Fat loss isn’t difficult. However, understandably, it can be confusing when the volume of information available to people can be overwhelming; new fads, wonder supplements, quick fixes, snake oil salesman and general misinformation based on anecdotal evidence.
So, if you are a beginner what should you do to avoid all of the confusion and give yourself the best chance possible to make a success of your fat loss journey? It’s important to realise that in order to achieve and maintain long term fat loss you must be prepared to make sustainable lifestyle changes.
The time it takes to lose the weight will be relative to the time it took to put it on in the first place. Always remember that there is never a perfect quick-fix solution to losing body fat.
It may surprise you that when looking at fat loss, exercise alone isn’t a very good method. Let me explain; let’s say you go to the gym – you work hard, build up a sweat and get out of breath for 40 mins or so.
You may, if you’re working hard, burn 300 calories. Well nutritionally speaking that’s incredibly easy to replace. All that hard work can be undone by 1 mars bar and half a digestive biscuit with your mid-afternoon tea! Now don’t get me wrong, you should be exercising but I just want to emphasise that your nutrition is going to be the make or break for your fat loss.
Calories need to be reduced (not a lot) to lose weight. So how do you start? Begin tracking your intake on an app like MyFitnessPal for a period of two weeks. It’s an easy system to track your food on a daily basis and from there we’ll soon build a picture up of your average daily intake.
Without knowing this you cannot estimate an accurate number of calories to consume to lose weight. When you do establish your average daily intake then what you need to do is then establish a reasonable and maintainable reduction (250-300 calories) to enable you to start losing weight.
COMPONENTS OF YOUR DIET
Protein is an essential nutrient when body composition is the focus. Building muscle, maintaining lean mass or reducing body fat are all going to be improved by increasing your protein intake.
For anyone looking to reduce body fat, it can often be recommended to increase protein intake to around 1.5-2g per kg of body weight per day (for example, a 70kg individual will be looking to consume anything from 105-140g of protein per day).
As well as increasing recovery from the exercise, a higher protein intake will also increase feeling of satiety, particularly in comparison to carbohydrates. A simple way for achieving this higher protein intake would be to consume 20-30g of protein every 3-4 hours a day, pushing a further 20g around training sessions, usually shortly after training.
Certainly, the nutrient with the worst reputation and one that may need some consideration if weight loss is the goal. The most important thing to bear in mind with carbohydrate intake and fat loss, is the timing, type and total. If training intensity is low, it could always be recommended to consume a lower carbohydrate intake across the day (typically 200-300g is classed as ‘low’), this should come from low GI, nutrient dense carbohydrates (such as fruit, vegetables, leafy greens, sweet potato, brown rice etc).
Where possible, pick carbohydrate sources with a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio of carbohydrate to fibre. Fibre is important for multiple reasons including gut health and satiety. If the ratio is less than that (10:1, 20g of carbohydrates and 2g of fibre) chances are you’ll have a spike in energy followed by a crash. Where possible we need to avoid these ‘pump and dumps’ in blood sugar to allow for a more consistent steady flow of energy.
Forget what you have heard about fat being bad for us, the truth is that fat intake is important for fat loss. It can be recommended to increase fat intake to around 0.8-1g daily, per kg body weight. This should come from a combination of saturated (coconut oil etc), monounsaturated (range of nuts) and polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 and 6).
A lot of foods will contain a good balance of different types of fats, so vary your choices. Fat will play a role in satiety as well so combining protein and fat at meal times that aren’t around training is a good idea to keep yourself full.