A Blueprint for Weight Loss
The Weight Loss Blueprint is your comprehensive weight loss guide. You will learn about how to set your target weight loss calories and macros, how to break through weight loss plateaus, how to monitor your progress and much more.
Before I do a deep dive into my weight loss blueprint, I should begin with stating the only way to lose weight is by being in a calorie deficiency. Your calorie deficit is going to be different for you when compared to someone else the same age, sex, height and weight. There many variables to consider in determining your calorie deficit including what you do for work, your exercise program, or even how active you are when you are not exercising and not at work. In my post, I am going to provide an overview of some of the basics of getting started with weight loss and give you some tools for success.
5 Ways to Determine Your Calorie Deficiency
As I said at the beginning of this article, the key to weight loss is being in a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit simply means eating fewer calories than your body uses to do everyday functions and extra activities from exercise. How do you determine what your calorie deficit is for weight loss?
Here are 5 different of ways you can determine your calorie deficiency for weight loss.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is a measurement of how many calories you burn per day through normal body functions and movement. You can use a TDEE calculator to determine your maintenance calories. The results from the calculator is estimated number of calories you need to eat to maintain your body weight. Once you know your estimated TDEE you can reduce your calories by 250 calories daily to get weight loss started.
Weight Loss Calculator
Weight loss calculators are a great way to determine a starting calorie deficiency for weight loss. There are many weight loss calculators available on the web. Each calculator is going to give you different results because the coding behind the calculator is going to be different. If you are going to use a weight loss calculator, choose one and stick with it. Do not use multiple calculators to determine your calorie deficiency and be surprised they are all different, especially since I just said they would. Some calculators are going to set your starting calories for weight loss at 20% deficiency, some will set them higher or lower. Also, some calculators can factor medical conditions into the calculations and some do not. These calculations are just an estimate and can be a great starting place. Your calories might need to be adjusted if they end up being too high for weight loss. My calculator not only provides you recommended calories for weight loss but it also will give you a macro breakdown based on your preferences. Find out your starting weight loss calories using my Weight Loss Calculator.
Easy Weight Loss Calculations
One popular method of determining your calorie deficiency for weight loss is taking your goal body weight in lbs. and multiply by 12. Example: Goal Body Weight is 125. 125 x 12 = 1,500 calories per day. This method is a sure-fire way to see weight loss quickly. One draw back to this method is that you could lose the same amount of weight eating more calories. I would recommend this method for short term weight loss goals of 20 lbs or less.
It is time to pull out the old pencil and paper and do the math yourself. If you are frustrated with all the weight loss calculators giving you conflicting results then figure out your calorie deficiency for weight loss by manually calculate your own calories. Not sure where to even begin? I got you covered. The first step is to calculate BMR. There are couple BMR calculations that many calculators use to base their algorithms on, one is the Mifflin St Jeor equation and the other is the Katch-Mcardle formula.
Mifflin St Jeor Equation (BMR)
While many calculators initially used the Harris-Benedict formula, the Mifflin-St Jeor equation is believed to give the most accurate result. Many calculators use this formula today to calculate BMR. The Mifflin St Jeor equation for BMR formula is as follows:
BMR (kcal / day) = 10 * weight (kg) + 6.25 * height (cm) – 5 * age (y) + s (kcal / day),
where s is +5 for males and -161 for females.
Here is a link to a calculator using the Miffline St Joer Equation https://www.omnicalculator.com/health/bmr#how-to-calculate-bmr-the-bmr-formula
Individuals who are younger, more active, taller, and heavier have greater caloric needs. If you do have body fat/lean mass then you can use the Katch-Mcardle formula.
The Katch-Mcardle formula requires determination of lean body mass which is Weight in kg x (100-(Body Fat)) / 100
Then, BMR is calculated as (21.6 x Lean Body Mass in kg) + 370.
Here is a link to a calculator using the Katch-Mcardle formula https://www.omnicalculator.com/health/bmr-katch-mcardle
After you have determined your BMR using either equation above, you multiple your BMR by an activity multiplier to determine your daily caloric needs.
There are different activity multipliers based on how active you are in your daily life.
|Sedentary (little or no exercise)|
(light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week)
10K -12K Steps
|Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week)|
(hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week)
|Extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training)||1.9|
When determining which active level you fall into consider what you are doing outside of exercise and what you do for work and whether you primarily sit or stand. These factors are far more important when calculating activity level than the 1 hour you exercise a couple times a week.
You may have heard two terms BMR and RMR and you have wondered if they are the same thing.
BMR vs RMR
Resting Metabolism Rate (RMR) vs Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) are two terms that get interchanged a lot but they are different. Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of energy a human body uses when it is completely at rest. It’s the amount of energy your body needs to support its vital functions: breathing, blood circulation, controlling body temperature, brain and nerve functions to name a few. Resting Metabolic Rate is a measure of a human body energy expenditure without performing any additional activities (so at rest) like BMR. However, there is a slight difference. Resting Metabolic Rate also includes the energy used for the digestion of food.
Since we are on the topic of BMR, let’s talk about metabolism.
I am confused, what is Metabolism anyway?
