While this is most certainly not a replacement for one-on-one coaching (not even close really), I wanted to post a quick-and-dirty “how to” guide on setting up a fat-loss diet. At this point, I’m not going to get into the “why” of most things, but am simply providing a really simple framework to get you started. This is not exhaustive by any means, but my hope is that it’ll get you out of the blocks and onto the track.
It is presumed that you’ll be weight training during this program as lifting is required to maintain muscle while losing fat. Cardio is subject to your own discretion, but often less is more. As a general rule, you should be aiming to do as little cardio as necessary to make progress, NOT as much as you can tolerate.
In any case, onto setting up the diet…
Step 1 – Set Calories
Assuming that 15 x bodyweight (in pounds) is a reasonable estimate for the number of calories required to maintain body weight (assuming a reasonably healthy metabolism; if you have been dieting for an extended period of time and eating much lower than this, I’d recommend going to this level for a couple weeks at least), a suitable place to start a plan would be to set calories at anywhere from 10-12 x bodyweight to create a deficit.
Personally, I like to generally start near the middle or top of that range as the ultimate goal would be to lose body fat while still being able to eat as much food as possible. (Very overweight people can go even lower – about 8-9 x bodyweight – as body fat is protective of the metabolic hormones)
As an example, 140-pound woman could set her calories anywhere from 1400 to 1680 calories. Again, starting on the low end may bring about results faster initially but it will invariably lead to more hunger and it doesn’t leave you any room to go down if weight loss does begin to plateau.
Step 2 – Set Protein Intake
Set protein intake at about 0.8 to 1.2 grams per pound of body weight (I personally like setting it around 1g per pound). If you happen to be very overweight, you can go a little lower than this (perhaps using a reasonable goal weight as a multiplier instead of your current weight).
Step 3 – Add in Omega 3’s
Add some Omega 3’s by including fish oil to give you a total of 1.8-3.0g of combined EPA and DHA per day. Though technically a supplement, these still have calories and you have to count them. Currently we are recommending the Ultimate Omega liquid by Nordic Naturals as the EPA and DHA are in triglyceride form and it is relatively cost effective.
Step 4 – Fill in the Rest
Once you’ve accounted for your protein and fish oils, you can essentially fill in the rest of your calorie requirements with carbohydrates and fats depending on your needs/preferences. Despite what you may have read, carbohydrates do not need to be eliminated to lose fat so don’t feel that this is a necessary element of a fat-loss plan. In fact, it is better that you maintain a reasonable amount of them in your diet as they will help maintain thyroid function and fuel higher intensity training.
Step 5 – Create Your Meals
Break down your calories and macros over the desired number of meals per day using a site like CalorieKing.com to determine the amounts. As part of this breakdown, make sure that you’ve included some form of protein in the post-workout meal. It doesn’t necessarily have to be protein powder, but this does make allow for a great deal of convenience.
Most of our clients use Trutein from Body Nutrition as a great-tasting option. Trutein is available from the Body Nutrition website at a 20% discount using the coupon code LBC20.
This meal should also contain some low-fat carbs numbering from about 30 to 50 grams depending on goals, body size, etc. These carbs can either come from things like rice and potatoes or delicious low-fat Skinny Cow ice cream bars based on your preference.
Once completed, this should give you a general framework for your initial nutrition program.
Step 6. Execute
Start your plan with a weigh in, some measurements you can do reliably, and some photos. Then simply, follow your plan relentlessly for two weeks to get a caloric baseline.
Step 7: Assess and Adjust
The calorie estimates you used to create your initial program are just that; estimates. They are needed to get you started, but you’ll often require adjustments to fine tune your plan and find the appropriate number for YOU.
After two weeks, repeat your starting measurements and make an assessment of progress. If you’ve been sticking to your plan and not making progress then you can adjust in terms of exercise or diet and then implement the plan for another two weeks until you’re able to start making progress.
However, if your nutritional compliance and/or training has not been good, you likely will not see any progress at this point. But under no circumstances should you be changing a program that you haven’t been following as it isn’t the program that is failing. It is your compliance. You’ll need to sort that out first.
Further to that, it is important to remember that progress is rarely ever going to come as quickly as you want it to come, but if you’re moving forward then you don’t adjust. Stick to the plan and be patient. More is not always better.
All in all, that should provide a basic primer on developing your fat-loss diet. Now there are no more excuses.
Make it happen!
See other articles where we’ve addressed the question of whether you should add back calories for exercise you’ve performed, how to add dietary variety while remaining on plan, and a tip for overcoming hunger when dieting.
Also, learn about the top 10 not-so-obvious fat-loss mistakes you might be making.