T Nation

Simple Dieting


I posted this on another thread to help someone -- a member's wife -- who needed some help with dieting. I do really feel it's far more helpful to people to give them something brief and simple, preferably something brief enough that an outline with all the necessary points could fit on a single piece of paper, than it is to give them an entire book that has to be digested before they know what to do.

It's also so much easier to follow directions that are that simple and brief than to make sure of doing everything that took and entire chapter or book to explain.

And if the brief advice is correctly put together, it will really do the job regardless of having been that brief.

While it's written to be suitable to everyone including the general public, everything holds completely true for weight trainers as well. It's not compromised just so as to also meet the needs of the average person, though it does succeed extremely well with them also.


Simple Dieting

  1. Never go too long without food: not more than 3-4 waking hours. Starvation is not the way to lose fat.

  2. Don't restrict calories too severely. If you're relying on guesswork, try to aim for about 2/3 of your normal, pre-diet caloric intake.

If you just are not going to total up daily calories, you absolutely can still have success though there will be more guesswork in the process. If this is how you feel, then skip the parts below about figuring calories. Instead, try only to have a general idea of about how many calories are in each meal -- even though you are not going to add them up -- and try to eat about the same total amount each day, with some variation being OK. When you've lost at least 3 or 4 lb of fat or at least two weeks have passed, you can evaluate whether your calories are good or need to be adjusted. Moving daily calories up or down by 500 will change rate of fat loss by about 1 lb per week.

But if you can, it's better to count daily calories, especially at first. (Later on, it's not at all hard to guess well enough most of the time.)

  1. Eat "healthy" fats. Some of this can be from supplements: EFA's (or fish or flax oil) and GLA (or borage or evening primrose oil) are helpful. Foods with particularly healthy fats include nuts, avocados, and olive oil, though portions of nuts need to be limited else calories can easily become much too much.

  2. Try for roughly one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. And as for carbohydrates, try for the same thing: roughly one gram per pound of bodyweight. It is OK to have just general ideas if you're not familiar with particular values of foods.

If you are female and just really don't like protein, then at least get half a gram per pound of bodyweight. But preferably, with time, adjust your way upwards to the one gram value. It will help.

  1. Combine foods. Don't eat protein-only meals, or carb-only meals, or fat-only meals. Instead, have protein/carb meals, protein/fat meals, or protein/carb/fat meals.

A moderate calorie, low-or-mid-glycemic carb-only snack such as an apple is perfectly OK.

Strongly avoid carb/fat meals or snacks.

When eating protein/carb/fat meals, particularly watch out that the total meal size is not too much. More than about 1/3 of the total planned daily calories is too much, as is a meal that will push the calories for the day to too high a value.

  1. Keep in mind that many carb/fat foods such as most muffins that are sold can easily be 600 calories each -- which is a disaster.

  2. Try to eat your protein/carb meals during the first half of the day if possible and your protein/fat meals during the second half of the day.

  3. Decide your portions before eating. Set out what you want to eat, and stick with that decision. No one meal should constitute more than 30 to 35 percent of your daily total, at most.

Q: How many calories should I eat each day?

A: Figure your minimum calories per day by multiplying your body weight by 12 if male, or 11 or 12 if female. For example, if you are a man weighing 200 pounds, multiplying your body weight by 12 gives you 2400 calories per day.

The exception is that if you are well over what would be a good long-term ideal realistic weight -- some figure that would be very healthful -- you can use an intermediate weight or if necessary that weight to figure calories.

For example suppose you weigh 200 and using that weight to figure calories proved to not give you a good rate of fat loss. And let's say 160 lb would be much more healthful weight for you. Then, use an adjusted weight such as 180 lb to figure your calories. If that proves after a couple of weeks to still be too much then try figuring from the 160 lb value.

Don't use an adjusted weight below what makes sense. For example, if female don't use a weight that would correspond to a painfully-thin anorexic supermodel of your height.

Q: What if I'm female, very substantially overweight, and unsure on how low is reasonable to go if needing to use an adjusted weight for figuring calories?

A: You can use this calculator:


Enter your actual weight and height, and see what your BMI is. If it's already under 20, then you are not very substantially overweight, if even at all, and just using your actual weight should be fine. The same is pretty much true if in the range of 20-22. If it's well over 22, then try entering various lower weights until you see what weights correspond to a BMI of 20-22.

You can then, if calories based on your actual weight are proving too much, try an intermediate weight between your actual weight and the value you found by this method. Again, if that intermediate weight proves after a couple of weeks to still be too much, then use the weight corresponding to a BMI of 20-22, or some weight "splitting the difference."