The word metabolism gets thrown around a lot in the weight loss arena as if it were one thing but each person has a unique basal metabolic rate. Your BMR is not sole determined on your weight. Here are a couple factors to consider that are included in BMR:
- Fat Free Mass (FFM): FFM is the weight of your body minus fat tissue. This includes muscles and organs. Two individuals with the same weight but the one with more muscle who have a higher metabolism than the one with more body fat because muscle uses energy even at rest. This is one of the reasons fitness professionals encourage you to include strength training in their exercise program.
- Fat Mass (FM): FM is the weight of the fat that is in your body. While it does not have the same impact as fat free mass is a contributor to metabolic rate.
- Age: As we age, we gain more weight due to normal growth which increases metabolism. When we reach a certain age, our metabolism begins to decline. This is most likely due to less active lifestyle, higher fat mass, and lower fat free mass. It is even more critical as your lives change as you get older to make strength training a daily part of activity to maintain lean muscle and support higher metabolism rates.
- Gender: Males statistically have higher BMR’s than women because they carry more fat free mass than females. This is the reason men are able to lose weight at a much higher percentage than females.
- Genetics: As previously mentioned above you have a unique physiology because you are a unique person right down to your genetics. This is the reason you can not measure your progress or set your calorie intake based on someone else’s general demographic information i.e. height, weight, age, or gender.
- Strength Training: Remember that Fat Free Mass plays a role in BRM. Strength training as part of your exercise program build muscles to allow you to develop more fat free mass. The higher the fat free mass the more calories you burn at rest. Time to get lifting!
- Body Temperature: When your body is at a higher temperature, like when you have a fever, your body will begin to work harder to regulate body temperature and fight off sickness. This is one reason that you will hear people say not to reduce your calories because you are moving less because your bodies processes are working harder and need the fuel.
- Environmental Temperature: Individuals who live in colder environments can have an increased metabolism because your body is working hard to maintain your body temperature in the colder weather.
- Hormones: Hormones are produced by glands to regulate functions in your organs and tissues. The thyroid gland is the one that has the most impact on BMR. The hormones secreted by this gland are responsible to regulating metabolism rate. When the hormones from the thyroid gland are in high concentration in the blood your BRM is elevated and vice versa.
- Pregnancy: When a woman is pregnant, she will have a higher metabolism because she must consider the metabolism of the fetus as well when calculating BMR. Typically, around the second and third trimester is when a woman would increase her intake by 300-500 calories to support the development of her unborn baby.
The last, and most accurate way to determine your calorie deficiency for weight loss is tracking your food that you eat normally for 2 weeks and notate your weight daily. After two weeks of tracking all the food you ate and documenting your daily weight. Based on average calories for each week and your average weight between week one and week two determine did you lose, maintain or gain weight?
If you gained weight then you may be eating in a surplus. Reduce your calories by 150-200 and repeat the process of comparing the current week to the next week.
If you lost weight then you are in a deficiency. But could that deficiency be too large? That would depend on if you have been hardly eating or you altered your food choices because you said you were going on a diet. If you did not make any adjustments to your food choices and you lost .5 to 1% of total body weight then you are in an appropriate deficiency. These calories are a great starting place for your weight loss journey. If your deficiency is too large, increase calories by 100 and compare the current week to next week of increased calories.
If you maintained your weight then reduce calories by 150-200 calories to start the weight loss process.
The reason I say this is the most accurate way is because this is based on your own unique physiology and how your body response. It does not start at estimations. It starts with you as a unique individual.
As you can see finding your caloric intake for weight loss can be calculated in many different ways. The key is whatever way you choose to determine your calorie deficiency stick with that one method. Hopping from one method to the next without consistently follow the first one for 1 to 2 months is just going to add to confusion and can become overwhelming. You want to make weight loss as simple as possible.
Case Study: Test Your Comprehension
Before I proceed to the next section, I want to provide you a case study.
Gina is a 5”6, 160lb female, age 25. She sits for her job 8 hrs. a day. She averages 10k steps per day. She works out 5 days a week doing strength training and is doing 3 sessions of 30 minutes of cardio each week.
Using the Mifflin St Jeor Equation (BMR) formula, you would calculate her BMR
(10 X 73 kg) + (6.25 X 168 cm) – (5 X 25 age) -161 = 1489 Calories
Multiplying by 1.55 for moderately active would put her calories at 2308 for maintenance. This is also referred to as TDEE. Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is a measure of how many calories you burn per day.
A 250-calorie deficiency for Gina would be 2058 calories, which would result in .5 lb. weight loss per week.
A 500-calorie deficiency for Gina would be 1808 calories, which would result in 1 lb. weight loss per week.
Choosing the Right Diet
Now that you have determined your calorie deficiency, you might be wondering what is the right diet for you for weight loss. There is no right or wrong answer here. The weight loss program you choose is unique to what works best with your lifestyle and how you eat. There will be people that tell you their diet is best and it helped them lose weight. Well, here is the truth, all diets work 100% of the time when people are in a calorie deficiency and there are no underlying medical factors that could be interfering with your weight loss. Why do some of the most popular diets like keto, whole 30 and weight watchers seem to work? Because they all put you in a calorie deficiency. Some diets are more restrictive than others and many just reduce calories by reducing or removing carbohydrates from your diet. Of course, you are going to lose weight if you automatically cut your calories in half of what you were eating because you are removing foods from your diet.
