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One Nutrition Rule to Tone Up

If there’s one universal truth in fitness, it’s that nearly everyone wants to “Tone up,” which is losing fat, while having more muscle definition.  And lately, I’ve received a lot of questions about how to get more protein in.  This post will give you one nutrition rule to follow in order to tone up, while giving you some ideas about how to get in more protein.

Three Rules to Follow to Tone Up:

1 – Workout with Weights at least 3 times per week. And by weights, I mean weights where you’re struggling to complete 5 to 12 reps by the end of most sets (not warm-up sets).

2 – Make sure you’re in a slight caloric deficit.

3 – Make sure you’re getting in enough protein (1.2 grams per pound of Lean Body Mass, or depending on your body fat, about 1 gram per pound of body weight).

People instinctually understand working out with weights as part of the rules to tone up, but when it comes to being in a slight caloric deficit and getting enough protein, most people become more confused.  Sometimes the language is clumsy and there’s a ton of conflicting information out there which makes this more complicated than it needs to be. 

To simplify all the bullshit you’re likely to encounter, this rule requires some baseline of knowledge.
The pre-requisites for this rule are:
A – You have to be willing to look up the calorie content for the foods you eat.
B – You have to be willing to locate the amount of grams of protein in the food.
C -You have to be willing to calculate those two numbers on a regular basis, until it becomes habitual.

If you’re willing to do those two things until they become habitual, then all you have to do is workout 3 times per week with weights.

So, without further ado, the one simple rule is this:
Eat one gram of protein for every 10 calories you consume.

So if you eat a meal with 400 calories in it, your goal is to get 40 grams of protein.  200 calories, 20 grams.  318 calories, 32 grams, etc.  You don’t have to be perfect, at every meal, but the totals at the end of the day should be 1 gram for every 10 calories consumed.  If you ate 1500 calories for the day, this means you should have had about 150 grams of protein.  2000 calories?  200 grams of protein, etc.

What this does is allows you to get 40% of your calories from protein and split the other 60% between carbs and fat.  Since I’ve said this a thousand times and will probably have to repeat it another 1000, it doesn’t matter the split of carbs and fat if your calories and protein are in check.   

Your Action Steps:
1 – Calculate Your BMI

I’ve discussed a few ways of calculating your calories in the past, but as more time passes, I’m convinced the easiest way is through your BMI.  If you don’t know your BMI, it’s simple.  Type in BMI Calculator into Google and on the page that pops up, you’ll just put your weight and height in.  It’ll spit out your BMI.  You can also go here.  Once you have that number…

2 – Calculate How Many Calories You Should be Consuming to be in a Caloric Deficit
Once you have your BMI, figure out the range of calories you should be consuming in order to be in a caloric deficit, by multiplying your weight by the amount of calories you should be having based on your BMI.  Therefore, if you have a:

BMI of 34 or higher = 7 to 8 calories per pound of Bodyweight
BMI of 29 – 33.9 = 8 to 9 calories per pound of Bodyweight
BMI of 24 – 28.9 = 10 to 11 calories per pound of Bodyweight
BMI of 23.9 or lower = 11 to 12 calories per pound of Bodyweight

I’ll use myself as an example.  I have a BMI of 28.1 at a weight of 190 pounds. This means, I’ll times my weight by 10 and 11 and get between 1900 and 2090 calories per day.  This is a number that will result in a caloric deficit and is my goal if I want to eat to tone up.  If I follow my rule, then protein should be between 190 and 209 grams of protein per day.

Remember, in order to lose fat and keep muscle (aka, “Tone Up”) your calorie needs will be slightly lower than maintenance levels.

Now, to take in that much protein is somewhat difficult as most snacks are carb heavy or fat heavy.  Nuts and avocado are very fat heavy in terms of calories.  Pretzels, fruits, etc, are very carb heavy.  Most junk foods (think ice cream, doughnuts, etc) are both carb AND fat heavy, while everything I listed are low on protein.

3 – Follow the One Simple Rule for Eating:  1 Gram of Protein for Every 10 Calories
Your goal is to increase the amount of protein you take in, so that you’re hitting one gram for every 10 calories you eat.  

Foods to Get in More Protein

Below are a quick list of the best foods to get in more protein at each meal.

Best foods for breakfast:
Protein Shakes (Usually 20 grams or protein for about 120 calories)
Egg Whites (all their calories come from protein 20 grams of protein is about 4 servings and 80 calories)
Fat-Free Feta Cheese (Each serving is about 7 grams of protein and 30 calories)
A chicken Sausage (about 12 grams for about 120 calories)
Plain Greek Yogurt (Fage 2% is usually best – about 20 grams for 140 calories)
Cottage Cheese (depends on the percent fat, but can easily get 20 grams for 120 calories)
Lox or Smoked Salmon (21 grams for 140 calories)

Best foods for snacks:
Protein Bars (Joy, Quest, or One protein bars all have about 20 grams for about 200 calories) – Don’t rely on these too much, but they can help with sweet cravings
Greek Yogurts and Cottage Cheese
Fat Free Cheese Slices
Wrapped Cheese and Deli meat (stick to turkey, roast beef, chicken or ham) – Again, I wouldn’t rely on this too much.

Best foods for lunches and dinners:
Any meat, especially lean meats such as: 
Chicken Breasts (24 grams for 110 calories), 
Lean Ground Turkey (20 grams for about 100 calories), 
at least 90/10 Ground Beef and Ground Bison (20 grams for 170 calories), 
Salmon (25 grams for 250 calories), 
Shrimp (24 grams of protein for 100 calories), etc.