Q: If I found it best to use a calorie value based on adjusted weight, can I use that adjusted weight instead of actual weight to figure protein and carb grams?

A: Yes.

Q: I've already lost a considerable amount of fat. Should I make any adjustments?

A: If you've already lost considerable fat on the program and fat loss now is too slow, you should reduce your calorie and gram values to reflect your new, lower body weight.

Q: What if the above-recommended amount has me losing weight very fast and though I'm following all these principles I'm hungry or lacking energy? Or what if I've been at it long enough that a slower rate of loss while eating more seems a good idea. Can I go higher?

A: Yes. If you have a faster metabolism or do a lot of exercise, a daily value such as 13-15 calories per lb may be more appropriate for you. Or if you've been steadily losing 2 or 3 lb of fat per week, increasing by say 500 calories per day will still allow you good fat loss and may be much more sustainable for you long-term.

Q: What if I've reached a desired weight and want to hold it? How many calories should I add back in?

A: Estimate how many pounds of fat you lost in the last month. For each pound lost, you can allow yourself an extra 120 calories per day beyond what you were having in that month. Give the new caloric intake a month to see what happens. If necessary, adjust monthly on the same principle.

Q: Any other tips on types of meals?

A: Try noticing which meals or sorts of meals meet the above principles and leave you feeling you've eaten a fully satisfactory amount both at the time and after despite being pretty modest in calories.

These are very helpful to consume on a regular and frequent basis.

And also try to notice which meals or types of meals that despite having lots of calories either don't seem to be as much as you'd have liked to eat at the time or which you leave you hungry fairly shortly after.

Limiting these types of meals will really help.

Q: Do I need to worry about any micronutrient deficiencies while I'm dieting?

A: Yes, unfortunately it's likely when reducing calories to have micronutrient deficiencies unless special care is taken.

To avoid this, use a good multi-vitamin/multi-mineral and especially make sure that these are present in adequate amounts: potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and chromium. That is not always the case and you may need to use more than one product to cover all the bases.

It is also very helpful to take additional Vitamin D giving a total of 3000-4000 IU/day. There are now 2000 IU soft-tabs available so this is easy to do.

Lastly, make sure that Vitamin B6 intake is sufficient. A good amount is 50 mg/day. For some people, the pyridoxal phosphate form works better. In this case 25 mg/day is sufficient.

Q: What's a good rate of fat loss?

A: Rapid fat loss is probably best limited to eight weeks at a time, or to cycles of two weeks of intensive dieting separated by one week at weight-maintaining calories.

"Slow but steady" fat loss, this being rates of up to about one pound per week, may be continued as long as appropriate. This can be the best approach for many people. More overweight people may well be able to sustain 2 pounds per week, but an ongoing 1 lb per week really, really adds up in quite reasonable time. Next year really will happen, and if overweight by an amount such as say 52 lb or any greater value, being that much lighter a year from now is just an outstanding thing to have accomplished!

Don't knock yourself if that's your rate of fat loss. It can really do the job. If your diet change is sustainable and realistic, as these changes are, and you achieve a rate such as that, you're absolutely on the way to great success! And you will soon far surpass those that try crash-loss or other unsustainable programs.


Nice one, this contains lots of useful tips.



You should.. like... get a job here... or something... j/k

Here's my Simple Eating tips for newbies (not that you were asking for input):


Eat a meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What's a meal? Try to picture a nutritious "Leave it to Beaver" dinner; more or less:

1/3 of your plate with lean meats
1/3 of your plate with starchy carbs (ie: rice, potatoes, pasta, bread)
1/3 of your plate with fibrous vegetables

Eventually try to squeeze extra meals between breakfast, lunch and dinner to hit up to 6 meals per day.

If you still need more calories:
- Add whole milk or juices
- Add small desserts and treats
- Add whatever you want but don't remove your 6 base meals


Assuming your starting point is 6 base meals (described above) per day

Drop, as needed:
- General junk food
- Desserts and treats
- Whole milk, juices or any other liquid calories

Then if needed:
- Slowly reduce portion size of starchy carbs included in the 6 base meals.
- Initially do this with just a couple of the meals, but if needed progressively reduce the size of starchy carbs per meal and/or increase the number of meals you reduce starchy carbs

The above is basically the advice I give to newbies/coworkers/family/friends who ask me for advice but don't want to get their minds blown away with too much information.


That is good advice too.

I guess it's fair to say that people fall along an entire spectrum of how simple advice needs to be (or does not need to be) for best effect for them.

Many people indeed will find what I posted above, while shorter and simpler than books and many other plans, to still appear too much of an obstacle and it would result in nothing for them; while a briefer handful of tips such as yours may be just the ticket for them to get some major improvement going.


