Is this going to be another year of unfulfilled resolutions? Promises you make to yourself, but never keep? It's time to put yourself first and succeed in your fat loss efforts. Many people see setting up a diet and nutrition plan as a daunting task to be avoided.
After setting up your program and being consistent for a week or two, you'll see how quickly you adapt and won't need to reference scales, notes, or other tools to aid you in sticking to your program. It's not too much work, very small efforts lead to small results, consistent, moderate efforts lead to consistent and even better results and so on and so forth.
In other words, the harder you work, and the more diligent you are about what you do and don't eat, the more obvious the result you'll see in the mirror and more important, feel.
There are many theories about certain diets, certain foods, food groups, meal timing, etc... What's the real deal? What's the best way to lose that unwanted, unhealthy body fat? How much should I lose? How many calories should I eat? These are just some of the questions that will be answered in this article.
First things first; It doesn't matter where you start, or how bad off you believe you are. The key is taking that first step and deciding to make a committed plan and consistent effort to lose that weight for good and improve your overall health dramatically in the process.
This article will get you through those first few difficult steps on your way to fat loss success! Having the lean, tight physique you have always envied on others is not the only reason to get rid of that unwanted, excess fat.
You don't have to be extra sharp to figure out that an orange is better for your body than a donut. Getting a leaner, tighter body is really very simple: Exercise & Eat healthier foods, in the right amounts, at the correct times. There are many conflicting opinions about how to lose body fat that most people become utterly confused and the result is they don't do ANYTHING! Just start the process; you can always adjust your curriculum as you go.
The single most important factor to mastering your fat loss success is being aware of your calories. How many calories you are taking in vs. how many your body in fact needs. Eat more than you burn each day and you will store it as excess fat. Eat less than you burn each day and you will lose excess fat.
Where the calories come from is important too, but unless you understand the calorie concept, nothing else matters. If you don't have any idea how many calories you're eating, how can you expect to make any progress?
You must recognize that too much of anything gets stored as fat; even if you're eating nothing but natural, organic, healthy foods, if you eat too many of them, you're still going to gain body fat. Portion control and awareness is the key here.
On the other hand, many people who are overweight are actually under-eating and drastically slowing down their metabolism as a result, this is known as the 'starvation effect.' There's a fine line, but once you become aware of your daily intake and what you are expending each day, you'll know what side of that line you are on, and how to resolve the issue that's keeping you from attaining your best physique ever.
Setting Personal Goals
Setting specific goals is imperative because this helps you focus your time and energy on what's most important. To set yourself up for success, your goals should be set up the following way:
- Short Term & Very Specific. Write down exactly what you want to accomplish this week, next week and stop there.
- Accountable. Use an e-diary like BodySpace, or a software program, or just a simple spiral notebook to track everything you put into your mouth.
|BODYSPACE: STRENGTH IN NUMBERS|
- No Negative Self Talk saying "I won't" or "I will never" - Negative goals make you feel deprived instead of making you feel good about your successes.
- Specific To You & No One Else - Don't attempt this to please or impress others. Learn to be the center of your own life.
- Rewards For Every Small Achievement - It's important to acknowledge each small achievement and not reward with food.
- Within The Realms Of Reality - In order to attain long-term fat loss success you have to develop goals you can actually live with and integrate into your every day real life. Some examples of unrealistic goals that can interfere with your fat-loss efforts are below.
|Unrealistic Goals When Starting A Fat Loss Program||Realistic Goals When Starting A Fat Loss Program|
The first steps are the hardest to take, so let's get started. To begin, you'll need to estimate your current body composition to know where to start and where you are going in your journey to fat loss. What is your current weight?
The best thing to do is to weigh oneself first thing in the morning, after using the bathroom, and before eating or drinking anything. This should be the time you weigh in every week, same time, same day, and same scale. It is unnecessary to weigh on the scale more often than once every seven days.
The next step, although not totally necessary is determining your body fat percentage, i.e. how much of your scale weight is bones, organs, and muscle; and how much of that weight is stored fat. There are several ways to get this done.