Low-carb, keto and other diets that remove carbs result in early weight loss. But there is a difference between weight loss and body fat. What you lose initially is water weight. Because part of carbohydrates is hydrate meaning water. When you eat carbs, your body has more fluctuations on the scale. But carbs are not a bad food to have in your diet. Carbs actually are important for brain and nervous system function as your body use glycose which starts as carbs to function efficiently. Have you ever been on a low carb diet and find you seem to be quick tempered, foggy thoughts, and tired? It is because your body is missing carbohydrates.
For me, I am a bit bias as I write this because I follow a more flexible diet model that includes all macro nutrients. I count my macros which allows me to get the right nutrition for my personal physique goals as a bodybuilding competitor.
As a coach, I believe that you have to find what works best for you and counting calories or macros is not a path I would recommend for everyone. Some people just need to make different choices and be given the tools to create well balance meals without all the tracking.
What Are Macros?
The foods you eat are comprised of nutrients called macronutrients they are proteins, carbs and fats. Each macronutrient is necessary for different functions in your body.
Each gram of protein is equal to 4 calories. Protein is a vital structural and working substance in all cells, not just muscle cells. Whenever the body is growing, repairing or replacing tissue, protein is involved. Protein forms the building blocks of muscle, blood, skin and all body cells. Protein also plays a role as hormones, fluid balance regulators, acid-base regulator, transporters, and antibodies. One of the most important benefits of protein when discussing dieting is that protein provides satiety and keeps you full longer. It also supports maintain lean muscle mass in a calorie deficiency. The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) results in 10% of protein consumed is burned as calories.
Protein sources: white meat poultry, lean beef (rounds and loins), pork loin, egg whites, fish, greek yogurt, lentils, beans, quinoa, soy, tofu, bison, tempeh
Each gram of carbohydrates is equal to 4 calories. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy. Your body can easily break down carbs into glucose. Glucose is what many of your important body systems use to function optimally. The two main body systems that use glucose are your brain and your nervous system. Carbohydrates supply valuable vitamins and minerals to your body.
You also get your daily fiber intake from your carb intake. Fiber supports weight loss by moving waste from your body. Fiber also provides satiety and helps you stay fuller longer. Pairing protein and a fibrous food together can help fight off hungry when calories are low. The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) results in 10% of carbs consumed are burned as calories.
Here are 4 ways carbs assist with weight loss.
- Higher carb diets promote a higher metabolism
- Carbohydrates are protein sparing because they protect your muscle tissue from breakdown
- Improve your ability to perform athletically
- Maintain hormone levels
High carb sources: Tropical fruits, dried fruits, grains, beans, potatoes
Low carb sources: Berries, green leafy vegetables, melon, cucumber, peaches, peppers, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini
Each gram of fat is equal to 9 calories. Fats are more than twice the number of calories than proteins and carbs. Fats have 4 soluble vitamins A, D, E, K. These give foods, flavor, texture and palatability. Fats provide the structural materials for cell membranes and participates in cell signaling pathways. The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) states there is no calories burned when consuming fats.
Healthy fat sources: Avocados, plant-based oils, whole eggs, fatty fishes (like salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring), chia seeds, full fat yogurt, MTC oil
The Benefits of Counting Macros
There are a number of benefits to counting macros.
- Nutritional Education: We go about our days eating food without knowing the cost of the food on our health. When you start really tracking your macros in a food tracking application like My Fitness Pal, you start to develop your knowledge of the macro breakdown of the foods you are eating. You are able to easily identify which foods are each macro: protein, carbs and fats.
- Managing Energy Needs: If you do any kind of training you understand the important of eating the right foods to support your training efforts. That does not mean a specific food is good or bad, it means choosing the right breakdown of macros that best support your goals. If your training focuses on weight training you would see benefit from having a higher carbohydrate intake because the body readily breaks down carbs for fuel and spares protein. Activities that have short burst of energy like strength training use glycogen ie carbs for fuel. However, if you train for long distance endurance events, you may benefit from a higher fat diet because the primary fuel source for this type of training is fats.
- Body Composition: If you have goals to change the way your body looks such as transforming from skinny fat to fit and tone, then focusing on your macro breakdown can help you with developing the physique you want. Individuals that lift weights tend to have higher protein intakes than someone in the general population. Because the focus for these individuals is building or maintaining lean muscle mass. Also note, just by focusing on getting in enough protein and strength training can help you recomp your physique while eating at maintenance.
- Flexible Diet: Building up your nutritional knowledge through tracking macros helps you to have a more flexible diet. After years of tracking you can move to a more intuitive diet. You will easily be able to eat out, eat a variety of foods and still be able stay on track with whatever your goal is with managing your weight. It is important to understand intuitive eating can not come without starting with tracking and building your food knowledge. If intuitive eating was a natural behavior people who not be overweight.
