you problems if you do this too long and start increasing calories. Personally I like the idea of being adapted to eating more and having something to cut if I decide to diet. Right now you are operating at a level that you cannot cut anything.

That's my $0.02. :slightly_smiling:


^ I've been averaging 1,400 kcals on the Rapid Fat Loss Diet. :slight_smile: