- 3000 words
- 8-12 minute read time
- Diet is key to fitness goals but most important thing above all else is consistency. All diets are useless if you cant stay on them.
- This article contains two different options for how to go about, setting up your diet.
- Taking in less calories than the body needs will always be #1 for Fat loss
- There are six key habits to follow at the end of this post.
Welcome to part four of the series. How to actually achieve your fitness goals.
Awareness is a beautiful thing. How often does it take earth shaking news.
Such as a cancer diagnosis or a heart attack before we look after our health .
Unfortunately in today’s society, knowing how to eat healthy is not enough.
40% of us are overweight or obese.
That’s almost one in two. Think about that!
Every 2nd person is either overweight or obese.
The busyness of life can sweep us away, leaving the most important things in our lives neglected.
Family, friends, health, can all get ignored.
The first three parts of this series, are all about bringing these values into focus.
Think of this series as an army going to war. Part one was discovering why we are going to war.
Now, Part four is about the diet. Here we survey the battlefield and decide the tactics win the war.
There will be some scientific recommendations in this article.
This is in no way meant to be a dietary prescription!! These are just recommendations and guidelines.
The Diet: Option One (Simple Version)
Now before beginning, there are two different options available for anybody who wants start the diet..
If you love simplicity and just want a basic idea of how much food to eat,
Then as a Precision Nutrition level 2 student, I recommend their method of portion sizes and calorie control. You can find the article here
If you are unsure of what foods contribute to each food group.
If you know you don’t have the discipline to learn how to measure and calculate food, then the above way is for you.
Your goal is to learn how to be consistent and stick with the guidelines.
This may involve some coaching.
If you want to improve accuracy or find certain diets work for a certain amount of time and then just stop, then read on.
The Diet: Option 2 (Full Version)
What works: Calorie Deficit
Scientifically, Fat loss is a very simple process.
It’s an energy balance. Energy in the form of food in this case.
Our food comes in the form of kilo calories (Kcal).
If you eat less calories than your body consumes then you will burn fat. This is unfortunately where the simplicity ends.
The most important aspect of the diet will always be a calorie deficit.
Unfortunately Our Bodies Are Smart.
Calorie counting is not an exact science.
There are many things that can affect both the amount of calories in our food, also the amount of calories that we actually burn.
Problems with calorie counting
- Calories on labels can be off by 25%. Here’s a good article about the problems with calorie counting.
- Dieting itself, affects our metabolism and the amount of calories we burn. I’ve made videos about why diets stop working. Just check out my Facebook page or an interesting article here
So what should I do?
Despite calorie counting not being 100% accurate.
It is still a very valuable tool in making sure that we are aware of the amount of food going into our bodies.
It is not surprising to actually go through someone’s day of eating and discover that over 3000 calories were consumed.
Even when this person thought they were being "good".
Key Point: To lose weight we must take in less calories than our bodies need.
Understanding food labels.
On food labels, there are 3 main food groups (also known as Macro-Nutrients) that we should be interested in.
There’s also fibre, which is slightly different, as it gets digested differently in the body.
Alcohol is actually another food group but that’s a topic for another day.
If we add up the total calories from the 3 main food groups, We find the total calories.
Now, these are usually estimates and very often they don’t add perfect.
But they give us a baseline understanding calories in food..
For every gram (g) of protein, there are 4 calories (Kcal).
If you look at the back of your label and a food contains 25g of protein.
This means 100 calories are coming from protein.
When you add up the carbohydrates and the fat content, you find the amount of overall calories
(This is a rough guide and very often the package and the macronutrients won’t match together).
There are 3 main food groups (known as macronutrients). These are protein, Dietary fat and Carbohydrates.
Protein contains 4 calories for every gram (g) of protein on your label.
How Much Protein should I eat?
Aim for approximately between 1.7g/ kg of bodyweight to 2.25g/kg (1g of protein per pound of bodyweight).
So if you weigh 200 pounds, aim for between 150-200g of protein per day.
Protein is the most important macro-nutrient (food group).
It helps keeping our metabolism high while keeping us full and satisfied.
Aim for 0.75g-1g per pound of bodyweight. (1.7-2.25g/kg)
There are approximately 9 calories in 1 gram (g) of fat. So if you see on the label of your food “contains 10g of fat.”
Then 90 calories are coming from fat.
Dietary fat has a number of key functions in the body.
It creates our hormones, it keeps us insulated, it's a source of energy for the body.
There are three main types of dietary fat that we can eat. Polyunsaturated fat, mono unsaturated fat and saturated fat.
Most important is you get your fat from a wide variety of sources.
You can find a full list of healthy fats here
How much fat should I eat?
Fat ranges can vary from 0.1-0.5g per pound of body. It is best to start conservative at around 0.25g per pound of body weight.
