If you’re reading this post, im guessing you want to change your nutrition but need something simple that you can stick to.
You’ve come to the right place.
There are more obese and overweight people in Ireland today than ever before. We also have more freely available information on how to lose weight loss than ever before. A quick google search for “weight loss diet” produces nearly 60 million results! Thats insane…
There are also far too many diets these days. Some are useful but most of the ones you find will fall under the umbrella of what i call a “Crash Diet”.
We dont need more information on how to lose weight and we certainly dont need more crash diets and “quick fixes”.
We need real solutions for people who need to lose weight.
If youre anything like the guys and girls we take on in our 28 day transformation challenge, youve probably tried at least one of the popular crash diets out there at some point. Low fat diets, low carb, detoxes, cleanses or even pills or meal replacement shakes. None of them are sustainable and while you might lose some weight or even feel great while on them, theres too much restriction and you cant stick to them long enough to achieve your total fat loss goal, so you stop and get frustrated.
Weekends are normally the breaking point for people. Its much easier to find the motivation to stick to a diet during the week and we can change our food and our routine a little without too much stress but no crash diet allows flexibility for social occasions and thats what weekends are all about.
Weekends destroy crash diet adherence because they arent built for a lifestyle change or social occasions. They’re a set of rigid and unrealistic rules around food and unless you’re willing to give up your life for 3-6 months (depending on how much weight you want to lose), crash diets will never work for you.
Its not just you by the way, they dont work for 90% of people. The 10% that have achieved results with crash diets are willing to give up their social life.
The way i see it is, you have two options.
Option one is, you can jump onto a crash diet and probably lose 4-6 pounds in a week. Most of that will be water and muscle, youll feel like crap, youll be miserable from the restriction and lack of flexibility around your lifestyle and you will probably give up after a week or two.
Option two is, you can learn how to lose 1-2 pounds a week while still enjoying your weekends, favourite foods and social life. Youll also lose fat and not muscle, which doesnt happen on crash diets and you will get leaner and more defined and not just drop “fake weight” on the scales. This fake weight tends to quickly reappear once you go back to your old way of eating anyway.
I know which one i would pick.
If you like the sound of options two then this post is definitely for you and you should keep reading.
Image Source: Kelsey Wells
The Only Unbreakable Rule of Fat Loss
The reason you’re not losing weight is you’re consuming too many calories. Even if you’re making a big effort with your food during the week, the number one rule of fat loss is:
The Calorie Deficit.
You simply wont lose fat if you’re not limiting calories in some way, It doesnt matter if you’re doing low fat, low carb, paleo, 5:2 or whatever. It all comes down to calories. Fat loss happens when you burn more calories than you expend. Most people get that these days but that information on its own doesnt help.
We need to actually LEARN HOW TO burn more than we eat, without having to jump onto a crash diet.
Im going to help you calculate your calorie needs in this post but for the moment, lets say your body needs 2000 calories a day to maintain your current weight.
- If you burn 2,000 calories a day and eat 2,500, you will GAIN fat.
- If you eat 1,800, you will LOSE fat.
- If you eat 2,000, you will MAINTAIN your current body fat stores.
It really is that simple but the confusion and frustration arises from how to actually ensure you eat less calories than you burn in a way thats simple and you can sustain for long enough to achieve your total fat loss goal.
Thats what this guide is all about. Im going to show you how to put yourself in a calorie deficit very easily so you can lose fat every single week.
Understanding Food and Macronutrients
The word protein is Greek for “of prime importance”. After water, your body is mostly made up of protein. Its used to grow, repair and maintain muscle. Its your best friend when it comes to either losing fat or building muscle, depending on your goal.
When fat loss is your goal, you need to be concerned with maintaining muscle and losing fat. Its called body composition and its very different to weight loss. Body composition training is what we do with our clients in both the 28 day transformation challenge and our inner circle program and its focused on a change in physique, rather than a change in weight. One of the main differences between the two is your nutrition setup and with body composition training, you need to maintain as much muscle as possible to focus on getting lean. That’s where protein comes in and part of the reason its so important when you want to change your physique.
Most studies will agree that you need 1 gram for fat loss or a minimum of 1.5 grams of protein for building muscle, per pound of body weight. If you’re new to body composition training thats bound to be significantly more than what you’re used to and it can be difficult to hit that number each day. You wont hit your protein goal without multiple high protein meals and theres no use trying to make up for it with only 1-2 meals a day, it just wont work. You will get closer to it with time and ive actually written a detailed post and recorded a video showing you how to do that. You can check that out here.