Calculating Your Macros
There is a couple different perspective you can take on this topic. You could choose to set specific macros, set macro ranges, or set macro percentages.
When setting specific macros, to begin you look at the type of training you are doing. As stated above in Managing Energy Needs, what type of training you do is going to lend to what macro breakdown you would set.
The first macro you will determine is your protein needs. As noted above under What Are Macros? protein plays an important role in the body by helping manage hungry and maintain lean muscle mass in a deficiency. The RDA recommends 0.8 grams per kilogram of healthy body weight within the range of 10-35% of total calories. Additional research by Eric Helms and others in the field of nutrition and fitness have found between 1.8 – 2.7 g/kg of protein is a good range. You generally won’t experience any major or even noticeable differences in performance or body composition. The easiest solution for most people is choosing 1 gram of protein per ideal body weight. If you weigh 200 lbs and your goal weight is 150, then setting your protein at 150g is a great start. If you have more specific physique goals or are more sedentary higher or lower intake might be a better option. But for the purpose of ease, start with 1g per lb. of your goal weight.
Since carbohydrates are not essential macro, the next macro we want to focus on is fat. The RDA recommends 20-35% of total calories come from fat, 10% from saturated fat, as little as possible from trans-fat, and 200 mg from cholesterol. How you would calculate your fat intake macro is you would take your overall calories, see above 5 Ways to Determine Your Calorie Deficiency, subtract the calories from protein.
When you determined your protein and fat intake that will leave you with your carb intake. While carbs are considered non-essential, they do provide many benefits. As mentioned above under What Are Macros?, carbs provide quick fuel for the body for training. It is your bodies preferred source of energy and can be broken down by the body easily. Pairing carbs with protein provides solid nutrition pre and post workout to help shuttle nutrition to muscle tissue for repair and recovery.
Let’s apply these guidelines to determining Gina’s macros from the case study above. Remember, Gina’s TDEE (Maintenance) was 2308 calories to maintain her current weight.
A 250-calorie deficiency for Gina would be 2058 calories. A 500-calorie deficiency for Gina would be 1808 calories.
Let’s calculate her macros for a 250-calorie deficiency first. To set her protein intake we have decided to use her goal weight which is 135. Based on the easy method we set her protein intake to 135g. You would multiple 135 x 4 = 540 calories. Remember 1 gram of protein is equaled to 4 calories. If her calories for a 250-calorie deficiency is 2058 you would subtract 540, which is the number of calories for her protein intake. That would leave you with 1518 calorie for fat and carbs.
Next, we are going to set her fat. Because she does resistance training and is not an endurance athlete, we are going to recommend a moderate fat intake of 25% of total calories. We would multiple 2058 (total calories) * .25 (25%) = 515 calories. We then take 515 (calories for fat) and divide by 9 (calories per 1 gram of fat) that would give us 57 g of fat.
Lastly, to determine her carb intake we would add protein (540 calories) + fat (515 calories) = 1055 calories. 2058 (total calories) -1055 (protein + fat) = 1003 calories remaining for carbs. Divide 1003 by 4 (calorie per gram of carbs) gives you 251 g of carbs.
For a 250-calorie deficiency that would mean her macros would be Protein 135, Carbs 251 and Fats 57
Seems overwhelming right? Here are the simple equations.
|Goal BW x 1 = grams of protein||135 x 1 = 135 g Protein|
|Grams of protein X 4 – calories from protein||135 x 4 = 540 Calories|
|Total calories x fat percentage = calories from fat||2058 x .25 = 515 Calories|
|Calories from fat / 9 = grams of fat||515 / 9 = 57 grams of fat|
|Total Calories – (protein calories + fat calories) = calories for carb intake||2058 – (540 + 515) = 1003 calories for carbs|
|Carb calories / 4 = grams of carbs||1055/4 = 251 grams of carbs|
Skill Test: Using the equations above calculate Gina’s 500-calorie deficiency.
Before we jump into how to get started, I want to discuss micronutrients. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals found in the foods you eat and are critical for several important functions in your body. If you are tracking macros you will hear people say you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight. This is a 100% true statement but not eating nutritiously dense foods with vitamins and minerals will create deficiencies in your diet. An adequate intake of all micronutrients is necessary for optimal health, as each vitamin and mineral have a specific role in your body. Vitamins and minerals are vital for growth, immune function, brain development and some play a role in preventing and fighting disease. To make sure you are getting your recommended daily intake of micronutrients follow a balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods.
As a coach, I have seen success and failure while trying to reach a weight loss goal. I have also seen rebound after seeing amazing weight loss transformations. There are a few tips I believe to make the transition easier to get weight loss started. Because I believe in a diet that has a wide variety of foods and I do not exclude any food, the best place to start is just start tracking your foods in a food tracker such as My Fitness Pal, Lose it, MyMacros+, etc. Starting where you are currently gives you a better understanding about what small or big changes you may need to make to see progress.
As I stated above under 5 Ways to Determine Your Calorie Deficiency, the most accurate way to determine your deficiency is to track the foods you are normally eating to see where you are currently at calorie wise. Once you know how many calories you are eating you can compare your current intake with your estimated calorie deficiency that you calculated or just reduce your intake by 250 calories per day.
