In Part 1 of this three-part Article, we covered why it is so damn hard for the majority of people to stay in shape throughout their lives. In three words – naivety, misdirection and addiction.
In this middle piece of the puzzle, we get into the practical principles that when understood and practiced, will give you the grounding to change your body and relationship with food, for the long term.
Part 2 – Practical Principles & Knowledge to Take Control
- Calculating your Calorie Expenditure and Calorie Goals
- How to think about Exercise and Movement
- Which and how much Macronutrients to have
- Foods to Remove/Reduce and foods to Add/Increase
- Meal ideas and inspiration
If You’re Ready To Take Control, Then Here’s How
I promise you, this is not difficult. It may seem a bit more demanding than your current approach to eating, but you know you need to put some effort in right? Yes, you will say goodbye (for the most part) to foods you may regularly enjoy, but it’s not a bland existence on the other side.
I have the most glorious and tasty foods daily – honestly I am loving eating more than ever before. The food we eat is so so tasty – everyday feels like a treat. I am in complete control – I own my food choices, as opposed to food owning me. I am in control with precision of my weight, and losing weight when I need to is just a process, not a drama. The food lifestyle I follow can be explored further here – IIFYM+ Thrive: Great Body AND Nutritional Wellness.
I have more energy, creativity and willingness to do challenging things than ever before, and I am showing up as a better father, husband, friend and human being as a result. That’s because I am serving my body with the food options I make, versus constantly taking away by eating foods that cause inflammation, addiction and disease.
Here are the key Actions, Tools and Insights you need to know and master:
CALORIES & MOVING
#1 – Calculate How Many Calories YOU USE Daily
This is simple. Use this TDEE Calculator to work out approximately how many calories you burn per day, all in – your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. If you were to eat this amount per day, your weight should remain on average consistent. This calculation may be off a little, but it’s found to be accurate enough to take action, and then adjust afterwards.
From generic to Individualised TDEE: Bear in mind TDEE calculators attempt to simplify and generalise the myriad of complex and highly individualised processes into a mathematic formula. Instead of obsessing about their accuracy, use the recommended TDEE as a starting point and follow it diligently for 1-2 weeks whilst tracking your daily bodyweight. If your weight is trending up or down, act accordingly by adjusting down or up 100kcal respectively, until your weight stabilises over the course of 1-2 weeks.
#2 – You Must Restrict Calories To Lose Weight
How much and how fast you want to lose weight is up to you. A healthy approach is take your TDEE and minus 20-25% – this will be your daily calorie budget for 4-8 weeks. It’s a mildly aggressive approach, so I would keep to 25% deficit as your max to prevent health/hormone impacts and not getting depressed with the process. For example, if the calculator suggests a TDEE of 2,000 calories, you would aim to consume 1,500-1,600 calories daily.
A comment on Starving yourself Lean: Doing so is not a long-term strategy, as it’s unenjoyable, extremely aggressive, and over the long-term will be detrimental to health. That said, There is no harm in throwing in the odd week of very-low calorie consumption, as long as this is considered a infrequent kickstart. Sticking to a 20-25% deficit is a more reliable, achievable and enjoyable long-term strategy.
#3 – Weigh Yourself Regularly & Look At The Trend
I know, weighing yourself can be emotional, so the idea of weighing-in every day may seem daunting and a sure-fire way to get you down. It really shouldn’t – if you can learn to look at the data objectively and in a smart way. There is so much goodness from ritualistic weighing-in, as you can see how your body responds to your combined nutrition and exercise efforts.
Micro vs Macro Perspective: But here’s the thing, there is little value in comparing one day to the next, as our bodyweight is constantly fluctuating based on a number of factors resulting in water retention or extra food weight. That said, it’s with daily measurements that you can get an accurate wider view on your weight – you can trend. It’s in the trend where all the goodness is.
#4 – Throw In Maintenance Weeks For Your Sanity & To Reinforce The New Way
After 4-8 weeks, throw in a week where you consume your full TDEE value based on your new weight and lifestyle. This is important, as you will need a break from calorie restrictive dieting, and you need to reinforce what it feels like to eat at TDEE levels with healthier food choices. It gives you a chance to replenish body energy stores, and get ready to restrict once again. Repeat steps 1-3 until you are satisfied with your level of body fat.
#5 – The More You Move – The Better
As the TDEE calculator shows, you are gifted with a higher calorie budget the more active you are. Activity comes in the form of NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) – basically moving around throughout the day, and deliberate exercise.
Increasing NEAT can be a game changer, as you can burn a considerable amount of extra energy. For example an hour of house cleaning can burn 250 extra calories. Generally, think about being on your feet and on the move as much as possible. Break yourself away from the screen and walk around frequently.