The first is to have it done, usually for free at your gym, club, or fitness center using calipers and a trained fitness professional who knows how to use them. Some clubs and wellness centers use an electronic impedance device, known as an OMRON Body Fat Analyzer; these are also available for purchase HERE at the Bodybuilding.com online store for use in the privacy of your own home.
Once you have determined your overall percentage of body fat, you can estimate how much you need or want to lose and what that means in terms of pounds lost. There are recommended guidelines for body fat percentage that are slightly different for men and women.
Recommended total body fat percentages (18-49 years of age)
|Less than 16%||21%||+24%|
|Less than 18%||23%||+25%|
We'll utilize a few examples to be clear. Let's say we have Mike, a 192 lb male, with a body fat percentage of 22%. This means that out of 192 pounds of total bodyweight, Mike has 42 1/4 lbs of just fat. Since 22% is slightly higher than average and Mike wants to be as lean as possible, his goal is 14% body fat. This would require a loss of 8% or about 15 lbs. of body fat to reach his goal.
So how does one go about losing fifteen pounds of just body fat? We need to establish your basal metabolic rate (BMR); this is how many calories you need to do absolutely nothing but live and maintain homeostasis, no activity. Once this is done, we can go from there on where to begin, and where to reduce.
* A small note: many female fitness/figure athletes attain a body fat level of 9-12% and female bodybuilding athletes safely go as low 7% bodyfat; while male competitors can go as low as 4% bodyfat. Although difficult, this is done with the same caloric reduction and different forms of macronutrient manipulation.
This program is designed for anyone, with any goal involving loss of fat, wanting to safely reduce body fat levels at a moderate pace.
Determine your body weight in kilograms by dividing the number in pounds by 2.2
For Males: 1 x body weight in kg ____ x 24 = _________
For Females: .9 x body weight in kg____ x 24 = _________
In this step you must multiply the result from step 1, by the appropriate multiplier from the right column in the chart below (Chart 1) that corresponds to your percent body fat range. The percentage of body fat is correlated into the problem due to the fact that people with more lean body mass tend to have a higher BMR.
|Total Body Fat||Multiplier|
|Men 10 to 14%, Women 14 to 18%||1.0|
|Men 14 to 20%, Women 18 to 28%||.95|
|Men 20 to 28%, Women 28 to 38%||.90|
|Men over 28%, Women over 38%||.85|
Example From Above:
Weight: 192 pounds (87.2kg)
Body Fat: 22%
*To find weight in kg, divide the body weight in pounds by 2.2. 192 pounds divided by 2.2 = 87.2 kg
Example Step 1
1 x 87.2 x 24 = 2,094
Example Step 2
2094 x .90 (multiplier from above chart) corresponding to 22% body fat) = BMR = 1,884 calories / day
Now that you know what your BMR is, the last step in determining how many calories you are actually using each day, we need to figure in the amount of daily activity you do and factor it into the equation. Be honest with yourself!
We all tend to over estimate our activity levels and underestimate our caloric intake! Using the numbers given below, multiply your daily BMR by the number on the left of your range to find your daily calorie usage.
Daily Activity Levels:
Very Sedentary, Little To No Activity:
1.30 (130%) = Very Light:
Sitting, reading, television watching
1.55 (155%) = Light:
Desk work, talking job/teaching, lab/office work, brief periods of walking
The Average Joe/Jane:
1.55 (155%) = Light:
Typing, desk work, talking job/teaching, lab/office work, brief periods of walking (This is representative of most men and women in the U.S.A.)
1.65 (165%) = Moderate:
Walking, light jogging, light gardening, activities such as cycling, tennis, dancing, skiing or weight training 1 hour per day, 3-5 days per week.
The Athlete, Bodybuilder, Weight Lifter, Or Manual Labor Worker
1.80 (180%) = Heavy:
Heavy manual labor such as ditch digging, lumberjack, cement/concrete worker, mountain climbing, football, soccer, or focused weight lifting or body building 2-4 hours or more per day.
