No matter what the goal of your diet is and no matter what terrible sources of information you’ve been exposed to, the single most important part of every single diet plan is calories.
Or, more specifically, your total daily calorie intake.
Like I’ve mentioned before, calories are everything. They are the true key to an effective diet plan regardless of any other aspect of it. No other dietary factor influences what your body does anywhere near the level that calories do.
In fact, your daily calorie intake is the only diet component that will truly differ or change based on what your goal is.
Meaning, once everything else (protein, fat, carbs, etc.) is set to an optimal percentage of your calorie intake, it can all remain set that same way and you’ll still lose fat or build muscle or do whatever else you are trying to do without any problem.
The only significant dietary difference between goals is total calories.
Like I said, calories are the key. And the reason why calories are so damn important is actually pretty simple once you understand some basic things…
See, everything we eat and drink contains calories. With the exception of obvious stuff like water, all foods and drinks contain some amount of calories and go on to make up our daily calorie intake.
Since these are the calories being consumed and therefore taken in by your body, they are commonly referred to as our “calories in.”
On the other hand, everything we do burns calories. They are what our bodies use for energy to do everything we need to do.
From intense exercise like weight training and cardio, to simple daily tasks like standing, talking and brushing your teeth. In addition, your body actually burns a significant number of calories each day on its own just keeping you alive and functioning properly. You know, doing stuff like breathing, pumping blood, digesting food, etc.
Since these are the calories that we are using and burning, they are commonly referred to as our “calories out.”
Calories In VS Calories Out
What you just learned is the back story that serves as the basis for the most important part of your diet.
Above all else diet related, the results you get depend most on your body’s battle between calories in and calories out.
And what I mean by that is, what your body will do (lose weight, gain weight, maintain weight) is decided by which side most often wins this battle.
Confused? I think this calls for a chart…
|The Cause||The Effect||The Result|
|Calories In Beats Calories Out||Caloric Surplus||Muscle gain, fat gain, or both.|
|Calories Out Beats Calories In||Caloric Deficit||Fat loss, muscle loss, or both.|
|Calories In = Calories Out||Maintenance||Everything remains the same.|
What this chart basically shows is the scientifically proven law of thermodynamics and how energy balance takes place within the human body.
Of course, this is going to take a little more explaining before it becomes perfectly clear.
So, get ready. I’m about to show you how to use your daily calorie intake to make your body do exactly what you want it to do.
If Calories In Beats Calories Out = Caloric Surplus
In this scenario, there is what’s known as a caloric surplus.
In plain English, this means you consumed more calories than you burned and there was a “surplus” of left over calories that never got used.
In even plainer English, you are eating more calories than your body knows what to do with. It already burned all of the calories it needed to burn and used all of the calories it needed to use, but you are still continuing to give it even more calories.
Since your body has no immediate use for these excess calories that you are consuming, there is only 1 thing it can do: store them on your body in some form.
See, your body is pretty smart. Since it uses calories for energy, it will use whatever calories you consume to perform whatever tasks it needs to perform on a daily basis.
If you then give it additional calories beyond that amount, it stores them on your body for later use.
And, there are primarily 2 ways for these excess calories to be stored on your body:
- As Fat
Now this first scenario is pretty obvious. This is, after all, how fat people get fat in the first place. They eat too much, and that results in a daily calorie intake that is too high. Meaning, they consistently consumed more calories than their body’s needed, so the excess was stored in the form of fat. So, for anyone who has ever gained any amount of fat, this is how and why it happened. You consumed more calories than your body burned, and those extra left over calories that were never used for anything were stored on your body as fat.
- As Muscle
This second scenario might surprise and confuse some people. But, it really shouldn’t. You see, muscle can’t be built out of nothing. As you can probably imagine, creating new muscle tissue requires a lot of energy and therefore a lot of calories. Meaning, in order to build any amount of muscle, your body needs additional calories beyond the amount that it usually needs. In this case, those excess calories will be stored on your body in the form of muscle.
So, a caloric surplus will always result in either muscle gain (good), fat gain (not good), or some combination of both.
And this of course leads to a very obvious question:
What causes the excess calories to be stored as muscle instead of fat?
Quite simply: The proper muscle building signal.
Meaning, an intelligently designed workout routine that effectively proves to your body that muscle needs to be built. (I’ll cover the workout specifics later in this guide.)