#6 – Get In Regular Strength Training
Cardio does have its place, but long-bouts of steady state cardio is catabolic in nature. That means that tons of running, for example, will break down more muscle than it creates. Think of world-class marathon runner physiques. The less muscle you have, the more efficient your body is, and the more efficient you are, the less energy you burn. That is NOT GOOD for fat loss, as you want to be as inefficient as possible and burn tons of calories.
To be metabolically ‘inefficient’, you need to maintain or increase lean muscle mass. When you are in a calorie deficit, you will not be able to build muscle (at least not materially), so instead you will do resistance and weight training to preserve what you do have. This will help with the daily and ongoing calorie demands of your body, and will give you the toned look you are likely after.
#7 – Do The Occasional HIIT Session
If you want extra calorie burn, consider doing 1-3 sessions of HIIT workouts a week, in addition to resistance training. This is not mandatory or even required, but will give you that extra edge if you can fit it in. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is basically short bouts of sprinting followed by short periods of rest, over the course of 5-15ins max.
For example, do a 20 second sprint on a upright bike followed by a 40 second rest for your heart rate to recover. Then repeat back-to-back 10 or so times. The advantage of HIIT versus long steady-state cardio sessions is that it actually more similar to weight training in it’s muscle building effects (i.e. slightly anabolic) versus running which breaks down muscles without rebuilding them.
HIIT Example: Deadmills for 5-10mins. 20s Push Sprint, followed by 40s. Repeat x10.
MACROS & FOOD PYRAMID
#1 – Calories Are King For Fat Loss
Nothing else matters in comparison. Let this be the driving force behind all your decision and food choices. You need to be in a sustained calorie deficit when all is said and done, however you choose to get there.
#2 – Calories In Fats, Carbs & Proteins
1 gram of fat contains 9 calories. 1 gram of either Carbs or Proteins contain 4 calories each. So, carbs and Proteins gram for gram are identical from a calorie perspective, whilst Fats are more than double the calorie density.
#3 – The Most Important Macro Is Protein
Every organ and tissue in your body needs protein to be, function and repair damage. As you will be in a calorie restrictive state when you diet to lose weight, keeping protein high will help maintain proper function and preserve as much muscle as possible (when combined with resistance training).
Guidance is to consume 1g – 1.2g of Protein per bodyweight in pounds (lbs) per day. This applies for men and women. For example, a 120lbs women would look to consume 120-144 grams of Protein per day.
Exception: That said, if you currently have a relatively high body fat percentage, say over 40%, the above daily Protein intake goal may become difficult on a calorie restricted diet. In this case, consider using your ideal bodyweight to calculate your Protein goal, which should be more achievable.
#4 – The Next Most Important Macro Is Fat
Fats (aka lipids) are essential in hormonal health. Hormones are produced by leveraging cholesterol. That’s why extremely low fat diets can cause massive mood swings, low libido, reproductive organ impairment and much more. Men on low fat diets will lower their testosterone levels, which has a number of negative impacts.
There is no target per se with Fats, but I would say you should be within the 30% of calories per day range as a minimum for good hormonal and metabolic health. Having more fat (with less carbs) is considered beneficial metabolically, as long as you are getting mostly natural healthy saturated fats, and that you have the calorie budget that allows. Steer well away from Seed Oils and Trans Fat, as they cause a myriad of health problems.
#5 – Fill The Balance Of Your Calorie Budget With Carbs
Whilst Fat is the bodies default energy source, most people having a carb-heavy diet will be preferentially fuelled by Carbohydrates. Carbs convert most easily to Glycogen (aka blood sugar) and is primarily found in the muscles and liver. It provides immediate energy when you need it, making carbs favoured for athletes who have a high glycolytic demand.
There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate, unlike Fats and Proteins, however in moderation and when clean sources are chosen, Carbs are not a problem. Typically, many refined carb sources come with minimal nutrition, but a lot of calories (empty calories). So, just be mindful that sustaining a carb-dominant diet is linked to a myriad of metabolic, obesity and health complications.
Ultimately, carbs do not make you fat – eating too many total calories does. But, as Carbs are the default fuel for for those not fat-adapted, if you eat in excess, insulin will instruct the spare glycogen to be stored as fat for later use. That’s cool – after two hours from eating, blood sugar drops and your body starts calling on this stored fat for fuel. Just bear in mind carb-induced blood sugar swings will typically cause hunger and cravings within a couple hours.
The reality is, carbs taste good and are a part of our lives. They are an integral and leading macronutrient for most people, and if you work within your calorie budget, including carbs is no issue. Many experience an easier time psychologically on a low-cab dieting approach, but that does not mean better.
Therefore, have as many carbs as your budget allows, after taking into account the calories from your Protein daily target and your min 30% saturated Fats.
