Hey guys, one of the biggest problems people struggle with is their nutrition and what and how much they should be eating.
As a personal trainer and my educational background I understand that…
‘How Much You Eat Matters Much More Than What You Eat.’
Whereas many people still believe that food falls into one basket or the other, either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I would just like to say that this does not exist especially when it comes down to weight loss and fat loss. Instead food falls on a continuum that may be more beneficial at a particular moment in time but just because you ate 1 slice of pizza does not mean you have screwed up especially if it falls into the right range of how much you should be eating to reach your goal.
So what is the measure of how much I hear you ask! Well my dear friends, it is calories.
Now calories are not tiny creatures that sew your clothes a little tighter. A calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise 1 gram of water by 1° Celsius, just incase you were checking your closet to get rid of these ‘vermin’.
To get back on track changing body composition is ultimately a result of energy balance. So how much fat you carry, how much muscle you carry and how you physically look is the result of energy balance (training is obviously important to improve this too).
So basically if you want to lose fat dramatically and improve the way you look, you need to alter how much you eat in terms of calories (and no doubt strength train).
And these requirements will change from person to person, as energy expenditure is 90% down to how much you weigh (fat free mass and muscle mass) and your activity levels.
Whilst you may need to sit down and figure this stuff out alone at least it is better than purchasing that cookie cutter plan that is not necessarily tailored to you as the individual.
So how do you workout how much you need to eat to lose weight and fat?
Step 1: How to Calculate Maintenance Calories
To start off with we need an idea of how many calories you need to maintain your weight. I know this seems backwards but this is only step 1 guys!
So how do we work out maintenance calories?
Well there are harder ways and there are easier ways. For the purpose of this article we will go for the easier methods as hell simplifying stuff is a key ingredient to your recipe to success.
- Sedentary (not active) – Your Bodyweight (lb) x 11
- Lightly Active (You Train 3-4x a Week) – Your Bodyweight (lb) x 13
- Very Active (You Train 5-7x a Week) – Your Bodyweight (lb) x 15
Remember these are guidelines for girls, all the guys need to do is add an extra 1 to those above numbers!
So for 160lb Zoe who trains 3-4 hours a week, her daily maintenance caloric intake may be around 2, 080.
So again that may be ideal for Zoe looking to maintain her weight.
Granted, these are guesstimates of guesstimates but they are a pretty good ballpark figure to start off with.
Step 2: How Do I Lose and Not Maintain?
This bit is even easier, all we need to do is create the ‘deficit’.
To do this we subtract our daily maintenance calorie intake by 500.
Whilst a mathematical model suggests that a 500kcal daily deficit would theoretically burn one pound of fat per week as every pound of fat metabolised yields 3,500kcals. This doesn’t always hold true.
The body is a complex organism and will do some variable things between individuals to try and restore ‘balance’, mainly changes in non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). This is activity that relates to general fidgeting and walking, it’s been shown that when some people increase or decrease calorie intake, this non-exercise movement may decrease leading to a softening of the deficit.
This isn’t something to worry about though.
If you are losing 0.5-1% of bodyweight per week, you are doing good. Great even!
If not, you are either misreporting intake, which is extremely common – even dieticians misreport their dietary intake. Or perhaps you are not exercising/moving enough (walking, training and such).
The key is to assess progress and make changes.
No change? Reduce calorie intake by another 200kcal per day or add in an additional 30-60 minutes of activity each week or even try and increase your daily steps by 1-2,000. There are quite a few possibilities to use and implement to get over a plateau.
Anyways back to the point, this would put Zoe on 1, 580 calories per day for her goal of fat loss.
Step 3: How Much Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat You Should Be Eating
So to lose weight, we need to be in a calorie deficit. We have that ticked off and now we need to improve the quality of the diet (hopefully) by aiming for adequate nutrition from the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat).
And as the word protein comes from the Greek word ‘proteos’, which means the ‘ first one’ we will start there.
The Greeks new it was important and research has shown that it absolutely has it’s merits and is the second most important thing to consider when trying to lose weight, lose fat and tone up. On the plus side at least protein is delicious; steak, chicken, pork, salmon, tuna, eggs and the like.
