Quickstart Nutrition Guide To Fat Loss

nutrition-for-fat-lossAs I’ve said many times, nutrition is more important than exercise. No matter how hard or how often you work out, you simply cannot OUT-TRAIN a bad diet.  This leads to one very simple fat loss formula; calories in must be LESS than calories out.

With that being said, below you’ll find a simple set of guidelines to determining the RIGHT number of calories to help you burn fat fast along with a few suggested ways of cleaning up your diet.

Nutritional Plan:

If your current nutritional plan is preventing you from losing fat, then it’s time for you to start working on building better eating habits.

This can be as simple as committing to one small nutritional improvement per day (such as replacing your lunchtime soda with water) and one large change per week (such as setting aside time on a Sunday to shop and prepare for your weekly meals).

Once you have established good nutrition habits, you’ll find yourself making BETTER CHOICES on a daily basis. But you have to worknutrition for fat loss on consistent improvement, and if you mess up, don’t worry about it, just get right back to eating right.

Even if you start making only one change per day you will start to see improvements.

Make this a GOAL that you will start today: to choose one healthier food option per day that will get you one step closer to your lean body. You need to have a plan to make this work, just like you need a plan for your workouts.

Calorie Calculator:

Let’s start your meal planning by using Coach Alan Aragon’s “Calorie Calculator” to determine how many calories you should eat each day. According to Aragon, to determine the number of calories you should eat each day, you need this equation:calorie-calculator

Daily calories = Goal weight x (workout hours per week + 9.5)
•    Protein grams = goal weight in pounds
•    Fat grams = half goal weight in pounds
•    Carbohydrate grams = [Daily calories – (protein calories + fat calories)]/4
o    1 gram of protein provides 4 calories
o    1 gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories
o    1 gram of fat provides 9 calories
•    By the way, Aragon said it doesn’t matter if you eat 6 or 3 meals per day

Female Example:

You are a 160 pound woman who wants to weigh 140 pounds, and you exercise for a total of 3 hours per week:

Daily Calories = 140 x (3+9.5)
Daily Calories = 1750
Protein = 140grams (560 calories)
Fat = 70grams (630 calories)
Carbohydrates = [1750 – (560+630)]/4
Carbohydrates = 140grams

Male Example:

You are a 220 pound man who wants to weigh 180 pounds, and you exercise for a total of 3 hours per week:

Daily Calories = 180 x (3+9.5)
Daily Calories = 2250
Protein = 180grams (720 calories)
Fat = 90grams (810 calories)
Carbohydrates = [2250 – (720+810)]/4
Carbohydrates = 180grams

If you follow these calorie guidelines, along with implementing daily healthy changes to your diet, then you will be well on your way to reaching your fat loss goals.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Turbulence Training

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  • Wendy

    This as really interesting .. I’ve never seen this equation theory before.

  • Steve

    So, according to this theory, I should be aiming to eat 140g of protein per day? I have no idea how I would even get close to that figure, especially on my vegetarian diet. I’d be lucky to consume half that amount.

  • Alejandro

    Steve, get some from supplements. See, I’m not saying “depend on supplements”, but complement your vegan prots (like whole rice with beans) with a prot shake. It works 4me.

  • Steve

    Alejandro, thanks for taking the time to reply. I used to use protein shakes but I found that they left me feeling bloated so I stopped taking them. I try, as far as possible, to get my protein from ‘natural’ sources now…which probably explains why I will never manage to consume 140g a day.

  • Reed

    I am no strict vegetarian, but some days i go without eating meat at all. 140 grams is not so far away.

    i often have in a day: milk, nuts (all kinds!), cheeses, beans, whole grains, avocado, as steve mentioned maybe a supplement (20 grams in the powder + milk), mushrooms, tofu if you are into it, icecream. so many choices for protein!. even tiny boosters, olives, good dark chocolate and the like, can go a long way when eaten in conjunction with other foods.

    if you are a more lax vegetarian, i.e. still consume fish on occasion, and maybe eggs (hey they’re unfertilized!), you are set.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Great points Reed, thanks!

      Mushrooms have protein in them?

  • Craig,
    I love your formula and how you break this down. One of the reasons weight loss is so hard for people is that they end up consuming more calories than they should and really don’t know how to calculate how many calories they SHOULD be eating.

    What I like about your formula is that is puts exercise into the equation which addresses the exercise vs. diet debate; and as we both know, diet alone doesn’t do the trick and exercise alone doesn’t do the trick when it comes to fat loss.