FOOD CHOICES FOR FAT LOSS & WELLBEING
Remove / Reduce
- Wheat-based & Commercial Cows Milk-based foods – Look to reduce, or better yet eliminate these foods to avoid the cravings, addiction and gut inflammation that comes with Gluten, Wheat Germ Agglutinin and commercial Lactose (explained in Part 1).
- Refined Carbs and Sugars – These are the leading cause of Diabetes and Obesity. Do your best to dial down sugary snacks and foods that are packaged. By packaged, I’m talking about processed and containing a long list of ingredients and synthetic compounds. I am not talking about veggies and other whole foods that come in packaging to be kept fresh!
- Fruit is considered natures dessert – Fruits contain lots of Fructose, a type of sugar/simple carb. Whilst fruits can be nutrient dense and come with varying degrees of good dietary fibre, the guidance to eat fruit and veg everyday is misguided. Instead, limit your fruit intake to the occasional hit of sweet nutrient dense snacks a couple times a week, as opposed to lots everyday.
- White Potatoes and Rice – We have an over-reliance on the white potato. The problem is it’s light on nutrients, relatively high in calories (especially when fried) and spikes blood sugar levels in many people quite dramatically. Rice too is low in nutrients but high in calories, and is mostly carbs. You don’t need to eliminate these foods, but instead think about reducing frequency and portion size, and making protein and fat the star of most plates.
- Other inflammatory Foods – I’ll not get into this within this article, but based on your guts microbiome, certain foods such as peanuts, beans, tomatoes, peppers and chillies can have a negative effect on peoples gut health. I’ll offer more insight in a later Article.
Add / Increase
- Animal Meats & Eggs – No real restriction here as almost all animal meats come with lots of protein, creatine and nutrients that we need to thrive. Beef, Salmon, Chicken, Tuna, Sea Bass come to mind, but to be honest get in what you prefer – just know certain meats are more calorie dense than others due to fat content.
- Fibrous Veggies – Nutrient dense, low calorie values, high in fibre and usually offering lots of volume on the plate – you really cannot go wrong with mushrooms, onions, garlic, some gren veggies and the like. So much to choose from – all types of Broccoli, Leeks, Carrots, Mushrooms, Asparagus, Parsnips, Cabbage, Onions, Chives, Lettuces, Cucumbers etc.
- Healthy Fats – As mentioned, healthy fats are essential for body and hormone health. In particular, look to consume more whole Eggs, Avocados, Nuts, Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, Olive Oil and Fish Oils. Plus consuming fish such as salmon and red meat. Be careful though, these foods are calorie dense, so whilst healthy, they can easily blow your restricted calorie budget if you over consume.
- Sweet Treats – Newsflash – if you have a thing for chocolate, then it’s absolutely fine to carry on eating chocolate when trying to lose weight! Cocoa contains an abundance of powerful antioxidants, flavonols and copper. Problem is the cheap milk chocolate is packed full of sugar and milk, and contains little cocoa. Therefore, upgrade to 70% Dark Chocolate – once you try it a few times, you enjoy the greater chocolaty intensity.
- Hummus & Sheep’s Yoghurt vs Ketchup and Rich Sauces – Hummus and Sheep’s Yoghurt are my go-to condiments. Hummus is healthy, nutritious and super tasty. Sheep’s yoghurt offers a freshness and sauce to a plate, without the downsides of cows yoghurt. Compare that to the likes of ketchup and other reach creamy sauces, which are absolutely laden with sugar and/or cream and salt.
Do you Need Some Meal Inspiration?
Well, that’s exactly why we run and operate the AdapNation Food Diary Micro-Blog series. Tons of tasty, informative, great looking and most importantly super healthy meal ideas for you to get some inspiration from. Get Calories (large/small plate options), Macro Profiles, When/Why, Ingredient Lists and the host of Benefits each plate provides. All the ingredients are readily available at regular supermarkets, and the cooking processes are simple and quick (sub 30mins usually).
Furthermore, if you’re after a more structured framework for eating healthy, having nutritional wellness and looking great for the long term, then much of what we promote in terms of eating approach is synthesised in this hugely popular 3-Part Article – IIFYM+ THRIVE – AdapNation’s Approach to Nutritional Wellness [PART 1].
Hopefully it is. Part 1 and Part 2 have grounded you on the reality of western food diets and practical principles to deploy to take control of your body shape and diet. However, would it be helpful for more practical guidance and quick tips to hang this all together?
Then read the final instalment of this three-part Article – Losing Body Fat for Good – Here’s all you need to know – Part 3 of 3
Follow this and other topic areas in our longer-form Articles series as they unfold. Comment if you have questions or ideas.