Pork chops, venison, chicken thighs (skinless and boneless), tuna, tofu, and tilapia, amongst others

Every meat has about 18 to 25 grams per serving.  Calorie differences are from the total amount of fat in the meat.  

*Important Note:  I listed protein rich foods.  This does NOT mean this is what your meals should consist of.  To give a more complete picture of how it looks, I’ll give you a sample of my super lazy, summer eating plan.  

My Super Lazy, Summer Eating Plan

Please note, that I’m giving this information as a sample – not a guideline on how you need to eat.  I’m also single, don’t have to think for about my family’s eating, and know myself enough that I like heavy lunches and dinners and would rather eat a couple of heavy meals than a bunch of small meals. 

Sample Day of What I Eat when Toning Up

Here’s a sample day for me, this summer, where I’m trying to lose fat and keep the muscle I have.  Remember, my targets are between 1900 and 2090 calories per day, with 190 – 209 grams of protein per day and that I am working out at least 3 times per week with weights.  This is literally the laziest meal plan I can think of: ​

Breakfast (Almost Every Morning):

Protein Shake with Turmeric in the morning (30 grams of protein – 1 scoop of whey, 1 scoop of collagen, 1/3 teaspoon turmeric and mix with water).  Totals for this “meal” are 30 grams of protein and 140 calories.  Sometimes will turn this into a veggie smoothie, depending on how much time I have (will add spinach – a large handful, and celery – 2 stalks)​

Snacks (Throughout the day)

I’ll have between 1-2 protein bars per day – one as a mid-morning snack and one as a snack when working with clients – 1 of each

Rev Peanut Butter Protein Bar 15 grams of protein, 180 calories
Joy Protein Bar – 200 calories, 20 grams of protein

On off days, I’ll have this as a snack instead one of the protein bars:  
I’ll have two yogurts/cottage cheese:  
Siggi’s Plain Yogurt (16 grams of protein about 100 calories) + Good Culture Cottage Cheese Strawberry Chai Flavor (17 grams of protein and 150 calories) – Totals 33 grams of protein, 250 calories​

2 times per week:  Chicken, Rice, and Yucca – 40 grams of protein, 600 calories, or – 2 days per week
3-4 times per week:  Oxtail, Rice, and Yucca – 35 grams of protein, 800 calories – 3 days per week
1-2 times per week:  A Green Goddess Salad (no dressing, extra chicken) from Panera – 1 Day per week

Super Lazy Dinner: 
2 days per week:
3 oz Container of Fat-Free Feta, with 5 egg whites and 2 eggs, watermelon and cherries – 60 grams of protein, 600 calories

3 days per week:
3/4 lb of Ground Turkey or 90/10 grass-fed beef with 2 servings of low-fat refried beans on 8 thin Suzie’s rice cakes plus a bag of frozen vegetables – 90 grams of protein, 750 calories

1 Day per week:  Out for dinner
1 Day per week:  A vegetable smoothie with protein powder (basically my breakfast shake with vegetables)
Super Lazy Dinner 1 Day per week, I just eat 4 plain Greek yogurts with 6-12 ounces of blueberries

Totals for the day:
1970 – 2170 calories for the day with a range of 193-198 grams of protein most days of the week

I’m not perfect when I eat the oxtail for lunch, but the way I cut calories is to not eat a big breakfast, as I still get hungry and will snack throughout the day no matter what I eat for breakfast.

Lunch is my biggest meal of the day, because I need to stay full, when I have anywhere from 4 to 9 clients back-to-back.

Dinner doesn’t have to be heavy, but enough to fill me up and usually includes some fruit (especially during summer).  Dinner, I’ll usually add veggies also.

If I feel like I need more veggies, I’ll have a green goddess salad (no dressing) from Panera more often and add spinach or get a salad instead of yucca at lunch.

*If you’re lactose intolerant, use a vegan protein powder and use the No Cow bars (no dairy and 20 grams of protein for 180 calories).  Use more egg whites and add more veggies. 

The lessons here are this:
1 – Make sure you’re aiming for 1 gram of protein for every 10 calories you’re having per day.

2 – Make sure you’re in a caloric deficit based on your BMI

3 – Figure out when you need to feel full and experiment with finding a system that works for you.  This can mean you have more meals throughout the day.  You can experiment with when your heaviest meal is.  You can overload your protein intake early in the day, so you’ll have “calories in reserve,” if you know you’re going out to eat or drink later in the night.  You can simply meal plan and eat those meals.  You can use a meal service.  The options of how you implement this rule are basically endless.  I just showed you my super lazy way of doing this, where I only have to cook dinners 5 to 6 nights per week.  

And that’s it.  If you can do this consistently until it becomes habitual, while working out with weights 3 times per week, and have patience…day-in and day-out, week-in and week -out, you can make getting toned “look relatively easy.”

How to Implement:
A.  Calculate your BMI by Googling “BMI Calculator.”  
B.  Take that number and figure out your calorie range from up above.
C.  Follow the one simple rule of 1 gram of protein for every 10 calories you consume for:

D.  Follow the one simple rule for 12 weeks.  Work this system while in caloric deficit from the BMI calculations.
E.  Then, for 4 weeks, eat at maintenance calories.  This is typically 1 to 2 calories more per pound of body weight than your weight loss calories.

Cycle through that, 3 times each year and by the end of the year, especially if you’ve been working out consistently throughout, you should be a lot more “toned.”

If you have any questions or comments for me, please feel free to let me know.  Thanks.