I'm going to try that, and see if I can do better then getting the usual blank stares out of my family.


Sad but true.

When dealing with the people I previously mentioned my philosophy is to give them just enough information to make progress instead of worrying about "optimizing" results.

Actually I shouldn't paint these people with such a negative brush because even though I "know better" I follow this same simple advice.

Body "recompositioning" is such a s-l-o-w process, especially muscle building, that the cost-to-benefit ratio, in terms of determining the exact calorie content and macro breakdown of everything you consume, doesn't justify the speculated edge you get from optimizing.

IMHO, a sensible basic plan with patience, consistency and adherence; along with the ability to observe and think marginally will get most to where they want to go without developing an OCD. :^)

Not to mention that adding precisely 500 calories per day for a week (for 3500 calories) never seems to pan out into a 1 pound body weight gain - so why the need to be that precise? Ok, that's another story for another time!


Because giving a value that is a good approximation, on average, yields closer to desired results than saying something like "Eat moderately more."

Actually in this specific instance what happens is, with equal activity level and generally-equal diet except for total amount of calories, a 500 cal/day increase cannot generate more than an extra pound of fat per week.

It can initially generate more weight than this due to increased storage of glycogen and glycogen-associated water, but not more fat than this.

So a person will not overshoot if they do this accurately.

They may undershoot a little because energy expenditure will probably increase slightly from the higher caloric intake.

But this will be viewed as a problem by few dieters, and if need be can be adjusted for as time reveals that fat is, unintentionally, still being slowly lost if that is the case, or is being lost a little faster than what seems necessary or desired if that is the case.


Good advice minus the BMI part...
Say a guy was 5'10 180lbs muscle.. Look at the BMI on that...

BMI should be banned forever xD


If you re-read, you will see that the BMI part is only in reference to women. And only for women that are "very substantially overweight."

And for women that are very overweight and have no idea of what a believable and reasonable target weight is for them, BMI combined with the method described is a way of giving them something that reasonably estimates their minimum reasonable metabolic requirements and is a way to come up with very suitable planned caloric intake.

Guesswork without a method such as this often results in women shooting too low in calories.

For women, BMI indicating obesity does indeed mean being too fat. Invariably. (Unless you're talking not only a female bb'er but one who has used such high doses of steroids as to be completely masculinized, e.g. Nicole Bass, and to cite that as an exception is to reach for the ridiculous.)

And for a woman who is now obese and or pushing it, achieving a weight target chosen by a method such as described above will indeed give her a huge improvement and indeed is a doable goal.

Using such a weight target for the calculations also in practice works well. It's been done lots of times and is proven.

That's why it's there.

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, or assume that things say what they don't. I appreciate that quickly glancing at something can result in missing key details.


Great job Bill; I'm forwarding this page to my girlfriend.

"Hi Hunny!"


Good stuff. Thank you Mr. Roberts. I'm surprised your post was not an article.



When posted over on the other thread to help a specific need, it originally had the explanation of where it came from. After a few days I edited the explanation out, as it just cluttered things up.

Basically the same thing -- I've updated and improved it a bit though -- was the original HOT-ROX Diet Plan that was included with the box provided for bottles of HOT-ROX.

Eventually that stopped being done.

It never was an article on the site as is, though the material from the original that I wrote got included as part of an expanded "By the editors" article that did make it on the site. But stuff tends to get so buried after years that it almost might as well not be there.

Plus, there were some things added to it that I really did not agree with. (The most-standout example being, a statement that if a meal was mixed protein/carb/fat, then it should be "no bigger than a deck of cards" or "should fit in the palm of your hand" or something like that.

I don't agree that that has to be the case. It may be a principle that has worked well for some and I guess it must be if it was put in there, but it's not the case that this needs to be or ought to be recommended for all, IMO.)


Maybe the thing to do, to be of most help to the most people have something of roughly-speaking pamphlet length that lets people start with just Page 1 if they want, which would be held to a super-simple, easily doable level; and then if needed or desired go to gradually advancing further advice.

So they could start with a few tips that don't require even knowing what a calorie is or what carbs are, but if they are presently following typical American diets, will make a big difference for them.

Many people can lose 20 or 30 pounds of fat within months just by avoiding particular disastrous things that they presently do and which are very easy to avoid.

And then, only if they want to or perhaps only after they've stabilized at a new lower level of fatness due to the Page 1 tips, they can move on to the next level which might require some basic learning on what carbs are and so forth, but not much, and would still not require them to count calories or anything else.

