**DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor. See your doctor before you start any new exercise or nutrition program. All of the information below has come from the International Sports Sciences Association Certified Fitness Trainers Course, I do not claim any rights to the information.**
Part 1: Calories
Has anyone ever told you that weight loss is only 20% exercise and 80% diet? If not, the gist of the saying is true. Exercise means nothing if you are not eating properly and fuelling your body. And proper nutrition when losing weight is imperative for adequate fat loss without sacrificing too much muscle.
Sadly, the amount of fitness and nutrition myths out there today vastly outnumber the amount of sound, science based knowledge about nutrition available to the general public. You do NOT need to do hours upon hours of cardio to lose weight, you do NOT need to eat only 1200 calories a day to lose weight, you do NOT need to rely on supplements and fat-loss aids to lose weight.
First things first, let’s talk healthy vs unhealthy food.
Unhealthy: processed, packaged, artificial.
Healthy: unprocessed, fresh, natural.
It is that simple. We do not need to break down protein, carbs, and fat, and discuss their molecular composition to figure out what’s healthy or not.
Part 2 of this guide will go more into depth about which kinds of foods are better for you than others, and why.
Step 1: Determine your daily caloric needs
1. Calculate your resting metabolic rate here. This is the amount of calories that your body burns just by being alive, not including the energy burned through daily activities.
2. Next, we are going to use the Harris Benedict Formula to determine how many calories you need per day. In other words, you are going to calculate your basal metabolic rate. This is how many calories your body burns every day, including your daily activities. To do this, multiply your resting metabolic rate by the multiplier that corresponds with your activity level:
- Sedentary (little to no activity): 1.2
- Slightly active (exercise 1-3 days/week) : 1.375
- Moderately active (exercise 3-5 days/week) : 1.55
- Very active (hard exercise 6-7 days a week) : 1.725
- Extremely active (very hard exercises & physical job or 2x training) : 1.9
So, using myself as an example, it would look like this: my resting metabolic rate (RMR) is 1, 354. I workout 4-5 days per week, so my activity multiplier would be 1.55.
1354X1.55 = 2,100 calories burned per day.
Step 2: Determine your macronutrient needs.
Macronutrients are a fancy word for the different types of food that you eat. Protein, carbs, and fats are the three main macronutrients. My personal training certification is from the International Sports Sciences Association, and they recommend a macronutrient ratio of 1 part fat, 2 part protein, and 3 part carbohydrates of your daily intake for optimal health. One gram of protein has 4 calories, as does carbohydrates, and 1 gram of fat has 9 calories.
- Divide daily maintenance caloric needs by 6: 2100 (this is my basal metabolic rate, don’t forget to use your own!) /6 = 350
- Grams of fat needed per day (1 part): 350/9 (there are 9 calories in 1 gram of fat) = 39g fat per day
- Grams of protein per day (2 parts): 350x 2 = 700, 700/4 (there are 4 calories in one gram of protein) = 175g protein per day
- Grams of carbohydrates per day (3 parts): 350×3 = 1050, 1050/4 = 262g carbohydrates per day
Step 3: Zig Zag
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found that you can lose more body fat more effectively by zigzagging your calories. When you lose weight, your basal metabolic rate decreases. So, the more you lose, the less you have to eat to maintain your weight. That’s not good for an active person who needs to maintain their energy levels.
So to avoid this, the scientists found that if you eat below your maintenance levels for a short time (decreasing body fat) and then briefly eat above maintenance (increasing body fat, but not as high as before), you can lose fat and build muscle, while ensuring that your basal metabolic rate does not drop too low.
Here’s how to put it into action:
- For 4-5 days of the week, on rest days and lower activity days, reduce your intake by 2 calories per pound of body weight: 140 x 2 = 280 > 2100 – 280 = 1820
- For 2-3 days of the week, on higher activity days like your leg day and back day, increase your intake by 2 calories per pound of lean body weight: 2100 + 280 = 2390
Step 4: Determine your daily macronutrient requirements for your new daily calorie needs.
When cutting calories, you want to make sure that you first reduce your intake of saturated and unhealthy fats (like fried foods and chocolate), and then from unhealthy carbohydrates (like cookies and cakes), and last from healthier carbohydrates (like brown rice and quinoa). You never want to reduce your intake from protein.
Let’s start with your lower calorie days. Assuming that most, if not all of your calories from fat for the day are coming from healthy sources like avocados, olive oil, almonds, etc, we will only factor in your calorie reduction from carbs. Here’s what you do:
1. Go back to step 2, where you determined how many calories from protein, carbs, and fat you need per day. Add the amounts for protein and fat together. Then, subtract that number from the number you found in the first equation of step three (the amount of calories you’re going to be eating for 4-5 days per week. Using my numbers, it looks like this:
- 350 calories from fat + 700 calories from protein = 1050
- 1820 – 1050 = 770
2. This number is the amount of calories you have left, after you’ve counted for protein and fat. Divide this number by 4, and that is how many grams of carbs you need to eat per day, on your low calorie days. It looks like this:
- 770 / 4 = 192 grams of carbohydrates per day
3. Do the same for your high calorie day. My numbers look like this:
- 2390 – 1050 = 1350
- 1350 / 4 = 335 grams of carbohydrates per day (high calorie day)
This is what a week would look like for me, in terms of calories:
4-5 days per week: 1820 calories, 39g fat, 175g protein, and 192g carbs.
2-3 days per week: 2390 calories, 39g fat, 175g protein, and 335g carbs.
These numbers may seem high to some, and low to others. Some will do better on less calories than these calculations determine, and some will do better on more. The most important thing is to listen to your body, it is your best guide. You should be losing 1-1.5 pounds per week with these calculations. Many people when looking to lose weight want to do it fast. The problem with fast weight loss is that it is just that: weight loss. Fast weight loss usually involves losing mass from your vital tissues, muscles, and organs. What you actually want is fat loss.
The key to this nutritional program is strength training. Cardiovascular exercise alone is not sufficient to lose fat. Incorporating an appropriate strength training routine into your fat loss strategy will help to shape your muscles and increase your metabolism.
If you feel as though you are losing weight too quickly, increase your calories. If you feel you are not losing weight fast enough or you are gaining weight, try decreasing your calories, or your carbohydrates, or both, but only a little bit at a time.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Nutrition VS Calories
Fitness: The Complete Guide, by Frederick Hatfield
International Sports Science Association Certified Personal