As the title suggests, this is about as simple as it gets. This article is all about losing fat – how much to eat, what to eat, and whether or not you should throw in some extra activity. Before I get into the dieting stuff though, I do need to bring up a few things. If you’re already up to snuff, you can skip ahead but I don’t recommend it.
Are You Eating Enough Now?
You probably think you’re over eating because you have more fat on your body than you would like. This notion is incorrect for a lot of people. That is why we created the ETP Calculator to give you a ballpark figure based on tried-and-true science. Don’t be frightened by this process – that is why we have a team of professionals in the Science Lab to help you along.
Just understand that fat loss has two speeds, addition and subtraction. The addition part adds lean mass built through eating adequate amounts of food. The subtraction part, for most people, should only happen very rarely. I will detail how to go about that later in the post. Just understand that LEAN MASS is your metabolic furnace.
Want to solve your metabolism issues? Quit dieting all of the damn time and take a smart approach to building and maintaining muscle. This isn’t optional!
The Goal Isn’t Weight Loss – It’s Fat Loss
The goal of this article will be to help you mobilize stored body fat. What I first need you to understand is that no macronutrient – protein, fat, or carbs – is bad or good – it basically comes down to the best use for our goals. Most of our readers are athletes. If, as an example, you are coming from a relatively low Calorie way of eating (hypocaloric) that relied mostly on fats for energy, then you probably weren’t storing a lot of fat because you were under eating overall.
Sounds good right? Not so fast. This way of eating isn’t great for people that “do stuff” because without proteins and carbs in good proportions as well, the muscle you are tearing down during your workouts isn’t getting what it needs to heal and get stronger and potentially grow. Eating low Calorie and/or low carb can work as a maintenance style of eating but once again, that’s just using subtraction. Frankly it’s not only unnecessary, but it’s also not optimal if you want to see results in the mirror.
Step 1: Get The Math Right
OK, OK, OK. Enough preaching, let’s get to the heart of the matter.
To lose fat, we need to create a Calorie deficit – but how large of a deficit do we need? Well, we want the least amount of interference (deficit way of eating) for the most results. That is to say that a greater Calorie deficit does not always yield more fat loss but it will stress you out. A moderate recommendation to start off with is to take out 500 Calories a day or roughly 3,500 Calories a week. If you’re coming from being well-fed, you’ll pretty consistently lose 1 pound of fat per week that way – this is about as fast as you want to lose body fat or you risk losing muscle, although some people with more fat to lose can get a bit more aggressive.
There are a multitude of ways to create this deficit, but I will give you three examples.
- Dietary restriction + low intensity activity. Add low intensity activity (walking is perfect) for 250 of the Calories and eat 250 Calories less. This means you will be eating a fair amount of lean meats which I will walk you through in the next step. Drop your fat intake down by about 27 grams and you’re in business. Why drop fat rather than carbs or protein? Carbs are your primary fuel source during exercise and you need to keep them up so you have the energy to kill it in the gym. Protein can’t be reduced because you want to keep the muscle you have. This leaves fats as the most likely target you can live without – you have ample storage on your own body.
- Dietary restriction alone. You could just drop 500 Calories from your diet – first from fat, then from carbs. The problem here is that it can be too big of a decrease too quickly and you’ll be hungry.
- Increased activity alone. The problem with this option is that most people are already exercising a lot. Adding more activity to create a 500 Calorie deficit can certainly work, but it can be stressful and time consuming.
In the end, the best route is to add a bit of activity and eat a bit less. Moderation is the mantra.
Step 2: Preparation and “What To Eat”
The hardest part of dieting for most people is getting in enough protein, or eating enough in general. Once you know how much you need to eat, you need to actually do some chewing and that’s impossible without some cooking.
I suggest embracing your “inner body builder” and doing some food prep in advance. Simply having 4 ounce servings of any lean meat you like can really help this process immensely. Same can be said for rice and potatoes. These can all be cooked in batches. Greens of course are the easy part – adding a handful of greens or will make a big difference in getting your vitamins and minerals in for the day.
Here’s a short list of foods you should eat when you’re dieting. Please note that for the sake of convenience, we have most of these labeled in the MyFitnessPal food database; just search for “Eat To Perform”.
Lean Meat Options
- Turkey or Chicken (white meat)
- Fish/seafood are great in this scenario
- Lean red meat – steaks or 90/10 ground beef
- Egg whites are also an option for added protein that is low in fat. This doesn’t mean you would never eat egg yolks but you might limit them for these 8 weeks.
Carb Sources (around workouts)
- White Rice (white rice has a bad rap but it’s great for athletes)
- Vitargo (Vitargo is a starchy carb supplement that loads efficiently around workouts)
- Dextrose (basically pure glucose and would typically be added to a protein drink)
Carb Sources with meals
- Potatoes (Sweet or Regular)
- Oatmeal (think starchy rather than grainy and you have the idea)
- Fruit (it’s OK to eat fruit but it’s not as good as starches because it contains mostly fructose and some fiber, so keep starches as the bulk of your carb intake with occasional fruit. Also fruits are good sources of micronutrients or vitamins.)
- Fibrous veggies. Eat these with each meal, roughly a cup at a time. The leafier and greener the better as a general rule so keep spinach and kale but don’t ignore other veggies you like – they are a great source of micronutrients or vitamins. Also, don’t over do the veggies because it will make it more difficult to reach your macronutrient goals by artificially playing with your hunger signaling.
Fats (ideally we want to stick to monounsaturated sources):
- Nuts and nut butters
- Fish oil
Step 3: Putting It All Together
To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, I’m going to show you what a day of eating looks like for a 5’5″, 150 pound, 40 year old. woman – we’ll call her Nancy. She’s “very active”, going to the gym 4-5 days a week. She’s hitting her macros comfortably and has been for awhile – 150 grams of protein, 280 grams of carbs, and 75 grams of fat daily for a grand total of 2,394 Calories each day.
She is looking to lose eight pounds of fat in eight weeks. Assuming she reaches her goal, she will lose roughly 5% body fat (that’s a lot) by simply losing 8 pounds of fat and retaining her muscle along the way. Note that while I’m using a woman as an example, the math is the same for everybody (assuming you have read the parts above).
Here are two examples of what a day looks like for Nancy – one using whole foods and the other adding supplementation. The supplementation example is a bit easier to achieve. It requires less preparation and it could be argued that it is marginally better for that reason. It comes down to individual preference So stick to what works best for you and ignore the parts of this that you don’t feel are a good fit.
Neither of these examples is better than the other but you’ll notice that the whole foods example is A LOT of food. If you are REALLY invested in eating that way, just remember that it’s going to be a great deal of work. One thing you might consider would be breaking the day into 4 or 5 meals rather than three. Remember these are just examples and I opted for the easiest way to display this for you guys.
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