How to eat: fat loss and muscle gain

Amir Siddiqui, head coach and personal trainer, explains how your nutritional needs differ depending on your goals

Eating right isn’t as straightforward as you might think – what’s really important is eating the right way for you. ‘Energy in and energy out. Over long periods of time, your body finds a sweet spot of composition – a sweet spot that usually goes against the aesthetic ideals of modern culture. This is why you should not “listen to your body” but rather learn to interpret its deceptive ways – ideally through coaching with an expert,’ says Amir Siddiqui.

‘The first thing to do is decide whether you actually need fat loss, or if you need more muscle. It’s not as simple as you think – many women think they need less fat when they need more muscle, and many men think they need more muscle when they need less fat. But let’s assume we’ve intelligently resolved that complex conundrum.’

For fat loss, you need
1. A calorie deficit. Instead of complex equations, simply take your bodyweight in pounds, and multiply it by 11 (though it can vary from ten to 13 – a good coach can help you figure it out). This is the total number of calories you need per day. If you weigh 150 pounds (68kg), you need 1,650 calories per day to push your body to use its own fat.

2. An exercise programme. Dieting alone will give you a smaller – and most likely flabbier – body. Exercise will make you hot, dieting alone will not.

3. Nearly half your calories should come from carbohydrates such as fruit, sweet potatoes and even rice. The rest you can divide between fat and protein.

4 Embrace hunger! If you are overweight right now, you are used to eating as soon as you are hungry. On a diet plan for fat loss you need to accept hunger with calm – remember, hunger is not an emergency. Most people eat out of boredom and anxiety.

For muscle gain (‘which is what gives you curves’), you need:
1. A surplus of calories. Take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 14 (this can vary widely on your current fitness levels, anywhere between 12 and 16, so get a coach to help you get it right). This is your caloric need per day.

2. An exercise programme – one that will shuttle all that extra energy into beautiful, lean muscle. If you do not work out, you will gain a lot of unsightly fat.

3. Once again, nearly half of your calories can come from carbs and sugar sources such as fruits, honey, oats, rice and potatoes – the rest from protein and fat.

4. Embrace fullness. In the same way that an overweight person believes that he or she doesn’t eat much, every scrawny, muscleless person I’ve ever come across claims to eat a lot. No, you don’t.