If you are going to start tracking macros, you can also start looking at your daily diary and determine where you need to shift or make adjustments in the foods you are eating to get closer to the macro targets you calculated above in Calculating Your Macros.
Macro Targets, Ranges, Ratios
Generally, the guidelines when following macros in a deficiency is to be within -/+ 5g of each macro every day which is =/- 90 calories.
Another option is to set a range of macros or calories. Using Gina’s 250 calorie deficiency macros as a guide. Her ranges would be: protein between 130-140g, carbs between 245-255g and fats between 52-62g or calories between 1965-2070. You might find having a range easier to stay within vs hitting specific macro targets.
Body type macro breakdown
Ectomorph are naturally thin with skinny limbs and a high tolerance for carbohydrates. Your metabolic rate maybe faster than other body types. Starting macronutrient ratio recommendations are 25% protein, 55% carbs and 20% fat.
Mesomorph are naturally muscular and athletic. You may have a moderate carbohydrate tolerance and metabolic rate. Starting macronutrient ratio recommendations at a 30% protein, 40% carb, 30% fat macronutrient ratio.
Endomorph are naturally broad and thick. Endomorphs tend to have a low carbohydrate tolerance and a slow metabolic rate. Starting macronutrient ratio recommendations 35% protein, 25% carbs and 40% fat.
I started where you are now, very confused and overwhelmed with all the available information. When you are on information overload that can cause you to just shut down and not even move forward.
Beginner Tips for Tracking Macros
These are some of the things I learned in the first few months of tracking.
- Plan: Enter all your foods you are going to eat for the day in your food tracking application at the beginning of the day. This will save you from trying to figure it out and end up with weird combinations at night and not be able to figure out what to eat. Being unprepared can result in scrambling to cram everything in at the end of the day. Also, eating large portions of food in the evening can leave you feeling uncomfortable and typically up in weight the next day.
- Plan for Foods Enjoy: If there is something you want to eat for the day, enter the food in your tracking application first and plan the rest of your day around that meal or treat. Entering a food that you enjoy in first allows you to create a plan that includes indulgences, creates a balanced nutrition plan and allows for you to stay on track with your nutrition to continue making progress towards your goals.
- Portions: This may seem like it is so basic but this is something I didn’t comprehend instantly. You can eat portions of foods. For example, if you have 15 carbs to eat and you only have a banana and it is 30 g carbs – eat half of it.
- Dining Out/Events: You plan on dining out or have an even coming up. The key to managing this is having a plan in place before going out. Many restaurants have their menus online. Take a look at the menu and decide before you go what you are going to eat. Enter this meal into your food tracking application and plan the rest of the day around this meal. If you choose a meal that has a lot of carbs and fats, adjust your early meals to be low carb vegetables and proteins for most of the day to allow for more calories in the evening.
- Adjusting Macros: There are a couple thoughts on this. I am going provide tips from the perspective of staying in a deficiency. If you go over your macros, then deduct how much you went over from the next few days. For example, if you go over 40 g of carbs. You could deduct 20 grams for the next 2 days or you could deduct 5 carbs for the next 4 days. That way your averages for the week balance out.
- Weighing vs Measuring: Weigh everything because using measuring cups and spoons are not accurate.
- Fit in foods you enjoy: The benefit of counting macros is that you can still eat foods you enjoy within your macro allowance. While some diets have food restrictions you can create balance between eating nutritiously dense foods and palatable, less nutritiously dense foods and still reach your weight loss goals. As an additional note: Research has shown that diets that are restrictive are less successful and can lead to overeating.
Adjusting Your Macros
As stated above there are many perspectives regarding adjusting macros or calories when you go over. Here are a couple different perspectives and my thoughts to help you make the best decisions for you how you will choose to handle when you go over your calorie deficiency.
- Perspective A: Adjust your calories for the upcoming 7 days to account for the overage. This is an option that allows you to stay in your deficiency and reach your target weight loss goals for the week.
- Perspective B: It’s one day. It’s no big deal. This option may result in you being in less of a deficiency for the week and not reach a weight loss goal target. Having too many of these days results in not seeing much progress and can result in frustration and giving up.
- Perspective C: Preplanning Macro Adjustments
If you have an event coming up that you know about in advance you can take the preplanning approach and start by reducing your macros during the week before the event. Note: You do not want to reduce them too much where it will result in making you too hungry and result in you overconsuming. The benefit of reducing before the event creates a bank of calories that can be moved to the day of the event and allow you more flexibility. Even with having extra calories you want to try to eat in moderation and not overindulge. Enjoy the day just don’t OVER do it. You don’t need to stuff yourself. Just eat slow enough and enjoy the company. Another great tip is to eat more veggies and protein during the day and not many starches. This will allow you more calories for your evening event.
One way to implement preplanning is to take away about 10-20g of carbs and 5g of fat each day (7 days) leading up to the event, then add those back in on the day.