2.00 (200%) = Very Heavy:
A combination of mod. to very heavy work 7 or more hours/day, AND 2-4 additional hours of hard weight training or sports practice per day, at least five days a week. (This is less than 2% of the population! Even though lots of us eat as though we work this hard!).
So Mike is a college student, with a very part time job on the side at the gym. So he determines his activity level at moderate (1.65); so he takes his BMR of 1884 calories per day, and multiplies that by his activity level
1884 x 1.65 = 3,109 calories is what he currently uses every day.
Since this is the number of calories he uses, and is holding fifteen pounds he would like to lose, he must start at this number and reduce his total daily caloric intake.
This can be done in a number of ways, depending on your goals, the amount of time you have to accomplish your goals and how hard you want to be on yourself.
To maintain the lean mass (muscle) that you currently have, it's important to try not to lose more than 1.5-2.0 pounds of fat per week; anything in excess of that number is likely to be water weight and precious muscle tissue. With fifteen pounds to lose, losing at a rate of 1.5 pounds per week, it will take ten weeks to lose the body fat.
The rest is simple math, to reduce his bodyfat by 1.5 pounds every week, one pound equals 3,500 calories, which means to achieve his goal on time requires a weekly reduction of 5,250 calories, or every day eating 750 LESS calories than your current daily usage.
Mike is currently utilizing 3,109 calories, and during his fat loss program, his total daily calories are going to be 2,359. If the caloric reduction is followed consistently, it will result in the loss of 1.5 pounds of ugly body fat every week.
Whew! Now that the starting point for fat loss has been determined, does that mean any food is fair game so long as the caloric limit is adhered to? Well, no not really. It's true that calories in vs. calories out determines how much WEIGHT you will lose, but it what you eat and in what ratios (macronutrients) that determine WHAT KIND of weight is lost (muscle, water or fat).
There are many different macronutrient ratios and theories behind them all. For example the USDA recommends a 60/30/10 split (C/P/F) - this is not an optimal split for many people. There are others, like the Zone Diet plan calls for a more balanced 40/30/30 split, and then an ultra-low carb plan such as Atkins calls for a near 10/50/40 split!
So which one is right for you? A commonly used and successful macronutrient split when trying to gain lean mass (muscle) and lose excess body fat is 40/40/20. This is not by any means the only successful macro ratio out there, but it is easy to determine and tends to be rather muscle sparing, even though you are in a caloric deficit.
This means that 40% of your total daily calories should come from carbs, 40% from protein, and 20% from essential fats.
Mike's (from example above) total daily calories are 2,359
|Carbs =||40% (2359 x .40 = 943 calories)|
|943 divided by 4 (4 calories per gram)|
|=||235 grams of carbs per day|
|Protein =||40% (2359 x .40 = 943 calories)|
|943 divided by 4 (4 calories per gram)|
|=||235 grams of carbs per day|
|Fats =||20% (2359 x .20 = 471 calories)|
|471 divided by 9 (9 calories per gram)|
|=||52 grams of fat per day|
Meal Timing For Optimal Performance
Anytime the body is put into a caloric deficit, it will suffer somewhat. Proper nutrient timing can help ensure you have sufficient energy for workouts, your job, as well as other daily activities; and can reduce cravings and the tendency to binge or stray from your program.
While on your fat loss program you must eat every three hours no matter what! This means eating breakfast within ONE hour of waking, and then eating every three hours after that until bedtime. Yes, that could mean 5-8 meals per day!
This may sound like way too much food, but these are more like mini-meals; keeping the body fueled and this aids in keeping the blood sugar under control; when we skip meals, or go more than 4 hours between meals, the blood sugar crashes from lack of nutrients/food, we will then become ravenous and the result is often to over eat and thus it spikes the blood sugar.
When there is excess insulin in the blood, fat is stored more readily. Eating small, frequent meals at regular intervals ensures a slow and steady release of sugar into the blood, reducing the likelihood of sudden cravings, over eating, and fat storage.
