You can workout as hard and as often as you want, but unless you just have really great genetics that lend your body to lightning fast resting metabolism and a high tolerance to carbohydrates, it is going to be virtually impossible to see visible fat loss.
Here’s what you need to consider
- The types of calories you are eating right now are probably more important than the amount of calories you are eating. For example, if you are currently eating 2,000 calories per day of fast food, and started eating 2,500 calories per day of steak and asparagus, which diet do you think you will start losing fat on? PLEASE say the latter.
- You need the right balance of macronutrients (where your calories are coming from) for your body type, genetic propensities, etc.
- You can lose a lot of fat and get leaner by eating proteins and vegetables until you’re stuffed, but if you want to get to six pack ab status, you need to eat a calorie deficit.
- Quantifying everything is essential so that you know how to make adjustments and tweaks to your diet, to get the desired body composition.
Types and Quantities of Calories
If you are really serious about losing body fat, dialing in and experimenting with the types and amounts of calories that you are consuming are now priority numero uno.
You need to be tracking the quantities and types of foods that you are eating so that you know what your body likes and doesn’t like, in terms of shedding stubborn fat. Once you get to the point where you know the exact nutrient balance and total calories that you need daily to maintain your goal body fat percentage, I recommend that you keep tracking for 6-12 months before you decide to stop.
That will give you and your body plenty enough time to internalize, estimate, and measure the exact quantities of the foods that you need to be eating to keep your composition and weight precisely where you want it.
1) How Many Calories Do I need Daily?
The amount of calories you are consuming daily is most dependent on your current weight, body type, level of activity, and genetic propensities. For instance, someone who works on their feet and spends most of the day walking, lifting, and carrying is going to burn more calories than their twin who works a desk from 9-5.
I always start my clients with the rule of 10 to give them an idea of what their resting metabolic rate is, based on zero activity per week. The rule of 10 is simply taking your body weight in pounds and multiplying that by 10.
Example: Say I’m 190. My estimated resting metabolic rate (NOT considering my daily activity levels) is going to be about 1,900 cal/day.
Now since that’s just an approximation, there is a little flexibility with that estimate, which is why I give myself and my clients a 10% buffer on either end, to start with.
So estimated resting metabolism (still not considering activity) is somewhere between
1,710 – 2,090 calories per day.
Say I want to lose body fat, that would be the calorie range that I would eat within, while I monitor my waist size, weight, and body fat percentage.
That number is obviously going to change, contingent upon your fat loss and weight loss, so you may have to adjust that range every 4-6 weeks, depending on your progress.
What About Calorie Calculations with Exercise?
If you are exercising while you are losing body fat, which I would highly recommend, you would simply want to make sure that your net calories for the day falls within the range listed above.
Going back to my previous example: Let’s say that I eat about 2,200 calories one day, and expend 300 calories during 45 minutes of strength training.
2,200 calories consumed – 300 calories of energy expended = 1,900 calories. Well within my goal calorie range.
Now you can see some pretty decent progress while eating the same foods that you are right now if you are managing to eat a caloric deficit, but if you want to get your friends to go from saying…
“It looks like you’ve been working out”
“Wow! You look amazing. What have you been doing?”
Every time you are in your bathing suit, you are going to need much more than a calorie deficit to get to the wow-factor abs and physique.
2) Get Acquainted with Macronutrients
Different bodies and different body types have different caloric needs for losing fat or building muscle. There are the lucky few, ectomorphic body types that have absolutely no problem staying lean year round while stuffing their faces and eating dessert at every meal.
The grass is greener on YOUR side, and everyone has their own challenges. Remember that.
Sure, if you are a classic mesomorph or endomorph, you are going to have a harder time getting into abdominal-unveiling body fat percentages, but you are going to have much great capabilities for building muscle and functional strength. That is something that your ectomorphic friends and counterparts are going to struggle with, AND building muscle is a critical piece of fat loss and body composition maintenance.
