Basic nutrition questions answered

Nov 18, 2020

There are various questions that I am often asked by my clients around nutrition, so I have answered these questions below.

Please note that these are guidelines. If you are uncertain or have any serious medical conditions, always consult your medical practitioner before making any dietary changes or decisions.

How do I calculate my calorific requirement?

Do you want to work out how much to eat to either lose, gain or maintain your current weight? It is hard to know if you are eating the correct amount, isn’t it? That is because many factors are at play. Your gender, your age and your activity level, as well as your goal and your body type can influence the required daily calorific requirement.

The following table shows the approximate calorific requirement per gender, age and activity level, which would be to maintain your current weight.

Calorie requirements males

Calorie requirements females

How to determine your activity level:

  • Sedentary: Only the light physical activity associated with day-to-day life.
  • Moderately Active: Moderate exercise or walking for an hour 3 to 5 days a week, in addition to the light physical activity associated with day-to-day life.
  • Active:  Vigorous exercise for an hour or more 3 to 5 days a week, or suitable for a physically demanding job such as manual labour or competitive athlete.

How to calculate your daily calorific requirement:

You can apply the following principles to calculate your daily calorific requirement based on your gender, age and activity level:

  • Weight loss: deduct 10 to 15 % from the daily calorie requirement indicated.
  • Weight maintenance: consume the calories indicated as your daily requirement.
  • Weight gain: add 10 to 15 % to the daily calorie requirement indicated.

What are “Macros”?

You may have heard of nutrition macros and may be wondering what these are? “Macros” in this instance is simply shorthand for macronutrients. Macronutrients are the three key food groups that are required for your body to function well, namely carbohydrates (to fuel energy), fats (for hormonal function) and proteins (to build and repair muscle).

Various studies have shown that certain balances between these macros will either support lean muscle mass gain, fat mass loss or weight maintenance, as per this following diagram published by

Macrnutrient ratio

This method for selecting macro ratios is based on your goal for your fitness, be it weight loss, maintenance or muscle gain.

Another method for selecting your macro ratio is to select it for your specific body type. There are three generally defined body types, as follows:

Body types

Please note this is very simplified and most of us probably fall somewhere between body-types, but if you choose to use this, pick the one you feel is most dominant for you.

Will a Named Diet work for me?

It seems there are always new “diets” that promise weight loss success, such as Banting, Meat Free, Keto and many more. The following table describes a few named diets and how they actually work.

Named diets types

The basic truth is you can choose any nutrition plan you prefer and as long as you have a calorific deficit or increase, you can manage your weight loss or mass gain.

The complication is that not all calories are equal, and there is a lot to be said for selecting the healthiest and most nutrient rich foods. Cutting out whole food groups may leave you with a nutrient shortage, which is why this approach may not be advisable. If you have any doubts, discuss it with a general practitioner or dietitian.

What is “Meal Prep”?

“Meal prep” is a buzz word in the fitness industry. It means preparing your food in advance and then storing it in such a way that you don’t have to struggle to find the right food to eat during the week when your time is limited and your days are more stressful.

Consider storing lunches in the freezer for the week, or preparing ingredients for suppers in advance, so you just have to assemble and cook in the evening.

Meal prep is all about saving you time and making sure you have the healthy nutritious food available when you need it.

A few ways to do meal prep: 

  • Make meals in advance and freeze them.
  • Make meals the evening before and refrigerate these. Overnight oats is a good example – try this recipe.
  • Pick recipes that all use the same ingredients, and prep the ingredients in advance, so that cooking is quicker.

Elsabe Hunter

Elsabe is a strength coach at Fit.STRONG Coaching. She is a fully qualified, REPSSA registered Personal Trainer who believes that age is irrelevant and fitness is for everyone. She specialises in sports specific training and conditioning, weight loss, rehabilitative exercise and functional fitness. Read more about Elsabe

More articles