Focus on building every meal around a source of lean protein and try to eat 3-4 meals a day using the portion system below.
If you do that you should get pretty close to your goal but it will totally depend on your current body weight and food choices.
Example of Lean Proteins
- Lean Beef (95%+)
- Lean Pork
- Kangaroo (Lidl Select Range)
- All Fish (except Tuna)
- All Shellfish
Carbs are always getting a bad name.
Its normally the type and amount of carbs that cause the problem and theyre normally the first thing to go in a typical crash diet. Some people can tolerate and need them more than others. It really depends on your current body composition, your goals and the amount of activity you have in your week.
Theres no single rule for carbs in a nutrition plan but im going to assume you’re either resistance training at the moment or planning to start soon and ill advise you accordingly.
Theres two types of carbs, simple and complex. Complex carbs are slower burning and simple burn very fast. Carbs are your bodies preferred and main source of fuel and theyre stored a a form of energy called glycogen within your muscles and liver until theyre needed for energy. The problem normally is people have full stores, no activity and are eating more carbs than they need for their lifestyle. Thats where resistance training comes in.
Suddenly you have a real and genuine need for carbs.
Carbs dont make you fat, calories make you fat but it is very easier to overeat on carbs than it is with lean proteins, so the key is to portion them correctly to your fat loss goals and activity and fill up on other food groups instead, like lean proteins and greens.
On the flip-side, maybe you’re not eating carbs out of fear of gaining fat or under the belief that you need to banish them entirely to lose fat. You definitely do and in fact, its counter-productive for fat loss to eliminate carbs long-term. Without carbs and stored glycogen, your muscles will look flat and you will lack the energy you need to train hard and get stronger. If you’re training intensity suffers from lack of carbs, your fat loss is going to suffer from lack of carbs. Plus carbs are tasty as hell. Just portion them correctly and remember fat loss is about maintaining a calorie deficit, not eliminating carbs.
Example of Carbohydrates
- Rice (White or Brown)
- Sweet Potato
- White Potato
- Butternut Squash
- Wholemeal Pita Wrap *
- Gluten Free Bread *
- Gluten Free Pasta *
The carbs in Breads and Pastas is huge compared to Sweet Potatoe for example. You’ll have a lot less food and your diet will be hard to stick to if its made up of Breads and Pastas.
Remember the trend in the 1980’s where diets were all about cutting out fats completely?
Everything was low-fat. That concept failed miserably and has been disproven a thousand studies since.
Fats dont get the bad name carbs do, but they are feared a little because theyre the most calorie dense macro nutrient of them all. Theres 9 calories per gram in fats and only 4 in protein and carbs. Similar to the carbs, they key is portioning and prioritising the bulk of your meals to lean proteins and greens.
Have you ever heard of a bullet-proof coffee?
They have a place but not for the general public seeking fat loss and trying to adjust their diet to a lower calorie intake.
Organic grass fed butter is healthy but dunking 2 tablespoons of it (or any other fats) into your coffee is ridiculous when fat loss is your goal.
Thats an example of very irresponsible fats portioning when you’re trying to maintain a calorie deficit.
Healthy fats make up three categories.
Saturated fats are mainly animal and dairy based fats like meat, cheese and so on. Some oils also contain these fats, like coconut and palm oil.
These fats are used to produce healthy cholesterol and in turn are used to support hormones like testosterone. This is so important for fat loss or building muscle and applies to women and men (yes ladies, you need testosterone too).
These fats are found in foods like sunflower oil, soybeans, corn and some fish.
They help to lower both good and bad cholesterol, which means they’re needed but intake should be limited.
Found in nut oils like olivem peanut and canola and vegetable oils. They can help to lower bad cholesterol (LDL), without lowering the good cholesterol (HDL).
Most foods have a combination of all three of the above but one will be dominant and dictate its classification.
These are the fats you want to avoid or at least focus on reducing.
Theyre produced by tampering with polyunsaturated fats to make solid foods like margarine.
Examples of Healthy Fats Include:
- Coconut Oil
- Peanut Butter
- Almond Butter
- Olive Oil
- Macadamia Oil
- Organic Butter
- Nuts *
* Nuts are extremely easy to over consume. The calories are huge for the tiny amount of food you get. Try use your fats for oils on your food to add more flavor instead.