- Perspective D: Adjusting calories when you go over can result in an eating disorder. Here are two positions on this statement. One, if you adjust your calories as a logical action then this is an invalid statement. Two, if you adjust your calories from guilt and shame from overeating then you might be in a place of punishing yourself for eating too much which could lead to an eating disorder.
Depending on your current weight loss goals you can choose to do options A, B, or C. My recommendations on adjusting calories is based on a general overage from a single event like a wedding reception, party, etc. where you did not know what foods would be available to eat and you did the best you could. This is not based on someone who binge eats.
Binge eating and disordered eating are conditions that should be treated with the help of counseling and the medical profession. My personal opinion on dieting and binge eating is that someone who can not control their eating behaviors should absolutely not be trying to diet. Being in a deficiency escalates the issue.
Tiered Approach to Dieting
I have discussed how to find your weight loss calories, set macros and some awesome tips to get started tracking, next I want to talk about a tiered approach to diet. As you already know the most important elements for weight loss is being in a calorie deficiency and consistency but life is not always the same day in and day out. One way to handle your nutrition as you are working towards your weight loss goals as by taking a tier approach. The information I will cover in this area stems from work by Eric Helms.
Tier 1: The Macro Guru
In the first tier, you have complete control over your nutrition and can stay within -/+ 5g per macro. This is best when you have no events planned.
Tier 2: The Protein Tracker
In tier 2, you focus on tracking calories and protein. This tier would be good when you have control over the foods you are eating but you do not have control over the types of food to balance out your macros. This also can be used on a single day where you plan to go out to eat but want the option of having more flexibility of your food choices.
Tier 3: The Loose Tracker
In tier 3, you focus on calories only, this tier would be good for when you want to stay dialed in with your nutrition but you don’t have as much control of your food options. This can also be good to incorporate when you want to take break from tracking macros such as in a diet break, on vacation, or a general gather like a wedding or party.
Tier 4: The Athlete
In tier 4, is specific for individuals that have different energy needs based on training. If you compete in a sport such as endurance training like a Triathlons, you might have unique energy needs based on how your training is structured. Typically, you have shorter and monger training days and possibly medium training days. Each of these days may require different amounts of fuel. Individuals in this tier follow a carb or calories cycling plan. On days that utilize more energy, you would increase your carb intake. On days that use less fuel, you would reduce carbs. There are many ways to set up this structure.
If your goal is still to be focused on weight loss you would want to take your total calories/macros and multiple them by 7 and divide the calories/macros between the days. Making sure you stay in a deficiency will allow you to continue with your weight loss goals but provide enough fuel for your training.
If your deficiency was set to 1470 every day and you had different energy needs you could rearrange your macros to different intakes. Here is an example of a carb cycling plan that includes 1 high day, 4 low days and 2 moderate intake days.
|Total Based Macros||145||270||65||2245||15715|
|1 High Days||100||200||45||1605||1605|
|4 Low Days||120||100||60||1420||4260|
|2 Regular Day||110||140||50||1450||5800|
Tier 5: The Social Butterfly
Tier 5 addresses the individual that has a lot of weekend commitments but still wants to see weight loss success. This tier is similar to tier 4 which allows for different days with different calorie intakes. The difference in this tier is you follow a reduced calorie intake during the week and increase calories on the weekend. The reduced calories from the week are shifted to the weekend to allow for more flexibility for social events.
As your goal is still weight loss you would want to take your total calories/macros and multiple them by 7 and then divide the calories/macros between the days following a reduced calorie intake for 5 days and shifting the extra calories to the 2 weekend days.
The only caution with following this method is that if the foods or drinks you have on the weekends contain higher sodium and fat then the scale will generally read higher after the weekend. Additionally, if the food you are eating on the weekend is take out or dine in and you are estimating then you are might be overeating. When monitoring your progress, the scale fluctuates can make it appear you are not making any progress which can become very frustrating.
Interested in more strategies for managing your nutrition in a calorie deficit? Head on over to my post, Navigating the Holidays with Nutritional Strategies
When planning for any goal there is always going to be some starting point and some end goal. Determining if you have successful have achieve that goal means you have to monitor progress. There are a couple ways you can monitor your progress.
Documenting daily scale weight will give you a general guide whether you are making progress in the right direction or not. While it is a great tool it does have its flaws. Scale weight fluctuates from day to day for any number of reasons. Many people are trying to lose body fat and maintain lean muscle. The scale weight is a data point that shows you both fat free mass and fat mass combined. To learn more about the things that can affect the number on the scale, check out my post Screw the Scale.
Also note, I recommend daily weigh in’s vs random weigh ins. As stated above the scale fluctuates day to day. If you happen to weigh in on a high day you might become discouraged. It is better to weight daily and take an average for the week.
Weight loss is not a straight line it has peaks and valleys. There will be days the scale is up and days it will be down. The key to weight loss is a calorie deficit and consistency. When you have both of these in alignment weight loss will naturally occur.
One of the most difficult challenges I have faced as a coach is to get someone who does not like the way they look to take pictures. BUT, taking pictures are crucial to monitoring progress. You could step on the scale and not see any changes but then compare pictures 4 weeks apart and see body composition changes happening.
