Fundamentals of Fat Loss – Part 2
In Part I, we went over a short overview of the 3 principles of fat loss:
- Burn more calories than you take in (Calorie deficit)
- Include strength training 3x/week
- Eat plenty of protein
The goal in part II is to dive into how to actually create a healthy, sustainable calorie deficit without starving yourself. When you zoom out and look at the body of knowledge from a nutritional science perspective from a 30,000 ft. view, a very simple truth emerges. When it comes to body composition management, when you control for 2 variables, virtually any way of eating works the same.
What are those 2 variables, you may be wondering?? Calories and protein. We will get more into protein and the importance of that in part IV of this series, so for now we will focus on calories.
By creating a caloric deficit of between 200-400 calories per day, you will be able to see sustainable change for longer periods of time and without starving yourself. This size of deficit has been shown to help move the needle enough to continue to help fuel your workouts and activity without the negative side effects of feeling lousy eating too few calories. When your deficit is too high, your workouts will suffer, your sleep will be worse, your body will cling to its fat stores and you won’t have the energy to do the things that you love.
So, how the heck do you consistently stay in a caloric deficit for the long term. This is where lifestyle modification comes in. You have more than likely gained a small amount of weight consistently over a long period of time from staying sedentary, and from eating (or drinking) those extra 100-400 calories per day, on average.
So many new clients that have joined Epic Fitness recently report that their exercise and activity levels dropped to almost zero over the past 2 years of the pandemic. This makes sense because so many of us were burdened negatively with the lockdown, and not being able to stick with our normal routines that included exercise.
So, where do we start? Burning more calories from simply increasing your steps per day is a great way to start. Another way is to include strength training in your routine (we will go over this in part III of this series).
Being in the fitness space and being a coach for over 15 years, you would think that I would be partial to exercise and activity as the “cure all” for fat loss. But, actually, that is not what I believe to be true. At Epic Fitness, we still tell our members that the hardest workout they will do will be the chopping and slicing of all the vegetables and fruits and preparing for their weeks with proper nutrition. Nutrition is probably about 70% of the puzzle of fat loss.
When it comes to getting your body into a calorie deficit, there are really two nutrition strategies you can use. Check out the 2 strategies below, and see which one (or combination of the two) that will work best for you.
Method 1: Simple elimination
By making certain foods “off limits”, ideally for a set period of time, you are reducing your total caloric intake pretty much instantly. Paleo, intermittent fasting, low carb/low fat are all types of elimination diets but they aren’t what we recommend to our clients.
Far and away the simplest way to do this is by extracting out the three worst offenders of overconsumption:
- Added Sugar
- Junk Food (you know what I am talking about here!)
Think of what will happen to your total caloric intake if you merely took out these three worst offenders above. By making foods that are easily over consumed off limits temporarily, we restrict intake and make it easy to focus on fruits, veggies, and lean meats. This means we can eat to satisfaction while still staying on track.
As an example, when you compare a Big Mac and fries to Salmon, cooked vegetables, and brown rice, which meal do you think will bring your fullness level to satisfaction faster? The Big Mac? Not at all. It is the caloric “density” of the food that matters to keep you satisfied and fuller for longer. Lean protein, dense vegetables and healthy carbohydrates will do just that.
This may look satisfying, but it won’t keep you satiated and full and feeling your BEST
Here is what I like about this method. You feel way better, FAST. You may realize very quickly how much of the added sugar and alcohol that you didn’t really miss in your daily routine, after all! We recommend doing this “Elimination” of the three worst offenders of overconsumption for around 30 days. It’s not a bad way to start to get feeling better fast and establish some momentum in a very healthy direction.
Here is where I caution clients with this method. You MUST keep this short term and understand that strict elimination is not sustainable. Have a transition plan from short term to long term. If you try to do it forever you will crack, catch a case of the “screw-its”, eat too much of all the wrong things, feel like a failure, and lose all your momentum. Keep it to no more than 4 weeks. By week 1, you WILL feel great. By week 3, you know what you will keep doing and what you’ll relax a little bit. After 30 days, you can start to slowly bring things back into your “lifestyle” without falling back into the unhealthy overcomption mode. No alcohol can turn into a maximum of 3-4 drinks per week pretty easily. No added sugar can turn into one dessert a week and you’ll do great.
Method 2: Counting Calories
With this method, you track your calorie intake inside a calorie tracking app (like myfitnesspal). You just need to stay within your daily calorie limit. This is where the quantity of foods becomes very important. A good knowledge of serving sizes and accurate food logging is helpful. We like to calculate your daily caloric target based on data from our InBody Body Composition Analyzer, but a quick and dirty rule of thumb is your body weight times 10 for fat loss. That can vary a bit based on where you are starting so remember that’s a rough idea.
Here is what I like about this method. It’s honestly the most scientific. Eat within your calorie limit. That is it. Does this mean you can eat whatever the heck you please, just as long as it is within your calorie limit? Not exactly. We still want you to think of the best option for food choices. And surprisingly by limiting the three worst offenders of overconsumption, you will find yourself to get much closer to your calorie intake goals (and you will FEEL so much better, too!).
Here is where I caution clients about this method. It takes some work, knowledge, and experience accurately measuring and logging food. If your log shows a calorie deficit and after a few weeks your weight isn’t down, you really aren’t in a calorie deficit and your log is off. Common issues are underestimating servings or forgetting to log liquid (sugar) calories.
Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Finding what works for you is key. You get to enjoy your food while you fuel and nourish your body. Starving yourself is not okay, it won’t work long term, and you deserve better.
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