Study, after study, after study on dieting, weight loss, and weight loss maintenance suggest that diets do not work and you’re probably better off not doing them.
Whaaaattt? That’s right. For the most part, people would be wise not to diet. UNLESS, your diet involves strategy. You need a strategy on how many calories you should eat everyday, a strategy on how many macro-nutrients you should be consuming, a strategy on the types of exercise that will aid you in losing fat the quickest, and a strategy on what you are going to do when the diet is over or you meet your goals.
Diets don’t work because people usually don’t strategize. They go in to the diet thinking, “oh well, I’ll eat healthier, stop drinking sodas, quit fried food and lose 30 lbs. because that’s what my best friend did and it worked for her.” No that didn’t work for her, she had a strategy.
She tracked her calories, probably kept up with her daily macros, measured her food and constantly knew exactly what was going into her mouth.
She knew how much energy she burned throughout the day and knew how to manipulate the food numbers to where she would be consistently losing fat.
Trust me, she just didn’t drop food groups automatically drop 30 pounds of fat. If she did, she is one of those “genetic outliers” that we all hate and envy so much.
But, the majority of us are not that gifted and that kind of “ho hum” mentality to diet and exercise just doesn’t work. If it did, then we would all be lean and muscular.
If you are going to have the “ho hum” mentality, then you might as well not diet. Seriously, research has shown that losing the weight, then regaining results in more fat gain over the long term and it’s actually worse on your body than if you were to just remain where you were.
Now, losing fat is my bread and butter. I’ve had TONS of fat I’ve carried around and periods where I’ve been at 8-9% body fat. It’s pretty safe to say that I have been pretty close to extremes on either side of the body fat spectrum.
First of all, 9% feels a lot better than 40% and it’s a lot more fun. 9% is a lot more work though. Is it worth it? Absolutely, 100% for sure it’s worth it. It’s worth it for your health, your body, confidence, sex drive, self-esteem, for your kids, your significant other, brother, sister, mom, dad, it’s worth it for you. Trust me.
I went from 280 pounds to 170 in just over a year. I have never, ever, ever regretted anything about losing all that fat.
The problem that lies herein is the restriction. It’s become very popular to demonize certain macro-nutrients (carbs/fats/proteins). People are always blaming carbohydrates, or blaming fats, or blaming sugars for making them fat. Let me let you in on a little secret:
OVEREATING IS MAKING YOU FAT!!!!!!
You can literally only eat twinkies day in and day out and as long as you are eating less twinkies than you are burning off, you will lose fat. Professor Mark Haub proved this. All this guy consumed for 10 weeks was junk food. Little Debbie’s, Twinkies, Hostess Cakes, Doritos. For 10 weeks, he basically ate “the worst” foods that you could possibly find on this plant. “The foods” that are supposed to be responsible for our American Obesity epidemic.
HE LOST 27 POUNDS!
Not only did he show major improvements in body composition, but his good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, and triglycerides were all improved.
Now do I recommend this type of approach, Uhh, NOOO! Why? Because I believe in the importance of micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants) and there is no better way of filling your micro-nutrient tank then eating plenty of whole foods. But, I don’t believe in restriction. There is always room for sugar. Sugar is not a bad thing in moderation. And it can be an asset sometimes.
Then what do I recommend?
I think that most of an individual’s diet should come from lean meats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy products. But, daily consumption of chocolate, ice cream, pizza once a week, or candy will not impede your weight loss and can actually help it. It can be of psychological benefit to know that you can have those foods whenever you like, so long as you stay within your calorie range.
Things to Know Before you Start
You are almost certainly going to have to track your food and caloric intake. You need to be keeping up with how many calories you are consuming, your weight fluctuations, and what your daily macros are.
Myfitnesspal works great for this. It’s the only thing I use. You can also use websites like Calorie King as well for meal planning. They both have phone apps that come in handy if you are on the fly.
Know Your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)
This is easy. Just get online and google BMR calculator. Figure your BMR. Now you have the total amount of calories your body burns doing absolutely nothing all day long. This is the amount of calories it takes to keep you functioning from day to day. Now take your BMR and use one of the following multipliers:
- BMR x 1.2-1.3 If you exercise 3-5 hours per week
- BMR x 1.3-1.45 if you exercise 5-7 hours per week
- BMR x 1.65-If you exercise more than 7 hours per week, have a strenuous job, or KNOW you have a really high metabolism.
Whatever number you come up with is your TDEE(Total Daily Energy Expenditure) or maintenance caloric level (the amount of calories that will keep your weight exactly the same).