Its importance; immune function, managing appetite, preventing the losses of muscle tissue, increases metabolism through the thermic effect of food.
Fundamentally it will help you eat less by managing your appetite (satiety) and it will ‘increase’ your calorie expenditure therefore increasing your calorie deficit for better results!
How Much Do You Need:
- 0.8-1.2g per lb of bodyweight
- Go for the higher end if you struggle with hunger.
- Go for the lower end if you don’t really struggle too much with hunger when dieting.
For each gram of protein you consume, you also consume 4kcal.
So for Zoe, lets say she goes for 1g of protein per lb this would equate to 160g of protein, providing 640 calories.
How Much Food Do You Consume To Hit That?
1 Scoop of Protein Powder (25g), 3 Eggs (21g), 150g Chicken Breast (37.5g), 1 Tin of Tuna (31g), 200g Greek Yogurt/Skyr/Arla Protein (20g).
Yes, it seems like a lot of food but least you will be full and satisfied rather than starving. Note, this only provides around 135g of protein. Fortunately for us, most carbohydrate sources (grains) provide trace amounts of protein, which would effectively top us up to around 160g.
Happy days eh?!
This one along with carbohydrates is more down to personal preference in my eyes although it is good to have a smart intake of fat for general health purposes; manufacturing of hormones, formation of brain and nervous systems, cell membrane formation, transport of fat-soluble vitamins.
So for ‘optimal’ health and perhaps performance, there are some recommended intakes.
- 0.3-0.6g per lb of bodyweight
- Go for the lower end if you like more carbohydrate based foods.
- Go for the higher end if you like fats more than carbohydrates.
Fat is also the most energy dense macronutrient. Rather than providing 4kcal per g like protein, it provides 9 calories per g.
Zoe quite likes her high carbohydrate foods, so we have opted to go for 0.3g per lb of bodyweight. This provides her with the recommended intake of 48 g providing her an additional 432 calories.
This leaves her with 504 calories.
This seems very reminiscent of math questions like… ‘If Billy buys two video games with one being £29.99 and the other being £14.99 and he has £50 to spend, how much money does Billy have left?’
How Much Food Do You Consume To Hit That?
Well the eggs from above would give around 18g and a few other grams from the trace amounts in protein dense foods.
So 3 eggs (18g), 1 Tbsp Oil (14g), 20g Peanut Butter (20g and 5g Protein) gives you 42g of fat. This is the one that may not give you much leeway as fat is found in many moderate to high protein sources and is pretty easy to hit.
And this is why 1kcal sprays are a worthy investment when looking to lose fat! Because they control fat intake and therefore calorie intake.
Lastly but certainly not least, carbs are what our bodies’ use for fuel and yes that definitely means that we don’t need to start on a no carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver, muscles, and blood, carbs are basically what helps to keep us moving.
How much to eat:
- Remaining number of calories after protein and fat have been added
- Will vary depending on factors such as activity level and the personal preference of liking higher fat foods vs higher carbohydrate foods.
- The more active you are, the more carbs you’ll consume
Just like protein, each gram of carbs contains 4 calories. To figure out how much of your calorie intake is coming from carbs, you would simply eat your remaining number of calories after protein and fat have been added together.
So 504 calories are left over, leaving us with 126g of carbohydrates for our Zoe.
How Much Food Do You Consume To Hit That?
50g Basmati Rice (38g Carbohydrates and 5g Protein), 1 Banana (27g Carbohydrates and 1g Protein), 50g Oats (30g Carbohydrates and 5g Protein), 100g Sweet Potato (20g Carbohydrates and 2g Protein).
This would put us at 115g Carbohydrates and has boosted our protein by 13g and along with the extra 5g from peanut butter we managed to come pretty damn close to our nutritional targets.
Perfection is something that is rarely ever going to happen and whether or not it even exists is another mystery. Something important to note is that I was slightly out with hitting the targets bang on and that is FINE! What matters most is that I was super duper close, I was within 5-10% of everything and this is the sweet spot to making sweet sweet progress when it comes to weight and fat loss. But only if you do it consistently.
Being perfect once and then being way out the other 6 days of the week is no good, that is being consistently poor. Give yourself some leeway to being consistently good or even great and the results will come.
I hope this article has helped.