When You Need Those Carbs:
It's also important to consume carbohydrates when they are most needed. Carbs are immediate fuel for immediate activity. If you work a day job, do all of your busy work during the day, and strength train, and are home on the couch by 7 PM... consuming the majority of your carbs in the morning and afternoon is sensible.
However, a lot of folks have become accustomed to skipping breakfast, eating fast food mid day, and then flopping down on the couch for a way too big plate of spaghetti, or three servings of bread, without any intention of lifting another finger that day! This is a surefire way to fat gain.
The body needs carbohydrates in the morning, with the first meal. The act of waking up is catabolic unto itself. Great carbs to start your day off with or for anytime are:
- Oats (oat bran, steel cut, whole grain- not instant)
- Rice (long grain, brown)
- Sweet potatoes
- Black Beans (also provide 7g protein per 1/2 cup!)
- Green beans
- Asparagus (these veggies also have a nice diuretic effect on the body!)
- Brussel Sprouts
There are many other great, clean carbs out there to enjoy. With lots of talk about good carbs and bad carbs, I find that a good rule of thumb is to stop and ask; "Did this grow out of the ground as is? Is it totally naturally this way?" If the answer is yes, it's a good carb.
If its processed; think bread, or whole grain cheerios; it can still be 'ok' on occasion, but its still processed food. The best way to go is always with 100% whole, natural foods. These are the foods that are most readily accepted, utilized for vitamins/minerals, and have a more thermogenic (metabolism revving) effect on the body than liquid, processed, or 'fake, fat free' foods.
Another time that carbs are necessary is during your workouts, which are an important aspect in your fat loss success. It's important to have eaten within one to two hours (at the longest) prior to a work out. The same carbs mentioned above are great for a pre/ post work out snack or meal.
It's just good to remember that carbs are needed for our most active times; If you work night shift, and sleep all day, then your nutrition would be based around your evening schedule. It's not detrimental to eat carbohydrates in your last two meals of the day, just try to utilize more fibrous, less starchy carbs for this instance; such as broccoli, spinach, salad greens and save the rice, oats and sweet potatoes for when you want good clean energy!
About 15 minutes before your workout... Consuming a pre-work out shake consisting of 1-1.5 scoops whey protein isolate (WPI), and 8-12 oz. fat free milk or water is beneficial to preventing muscle loss when working out during a caloric reduction diet.
View Whey Protein Isolates Sorted By Top Sellers Here.
You can also consume this shake slowly during your work out. Along with WPI, those trying to gain or maintain lean muscle have found great success with Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) which are essential in preventing muscle loss, aiding in recovery after a work out, and providing work out energy when the body is in a caloric deficit.
View BCAA Products Sorted By Top Sellers Here.
Another time to have a WPI supplement is before bed, sleep can be catabolic and when building lean mass and keeping on that program, this is a good way to go. The rest of your daily protein requirement should come from animal sources such as:
- Chicken breast (boneless, skinless, cooked thoroughly)
- Egg whites (cooked, never raw)
- Fat Free (skim) milk
- Fat Free KRAFT Cheese (very limited quantities, we want to learn to eat real foods remember!)
- Turkey Breast
- Buffalo/Bison (Ground, Sirloin, Roast)
- Extra Lean Sirloin
- Extra Lean Pork
- Tuna (canned in water, fresh-pack envelope, whole fillet)
- Seafood (Crab, lobster, shrimp; sans butter)
- Salmon (a great source of Omega 3s! It's an essential fatty acid)
- Whey Protein or Whey Protein Isolate
These proteins should be distributed evenly (grams) throughout all of your meals. Depending on your personal caloric requirements and protein intake, on average a serving of protein should be 4-6 oz. per meal.
All of your fats should ideally come from essential or good fats. These are the Omega 3s, Omega 6s, and Omega 9s. These are available in Fish oil, Flax oil, and Borage oil. This comes in whole food, as well as tablet and whole liquid form. The rest of the fats in your daily intake should be a natural result of the animal proteins you are eating.
