When you're trying to build mass, size matters as far as portions are concerned. On one hand, the number of
calories and amount of protein you're consuming are important to adding size to your physique. On the other
hand, you don't want to overdo it to the point that you're gaining bodyfat rather than muscle. In order to
maintain the right balance, you need to be mindful of portion sizes. Although most people aren't inclined
to carry a scale or measuring cup to weigh and measure every bite of food, there are a few handy ways to
estimate your caloric intake. Here are a few general guidelines.
Each day, bodybuilders should consume about a gram of protein for each pound of bodyweight. Three or four ounces of most animal flesh (chicken, beef, pork, fish) provide between 20 and 40 grams (g) of protein. How much is three or four ounces after cooking? Picture a deck of cards - one deck is approximately the same size as three ounces of chicken, beef, pork or fish. A computer mouse is a bit thicker than a deck of cards, or about the same size as a four-ounce portion of chicken, beef, pork or fish.
How does that work with a bodybuilding diet? For example, you're on a low-carb diet and you want to follow the suggestion to eat at least 50 g of protein a day from red meat sources. Four ounces of lean roasted eye of round steak contains about 33 g of protein; four ounces of broiled flank steak has about 30 g of protein. Two of those servings, each about the size of a computer mouse, will help you reach the prescribed goal. Remember that cooking shrinks meats, so don't cheat yourself - a pound of raw steak yields about three servings of four ounces each.
For cooked pasta or rice, the visual cue for one standard portion is one ice cream scoop, according to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter (April 1997). That's about a half-cup serving. Another image I we've seen suggested is a baseball cut in half. These sizes suggest that if the pasta you're eating covers an entire dinner plate, you're probably getting the equivalent of at least three servings. That's a lot of carbs at one sitting (one cup of most cooked pasta yields about 40 g of carbs). For dry cereal other than oatmeal, a cup is the standard serving. Perform a self-test: Cup your hand and pour cereal into it. Then put the cereal in a measuring cup to judge how much your hand holds. A large handful usually equals about a cup, or a portion of corn flakes; a small handful should be about a half-cup, or a portion of uncooked oatmeal. You may never need a measuring cup for your corn flakes or oatmeal again.
Read labels when you're shopping - they tell you the portion size for a 2,000-calorie daily diet. If you're on a bodybuilding diet of 4,000 calories a day, this may still be applicable since you're eating twice as many meals of the same-sized portion. Keep these visual cues in mind when you're eating out or cooking at home.