Just in case you are totally unfamiliar with macronutrients and balances, let’s give you a little breakdown of what each of them do.
These are the macros that are always getting a bad rep, but unfortunately many of us need clarification on what qualifies as a good carbohydrate and a bad one.
- Potatoes, roots, and tubers
Most people just think of carbs as breads, pasta, grains, and desserts, but don’t recognize vegetables or fruits as carbs. Your body processes and utilizes potatoes similarly to grains. Keep that in mind as you read through this. Carbs are used for energy and energy storage. Carbohydrates clock in at 4 calories per gram.
Carbs are the touchiest macros when it comes to balancing them for your ideal body fat percentage. Some people can stay leaner while eating a ton of them, and some need to eat as few carbs as possible to get lean and stay there.
Rule of thumb: The less starches, the leaner you will be.
Fats primary functions in the body are energy production, organ function and regulation, and vitamin and nutrient absorption. Fats are actually your body’s preferred fuel, and should be a healthy portion of your diet, if they aren’t already.
Fats can come in both healthy and unhealthy varieties, and can even overlap with proteins.
- Cottage cheese
- Olive Oil
- Coconut oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Truffle oil, etc.
- Nuts and seeds
- Fattier meats
Fats clock in at 9 calories per gram, which may make them sound scary to you since your goal is fat loss. Not to fear, fat-centric diets are actually really helpful in conditioning mesomorphs and ectomorphs cut fat. Eating more fat and less carbohydrates for these body types help condition your body to use fat as it’s primary fuel source.
For the most part, I would recommend staying away from dairy while you are cutting.
It is virtually impossible to overdo it on healthy proteins. Proteins and fats are the most widely utilized and functional nutrients in the body. Proteins aid in the growth and repair of cells in your body. Oh yeah, and chains of them make up your DNA and RNA, so that’s pretty important. Eat your proteins!
Proteins come in an assortment of different packages too, and as I said, share some overlap with certain fats and even a few carbohydrates.
Since you are focusing on losing fat, I recommend eating a lot of lean meats. If you are vegetarian, go to egg whites, high protein veggies, beans, and legumes.
3) Identify Your Body Type
Referring to what we talked about earlier, your body type and genetics are two of the most influential components of your body’s composition and body fat set point, which is simply just the body fat percentage and weight that you naturally hover around. You already probably have a good idea of where your weight and body fat percentage likes to float.
Now, that set point that you have is pretty firm, but it can be moved to your benefit by making the right modifications to your diet, AND doing some resistance training or lifting some heavy stuff consistently.
Which body type are you? Here are celebrity examples of each to see which you line up with. Make sure you identify your body type before moving forward, because this is a super important part of the process for determining your macronutrient balance .
Ectomorph: Ryan Reynolds, Cameron Diaz, Anna Kendrick, Bradley Cooper
Characterized by: Long, lanky physiques, shallow muscle bellies, long limbs, and high tolerance to carbs (they can eat a lot of them without gaining an ounce of fat).
Mesomorph: Beyonce, Hugh Jackman, Gerard Butler, Jennifer Lope
Characterized by: Athletic physiques, defined and round muscle bellies. Can lose or gain fat and muscle fairly easily. Moderate carb tolerance.
Endomorph: Ashley Graham, Mindy Kaling, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson
Characterized by: Round muscle bellies, bigger builds and frames. Have the most trouble losing weight and fat, but can build muscle and strength fairly easily. Low carbohydrate tolerance.
Keep in mind, it’s fairly common that you may be a blend of two adjacent body types. You could be a less carb tolerant mesomorph (leaning toward endo) or an ectomorph that has more exaggerated muscle bellies, and/or is slightly less carb tolerant.
Use those celebrity examples to identify your body type.
4) Choose Your Ideal Macronutrient Balance for Fat Loss
For fat loss, you need to the right macro balance for your body type. At this point you probably have gotten the idea that endomorphs are going to be eating way less carbs than ectomorphs while losing fat, but what are the exact balances that will get your abs to pop out?
