Diet Design for Women

A 'diet' is a selection of food designed to improve your physical condition - whether that be by fat loss or muscle gain (or a combination of both).

Simple Diet Design Process

Diet design needn't be complex. Determine your caloric needs, eat according to those needs, and plan for success.
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Promoting and Evaluating Success

Learn how to set yourself up for success and how to measure success.
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Ending the Diet

So you've reached your goals? Congrats! Now learn about how to end a diet.
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Simple Diet Design Process

  1. Calculate your caloric needs and choose a deficit/surplus. Calories should never be less than 1200 for women (unless you are on a doctor supervised diet).
  2. If your goal is weight loss, get AT LEAST 120g carbs, 1g protein per pound of goal, or ideal, bodyweight, and 50-70g of fat per day.
  3. If your goal is muscle gain, toning, or bodybuilding, get AT LEAST 170 carbs, 1g protein per pound of goal bodyweight, and 50-70g of fat per day.
  4. Design 3 meals and between 0 and 2 mini-meals (snacks). Try SparkPeople to help you do this.

Example Calculations

Suzan is 35 years old, 200 pounds, and 5'5. She does 3 hours of moderate intensity cardio a week, and weightlifts twice a week for 45 minutes. Her ideal weight is 140 pounds.

Her total weekly activity puts her in the low active category. Using the caloric needs calculator, we determine that her BMR is 1603 kcal/day, and her caloric needs are 2503 per day.

She chooses a 700 calorie deficit since she is more than 50 pounds overweight. So she will be eating 1803 calories a day. She needs at least 140g protein, 50g fats, and 120g carbohydrates. If that were all she ate, it would be

140×4+50×9+120×4=1490 calories per day.

The remaining calories is 1803-1490=313. The 313 calories can come from ANY macro she wants! 313 calories is equal to 313/4=78 grams of carbs or protein, or 313/9=35 grams of fat.

To calculate these yourself easily, you can use google calculator. For example, if you copy/paste one of the following into a google search it will do your calculations:

  • 140*4+50*9+120*4
  • 313/4
  • 20% of 1800
  • 1803 - 1490


Promoting & Evaluating Success

Tips for Success

  • Design meal plans weekly to aid in grocery shopping and help abate last-minute choices.
  • Measure most things you eat with a food scale and/or measuring cups.
  • Premake meals/snacks on the weekend and freeze (for perishible foods) or store in baggies (for non-perishible foods). For example, chicken and rice freezes well; and you can put 1 oz servings of almonds and raisins in little snack bags.
  • Fat Loss

    During the initial phases of a weight loss diet (the first week especially), there can be drops in weight due to loss of water weight. After caloric reduction, anywhere from 2-5 pounds of loss is expected. If you are on a low carb diet, or have been retaining water from a high sodium diet, it may be much higher (such as the 20 or more pounds people regularly lose the first week on Biggest Loser). For this reason, I suggest waiting 2 weeks to gauge the effectiveness of your diet.

    If you are trying to lose fat you should be seeing weekly or bi-weekly changes to your scale weight, how you look in the mirror, and/or your measurements (measure your waist, hips and thighs). Typical weight loss for a female is 2 pounds a month, when close to ideal body weight, 4 pounds a month when moderately overweight, and 8 lbs a month when very obese.

    Muscle Gain

    If you are trying to gain muscle, as a female, you should be seeing monthly changes to how you look in the mirror and your measurements (measure biceps, waist, hips, thighs and calves). Typical weight gain for a novice female trainer should be at most 2 pounds a month.

    What if the Diet is not Working?

    Fat Loss

    If you are trying to lose fat and you are not losing at a fast enough rate, reduce your calories by 100 every 3 days until you see progress. If you are losing too fast, and you are more than 2 weeks into your diet, raise calories 100 every 3 days.

    Muscle Gain

    If you are trying to gain muscle, and your weight is stagnant, you are probably not eating enough calories. If you are not seeing monthly changes to appearance, you either aren’t eating enough, or you need to have another look at the effectiveness of your weight training program. Raise calories slowly, 100 every week.

    Ending the Diet

    Fat Loss

    If you are on a fat loss diet, and you want to return to a maintenance diet, or a muscle gain diet, raise your calories slowly, 100 calories every 3 days. Note that, because of your decreased body weight, you will need fewer calories.

    A small amount of "rebound" weight gain when ending a weight loss diet is normal. There is almost always (even if you don't restrict carbohydrates) going to be a water weight gain of 2-5 pounds when coming off of a diet. For this reason, you may wish to stay on your diet until you are 5 pounds below your goal weight.

    Muscle Gain

    If you are on a muscle gain diet, you can lower your calories to your maintenance right away. Ensure that you account for any gains in body weight when determining how many calories you need.