CALORIES are how big or small you want to be.
Eat more, gain weight. Eat less, lose weight. Just be careful to never eat too little. For women, never go below 1200. For men, never go below 1500.
MACROS and EXERCISE are how you want your calories to look.
Macros are the nutrients you need a lot of - protein, fats and carbs. Exercise determines how these nutrients are used within the body. Think of the nutrients as building materials and exercise as an architect.
MICROS are how healthy you want your diet to be.
Micros are the nutrients you need in small amounts - vitamins and minerals. These keep your body running at peak efficiency.
Where do you start?
Step 1: Find a calorie total that leaves you with a look you're happy with.
Before you can do any of the specifics, you have to understand the general concepts. For calories, this means finding a general daily calorie count you like. Should you aim for a goal weight? I would argue for you to aim for a weight range based on your height and gender. This is a pretty nifty tool. Once you find a place within that range you're happy with, you've found your calorie total. And never be afraid to adjust this. Your calorie total is not set in stone nor should it be.
Step 2: Research athletic body types.
If you want a certain body type, then you need to do the exercise regimes that corresponds to getting said body. Swimming and lifting produce very different results. Running will never result in Mr. Olympia. This series of photos is a great place to start. See a body you like? Research their routine. If you can't do that routine specifically, look for alternatives.
Step two: Mess around with your macro totals.
Now that you've got the general stuff down and you're using exercise to distribute your calories, it's time to get a bit more specific with your macros. Ideally, keep protein around 25-30% since any higher is wasted by the body. For carbs and fats, that's up to you. For simplicity's sake, assume that the percentage of fat you eat will be the percentage of fat you have on your body. This is why bodybuilders only eat about 10-20% fat in their diet. During each change, give yourself about two months so you can note any differences.
Does it matter what you eat?
Are sugars/fats/carbs/sodium evil?
No. In moderation, they are necessary and enjoyable.
Does it matter when you eat?
Co-host of HeroesForge, founder of Battle to Be Better, gamer, singer and all around happy person.