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Nutrition Strategies for Altering Body Composition

There are many nutrition strategies that you can use in order to achieve your goals. Calorie counting is one of the most effective ways for altering your body composition. This article mainly explains this method.

However, it may be a very tiring and time-consuming process. So before, we get into the main article, I have listed a few alternative options below, that you can use in order to track your caloric intake.

Low Effort/ Skill:

  • Take a photo of what you are eating.

  • Write down general amounts. E.g. a small bowl of yogurt.

Moderate Effort/ Skill:

  • Use a food journal to track how hungry you were at the start and end of a meal.

  • Use Hand-Size portions, such as a palm of protein, thumb of fat, cupped handful of carbs, fist of vegetables to regulate meal sizes.

High Effort/ Skill:

  • Use measuring cups or spoons or weigh food with a food scale.

  • Use standardized amounts.

  • Track items precisely using a calorie-counting software such as MyFitnessPal, Calorie Counter or Fitbit.

Tracking Calories

Now that you have learnt about some simple nutrition strategies for altering body composition, we will get into the more advanced strategies of tracking calories and macronutrients.

Step 1: Calculate Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

The first step to altering body composition involves estimating Basal Metabolic Rate. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is usually the largest contributor to total energy expenditure, accounting for approximately 65-70% of daily energy expenditure. It is a measure of the calories required for maintaining normal body functions such as respiration, blood circulation, and gastrointestinal & renal processing.

BMR Equation: (Harris-Benedict):

  • Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)

  • Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)

E.g. The BMR for a Male who is 185 lbs, 72 inches and 22 years old:

66 + (6.23 x 185 lbs) + (12.7 x 72 inches) - (6.8 x 22 years old) = 1983 Kcal = BMR

Step 2: Calculate Total Daily Energy Expenditure (Calories needed to maintain weight)

The second largest component of an individual’s energy requirement is the energy expended in physical activity. Typically, 20-30% of Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is from physical activity. However, this figure may be considerably higher in athletes.

Once you have calculated your BMR, you can calculate your caloric needs:

E.g. A Male who is 185 lbs, 72 inches, 22 years old, has a BMR of 1983.35 Kcal and is extremely active:

1983 Kcal (BMR) x 1.9 (Extremely Active) = 3768 Kcal

This means that this person needs to consume 3768 Kcal per day to maintain their weight. This a rough estimate and TDEE may fluctuate each day depending on activity level on a specific day.

Fitness trackers such as Fitbits are great as they can give a pretty precise number of how many calories you have burned through physical activity per day. Therefore, you can plan your food consumption around this number throughout the day.

Step 3: Calculate Calories based on Body Weight Goals

Weight (Muscle) Gain:

  • A general guideline is to consume 500 Kcal more than the calories you burn per day in order to gain weight. This is called a caloric surplus.

  • If a person increases their calorie intake dramatically and consistently (more than 500 Kcal), they could gain more fat than they would like.