Tiered Approach to Nutrition

Research has shown rigid diets have

• Lower Adherence
• Lower Amounts of Weight Lost
• Lower Sustainability

What is the best approach for managing your diet? It depends on the circumstance. Instead of looking at your diet as black and white a better way might be to say I am flexible with nutrition based on the situation. Here are 3 different tiers and when you might implement them.

Tier 1: Best

Scenario: My life is status quote I don’t have any social events and I can plan and make my own meals.

Best Option: Counting Macros within +/- 5 grams per macro

Tier 2: Better – Tracking Protein and Calories

Scenario: This week I have a couple different times I intended on going out to eat. These days I will make sure I hit my protein and then the remain calories can be used for either carbs or fats. This is a good option when you might want to incorporate alcohol for a special occasion.

Better Option: Counting Protein and staying within calories

Tier 3: Good -Tracking Calories

Scenario: I have a social gather I am going to and I am unsure what they will be serving or I am going on vacation.

Good Option: Tracking Calories

If you are implementing this tier you might have a good understanding of an estimation of macros in the foods you eat.

Methodologies within the Tiers

Within each of the tiers you can also implement other methodologies like banking or borrowing calories.

An example might be, you know you have an event coming up for the week that you know you expect to eat a bit more than a typical day,  you can reduce your calories leading up to the event so you have a bit more wiggle room.  For the week you might be using Tier 1 and counting macros because you are making your meals and then the day of your event you might utilize Tier 3.

Utilizing each tier and incorporating other methodologies in the tiers will help provide flexible nutritional strategies to help you stay on track and reach your goals

This post was written based on work by Eric Helms

Calculating Macros for Weight Loss

Step 1: Determine BMR.

I use the Mifflin – St Jeor formula

BMR for men

BMR (metric) = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5
BMR (imperial) = (4.536 × weight in pounds) + (15.88 × height in inches) – (5 × age) + 5

BMR for women

BMR (metric) = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161
BMR (imperial) = (4.536 × weight in pounds) + (15.88 × height in inches) – (5 × age) – 161

Step 2: Calculate Activity Level

Once you’ve worked out your BMR, you can calculate your daily calorie requirement by multiplying your BMR by one of the following activity level factors:

If you are sedentary (little or no exercise)
Calories Per Day = BMR x 1.2

If you are lightly active (light exercise or sports 1-3 days/week)
Calories Per Day = BMR x 1.375

If you are moderately active (moderate exercise 3-5 days/week)
Calories Per Day = BMR x 1.55

If you are very active (hard exercise 6-7 days/week)
Calories Per Day = BMR x 1.725

If you are super active (very hard exercise and a physical job)
Calories Per Day = BMR x 1.9

BMR X Activity Level will give you estimated Maintenance Calories. Maintenance calories are the number of calories you need to maintain your weight. Understand this is just an estimate. There are a number of variables to consider that could account for this value being higher or lower.

Step 3:  Determine Macros


Multiple overall calories by the percentage you want to come from protein. 

Low/Normal: 0.36

Fat Options

Multiple overall calories by the percentage you want to come from fat. 


When protein and fat has been determined then the remaining calories are assigned to carbs. The calculation would be Total Calories – (Protein Calories + Fat Calories) = Carb Calories divided by 4.

Determine Macros for Weight Loss

Now that you have decided what your maintenance macros you can decide your deficiency. Typically people choose between a 250-500 calorie deficiency.

To determine your deficiency macros, subtract 250-500 calories from your maintenance calories. Next, follow step 3 above to determine your macro breakdown.