I recommend taking pictures weekly but comparing them 4 weeks apart. If you compare week to week you might not see a difference. It is also important how you take your pictures.
- Take them in the same lighting
- Wearing the same clothes until they don’t fit anymore
- Wear clothes that show the most skin
- Take them at the same time of day
- Take them first thing in the morning
- Take them in the same location
Measurements are a great way to track progress. However, they have some disadvantages. If you are someone who has a large amount of weight to lose taking measurements might prove difficult. Your body is going to shift as the body fat reduces. For larger individuals I would not recommend this tool for monitoring progress.
Taking measures does have its own flaws. If you and someone else takes your measurements there is a going to be a percentage of error because you are not probably going to put the measuring tape in the same place every time. One way to aim for consistency is taking the measurement 3 times and then logging the average of the 3 measurements. Lastly, you do not measure every single part of your body. You will lose weight in areas you don’t measure like ankles, feet, even your face.
Here is a great video for how to take measurements – http://www.fitstream.com/articles/how-to-take-body-measurements-a6345
There are a number of machines available for calculating body fat percentage and other things. Currently, the research suggests there is not accurate way to test body fat percentage. There are some better ones than others like a DEXA scan or a BodyPod. But many other testing devices have flaws. I do not recommend these as a guide for you to hang your hat on to determine if you are losing body fat and gain muscle or the likewise.
The most basic way to monitor your weight loss is by creating a calendar that you mark the days you are consistent with your nutrition and exercise. If you find you are finding you are not as consistent as you should be to see progress it is an easy visual to make you aware of why you might not be making progress.
All of these methods are great when combined. If you only track one way or half-track then you might become frustrated with your lack of progress. And without these data elements you will not have enough information to determine why you are not being successful.
The best way to get started with your weight loss is make a plan to document your progress so you have data for analysis and can determine if you are making progress or if you need to make adjustments.
It is important to understand if you are a female and have normal menstruation cycles that you go through different stages through the month where your hormones are changing. These changes can affect water retention and bloating so each method of tracking with most likely have a week of outlier data typically the week before your period.
Why Do You Stop Losing Weight?
When you are in a calorie deficit your basal metabolic rate will decrease. Your body begins to burn less energy while at rest as your metabolism slows to allow you to conserve body tissue and energy output decreases.
As your metabolism adapts to a decrease in available energy, you will experience changes in your hormones. The hormones being affected include leptin, ghrelin, thyroid hormones, and testosterone. These adaptations are unfavorably affected by calorie restriction and weight loss.
TEF is the thermic effect of food. When you eat carbs and protein about 10% of the calories you eat are burned from just the act of eating. The reduction in overall food intake naturally results in a reduction of total energy expenditure.
NEAT naturally decreases and spontaneous activity decrease. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting. NEAT), can play a significant role in helping to maximize the total amount of calories burned in a single day.
These changes in your basal metabolic rate, NEAT and other systems is known as Adaptive Thermogenesis. This is your body’s way of counter balancing the changes happening while dieting.
In summary, when you are in a calorie deficiency your body adapts to your calorie intake. For you to see weight loss resume you will need to increase your metabolism or increase your calorie deficiency.
Breaking Through Weight Loss Plateaus
You have been losing weight pretty steadily but you notice with the same daily caloric intake and the same activity level, the amount of weight you are losing is slowing down and finally you stop losing weight all together. This could mean your metabolism has adapted to the energy intake or it could mean something else. Let’s assume that it is because you have been dieting for awhile and your metabolism has adapted.
Before I continue about how to breakthrough a weight loss plateau, I want to remind you that you could be losing body fat and gaining muscle and seeing body composition changes without the scale moving at all. (maybe add something about who can do this) Before you make any changes, I recommend you review the data you have collected that I discussed in Monitoring Tools.
Let’s say you have reviewed everything and nothing has changed for a few weeks. Yes, that is right I said a few weeks. That could be 2-3 weeks. The body is a weird organism and it will do whatever it wants. You will need to decide the duration based on the target date of your weight loss goal. If you are trying to lose weight just in general you might wait 3 weeks. If you have a deadline, you might make changes after 2 weeks.
After 2-3 weeks, you have determined you are no longer making progress. You have a couple different next steps you can take.
- Reduce Calories/Macros
If your metabolism has indeed adapted to the amount of energy you are giving it then a calorie reduction is in order. Typically, the recommendations are 100-200 calorie reduction or 20g of carbs and 5g of fats if you are counting macros. This small adjustment should result in creating a new calorie deficiency and weight loss should continue.
- 2 Day Refeed
Some believe a 2 day refeed boost your metabolism and results breaking through a plateau. Research shows that while a refeed of 2 or more days a week can be beneficial physiologically it doesn’t result in a boost in metabolism. However, a 2 day refeed can help the body with recovering from training, allow you to train hard because of more fuel and help improve sleep and cortisol levels. Improvement in these areas can result in weight loss moving again.