THAT is what sends a signal to your body to use the available excess calories to build new muscle RATHER than just store them all as fat.
And THAT is the difference between someone eating enough to support muscle growth, and someone just eating too much and getting fat.
And to a lesser but still significant degree, various other aspects of your diet will also play an important role in making your body store excess calories as muscle rather than fat. (We’ll get to them later too.)
However, the big point here is…
Daily Calorie Intake Fact #1: If your primary goal is building muscle, there MUST be a caloric surplus. It’s the #1 requirement of a muscle building diet plan.
If Calories Out Beats Calories In = Caloric Deficit
In this scenario, there is what’s known as a caloric deficit.
In plain English, this means you burned more calories than you consumed and there was a “deficit” of calories.
In even plainer English, you are not supplying your body with all of the calories it needs. It already burned/used all of the calories you consumed, but it still needs more.
Since you are consuming less calories than your body needs, there is only 1 thing it can do: find some alternative energy source on your body.
Like I said before, your body is pretty smart. It will use whatever calories you consume as energy to perform whatever tasks it needs to perform on a daily basis.
If it still needs more calories beyond that amount, it’s going to use the calories that it previously stored on your body.
And, there are primarily 2 sources that your body will use for energy when this happens:
- Your Stored Body Fat
Now this first scenario is pretty obvious again. This is, after all, how you lose fat. You eat less, which results in a lower daily calorie intake. Meaning, you consistently consume fewer calories than your body needs, so it uses your stored body fat for energy instead. So, for anyone who has ever lost any amount of fat, this is how and why it happened. You burned more calories than you consumed, and this forced your body to dip into your fat storage and use/burn your own body fat for energy.
- Your Muscle Tissue
And again, this second scenario might surprise and confuse some people. But, it really shouldn’t. Like I said, muscle is really just calories that were stored on your body. You may like it much more than fat, but your body doesn’t really care. So, when you are in a caloric deficit and your body needs to find some alternative energy source, it WON’T just completely ignore your muscle tissue and only use fat. It can (and will) use both.
So, a caloric deficit will always result in either fat loss (good), muscle loss (not good), or some combination of both.
And this of course leads to another very obvious question:
What causes the body to burn stored body fat for energy instead of muscle?
Quite simply: The proper muscle maintenance signal.
You know how I mentioned earlier that an intelligently designed workout routine is the key factor in signaling your body to use excess calories to BUILD muscle rather than store them as fat?
Well, an intelligently designed workout routine is also the key factor that signals your body to MAINTAIN muscle and only burn fat.
In addition, just like before, there are various other aspects of your diet that will also play an important role in ensuring your body maintains muscle while you lose fat. (Again, this guide will cover all of them. Stay tuned.)
However, the big point here is…
Daily Calorie Intake Fact #2: If your primary goal is losing fat, then there MUST be a caloric deficit. It’s the #1 requirement of a fat loss diet plan.
If Calories In = Calories Out, Then… = Maintenance
That’s right. “Calories In” doesn’t just have to beat “Calories Out,” and “Calories Out” doesn’t just have to beat “Calories In.”
They can actually be even with each other.
This scenario is what I (and many others) like to refer to as maintenance. It’s when your daily calorie intake is equal to your daily calorie output.
In plain English, it’s when you consume the same number of calories that you burn or burn the same number of calories that you consume. It’s all the same thing, really.
In even plainer English, it’s when there is no caloric surplus or caloric deficit, which means there is no excess energy that needs to be stored on your body (as muscle or fat), and there is no reason to dip into your stored energy (fat or muscle) to burn that instead.
Rather, everything will just be “maintained” as is. No weight loss, no weight gain, no fat loss, no fat gain, no muscle loss, no muscle gain. Just maintenance.
And here’s where we finally begin to get into actual numbers and amounts. Because, when “Calories In” is equal to “Calories Out,” it means you are at your calorie maintenance level.
And it’s your calorie maintenance level that is the starting point for figuring out exactly what your daily calorie intake should be in order for you to reach your goal and make your body do what you want it to do.
And once you know that, you’ll also have the key component for putting together the rest of your diet plan (protein, fat, carbs) as well.
So, let’s get to it. Let’s figure out what your daily calorie maintenance level is…
(This article is part of a completely free and amazingly awesome guide to creating the absolute best diet plan possible for your exact goal and preferences. Check out the entire guide here: The Best Diet Plan)