View Fish Oil Products Sorted By Top Sellers Here.
View Flax Seed Products Sorted By Top Sellers Here.
Eliminating saturated and Trans or 'Franken' fats is important; but eliminating all fats from the diet is not healthy and can lead to the opposite result you are seeking.
Keeping fats in the diet is also essential to maintaining testosterone levels which can occur when in a calorie reduced state; even for the ladies, testosterone plays an important role when we are trying to build new muscle tissue and lose body fat. Some good whole food sources of these good fats we want more of are (although there are tons more out there!)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Olive oil
- Peanut Butter
- Almond Butter
"So I Never Get To Eat Anything Fun Again?"
It may seem this way at first, but if you are committed to losing that body fat for good, and never having to deal with it again, then some sacrifice must be made. That being said, it's important to give in to the cravings of the mind and body once in a while when you are consistent and compliant (and only you know if you truly are!) with your fat loss program.
It will do your body good to indulge in a cheat meal, and cheat dessert once every week. This is not to say you can have a free day of eating everything on a whim - this is one meal and one dessert every week, which can be anything you want, without consideration of calories, macronutrient ratios, or fat content.
This should replace one of your meals, and the rest should be clean and pre-planned as normal. This is not as bad as it sounds, it helps to eliminate the craving, gives you a free meal and still allows for planned fat loss to occur, and it allows us to live real life and still lose the fat.
To Help Accelerate Your Journey Towards Fat Loss
With the endless array of supplements that report to be able to do everything under the sun, who knows what's true? There are a few basics to start with, that have been proven to have a beneficial result when combined with a fat loss program.
I feel supplements are an important aspect of any program whether its for fat loss, muscle gain, or just to maintain a healthy and fit body. Supplementation is providing much needed nutrition, energy and metabolic assistance without additional calories.
Although water is not a supplement, this is unfortunately how many treat it, barely drinking enough to get by. When starting a fat loss program, water is essential to the fat burning process and to your over all success. On a non-work out day, when you are doing little to nothing in the means of activity, you need to take in a bare minimum of half your bodyweight in ounces.
Example: 192 lb Mike needs a minimum of 96 oz of water a day.
If it is a workout day then one gallon of water is recommended for everyone. It's remarkable how the body will respond favorably to drinking sufficient amounts of water; the skin clears up, digestion is better and more efficient, vitamins/minerals are more readily absorbed, excess water weight is lost, stabilized symptoms of PMS (goodbye bloating!), reduced hunger cravings... the list goes on and on, so drink more water!
This is very important when reducing calories to ensure all the chemical processes in the body will still occur despite reduced nutrition.
There are many good brands but the top three favorites are Universal Animal Pak, AST Multi Pro, and NOW Adam (for men)... which by the way does not contain iron; as men do not need this supplemented, only the ladies!
There aren't enough words to describe the unending benefits of taking fish oils and EFA's, these are the Omega 3, 6, and 9's discussed earlier. In addition to being an aid in your fat loss efforts its also responsible for aiding in the following:
- Energy Production
- Diffusion of oxygen into the bloodstream
- Brain and nerve tissue development
- Control cell membrane fluids
- Stabilize insulin and blood sugar levels
- Anti-inflammatory effect
- Helpful in inflammatory conditions
- Support immune system
- Reduce water retention, by assisting in sodium and water removal.
- Calming effect and maintains mood
Some of the best selling brands of fish oils and EFAs here on bodybuilding.com are Health From the Sea PFO Pure Fish Oil, NOW Salmon Oil , and NOW Super Omega 3, 6, 9 the last of which contains all three super EFA's in one capsule!
These are Branched Chain Amino acids and are priceless in a fat loss program when keeping or gaining lean muscle is important to you. So long as your body is in a caloric deficit, and you are training, you need BCAAs. The best way to take BCAAs is right after a work out, or to mix a powder form into your water and sip during a work out.
Fat Burner Or No Fat Burner?
