Work out your ideal diet plan, maximise those gains and develop an understanding of proper nutrition with our beginner’s guide for women.
This guide explores the fundamentals of nutrition, including macro-nutrients, how many calories women need and how to reach your goals. We’ve broken every element down to keep things simple, hopefully giving you an ideal starting point to develop and adapt your own ideal nutrition plan.
First things first, let’s get this out in the open; calorie consumption determines weight loss or gain, full stop. If you consume more calories than your body burns, you’ll gain weight (notice, we didn’t say fat, the two aren’t the same!), in the same way, if you consume less calories than your body burns, you’ll lose weight.
It doesn’t matter if you’re diet consists purely of protein powder, fish, steak, fast food, grapes or anything else, too much or too little is the only part that really makes a difference. Obviously, different foods have different nutrients and calorie densities, so a diet made entirely of fast food will be easier to over-consume, not to mention lacking in nutrients that will make you ‘feel good’.
How Many Calories do Women Need?
The ‘average’ woman needs around 2000 calories per day to maintain. Obviously, this number fluctuates, depending upon your starting weight, activity level and job type for example, so it’s worth working out your personal Basal Metabolic Rate (the amount of calories you use daily, just by staying alive).
Here’s the go-to formula for working out how many calories you need on a regular daily basis:
BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in Yrs)
Confusing right? Well you’re in luck! Because we’re lovely, we’ve built a calculator which works all this out for you…
Gaining or Losing Weight
Now you have your daily calorie requirement, to increase or decrease your weight, simply eat at a caloric surplus or deficit. Over-eating or under-eating by 500 calories per week will see (roughly) a 1lb change either way. Notice, we’re not giving you any other estimates here; anything higher can be achievable, but isn’t really in the beginner realm. If you fancy losing half your body weight in just a few days, be our guest but we’re not convinced.
The next step is to work out your ideal nutrient split, based on your goals. To do this, you’ll need a little understanding of macro-nutrients…
Essentially, all balanced diets are made up of three macro-nutrients (or ‘macros’ as they’re sometimes referred to). These are; Protein, Carbohydrates (carbs) and Fats; in order to function properly, no matter what your aim, your body needs some split of these three.
Protein helps with all things muscle mass, keeping muscles in top shape, creating new muscle and repairing muscle cells which break down during workouts. As a food source, protein is generally dense, taking longer to digest (compared to other macros) and keeping you ‘fuller’ for longer.
What Are The Best Ways to Get Protein?
Protein comes primarily from lean meats and some dairy, we recommend a mixture of the following to guarantee you meet your protein goals:
- Fish & Seafood
- Lean Meat, Red Meat and Trimmed Pork
- Chicken & Turkey (chicken being the most popular)
- Protein Supplements & Powders (designed to aide nutrition, not replace!)
How Much Protein Do Women Need?
There’s some debate on this, and of course, it depends on how hard and frequently you’re working out, but the general consensus is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you’re planning on lifting weights, or taking up sports, you’ll need a little more, but don’t worry, of all the macros; protein is probably the hardest one to ‘overdo’.
If you’re just starting out, we’d recommend somewhere between 1g and 1.3g per kilo of body weight.
Use our protein guide below to find your protein requirements.
|Weight (Kg)||Sedentary & Inactive (0.8g)||Moderate Activity (1g)||Frequent Activity (1.3g)||Heavy Activity (1.8g)|
No carbs before Marbs and all that; total rubbish. A lot of people, for some inexplicable reason, think carbs are the enemy. They’re not. The fact is, carbohydrates are a vital source of fast acting energy, which is key to any decent gym session.
If possible, we recommend splitting up ‘starchy’ and ‘fibrous’ carbs to maximise your nutrition; if you have time! Use starchy carbs to deliver fuel to your body before and after a workout, with more fibrous carbs delivering a steadier stream of energy, ideal for lunch and evening meals.
We are getting a little technical here, so it is worth keeping in mind; get the basics right first. If you’re struggling to eat broccoli for lunch and sweet potatoes post workout, don’t! Aiming to reach your macro and calorie goals each day should be your number one priority, irrespective of how you get there.
If you are keen to get the starchy and fibrous carb thing nailed down, have a look at some of the foods which could help below.
|Carbohydrate Type||Example Foods|
Beans & Lentils
Quite possibly the most misunderstood macro-nutrient of them all; fats.
What Are the Different Types of Fat?
These are essentially, the ‘bad fats’ found in processed food, meat products such as sausages and pies, butter and dairy products. Saturated fat has been linked with higher cholesterol and heart disease, so, although foods containing saturated fats should be enjoyed, they should be eaten in moderation.
The worst of the worst, we use hydrogenated ‘trans’ fats to preserve foods and increase shelf life. Think crisps, chocolate, biscuits and buns and you’re thinking of trans fats. Lowering good cholesterol and raising ‘bad’, trans fats can be a disaster for the body, not to mention waving goodbye to that lean muscle, so try and avoid them as much as possible.
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are the healthy fats, key to a well balanced diet, staying satiated and just generally feeling good, whether you’re cutting or bulking. In most cases, people who use fad diets and start to become lethargic, feel rough or start to get cravings are missing out on these essential good fats. In short, without unsaturated fats in your diet, you’re doomed to failure.
Polyunsaturated fat is broken up into two categories; Omega 3 and Omega 6, usually found in seafood and fish. Ensure your diet consists of fatty fish such as Salmon, Mackerel or Sardines at least twice a week to get your recommended intake of Polyunsaturates.
Planning Your Diet
Now you know your daily calorie requirements, how many calories you need to achieve your goal and have a grasp of protein, carbs and fats, it’s just a matter of putting it altogether. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a foolproof daily macro and calorie goal that works for you.
To find an ideal macro split, take your daily calorie requirement, work out your daily protein intake (multiplying by four to determine how many calories this equates to) with the rest being left for carbohydrates and fats. Don’t be scared to eat those fats, taking care to stick to poly and mono unsaturated; we suggest good fats contribute 20% to your daily macro split. Generally, a 40/40/20 split works well enough for most people.
We’ll be adding a full calculator for this very soon, so why not subscribe below to keep up to date?
The Wrap Up
We’re hoping our Beginners Guide to Women’s Nutrition has opened your eyes and given you a little food for thought (pun most definitely intended). You should now be in a position to develop a clear and effective meal plan that suits you and delivers on your goals.
When you’re following a diet plan, remember our key takeaways;
- Slow and steady dieting over reckless abandon
- Approximately 0.8g-1.3g of protein per Kg of body weight
- A balanced diet consists of protein, carbohydrates and fats
- Starchy carbs for quick release energy
- Fibrous carbs to slower release energy
Thanks for reading! If you need some extra resources you can download them straight from our resource centre. Now it’s over to you, get out there and make those changes!