There would probably be some middle pages with optional advice on foods that are particularly helpful to include as regular items, and foods that it's wise to limit or completely avoid.

Ultimately the last page or so would be similar to the top-of-thread set of recommendations, which is about as complex and comprehensive as the average person needs.

I will probably try to do this, though truthfully the chances of it reaching a large number of people are pretty low, as such a short pamphlet has zero publishing potential,

And I don't think we are selling HOT-ROX bottles in boxes anymore (which would be an easy way to distribute the pamphlets if we were.) But at least it could be online buried in all the other stuff here :wink:


I know you work for T-Nation, and all, but check out the eliteFTS Manuals.


I have their band manual, and it's very short. To the tune of like...10 pages. Publishing your idea as an e-"book" makes the idea even more marketable. That's something T-Nation could do apart from articles. Whether or not you guys charge for them would be up to you, but it could be something to look into.


oh, and thanks for the info!


A little off topic here, but I've always liked what Cybernetics did about 20 years ago, where they gave you a diet and workout plan along with the their supplements together in a kit. Your pamphlet idea could fill a similar role.

Sure, Cybernetic's supplements sucked, but the idea was great.

In the 'before-time' (ie: pre-internet) their approach was great because often times there was limited bodybuilding information available. Today it's the exact opposite - people are overloaded with information. Even on this site most newbies have a hard time dealing with conflicting information offered by different authors.

Sometimes temporarily withholding information is a good thing! It allows them to start making progress without blowing their minds; earn personal experience to better make judgment calls; and later if they're interested they can expand their horizons.

Different Biotest products could come with different diets/workouts; actually the same supplement could have a "sport" or "bodybuilding" or whatever version (with only the diet and workout changing)...

Newbies love one stop shops and black and white answers. The information might not be technically as correct or optimal, but a complete system gives them a road map they can follow without doubting the decisions they made (in who they listened to).


boyscout, I'll check out the Elite Fitness thing to see what they have done; that sounds interesting.

As a matter of fact -- or at least as a matter of my immediate personal opinion :slight_smile: -- your e-book suggestion might make a lot of sense for Testosterone.net and Biotest in general. We're very well aware that the vast total volume of information that's been put up on the site over the years (and it is really vast) results in any given thing generally getting lost.

Having a page of some limited but substantial number of free e-books could be a way to make some selected things become much more accessible. Something to think about anyway: I'll mention your idea to Tim sometime. Thanks!

Protoculture, generally agreed on all points including the Cybergenics. While I never used it (having been aware at the time that their products contained absolutely nothing) my best friend in college used the program and did well precisely for the reason of having instructions much simpler than a book to follow and from feeling hyped up about what he was doing.

And it sure wasn't that he's a dumb guy: he's a doctor now and aside from that is very bright and not dumb about lifting or nutrition either. But getting that short, simple program really helped him and being short and simple --

or better yet with optional added information to go further later if desired, but with the added parts in no way seeming to have be done to get started with great results -- is a great approach for most people I think.

Another thought that's maybe along the same sort of lines is, perhaps the most popular (judging from responses) article series I ever did was an n=1 (that is to say, one person) "case study" which coincidentally enough had this same friend as the test subject of a described diet, training, and drug program written for that subject, with measurements, blood values, weights lifted, and pictures.

People loved that one. (And yes, the results were a lot better than the Cybergenics program had been!)

The only reasons that that didn't continue as a longer series with the same subject is because he went and injured his knees playing basketball, and then by the time his knees were OK, he was too busy with medical school to be able to do such a program seriously.

But maybe the same kind of thing could be done again, this time with people that have never been able to diet very successfully and are willing to try a pretty simple program we provide for them. Each article could be different, as each person might pick quite different items of advice that they were going to incorporate.

There would be both an initial article that gave results over say the first 6 months, and then say occasional followups. That probably would be very interesting and quite possibly quite motivating for a lot of people.


That would be awesome. Especially something like CT's training for newbies. Hell, you guys could write a basic beginner training manual that included a solid program and people would eat it up.

Does this mean you'll send me a free tub of Metabolic Drive if you use the e-book idea? :wink:

EDIT: I would say, if you guys do the e-book thing, it might make sense be a "members only" type thing. Good way for you to "offer" something (as if the free articles aren't enough!) for signing up with T-Nation besides a weekly email.

Obviously part of the goal of T-Nation is to turn some of it's members into Biotest customers, so just getting them to sign is probably a good first step. Maybe that's something an e-book could help with--getting people to take that first step.


Dunno; I'll mention the request to Tim when bringing up the idea.

Agreed, making it members-only makes it an even-better-sounding idea.


I was half joking about the MD thing, but if you want too...