Example: 43 year old female, 5’4″ tall, 150 pounds, exercises 5 hours per week
1,320 x 1.5 = 1,980 total daily energy expenditure
I do not recommend using online TDEE calculators. Their multipliers always seem too high and it could throw you off track a bit in regards to proper calorie intake for a deficit.
Now, theoretically this 43 year old female can work out 5 hours per week, eat 1980 calories per day and she will remain the exact same weight for the long haul. Factually, these things are not 100% accurate so some experimentation is involved. Finding your TDEE gives you an excellent starting point on where to begin experimenting.
Start Losing Fat!
I recommend a moderate calorie deficit. Between 20-25%. You will be able to maintain your muscle mass while cutting body fat at this level of calorie deficit.
So back to example female, 1,980(tdee) x .75 = 1,485. 1,485 will be the target caloric amount for this person. With the correct daily macros and correct work outs she will be able to cut fat while maintaining muscle mass reasonably well at this caloric level.
Now, I hate math. So please don’t get puzzled by all of these figures. Finding your deficit/cutting/weight loss calories is as simple as calculating your TDEE then subtracting 25% from that to enter your deficit.
If you don’t eat enough protein, then your muscle mass will start to deteriorate, period. The body needs amino acids to repair damaged muscles from workouts and daily wear and tear. If the body doesn’t receive these nutrients through food, then it will take them from you.
That’s all there is to it. If you want to get the lean, fit, and muscular look, you’re going to want to hold on to as much muscle mass as possible. Muscle is what gives you that look and it also burns a lot more calories than fat.
How much do you need? I go with the old 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Why? Cause it works, plain and simple.
Research shows that 1 gram per pound is as much protein as the body needs to rebuild, repair, and grow.
So example female would need 150 grams of protein daily, at 4 calories per gram, that’s 600 calories from protein.
Great Sources of Lean Protein
Tuna, Salmon, Chicken, Turkey, Lean Beef, Venison, Eggs, Low fat dairy(milk, cheese, yogurt)
You can also supplement with a quality protein powder. I like whey protein isolate, because of it’s high absorption rate. I usually go with Optimum Nutrition or Legion Athletics Whey +. These are two very reputable companies that do right by their customers. If you care about taste, Legion’s will be the best protein that’ll ever slide down your belly. If you’re are more of a budget mindset individual, such as myself, Optimum Nutrition’s whey is perfectly fine. And no, I do not receive jack from either of these companies and am in no way affiliated.
Dietary fat is the least thermogenic macro-nutrient, meaning that it takes the body the least amount of energy to process and utilize fat. That means that the more fat you eat, in place of protein or carbohydrates, the easier your body will store fat, which is what we’re trying to avoid here.
That being said, we all need a proper intake of dietary fat to keep vital bodily processes running efficiently. Fats are important structural components of our bodily cells and are also responsible for the transportation of certain vitamins. So we all need fat, but how much?
Most experts agree that we should get 20-35% of our daily calories from healthy fats. I myself, and others I’ve worked with, have had success with less than this. It will take a bit of experimentation in your own diet to figure out what’s optimal for you, but I recommend going with .2 to .3 grams per lb of body weight. This is quite lower than the normal recommendation that you will find out there in the inter-web, but I know that this has worked for a lot of people just fine. Like I said, experiment with it yourself.
However many calories are left in your meal planning episode can all be devoted to yummy, delicious carbohydrates.
I’m a FAN of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates took a lot of hits back in the early 2000’s due to popular fad diets such as Atkins, South Beach, etc….
It seems like all of the sudden, everyone was going low carb. Unfortunately, that trend is still hanging on. People still believe that limiting carbohydrates is some ultimate solution to losing fat. I tend to disagree, since I lost 110 lbs. of it eating many, many carbohydrates on a daily basis.
The fact is, the human body will not keep adding fat on a daily basis, climbing to obesity, in the presence of a calorie deficit, no matter how many carbohydrates are consumed.
There are some health conditions that call for a lower carbohydrate consumption, such as diabetes, but normally this isn’t the case.
I also hear, A LOT, that carbohydrates are the cause of diabetes. If you look at the statistics, this doesn’t hold true.
95% of all cases of type II diabetes are caused by obesity. As we learned earlier, obesity is caused by over-eating, of all types of macro-nutrients, not just carbohydrates. You can get just as fat eating 5,000 calories of dietary fat and protein everyday and zero carbohydrates. Remember, it comes down to CALORIES
Also, if you are going to be doing any kind of resistance training, carbohydrates will make you stronger. Period. Don’t believe me. Go low carb for a week, go lift weights. Go moderate carb for a week, go lift weights. See which one wins. I guarantee you’ll be stronger when you muscles are topped off with glycogen(storage form of carbohydrates).