Going to the gym a few times a week, seeing improvements in strength and fitness week on week, and even adding a bit of cardio on your off days - although a great start, you NEED the last piece of the puzzle to start seeing fat loss!
“Okay, simple enough, what do I need to eat?”
Nowadays on social media, you’ll see people promoting all sorts of diets from the Paleo or the Vegan diet, all the way to the Low-Carb and even the Moon/Lunar diet. All these diets have advocates that swear by them, they won’t stop going on and on about the benefits, and ultimately why you should also be on it making you think, “so... which diet should I actually follow?”
Let me break it to you as simply as possible. The best diet for fat loss is the diet that has you on a CALORIC DEFICIT. Even if it’s the unconventional Moon Diet that has you fasting when it’s a full moon, as long as you are in a caloric deficit, you can be guaranteed to lose weight.
The actual diet plan you decide to go for doesn’t matter so much, but what is important is that the plan you choose has to be the plan that YOU CAN ADHERE TO. If you find the Ketogenic (ultra-low carb diet) to be sustainable, then do that. If not eating carbs will mean the end of the world, then obviously it shouldn’t be what you decide to go on!
“That makes sense. So where do I start?”
So firstly, we need to determine your daily calorie intake to create a deficit. Generally, 11 x body weight in pounds (lb) will have the average person on a deficit. Taking a 200lb man as an example, his caloric intake would be 2,200kcal a day. For some people, this general number will be too low or too high. The ideal rate of weight loss is between ~0.5-1.5% of bodyweight weekly where 1.5% would be quite aggressive, and 0.5% slightly slower but less mentally taxing. You can see how your weight moves and how you feel and adjust the daily calories to meet your goals.
“But what do I eat?”
Let’s talk about what the body needs - specifically, the three macronutrients: Proteins, Fats, and Carbohydrates.
Firstly, you want enough protein in your diet. Research shows you need sufficient protein in your diet to ensure as much muscle mass retention during a diet. This is because when you lose fat, you will inevitably lose some muscle mass. The magic number for protein intake depends on your body weight, body fat percentage, and age, but a general recommendation, and in most cases more than sufficient, would be 1g per pound (lb) of body weight. Using our previous 200lb man as an example, his daily protein intake would be 200g. Protein has 4kcal per gram, so this means 800kcal of the 2,200 daily calories should be from protein.
Secondly, research shows that sufficient fat intake is necessary for hormone balance, and in general this should be a minimum of 25-30% of your daily caloric intake from fats. Using 25% our 200lb man would have 25% of 2,200 calories = 550kcal from fat. Fat is 9kcal per gram so that equates to roughly 60g of fat daily.
Lastly, we can fill the rest with either Carbohydrates or Fat, or even Protein depending on what diet we choose. Assuming a carb based diet (as most people will be eating carbs) we will fill it with purely carbs. Our calculation would this be 2,200 (total daily calories) - 800 (protein) - 550 (fat) = 850kcal, and since carbs are 4kcal per gram, roughly 210g from carbs. You can mix and match the carbs for protein and fats depending on what works for you best.
“Does meal timing matter?”
Well, think about how you usually like to eat. Are you five meals per day sort of person? Do you prefer to fast all day and have one enormous meal? Studies have shown meal timing to be of less importance when it comes to fat loss than overall calories and protein intake. So structure your diet plan to best match your lifestyle!
Dieting doesn’t have to be over-complicated!
Stick to your selected macros and monitor your weight loss! As long as you are losing 0.5-1.5% a week while keeping your weight training up, you can be sure that you are losing fat and progressing on your diet! In the end, adherence is the most important factor, so find and structure a diet that you know you can sustain!