  • Anirudh


    Protein sources are there in probably all sources of Veggie Beans, Almonds, Nuts.

    I use the TWINLAB Amino Fuel for my protein intake to support all of the above along with some home made superskimmed milk Yoghurt/Curd. So I know I am eliminating all the unwanted sugars and fats.

    As per the above my breakup goes like this:

    Current weight: 85 kgs= 187 pounds
    Target weight: 75 kgs=165 pounds

    As per the above formula, my numbers look like this:
    Daily Calories=165 *(7+9.5)=2722, Rounding it off to 2700.

    Protein Grams=165 grams=165*4=660 calories
    Fat Grams=82.5 grams=82.5*9 calories=740 (742 rounded off) Calories
    Carbohydrate grams=[2722-(660+740)]/4=330.5 grams*4=1322 calories

    Proteins: Nuts, Fruits, Veggies, Legumes, Sprouts, TWINLAB Amino Fuel Liquid Protein(somehow found this works the best with me, taste wise and other wise)

    Carbs: This week im trying a no cereal option. Only Fruits, Veggies, Skimmed Milk Cottage Cheese, Boiled Egg Whites

    Fat: I think that would be my only glitch as I haven’t considered that aspect too clearly. I guess a mix in all the cooked veggies with Olive Oil

    I hope the above is interesting to some of you veggies who feel you are missing out. I have lost about 15.4 pounds in 7 weeks with a Weight based training module.

    I am going to start using the TT Bodyweight Cardio Routines for my cardio workouts.

    Thanks Craig for all the information. I haven’t been very scientific about my weight loss, but just stuck to eating the right foods. There are the odd glitches here and there, but overall, the change in my body and mind makes all the effort totally worthwhile!!!

    I have followed your advice on a number of exercises and have loved your recent interviews with Jason! Kickass concepts to train like an athlete.


  • ilana

    Hey Craig!
    Say I am doing your bodyweight cardio 3.0 (which I LOVE by the way; workout B is a killer!). While they’re relatively quick workouts that don’t usually take me longer than 30-40 minutes, I feel that they burn more fat/calories as a whole than if I were to just do a mediocre workout but for a longer period of time. Because of this, as far as the equation is concerned, would you say that calculating my calories for the day may be a bit lower than necessary given that my workout periods are shorter but more intense and that the “workout hours per week” should be altered slightly? Thanks!

    • Hi Ilana, thanks for the feedback. I’m sorry, I got a little lost in the question. I think the best thing to do would be monitor your results for a week, and if you aren’t going in the right direction, then we can look at changing your calories.


  • Melody Pipkin

    Question about figuring out the calorie count-

    The example given for a woman says;

    “Daily Calories = 140 x (3+9.5) Daily Calories = 1750”

    I got : 140 X 3 = 420+ 9.5=429.5?

    Did I do this wrong?

  • Melody Pipkin

    never mind- do the work in the ( ) first- I forgot… got it!

  • Wandeco

    I don’t understand this part of the equation (workout hours per week + 9.5).
    Please tell me the meaning of 9.5

    • It’s a factor based on testing a lot of people.


  • Andria

    That calorie intake is waaay too low for me. Last time I followed a trainer’s recommendation to eat 1500kcal/day (the number your equation came up for me: female @110# & 4 hrs of exercise/wk) while strength training and doing high intensity work only 2 hrs per week plus some stuff on my own, I was STARVING! I bumped it up to a whooping 1600 kcal/day and was ok on a day to day basis, but became exhausted over the long haul.

    Now when I am strength training and do HIIT I need to eat 1800-2000 kcal/day and lean out nicely. Gosh, why the hell are these calorie calculators too low???

  • Marios

    Mr. Craig, I’d like to thank you for this amazing article. I have a point to raise, however.

    First of all, whilst everything you mention IS true, and in accordance with the First Law of Thermodynamics, along with the latest scientific evidence that meal frequency does not matter as much as we originally though, I do not think you addressed the importance of satiety in a fat loss diet.

    I firmly believe people trying to lose weight should focus on foods that can keep them full longer (high-protein, high fiber) along with good fats that will lead to a balanced and highly functioning hormonic profile. The reason is simple:

    Dietary adherence. It does a client no good to start an excellent diet if they do not stick to it, consistently and over a long stretch of time. I honestly believe this is the most important factor in a successful weight loss plan, assuming a caloric deficit has been met.

    These were my two cents, and I do NOT intend to devalue your great article in any way, but rather supplement your audience with extra information and provide food for thought.