Setting Up A Fat Loss Diet
Setting up a fat loss diet can be confusing, annoying and unproductive if you don’t put the time, thought and effort into setting it up properly.
The set up of the fat loss diet is everything in terms of whether or not you actually make a success of your physique goals or not. Setting up an intelligent, progressive and sustainable diet is the key to ensuring you finish with a much leaner and stronger looking physique than you started with.
Now, in order to properly set up an effective diet for fat loss, there are 3 key principles you need to take in to consideration – let’s go through them in detail now:
Fat Loss Diet Principle #1 – Energy Balance
Every successful fat loss diet in the history of successful diets have worked in the main because they adhere to our first principle of the day – energy balance. Without taking energy balance into account, we cannot succeed with any body compositional goal. If weight loss (fat loss) is the goal, we must be in a caloric deficit, this is an undeniable precursor to success in any fat loss diet.
Essentially the point here is that we need to burn off more energy than we take in. It’s fundamentally a case of eating less and/or moving more. That will result in weight loss. However, we don’t just want weight for weight’s sake, we want fat loss and muscle preservation as much as possible. This is where we layer on the other principles.
Before we move on to that though, we really ought to establish a baseline level of calories to start with. How I do this with new clients is essentially ask them to write down (or even better, track on MyFitnessPal) every bit of food and drink they have over the course of 3-4 days. If weekends are dramatically different I normally ask for a weekend food log too. This allows me to establish how many calories a person is already eating to maintain their current bodyweight (as well as looking at timings, nutrient quality, eating habits/patterns).
It is much easier to start from where you are now and work slowly down (and much more effective in the long run), than it is to pick an arbitrary number or use a generic online calorie calculator to tell you how much food you should eat. If we find out how many calories you’re already eating, you can start to make small, sustainable and intelligent changes without giving yourself a mountain to climb from day 1.
Fat Loss Diet Principle #2 – Nutrient Timing/Eating To Perform
Now, once we’ve established a calorie total to aim for, we need to pay more attention to the quality and timing of our actual nutrients.
The way I like to approach nutrition regardless of whether the goal is to stack on muscle or strip away the fat is to eat to perform. If we effectively fuel our training sessions, we have all the tools we need at our disposal to actually shape our physique in the gym. If we’re flat, lacking energy, motivation and mood in the gym it will undoubtedly show and have a massively negative impact on our physique in the long run.
So, as a result, we need to take an intelligent approach to eating around the workout so we’re strong & energised, but still adhering to the principles of a proper fat loss diet.
At this point I feel compelled to point out, if it wasn’t already obvious, that the advice I’m giving here is rather generalised for the purposes of this blog post. Individual people require individual attention and blanket advice doesn’t work for everyone, I’m well aware of this. However I can’t cover 1000 different scenarios I’ve come across over the years within the scope of this blog post, so I’m going to put out general advice based on what I’ve seen most people respond to.
So, in my experience, I find that most people tend to respond better to using carbs to fuel the workout, but not directly before. An excessive intake of carbs can cause the release of the hormone serotonin, which can cause you to be sleepy (think about how you feel after eating a big serving of carbs, a massive pizza, Christmas dinner etc). Not the ideal state you want to be in for training.
So let’s assume you train at 6pm (a popular training time if you finish work at 5). I’d probably structure your diet with a high fat, low carb breakfast (I favour this for most people, again we don’t want to make you sleepy first thing of a morning).
We’d then add a high carb meal either mid morning or lunch time (or both, depending on how many meals you’re eating per day). This gives your body a good 5-7 hours before training to sufficiently clear the hormones triggered by a high carb meal so you’re not sleepy going into the gym – but on the flip side, you do have full glycogen stores within the muscle cells so you’re able to get a great workout in when you train later on.
Now, once you’re sufficiently fed on carbs we switch back to fat sources before training. I would normally advise a pre workout meal of some kind of fast digesting protein and fat sources around 1.5-2 hours before you get to the gym. I normally go for something like tuna, chicken, white fish, or if I’m in a rush just a whey protein shake with ideally some coconut oil (which is a faster digesting form of fat). This leaves me fed, but not sleepy or lethargic when it comes time to train – and I can nail a strong coffee 30-60 mins later and I’m good to go.
Intra & Post Workout Nutrition
Now, once you’re actually in the gym we have an opportunity to aid recovery while we’re still training. Your suitability for nutrient intake in this period entirely depends on how much food you’re allowed to eat within your caloric intake (see point #1).