So if you weigh 100 pounds, you would eat approximately 25g of fat.
Fat has the highest calories per gram (9 kcal). Aim for between 0.1-0.5 g per pound of body weight.
Carbohydrates get the most publicity when it comes to diet. Everyday you hear of quitting carbs to drop tonnes of weight.
Carbs are the number one fuel source for the body, especially the brain.
There are 4 calories for every gram of carb. So if you see 4g on your food label. It means 16 calories are carbohydrates.
How many carbohydrates should I eat?
Whatever calories you have left over when calculating fat and protein amounts, divide that number by 4 to calculate the amount of carbohydrates to consume.
Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram. Most important is getting high quality carbs and keeping to moderate amounts.
Tracking Food intake
As much of a pain it can be in the beginning, tracking how much food we eat in a day is so important.
This, in itself takes time and needs to become a habit.
The best thing about tracking our food, is that it makes us so much more mindful of what we are actually putting into our mouths.
Option one (Pen and Paper)
There are many options for tracking food. First is just traditional pen and paper.
This is a good starting point, because its easy to use and still makes us think about how much food we are eating.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t account for portion sizes or actual calories, which is a big issue.
A good option is to track calories along with the food, to improve accuracy.
Simply write the food that you ate, with the time beside it.
The biggest issue with paper/pen food diaries is how horrible we can be at actually tracking.
Usually our recall is awful or we get selective memory.
We remember our breakfast lunch and dinner, but tend to forget the “sneaky calories”. Tea with chocolate fingers, larger portion sizes, Full fat milk with our tea, lots of oils in our dinner.
A lot of these sneaky calories can be forgotten, but add a tremendous amount of calories to our diets.
So writing “spaghetti garlic bread” for dinner means nothing.
There could be cheese, higher fat mince, olive oil and different types of sauces.
So beware that accuracy is not there with regular food journals.
Food Diaries are a good starting point to help bring awareness to what we eat.
Unfortunately, they are extremely inaccurate because we often "forget" foods and misjudge portion sizes
Option Two (Digital Trackers)
Option two, is to use food trackers such as myfitnesspal. This would be my recommendation for anyone interested in tracking their food intake.
What’s fantastic about myfitnesspal is:
- It’s free
- It has thousands of foods in the database and saves any previous foods
- You can also scan bar codes on food labels to automatically enter in your calories.
- It provides the most accuracy.
It is important to track your food intake, either use pen and paper or else apps like myfitnesspal
Do I need to weigh all my food?
At the start, YES
However, the goal of tracking our food is not to become robots, measuring and weighing every gram that we put into our mouths.
This would drive some people to their graves
Instead, weighing is important because it brings awareness to what we actually eat.
The goal should be to weigh only until we learn about protein sizes, the different types of foods and their calories.
I suggest you weigh out your most common foods for two weeks.
This will have two benefits.
- Your actual portion sizes might shock you!!
- Weighing will teach you how many calories are actually in certain foods.
After we learn basic foods, their portion sizes and calories. We can be more flexible and put the food scales away.
The goal is to learn how to track so you don’t need to track later down the road.
How many calories should I eat?
No two people are the same.
You can be the same weight, same build and same age as someone.
Yet, still require a completely different calorie intake compared to that person.
So it’s best to get a rough estimate of how many calories we need to consume.
From there tracking for a couple of weeks and seeing how the body responds.
Option one (Easiest)
- Find your weight in pounds, then multiply that body weight by 9 or 10. If you weigh 200 pounds, multiplying x 10 will give 2000 calories.
- Most important is the body's response to the calories.
- Track for 2 weeks.
- If You lose 1-3% of your body then you can stick with the diet.
- If you you actually gain weight, then drop original estimate by 50-100 calories and see any difference.
Option two (more work involved)
This option requires more time but provides more accuracy.
First, we need to find out our Basal Metabolic rate (BMR).
If you lay in bed, didn’t move a single muscle, didn’t even watch netflix (which uses the brain for thinking).
This would be your basal metabolic rate, the amount of calories you burn at rest.
Find Your Basal Metabolic Rate from the calculator above
Next we multiply the number you just calculated, by our activity levels.
Obviously someone exercising 7 days per week will burn more calories than the person who’s only movement in a day is to tell Netflix, they are still watching a show
Multiply the number you found in the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) calculator by 1.3.
you found out your BMR was 1000 calories and you are female.
1000x 1.3 = 1300 calories.
This now tells us how many calories we generally burn in a day.
Find your BMR from the Calculator and then find your daily calorie expenditure/burn.
Find out how many calories we should consume to put us in a calorie deficit.
Simply find our number from step 1/2. Take 300 calories from that number.
