Tracking calories and macros seems to be the ‘in thing’ right now in the industry with more and more fit pros recommending it (myself included at a certain point in a clients journey) for successful, enjoyable and sustainable fat loss.
Don’t get me wrong, losing weight (fat) has always been about creating an energy deficit (this is the law of thermodynamics) meaning in order to lose weight you must expend more energy in terms of daily activity, exercise and movement, than you take in via food and drink.
However, when I got into the industry 11 years ago we were NOT taught this – instead it was all about the very dated ‘Food Pyramid’ where up to 6 portions of carbohydrates per day were recommended which actually led to some of my early clients gaining weight!!
Years later it moved towards the paleo diet which was based around minimal starchy carbs, high protein and moderate fat. I got great results from this way of eating and actually got at my leanest in my early 30s. I thought this was due to cutting carbs; I now know it was due to creating a calorie deficit by cutting out starches and mainly replacing with a tonne of veggies which were way lower in calories.
Also ramping up my protein kept me fuller for longer meaning I was less likely to snack which I always felt like on the higher carbohydrate diet.
It was a method that I preached to clients for a LONG time and to be honest this method still forms the basis of a lot of my principles – eat lots of veggies, eat plenty of protein and focus on whole foods in general.
In the last few years we have seen the emergence of what is known as flexible dieting which had gotten a lot of stick initially because a lot of people that promoted it would bang on about eating pizza and ice cream and still losing weight.
I initially laughed at this approach but as I spoke recently there soon came a time where I could no longer adhere to the strict paleo approach and would often end up binging on ‘dirty foods’ and feeling guilty.
This was due to becoming a father of two young boys in under 2 and a half years and therefore extremely sleep deprived, under financial pressure plus expanding my business and going VAT registered – try being the ultra clean eater under all that pressure!!
So this was when I started to look at the more flexible approach and how it could work.
What I found out was that all these people banging on about getting great results whilst eating pizza and ice cream were actually only eating that stuff like 15% of the time whilst the rest of their diet was 85% clean, healthy, whole foods; whatever you want to call it.
They lost weight eating these foods because they created a daily calorie deficit which would allow them daily treats (if thats what you want to call it) as long as certain targets were met.
With the emergence of apps like MyFitnessPal or Fat Secret to track input and the things like Fit-Bits & Garmins to track output there has never been a better time to monitor your daily numbers.
I get emails daily from clients asking me to work out their macronutrient split but from talking to my peers on recent podcasts, to make things simple I believe there is only 2 things you should initially focus on to make life really simple.
1) CALORIES (sustainable deficit)
Workout a daily / weekly sustainable calorie deficit that you can adhere too over time. You can work this out on MyFitness pal by punching in your stats. However the one I have been using in the last 5 weeks and found to be most reliable is www.calculator.net
This has really helped me WAY more than relying on my FitBit which I believe to be out by up to 500 calories when it comes to expenditure.
If you want to lose 1lb a week, focus on a 500 calorie a day deficit to = 3500 cal weekly deficit.
If you want to lose 1.5lbs a week focus on a 750 deficit a day.
If you want to lose 2lbs a week focus on a 1000 cal deficit a day.
Now 1lb a week may not seem fast enough or sexy enough, however think about sustainability. You could play the long game and lose a stone in 14 weeks or 20lbs in 20 weeks without any real suffering as a 500 cal a day deficit is pretty easy to maintain.
Remember the more weight you want to lose, the more aggressive the deficit needed and you have to think about how long you can adhere to that.
If you are looking at losing a lot of weight then you will have to accept some muscle loss. However if you are keeping protein intake HIGH and lifting weights then you can actually retain and build small amounts of muscle whilst maintaining a daily deficit. Ive seen hundreds of clients do this over the years.
So how much do you need?
Well as a guide if you are pretty sedentary then take your weight in kilos and multiply it by 1.0.
Therefore if you were 90kgs you would need 90g of protein.
If you are pretty active and training up to 3 x per week I would multiply it by 1.5. Therefore a 90kg man would need 135g of protein.
If you are very active, on your feet all day, lifting weights, running, playing sports you could multiply bodyweight by between 1.8 and 2.0. Therefore based on a 90kg man you would need anything up to 180g protein.
FYI, Im currently working off 2200 cals a day with 180g protein (goal is fat loss and muscle retention) and example of what my food would look like to hit my protein goals on a busy day coaching would be.
1 x chicken breast
1 x tin of tuna
1 x 300g tub of cottage cheese
2 x low calorie protein shakes
1 x Grenade Carb killa bar
Obviously that’s just protein intake; I’d be filling my plates with plenty of salad and veggies too.
So there you have it guys, focus on calories and protein and the rest will take care of itself. Got a training day ahead, factor in some carbs pre and post, whatever suits really.