In a world where we are constantly being bombarded with diet plans, supplements and crazy contraptions to help us lose weight, very few people are asking, “How much food should I eat?” Because the general public seems to think that less is best and that the fewer calories we consume the better off we will be.
The truth is, food is the solution to many of our health problems, not the cause of it. Certainly, eating a diet made of primary processed, chemical filled foods is a problem, but I believe people undereating on a healthy diet is every bit as much of a problem.
The scary thing is that people who eat highly processed foods know that they would be healthier if they ate better, but many o those who undereat don’t believe they are undereating and it is extremely hard to convince a chronic under-eater that they can feel better and lose excess fat while eating more.
Last week after the passing of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain I decided to remove some of the coaching plans from my website so that I can focus more of my time on mental health wellness. This may make you wonder what any of that has to do with food, but in my opinion – a lot.
I’m not so foolish as to say that poor eating habits are the cause of anxiety, depression, PTSD etc. I know better than that, but I also know how much unnecessary turmoil we can put ourselves through when we are underfed. I mean we came up with the term “hangry” for a reason!
So while it’s not a cure, I have no doubt that being properly fed will help alleviate some additional mental health issues.
I know I go from happy to murderous villain in about 15 seconds when I’m hungry, haha.
But back to today’s topic – how much you should eat.
Because I am no longer offering a standard nutrition coaching plan on my website I decided to kick-off my war against the underfed by sharing with you the calculations I use when working with clients to determine how much food they should be eating.
Disclaimer: While I hold multiple nutrition certifications, please note this is only my advice based on my education and training. It is not meant to replace the advice of a dietitian or other medical professional. It is always important to consult your own health care professionals before making any big change in your current eating habits.
The following calculations are based on the needs of an active person. Anyone who does purposeful exercise most days of the week walks on average 10,000 steps/day or has an active job is considered active. If you are sedentary or are seriously overweight these calculations will not be appropriate for you. In those instances, I recommend a 1:1 approach either with me a dietitian, or other certified weight loss coach (preferably one that isn’t trying to sell you a product…).
How Much Food Should I Eat?
I would also like to point out that these are the general starting points I use to determine someone’s nutritional needs this is not meant as a “diet” plan, but rather a way to focus on your health, fueling your activities and recomposition (losing fat and adding muscle).
It’s not uncommon that I start someone below their calculated daily requirement for fat to see how they react (especially since many are used to a super low-fat diet) and go from there. This is easily done as I slowly work them up towards their daily goal, as you can stop anywhere along that journey if your food intake appears to be fueling your activity properly.
So don’t take these calculations and determine where you “should” be and dive right in. Calculate your lower threshold for each and then if you have been undereating slowly begin to work your way up in small stages as indicated in the video, and feel free to stop when you get to a point where you feel strong, energetic, have better sleep quality, your cycle (if you are a women of childbearing age) may also start to even out. Then as you feel better, you might start to do more activity, and at that point, you may decide to incrementally increase your food again.
If all of that seems like too much work, that’s what a coach is for, to take the thinking out of it for you. But for so many people, undereating is a real issue so I’m sharing this information as a way to help you find out if you might fall in that undereating category.
Active individuals should consume between 0.7-1.0g of protein per pound of body weight.
If you are 100 pounds and calculate you should be eating around 70g of protein/day, but are averaging around 25 right now, slowly work your way up over a month or more to the 70g/day to give your body time to adjust. If you jump right up to 70g immediately, you’ll likely end up constipated, over-full and quite unhappy with me, haha.
Active individuals should consume between 0.5-0.6g of fat per pound of body weight.
As with protein, if you discover you are currently under eating in fats, slowly work your way up to 0.5-0.6g/pound. Be sure you are focusing on high-quality fats like salmon, avocado, nuts, seeds, etc. and less from foods like potato chips – but don’t get me wrong, a few potato chips are a-ok and delicious 😉
Fats are one macro that varies a bit more person to person. My daily intake is more in the .4g/pound range as I don’t tolerate fats quite as well. When starting a new client out on a plan, I often err on the side of caution and build them up to the 0.4g/lb mark to see how they do before increasing any further.
Active individuals should consume between 1.5-3.0g of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.
Carbs are a more controversial these days, and I’m not going to go on a rant here about why you should be eating them, I’ll just tell you to go read this post instead.
But assuming you are #TeamCarbs already, I’ll just remind you that you want to prioritize your starchy carbs around your workouts/training unless you have a super active job and are on the go constantly – then you can eat starchy carbs most any time at all.
I currently eat between 1.5-2g of carbs/pound, moving closer to the 2.0 on high activity days, and closer to the 1.5 on rest or lower activity days.
I’ll add here that I do practise carb cycling on a 7-day cycle so that my eating cycle can sync with my teaching cycle. So days when I’m eating fewer carbs, I eat a bit more fat, and vice versa. This is something that I get into with clients after I’ve coached them for a few months, to help them continue to see progress, but it’s not something I’m going to get into in this post. I did want to mention it though to be fully transparent.
Above everything else, I hope what you take away from this is that you shouldn’t have to feel hungry all the time to maintain or even lose fat. Our bodies are amazing and our metabolisms can change if we are moving enough and eating enough. Instead of earning your food, think of your food as your fuel to allow you to work harder and do more.
Food isn’t the problem. It’s the solution.
This post wasn’t written to give you the tools to lose fat, this post was written to give you the tools as a starting point to eating enough of the right foods, learning to fuel the body you have, and to begin to feel better, knowing that when you achieve all of those you often lose fat and gain muscle in the process without actively trying.
If you are interested in working with me in a 1:1 situation, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to discuss rates and how I may be able to help you feel better in your own skin. 🙂