Greens arent a macronutrient at all but we classify them different here in FP to eliminate any confusion and make fat loss nutrition simple.
Greens are non-starchy vegetables that provide lots of volume to meal and provide endless micro nutrients like vitamins and minerals. They’re generally green but there are some exceptions.
Lots of greens and lean proteins at every meal is the key to staying full and finding fat loss nutrition manageable and enjoyable.
Examples of Greens Include:
Artichoke, Arugula, Asparagus, Bean Sprouts, Beetroot, Beets, Bok choy, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicory, Cumcumber, Egg Plant, Escarole, Green Beans, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Mixed Salad Bags, Mushroom, Onion, Pea Pods, Peppers, Rocket, Romaine, Spinach, Sprouts, Sugar Snap Peas, Tomato, Watercress
Step 1: Learn to Portion Control
Step 2: Adjust Portions to Enhance Your Results
The portion control guide above is effective because its so simple. You could easily follow that system consistently for months on end, but it has limitations. Fortunately, we can overcome these limitations with some simple fine-tuning.
You now know calories are the most important factor in fat loss. Being in a “Calorie Deficit” means eating less calories than you burn. If you’re not in a calorie deficit, you wont lose any fat, even if you’re “eating clean” or even if you’ve have cut out all carbs. It doesn’t matter what foods you’ve eaten, once you lose your calorie deficit you wont lose fat.
Now, don’t get me wrong – not all calories are created equal. Your body wont treat 2000 calories of Mc Donalds the same as 2000 calories of Chicken, Potatoes and Avocado. But that’s a discussion for another post.
To enhance your results, we need to ensure our calorie deficit is maintained for as many days as possible. The most realistic way to do that is to start by using the portion control guide above for a two weeks and then start tracking your food intake after the two week mark.
Tracking your food intake means you’re in full control of your calorie intake and deficit. You don’t need to (and i wouldn’t encourage you) to track your food every day but its definitely useful to do infrequently to see how many calories you’re eating while using the portion control guide above.
The portion control guide is simple and suitable for every day use.
Tracking your food allows you fine tune the portion control guide to ensure you hit your calorie goal, or get within 100 calories of it at least.
You will find you repeat a lot of meals throughout the week, or they will at least be quite similar. I can tell you, from looking at clients food diaries for over 6 years,
People are creatures of habit and eat the same 16 foods over and over again
Which means when you track a few of your days food intake, they will tend to represent most days. MyFitnessPal and Fitatu are great apps to help you track your food. You can search a huge directory of foods, scan bar codes from packaging and even save meals of bundles foods to repeat later. They’re very handy but no essential for every day use. Use them to gain an understanding of how many calories you’re eating, so you can adjust the portion control system above. Tracking your food will also open your eyes to how many calories you’re actually eating and what foods are making up that number. You will be shocked at the number of calories in some foods.
Step 3: Calculate Your Calorie Needs For Fat Loss
Once you’re eating less than you expend, your body will turn to stored fat for energy.
Thats when we start to lose fat.
To get into this deficit, you need to know two things:
1. How many calories you are eating
2. How many calories you are burning off
Its next to impossible to know exactly how many calories you burn each day, but you can make a pretty good estimation.
If you want to bring out your inner math whiz, there’s a formula that can be used:
Men: 10 X weight (in kg) + 6.25 X height (in cm) – 5 X age (in years) + 5
Women: 10 X weight (in kg) + 6.25 X height (in cm) – 5 x age (in years) – 161
Once you have this, you have your resting metabolic rate, which represents how many calories you burn all day just existing.
This does not include any sort of physical activity/movement that you perform on top of this.
To account for exercise, you then use an activity multiplication factor:
Sedentary (no exercise) = RMR (resting metabolic rate ) X 1.2
Lightly Active (exercise 1-3 times per week) = RMR X 1.35
Moderately Active (exercise 4-5 times per week) = RMR X 1.5
Very Active (active job + exercise 4-5 times per week) = RMR X 1.75
Work out all these numbers and you have your approximately daily calorie burn.
I hope you found this post useful guys. As always, if you have questions please post them in the comments below and ill be happy to help.
Until next time
Phil “crash free” Giffney