To get all the nutrients from your food in the most effective way, it’s a good idea to distribute them across your meals.
As I’ve mentioned previously, the protein requirement for people who exercise is approx. 1.6–2 g/kg body weight. For example, if you weigh 70 kg, you will need approx. 140 g protein per day.
A suitable level of fat intake is 1–1.3 g/kg body weight.
If you get enough essential fatty acids, which you nearly always will if you follow our advice on choice of fat, your fat intake doesn’t need to be any greater than that. Fat makes food taste better, as many flavours are fat-soluble, and you also need to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
Now we have worked out how much protein and fat you need, it’s easy to fill up on carbohydrates so that you reach your calculated needs. Please see the example below. Remember that people who exercise need more carbohydrates than people who don’t, so make sure you aren’t on a level that is too low. If you include carbohydrates in your diet, you will be able to cope with more intense exercise, and recovery will be more effective.
Remember that 1 g protein and 1 g carbohydrate provide 4 kcal, while 1 g fat provides 9 g kcal.
Here is a good starting point with a sample calculation:
- A person weighs 70 kg and they need to eat 1,830 kcal per day.
- In that case, their protein intake should be approx. 140 g per day = 560 kcal.
- Their fat intake should be between 70 and 91 g, say 80 g to keep it simple = 720 kcal.
- Then add the carbohydrates. In this example, that would be 137.5 grams per day = 550 kcal.
Now it’s easier to create your meal plan. Distribute the amounts of protein, fat and carbohydrates across the meals of the day. If you need to divide 140 g protein across five meals, it will be 28 g protein per meal. 28 g protein can, for example, be found in 120 g chicken fillet or in 164 g cod.
If you’re not happy with equal amounts across the day, it doesn’t really matter if you eat a bit more for lunch or dinner than for breakfast, as long as the total amount is right. Try to distribute your food intake as evenly as possible during the day, to avoid energy dips and panic in the evening because you have too many calories left to eat.
Bear in mind that this figure is approximate, as your level of activity may vary from day to day. You may become ill, be away from home or not be able to exercise as planned for one reason or another. It’s no big deal!
Evaluate your results after a couple of weeks. If you have followed the meal plans and your progress is non-existent – review the situation and make any necessary adjustments.