I’d advise everyone to invest in some Essential Amino Acids (EAAs), which are a great choice to aid post workout recovery without taking up many calories (I think 1 serving comes out at 15kcal). If you have a lot of calories left, you can choose to invest in an intra workout carbohydrate supplement to boost the calories up a little. I love these supplements because they aren’t fully digested until you’ve finished training (so the hormonal impact I mentioned earlier isn’t an issue). And if you get a good quality one (I recommend either some kind of cyclic dextrin or vitargo) it won’t sit in the stomach and make you feel sick when training.
In terms of post workout nutrition, I tend to favour a quick digesting, sugary carb source that breaks up the monotony of dieting in this period. I’m talking things like rice krispies squares bars, malt loaf, bagels/jam, things of that nature. Again, this must all be built into the caloric allowance and it’s not a free hit to eat shite. If your calories are too low then you might have to bypass this luxury. I pair this with a whey protein shake, and 2-3 hours later with a high carb real food meal.
Fat Loss Diet Principle #3 – Micronutrients & Health
The final, but no less important layer we must take into consideration when setting up a diet is micronutrients and health considerations.
While you may have heard the term macronutrients or ‘macros’ thrown around a lot by certain flexible dieting crowds, micronutrients are often left forgotten and deemed unimportant. Please trust me when I say this couldn’t be further from the truth – if we ignore micronutrients, not only are we compromising our health but we’re also limiting the potential of our physique, strength, energy and fitness levels. Yes, they’re that important.
So if we know macronutrients are protein, carbs and fats, micronutrients are essentially everything else. They’re the things we need to take into account when it comes to health and performance. Now, you might say to me you’re not bothered about health – and you’re here for a good time not a long time. Cool. But I’ll have you consider that if you keep getting sick all the time, you can’t make any kind of progress as you either won’t be able to get in the gym or you’ll be sub-par while you’re there. Health might not be the ‘coolest’ thing to talk about in the fitness industry, but it’s one of the most important things if you want real, sustainable progress.
So without boring the legs off you with technical jargon, I reckon the best thing to do is give you a few short, sharp practical tips for key micronutrients on a fat loss diet. So – here we go:
Sodium is vital for performance and optimising your physique. While it has been demonised in the past in the medical community, sodium is generally accepted now as a powerful nutrient that helps to boost performance, metabolism and recovery. Salt all of your meals with either Sea Salt or Pink Himalayan Salt (this kind of salt contains iodine, which stimulates thyroid output).
Potassium is a mineral & electrolyte that helps with tons of processes in the body including regulating blood pressure, controlling water balance, muscular contractions, nerve impulses, normal heart rhythm and effective digestion. It goes without saying this is a massively effective mineral to add into your diet in a decent amount. Fresh salmon, coconut water, sweet potato, avocado, almonds and spinach are all great sources of potassium so consider adding one or more of these into your diet.
Fruit is quite obviously a healthy thing to eat. However, in some circles it has been outlawed due to the sugar content (fructose). Let’s get one thing straight, fructose isn’t going to kill you – nor is it going to cause you to gain weight so long as calories are controlled for. In fact, fructose can stimulate the liver, thyroid and boost metabolism to a certain extent. It’s also just fucking GOOD for you! So please don’t eliminate fruit because ‘it contains sugar’. Most fruits are very low in calories and you get some real ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of benefits versus caloric cost. I normally try to eat one orange every day and around 50g of frozen berries before bed.
Calcium is another very important consideration when building a diet, again this is something that can regulate muscular contractions, help with bone density, and making sure blood clots normally. Most people use dairy sources for calcium, however if dairy isn’t really up your street I suggest going for Greek Yoghurt or something similar.
Now, the area of micronutrients is huge and I could go on listing them all day, but again for the purposes of this article this is probably going to be enough for you to be getting on with.
So there you have it – that’s the 3 principles I always stay true to when setting up a fat loss diet. It’s not as complicated as people may have you think, but it does require thought and planning before you dive in head first.
I hope this article helped you somewhat and made your life easier when it comes to stripping body fat and revealing a leaner, more aesthetic physique.
If you have any questions, please drop me a message, email or pop in to see me over at One Body Athletic in Sheffield, just behind Meadowhall for a chat.
Cheers and happy dieting
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