If you chose to use a stimulant fat burner or a non-stimulant fat burner, there are many available to chose from and can greatly enhance your energy, motivation and caloric burn during your work outs! If you decide a fat burner is for you, check out Lipo6 or HotRox, those are both great stimulant fat burners, that will give you a nice kick in addition to revving up that metabolism.
Or if you are sensitive even to caffeine, guarna or other stimulants, products such as MAN Vaporize, or Universal Super Cuts that contain no stimulants will work great for you as they have for others!
I have outlined some examples of a caloric reduction/fat loss menu for a male and a female below. BY NO MEANS is this a strict guideline to what you should personally eat! This is just a sampling of a menu with the macros weighed out, to show you what yours will look like once you have your plan completed and in hand!
Menu/Timing Example: Male (caloric reduction)
- 2,175 Calories
- 225 grams carbs
- 226 grams protein
- 53 grams fats
Meal 1 @ 6 AM
- 1 cup egg white
- 1 cup dry oats
- 1 tbs flax oil
- 1 fish oil tablet
Meal 2 @ 9 AM - 15-30 minutes Pre-Work Out
Meal 3 @ 12 PM
- Post work out (approx. 1 hour later)
- 8 oz chicken breast
- 1 cup mixed salad greens
- 2 tsp flax oil
- 10 oz sweet potato
Meal 4 @ 3 PM
- 1 scoop WPI
- 1 fish oil tablet
Meal 5 @ 6 PM
- 8 oz tuna
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 fish oil tablet
Meal 6 @ 9 PM
- 2 scoops WPI
- 7 tablespoons of Cream of Rice
- 1 fish oil tablet
*This is your last meal so long as you lay down before midnight
Menu/Timing Example: Female (caloric reduction)
- 1,507 calories
- 174 g carbs
- 169 g protein
- 25g fat
Meal 1 @ 7:30 AM - Pre-Work Out
Meal 2 @ 10:30 AM
- 4.5 oz. chicken breast, boneless, no skin
- 2/3 cup long grain, brown or wild rice
- 5 oz green beans or broccoli florets
- 1 fish oil tablet
Meal 3 @ 1:30 PM
- 18 oz. skim milk
- 1 scoop WPI powder
- 1 teaspoon flax oil
- 1 fish oil tablet
Meal 4 @ 5:00 PM
- 3.5 oz. tuna canned in water
- 3.5 oz. broiled sweet potato
- 1 cup broccoli
- 1 fish oil tablet
- 1 tsp flax oil
Meal 5 @ 8:30 PM
- 18 oz water or skim milk
- 1 scoop WPI powder
- 1 teaspoon flax oil
- 1 fish oil tablet
- 1 multi-vitamin
*This should be your last meal if you are in bed before 11:30 PM
There are many lean foods to choose from, research. This plan is sound and the ratios provide plenty of proteins, good carbs, and good fats to keep you satisfied... this plan can help anyone! Be aware of your calories, keep strict records of everything you eat, every bite taken; just until you become familiar with what different portion sizes look like and what's really going on in your daily activities that is contributing to your eating habits; and this will happen eventually.
There are a few keys to remember when starting a new life of eating clean and fat loss.
Be aware of liquid calories; don't get all your protein from liquid ready made shakes. Whole food calories are denser and will help you feel fuller, longer. Liquid calories contain high amounts of calories and satisfy only a little while.
Those coffee house drinks we all love, the chai, the lattes, the frozen coffee beverages... these are diet death! Loaded with sugars and fats, reserve them for your once a week dessert treat, at the most!
If it is soda that is your vice, consider saying goodbye forever, or at least switching to diet; there is nothing wrong with a diet pop every day or so, and some are like liquid candy and can really help subdue those cravings.
Don't fall for the fat free myth; most fat free cookies, candy and such contain twice as many calories, and TONS of sugar!
Don't panic and throw in the towel if you give in and over eat, or totally fall off the fat loss wagon, as they say just get back in the game and back on track, treat it as your cheat meal for the week and move on, tomorrow is another day to eat clean and lose that fat once and for all!