Readers, Part 1 of Weight Loss Basics asked you to keep an online food log for 1-2 weeks. Anyone surprised at what they found? I’ve done this periodically since the late 90’s and every time I am surprised and any questions I had were clearly answered. How’s that?
Well keeping an ‘honest’ – how you’ve been eating that got you to this point log and not how you think you should eat will usually paint a very clear picture. Prior to reigning in my laissez faire eating from about mid November to early March here’s what I found:
• I was consuming too many calories
• I was consuming too much fat
• My carbohydrate intake was inconsistent and did not coincide with my training days
• I was not consuming enough protein
Both nutrition and exercise are important in the weight loss equation but nutrition is at least 80% of the game.
Formulate a plan
Based on what that told me I knew what I needed to do. My game plan was clear – eat less overall calories, less fat, manage carbohydrate intake dependent on training and eat more protein.
Simple, right? Yes and no. Knowing how many calories you need and what percentage of each macronutrient are not always so easily determined especially if you haven’t been obsessed with your nutritional intake for a couple of decades. Let’s attempt to simplify and create a starting point.
We already determined in Part 1 that they matter. Eating too little can slow the metabolism and eating too many can increase body fat. And there are many variables that contribute to this; age, gender, activity level, state of health and genetics. That could be an entire series in and of itself so this ‘guideline’ is very general.
The goal is to lose weight; a general place to start is with 15 calories or less per pound of bodyweight*.
*If you’re somewhat close to your goal weight (within 10 to 15 pounds) and you’re active (working out 3-5 times per week) use that formula. If you’ve got a lot of weight to lose (15++ pounds) and/or are sedentary go off of per pound of LBM and start with about 12-13 calories. If you fall between the 2 examples, adjust accordingly.
Stay there for at least 2 weeks and see what happens. Scale move down? Good, continue. Scale move up? Reduce incrementally and monitor for another 2 weeks. Scale stuck? Could need more, could need less. Take your best guess, stay the course for 2 weeks and adjust in a small increment accordingly.
Needs vary. Are you a hard training athlete or a couch potato? Hard training athletes need more protein to repair the muscles they are continually breaking down; 1.0 – 1.25 g per pound of body weight or LBM. Couch potatoes will be fine with about .75 g per pound of body weight or LBM. If you’re between the 2 examples adjust accordingly.
Flesh begets flesh. Argue all you want but you need meat, fowl or seafood. Beans and peas won’t cut it, it needs to have had a face and a soul. There is no vegetable protein that is complete (has all the essential amino acids required) no matter how you ‘combine’ them.
Carbs & Fat
Low fat, high fat, low carb, high carb?? What route to go. Most important thing is to recognize that these are both energy sources and need to be balanced. Some people run better on a higher percentage of one or the other. Also you must choose the right fuel or energy source for your activities.
The hard training athlete that regularly lifts heavy weights and sprints generally needs more carbohydrates. That is the fuel used in the dominant energy systems they are working in. A couch potato or someone that engages primarily in low level aerobic activity will require less carbs and a higher fat intake as that will be a more efficient energy source for them.
Consider Body Type
Yes, body type should also be a portion of the overall macro nutrient equation. This falls under the ‘genetics’ variable and they do matter. If you’re more of an Ectomorphic tendency (tall, skinny hardgainer) then you’ll do best with a slightly higher carb intake, moderate protein and a little lower on the fat end. Mesomorphs (relatively lean and muscular, lose or gain without much difficulty) do best at around 40/30/30 carb/protein/fat. Endomorphs (not the most blessed genetically, gain weight easily) do best with slightly lower carbs, moderate protein and slightly higher fat intake.
Of course this will still all need to be factored in with your goals and activity type and level. Confused and overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. . .
Tampa Bay area residents CF Jaguar is hosting a Paula Lean Weight Loss Basics seminar on Thursday, July 9 at 6:45 pm. Open to the public.
Non TB area residents: online coaching available, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details