- Diet Breaks
If you have a lot of weight to lose and you are trying to lose it at a moderate rate then this might result in a long road of 6 months to many years until you reach your goal. Diet breaks allow for you to increase your caloric intake for 2-4 weeks and assist in adapting your metabolism to burn more calories. While many people struggle with the thought of increasing calories and possible gaining weight the benefits of a diet break outweigh the perceived negatives. To learn more about diet breaks, check out my article and video, Diet Breaks 101.
The Weight Loss Blueprint is a starting place for beginning your weight loss journey. There are some great tools you can starting using today like beginner tips, flexible dieting approaches and ways to break through plateaus.
I encourage you to check back for upcoming posts that dive deeper into tracking while traveling, next steps after you reach your weight loss goal, and dieting myths.
Exercise for Weight Loss
I might become a broken record, but the key to weight loss is a consistent calorie deficiency. The majority of your energy deficiency will come from your nutrition but adding exercise can create a bigger energy deficiency and support your weight loss goals.
Exercise is important for general health but it also supports weight loss and weight management. Whether you are doing strength training, cardio or both, exercise will help you lose weight. Strength training promotes building and maintaining lean muscle mass. When you have a higher fat free mass you will have a higher metabolism and you will be able to burn more calories at rest. Cardio is great for heart health and promotes fat loss. You will burn more calories with cardio per session then you will with strength training but both are very beneficial. Consider cardio as short-term calorie burn and strength training as long-term calorie burn.
Harvard Medical School published a chart with an estimated calorie burn by activity. Each of these estimates are going to depend on gender, fat free mass compared to fat mass ration, age, intensity, etc. But this is a good guide – https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities
Benefits of Cardio
Beyond burning calories to support your weight loss goals, cardio has many other health benefits.
- Exercise can help control your appetite. You may find when you work out you are not as hungry. The opposite can be true as well if you are working out too much.
- Strengthens your heart and lungs
- Increases endorphins to boost your mood
- Improves sleep
- Reduce arthritis pain and stiffness through joint movement
- Help prevent or manage high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes
Benefits of Strength Training
One of the key benefits mention above is that strength training supports weight loss through burning calories and building muscle to increase metabolism. Here are some additional benefits to strength training you might not know.
- Increase bone density and reduce osteoporosis by building stronger bones.
- Strength training can help manage and reduce signs and symptoms of different chronic conditions including arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes.
- Strength training may enhance your quality of life and improve your ability to do everyday activities.
- Enhances overall physique and supports independence as you age.
Strength training can be done at home or in the gym. Common choices include:
- Body weight. You can do many exercises with little or no equipment. Try pushups, pullups, planks and leg squats.
- Resistance tubing. Resistance tubing is inexpensive, lightweight tubing that provides resistance when stretched. You can choose from many types of resistance tubes in nearly any sporting goods store.
- Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools. If you don’t have weights at home, you can use soup cans.
- Weight machines. Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines. You can invest in weight machines for use at home, too.
Getting Started with Exercise
The best way to get started with adding an exercise program into your lifestyle is to start small. Starting with a 5-6 day a week work out program when you currently do not do anything may result in not being very successful. Consider starting with 2-3 sessions of training per week. If you are able to easily add these into your schedule then start increasing until you are between 4-5 sessions per week.
Your workouts do not have to be long either. If you are only able to start with 30 minutes then do what you can in 30 minutes. It might be a 30-minute walk, a full body workout, bike ride, etc. If you can increase to 1 hr. for 3 – 5 days a week that would be ideal.
Your personal workout program should fit your lifestyle. Your overall goal should be to try to incorporate some type of activity into your daily schedule to stay active for overall health and support your weight management goals.
There are all kinds of workout programs available based on your preference. Regarding cardio, I am a non-traditionalist. I believe in doing something you enjoy as your cardio. For instance, dancing, hiking, kick boxing, some sport related activity or simply just playing with your kids.
I also lean towards implementing a walking program or focusing on step counts to keep you on track with staying active.
Walking and Weight Loss
The #1 best exercise for weight loss is walking. The American Heart Association recommends individuals take at least 10 K steps per day.
Some of the benefits from walking.
- Walking can help you burn calories. Burning calories can helps you lose weight.
- Strengthen the heart and reduces risk for heart disease.
- Walking can help protect the joints, including your knees and hips. That’s because it helps lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support the joints. Walking is beneficial for individuals with arthritis.
- Boosts immune function to help aid in you not getting sick
- Reduces stress, anxiety and depression by improving your mood and boosting self-esteem.
- Walking can strengthen the muscles in your legs.
- Improved digestion and helps promote bowels movements because it utilizes core and abdominal muscles
- Creates a foundation for other healthy habits. When you become a regular walker, you will have established a regular routine—and when you have a routine, you are more likely to continue with the activity and take on new healthy behaviors.
- Improves creativity
- Improve sleep. Walking also helps reduce pain and stress, which can cause sleep disturbances.
- Reduced interference effect on strength training. Because of the low intensity of walking you can burn calories and not have walking interfere with your ability to strength training maximally.
Walking is the best exercise for weight loss and general health because:
- Walking is accessible to anyone.
- You do not need special equipment.
- There are no skills you have to learn to do it.
- You can do it any time of the day.
I highly recommend monitoring daily steps and setting a step goal to maintain a daily activity level.