Four Truths about Eating for Fat Loss
So you want to get rid of that awful muffin top. Now! But how? As with many nutrition-related topics, the average person just doesn't know what to believe anymore. Sometimes, even nutritionists don't know what to think of recommendations that are put out to the public. Depending on which industry funds a study or what politics surround the information, what you're reading could be garbage. Am I supposed to eat fewer carbs? Less fat? Fewer calories overall? We understand that all this conflicting information is confusing.
Any of these approaches may work to some extent - but which one is the gold standard? Which option will give me the quickest results yet also be sustainable over time? After all, there's no point in losing fat quickly (a "get-skinny-quick" scheme) to gain it back just as fast due to the unsustainable quality of your methods.
Despite all the noise and confusion, there are FOUR TRUTHS about eating for fat loss that you should remember:
1. You must plan your meals and snacks ahead of time.
Prior planning prevents a poor diet. Successful planning looks different for many people, but the general recommendation for my clients is to have a “bank” of favorite, simple healthy meals and snacks. At least once a week, create a grocery list including meals from your bank and shop with that list in hand. Here is a blank meal planning template I use with my clients.
Invest in a big lunch box and meal prep containers to bring your foods with you wherever you go. We are constantly on the go, so it’s essential to have a plan in place when you know you’ll be out and about. This strategy also serves to help you stay away from drive-thru windows, ordering takeout, or propping up on the restaurant bar after a long day.
2. Eat small, frequent meals.
This notion has certainly stood the test of time, but not for the reason you might suspect. There is no evidence that eating small, frequent meals increases your metabolism or speeds fat loss. What eating this way does do, however, is help you avoid becoming hungry!
Hunger + lack of plan = diet disaster, a total lack of self-control, and eating the first thing you can get your hands on. In this state, your “survival brain” will leave you trying to find the food with the highest calorie content (SUGAR! FAT! NOW!) to make the hunger stop, and quickly! This is an inevitable part of life because, in reality, none of us can always remember or has time to eat small and frequent meals. Too many of these mistakes, however, can easily derail your efforts to get lean.
3. Calories eaten in excess of your body’s needs are stored as FAT.
Contrary to popular belief, and regardless of all of the bizarre nutrition research that comes out all the time, this truth also stands the test of time: The food that you eat in excess of your body's needs is converted into fat for storage by your liver. Period.
Some well-meaning co-worker brings donuts to the office. You just finished breakfast and it satisfied your hunger. But there it is… the donut is staring at you every time you walk in the break room. Does your body (your muscles, organs, cells, tissues) need that donut for nourishment? If the answer is no, then eating the donut and sitting down at your desk for the next 2 hours will do nothing for your trimming efforts. If you, however, ate the donut and headed to the gym for a moderate to an intense workout, your body will use the macros from that donut for quick energy. You sit, the donut sits on you. You work out, the donut works for you.
Now… I’m not saying you should eat a donut before your workout. What I have highlighted here is that your activity level can determine how your body uses the calories you ingest. Consider this when making decisions about food. Will my body use it, or not?
4. Protein, carbs and fat will vary from person to person
The best ratios of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) will vary from person to person depending on current body composition, fitness goals, and activity levels. The following percentages will serve as a great starting point for anyone to get off to a great fat-burning start.
Protein: 10-35% total calories. Each gram of protein contains 4 calories. For a 2000 calorie diet, this would be 50-175 grams per day. Eating the upper level of protein will help you stay full longer, and help to keep your blood sugars level throughout the day. These are also the building blocks of muscle tissue, and an adequate intake is a requirement if you want to keep your muscles intact while losing the fat pounds. Examples: lean meats, fish, eggs, beans, Greek yogurt, milk, nuts, tofu, quinoa.
Fat: 20-35% total calories. Each gram of fat contains 9 calories. For a 2000 calorie diet, this would be 30-65 grams per day. The best quality fats in the diet are those from plant-based sources Examples: avocados, nuts, seeds, vegetable and fruit oils.
Carbs: 30-70% total calories. Each gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories. For a 2000 calorie diet, this would come out to 150-350 grams per day. Ensure that >50% of your carbohydrate grams are from a complex carbohydrate source. Examples: whole grain bread, pasta, rice, legumes, oatmeal, all fruits and vegetables.
Aim for a loss of 0.5-1% body weight per week to ensure maintenance of lean body mass (muscle). Whatever you do in your fat loss efforts, you want to avoid at all cost the loss of your lean body tissue in the process.
Incorporate these Four Truths into your fat loss program, and you’ll be well on your way to success.