Macronutrient balances for ectomorphs:
- Carbs: 30-40%
- Proteins: 40-50%
- Fats: 10-20%
Mesomorph recommended macronutrient balance.
- Carbs: 20-30%
- Proteins: 30-40%
- Fats: 30-40%
Endomorph recommended macronutrient balance.
- Carbs: 10-20%
- Proteins: 40-50%
- Fats: 20-30%
Start a free account on My Fitness Pal and start measuring your food or go buy a good food scale. You can plug your daily calorie goal directly into your My Fitness Pal app, and they even give you a macro percentage breakdown and pie chart to keep you in check.
5) Meal Planning and Scheduling
After calculating the exact quantities and sources you are getting your calories from, the rest of the process is a simple matter of planning your meals and when you are going to eat.
Here are a few important notes on eating for ANY body type, with the goal of losing fat.
- Eat protein at every meal
- Eat vegetables at every meal
- If you are working out while losing fat, eat the the vast majority of your daily carbohydrates AFTER your workout.
- Get most of your carbohydrates from green, cruciferous veggies (not potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, squash, or other starchy vegetables)
- Focus on eating proteins, cruciferous vegetables, and healthy fats leading up to your workout.
The easiest way to start determining when and how you are going to eat, is to take your total daily net calories and divide that by the number of meals that you want to eat in a day.
Going back to my example, let’s say that I want to eat 4 meals per day.
1,710 / 4 = 427.5
2,090 / 4 = 522.5
So I want to make sure that I eat 427 – 522 calories at each meal. If I am awake for 16 hours per day, that means I need to be eating that amount of calories every 4 hours, if they are broken up evenly throughout the day.
Is there a Magic Number of Meals?
The number of meals is only valuable in the sense that you need to eat as many meals as you need personally to make you feel satisfied. Personally, I’m fine with eating one or two meals per day, but I know some people who eat 3-4 meals and 1-2 snacks every day.
There’s little to no difference in your fat loss results vs. the number of meals that you eat daily. Pick the number and schedule that works best for you.
Breaking Plateaus with Metabolic Overloading
On your newly customized diet, you are going to start seeing results really quickly, and may track progress consistently for weeks or months, but you will inevitably hit a wall or plateau at some point.
Don’t get discouraged.
Do NOT Fall off track.
Your body just needs a little calculated shock to get you back on the fat loss track. If you have gone 1-2 weeks without seeing your body fat budge an inch, it’s time to jump-start your metabolic rate.
Give yourself one cheat meal (1-3 hours) where you can go wild! Eat anything you want and as much as you want. I like doing this for a weekend dinner. Then snap back to your normal diet and macro balance the next day. Monitor your weight and body composition for the next 5-7 days to see if that gets you back on track. That time frame should be just enough to accelerate your metabolism, but not too much as to destroy your results.
Temporary metabolic overloads or splurges serve as shocks to your metabolism. When you eat a deficit and see consistent fat loss, for an extended period of time, your metabolism naturally slows down. Those calculated cheats can jolt your metabolism back to life, and get you back on track.
When you get down to your ideal body composition, you can start having a cheat day or cheat meal every 7-10 days to keep your metabolism from tanking.
Recommended Exercise While Losing Fat
I highly recommend exercise while you are working toward sustainable fat loss, mainly because it is going to help give you that ripped, athletic definition that you probably want. Plus, muscle is a hardworking tissue. Harder working than fat, for sure.
Building lean muscle will help keep your metabolism higher and allow you to burn more calories at rest when you are cutting. Having more muscle on your frame also makes you significantly more resilient to gaining fat. Think of it as the high octane fuel for your new body, and a better insurance policy against the pizza you might want to eat later, after you hit your goal body composition.
I recommend that my clients do resistance training or weight training 3-5 times per week. Putting your workouts in metabolic energy circuits will make your results even better.
Fat Loss Expanded
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