Bulking, cutting, gains, TDEE. You might have heard a lot of “gym bros” talk about those phrases at your local gym or fitness center. And when you hear those terms, you probably end up asking yourself, what does that even mean? Does it mean getting bigger in general? Is it a special diet program that for some reason a bunch of people are flocking to? Should I want to do those things? What do I have to do and is it hard?
All of those are valid questions, and I’m here to tell you, it’s different for everyone. Everyone is going to have different body compositions (genetically) and different goals for themselves.
But one thing remains the same for all of the people that say them: they all want to better themselves through fitness!
Granted, getting into exercise, dieting and the like can be difficult for some. Likewise, it can be just as easy for others. Whichever way you split, just like anything in life, having a good solid understanding of some key concepts is paramount to getting what results you want out of your fitness goals!
First, to begin, none of these things I explain here are some fad diet, or some fitness voodoo that has the purpose of changing you in a quick, surefire manner! On the contrary, these are fundamental building blocks to beginning a process to your goals, and a way of scientifically sculpting or forming your body to get results that have to do with everything from muscle production to weight loss. It doesn’t happen overnight and certainly, if you want to do it soundly and consistently, takes some discipline and meticulous number watching. But once you understand what you need to do and the variety of steps that you can take, it becomes less about daunting numbers and such, and more about routine.
Let’s start by taking a brief look at some fitness science to better break down our understanding of our bodies and how they work.
Know Your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)
The most basic thing that all fitness-heads and exercise-nuts know, even to a general degree, is their TDEE, or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. TDEE is just a fancy way of saying “an estimate number of how many calories my body needs and uses every day. An even more simple way to look at it is, “the safe number estimate for my body to stay the same weight”.
If you’re asking, “Well how do I freaking figure that out,” then I have some good news! There are a variety of resources for you to estimate your TDEE. Here are some nifty ones:
Freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator: A great, simple tool to figure out your estimate TDEE. All you do is input your age, weight, height, and exercise level and voila! It spits out three numbers for you—a “maintenance” number (staying the same weight), a fat loss number, and an EXTREME fat loss number.
1percentedge.com/ifcalc/: A much more in-depth nutritional calculator that can give you your TDEE, as well as your estimated BMI, and a number of other super helpful statistics and measures to track your progress in fitness.
There are also some fantastic apps that can do just the same if not more, such as “MyFitnessPal”, but I will get more into fitness apps some other time.
Knowing your Macros (Macronutrients)
Another term you are likely to hear is “macros”, or macronutrients. These, hand in hand with your TDEE number, are what will pretty much guide you in any of your fitness goals. Whether that be bulking, cutting, whatever—tracking your macros is a pretty integral part of reaching and maintaining whatever you want to have your body look like (along with exercise, but we’ll get to that later).
Macros are broken down into three major macros: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Protein is a large key as to how you manage your macros. Generally speaking, if calories are the first number that you pay attention to on nutrition labels, protein should be second! You might know protein as “the thing that makes the muscles”, but it does a whole lot more than that, such as regulate your BMI and body fat mass! Bet you didn’t know it was a utility besides just making muscle, now did you?
Carbohydrates generally give your body energy, but measuring how much you take is also important for making sure you don’t create more fat than muscle. This is pretty much the last rung of the ladder of macros, as the more important are proteins and fats. Measuring carbs however, allows you to further understand in a tangible form how much sugars and starches and such you are taking in—all of which when taken in too much consumption, build fat.
Fats are essential to do really important stuff, like keeping your metabolism going, having your brain function normally, etc. Despite what fad diets say, fats aren’t necessarily “the worst” calories in comparison to any others. You do in fact need them. And despite what a lot of people say, limiting miniscule amounts of fats doesn’t make it go away—that comes with hard work and diligence outside of the kitchen—exercise!
Like I said before, counting calories is usually the most important thing people look to do, especially when fad diets and media tell you the same thing all the time. It is super important to count calories, and the basic skill of at least estimating calories is something that, I think, everybody should know how to do if they want to learn to live a healthier lifestyle. There are a number of ways to do this, and I will only share a few easy things that I do:
- Use a calorie calculator, like MyFitnessPal, or nutritionix.com, to calculate and count calorie consumption. Alternatively, just search Google with “_____ how many calories”.
- Check out this simple SparkPeople chart of what 100 calories looks like if you need a basic eye test.
- Read the nutrition information labels of the foods you purchase at the grocery store! This one I think is the most important and easiest to do!
A general rule of thumb if you want to gain weight while measuring your macros, is to go +300 or more calories above your TDEE on a daily basis (with exercise and measuring, we can balance fat gain and muscle growth too). If you want to lose weight, go -300 or more under your TDEE. If you don’t see the results after a while, then your TDEE could be a bit skewed, so experiment accordingly. Again, exercise a very important key to all of this!
In the next couple installments we will take a glance at various exercises and exercise plans, and diets and diet fads. At the end of the day, what we all want is to feel good about where our bodies are, and make sure we are trying our best to keep ourselves healthy to live a long life! Keep at your fitness goals with these pieces of basic knowledge, stay persistent, and be patient.
Nothing good from hard work ever comes in a single day.
Written by: Michael “Bboy Roach1” Roach