For Arguments sake, lets say the result from step one and two was 1500 after calculations
- Step 1/2 = 1500
- 1500-300 =
- 1200 calories needed for calorie deficit.
Like option one, try for two weeks. If you lose weight, great!.
If not, then adjust calories.
Key Point: Once you find how many calories you burn in a day. Take 300 from that to find how many calories to consume.
Calculating Your Foods to eat.
Deep breaths!, a lot of information there but lets put it together to calculate how much you actually need to eat on a daily basis.
Lets use the example of a man:
- 35 years of age,
- wants to lose a stone (14 Pounds)
- currently weighs 14 stone (196 pound).
- Find BMR (Basal Metabolic rate) from calculator
- For arguments sake, lets say that is 2000 calories
- Find Overall calorie expenditure: multiply BMR x 1.3
- 1000 x 1.3
- = 2600 Calories
- Find calorie deficit by taking 300 calories from 2600
- 2600 - 300
- = 2300 calories
- Find out how much protein, fat and carbohydrates you should eat.
- Should be minimum 0.75-1 g per pound of body weight.
- So multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 1. In this example the man weighs 196 pounds. 196 x 1= 196g of protein
- Since there are 4 calories in 1 gram of protein. If you multiply 196 (protein amount for the man) by 4, you find how many calories should be protein.
- 196 x 4 = 784 calories
This means 784 calories should come from protein.
- Fat should be between 0.1-0.5g per pound of bodyweight.
- If you weigh 196 like this example,
- 196x 0.25 = 49g.
- So fat should be 49g
- There are 9 calories for 1g of fat.
- If we eat 49g as proposed, the 49x9= 441.
This means 441 calories (kcal) should be from fat.
Slow Down Kurtis, you lost me!
Okay, so the man in our example found out he needs to eat 2300 calories (from the calculator above).
Next we found out how many grams of protein and grams of Fat are needed for the diet.
What about carbs?
Based on the protein and fat estimates, we can now find out how many carbs we should eat.
lets take a look at the man’s diet so far.
- The man weighs 196 pounds (14 stone)
- We found out he needs to eat 1700 calories to lose weight
- We found out he needs to eat 196 grams of protein (1g per pound of bodyweight) .
- This equals 784 calories (196 x 4)
- Next is fat, the man needs 98g of fat (0.25 of his body in pounds).
- This equals 441 calories (49g x 9 calories).
We have protein calories (784kcal) and fat calories (441calories).
Next we just add these and find out how many calories we have remaining.
- 784 (protein calories) + 441 (fat Calories)
- = 1225 calories.
- If we take 2300 ( the amount of calories the man needs to eat) and subtract the 1225 (amount of calories from fat and protein)
- we find out the remaining calories.
- These calories can then be carbohydrates.
- 2300-1225= 1074 calories remaining.
- The remaining 1074 calories can then be used for carbohydrates.
Like protein there is 4 calories in a gram of carbohydrates.
To find how many grams of carbs we can have in the day.
We simply divide the 1074 calories we just calculated, by 4.
1074 divided by 4 = (268g for estimate)
Putting it all together
Take a deep breath, there was a lot of numbers.
Take your time and read this fully and you will understand where each number comes from.
Here’s a run through of what this man’s diet would look like.
- 2300 calories to lose weight
- 196 grams of protein
- 44g of Fat
- 268g of Carbs.
This was just an example so do not just pick these numbers and go with those.
I suggest you work out your calories, test out for a couple of weeks, then see how your body reacts.
Your Action Plan
If you made it this far, I really appreciate it. I know, a LOT of Information but don’t worry about not taking everything at once from this.
I can’t stress enough that if you try implement all of this.
There is one thing I can guarantee.
You will FAIL!
I highly suggest you take one action habit, focus on it for at least 2 weeks (ideally a month) then, and only then, move to the next habit.
Here is the key points and action steps for all the information above.
Habit 1: Learn about food labels, portion sizes and how to track food intake
Habit 2: Find out your baseline calories (Protein/Carbohydrates/Fats)
Habit 3: Focus on getting protein to required levels.
Habit 4: Focus on whole unprocessed foods with every meal.
Habit 5: Focus on improving dietary Fat sources and eating required levels
Habit 6: Focus on Healthy Carbs with tracking.
Before You Go
It takes anywhere from 30 days to 90 days to develop a habit.
There are six habits here.
If you dedicate one month to completely mastering each habit, you could have the skills to take care of your health for the rest of your life.
Rather than trying a 30 day blitz or 12 week diet, lose weight but only to pile it back on once you stop the diet.
This is not about changing for month, but for changing forever.
Thank you for taking the time out of your day for reading this.
If you enjoyed the content make sure to share to help anyone else who needs help with their diets.