23 Aug Setting Up A Fat Loss Diet: Calories
In an industry full of conflicting and complicated information on what you need to do to get into shape, it seems the real big picture has been forgotten.
For the final instalment of this ‘setting up a fat loss diet’ series, we’re going to dive into the most critical part of the fat loss equation: calories.
Before we work out any macronutrient values, we need to set calories first. This is irrespective of your goal, as ultimately, it’s your calorie intake that’ll determine whether you lose or gain weight.
To lose body fat, you must be in a negative energy balance.
This means you need to create an energy/calorie deficit in one of two ways:
1) Decreased input, or food
2) Increased output, or movement/exercise
Simple as that!
How you achieve this calorie deficit will depend, but typically you’ll mix the two to achieve the desired result.
For example, if a client comes on board to lose body fat, the first port of call is usually to ensure a calorie deficit is achieve through controlled food intake. As the client plateaus, we may increase the output per day (e.g. 10,000 steps a day). Later down the line, we may reduce fats or carbohydrates a little. And then we may add in a cardio session or two.
It’s a constant refinement process whereby we’ll use a combination of your feedback and our expertise to tweak the two variables and enable progression to occur.
What you want to avoid is only blasting one variable. It can make it miserable, and create unsustainable behaviour patterns. Only manipulating diet will have you eating very little in a few months time to continue creating a larger deficit. By the same token, you’ll be wasting hours and hours of your day if you all you did was find ways to train more and complete more steps / cardio.
What’s the Best Diet?
There seems to be a misconception out there that there’s a ‘best diet’. That some diets are better than others, and some diets have pixie dust sprinkled all over it to produce miracles.
What’s the secret…?
Are you ready for it…?
The secret behind these diets is…
They create a calorie deficit!
To help visualise it, we’ve put together a flow chart to demonstrate what’s happening with a few of the most popular diets out there:
This isn’t to say there are no merits to the above diets. For example, there may be some potential health benefits to both Intermittent Fasting and Ketogenic diets.
Our point is that there’s no magic when it comes to fat loss. The reason all diets work is because they all create an energy deficit. Each of the six shown simply achieve it in a different way.
What determines a successful diet is your preference, your psychology, and what allows you to stay compliant in accordance with your lifestyle.
If you’re someone who doesn’t like breakfast, and prefers eating 2-3 larger meals later in the day, intermittent fasting will work great.
If you’re someone with little understanding of nutrition and general food choices, a low carb approach may work purely through its simplicity.
Is a Calorie Deficit All We Need to Worry About?
The calorie deficit is the big rock, and will always come first if you want to lose body fat. But if you want to get a total transformation effect in your physique, and not just lose a ton of weight, then it’s not the only thing you should worry about.
Our goal at RNT isn’t just to lose body fat. We also want to gain or at least maintain as much muscle tissue as possible.
Our clients want to look lean and defined with some muscle mass. They don’t just want to shed a ton of weight and have no physique to show for it.
To make this happen, we need to have a non-negotiable calorie deficit in place. But we also need to reach a minimum protein threshold.
So if you’re goal is to lose body fat with the aim of carrying some muscle, you need to:
1) Have a maximum calorie allowance
2) Set a minimum protein target
How Many Calories Do You Need?
There are so many ways to skin a cat when it comes to setting this. A popular trend now is to utilise complicated, scientific and seemingly impressive formulas to work out a calorie deficit.
The problem is, it’s just not practical. We’re dealing with the human body, so it’s still only an educated guess and you’ll likely need to adjust anyway.
Instead, we like to keep the starting point simple:
Take your bodyweight in pounds, and multiple it by 10-12.
There may be occasions we start at 13-14 (for long time scales, high levels of muscle mass and/or very high activity levels), or as low as 8-9 (for very short time frames with a fast deadline or low levels of muscle mass).
But for the most part, 10-12 is a good sweet spot to start with.
The key phrase is ‘start with’. When we work with clients, it’s never just about the initial plans. The real value comes in us knowing when to push and pull through a dieting phase, depending on their feedback from us. It’s knowing when we need to make adjustments, and when it’s better to hold things steady.
This is the real value of the coaching process, and where an objective eye can be so critical.
It’s not about using a time consuming, impractical formula that can be found for free online. In fact, we’ve compared the simple 10-12 kcals/lb with many of these formulas, and they tend to come out very similar anyway!
Setting Up A Fat Loss Diet
To wrap up this series, let’s finish with an example, using a 200lb male client with an average level body fat, that wants to transform in 12-16 weeks.
Here’s how we might start:
200 (lbs) x 12 = 2400 (calories)
200 (lbs) x 1.2 = 240 (grams of protein)
200 (lbs) x 0.4 = 80 (grams of fat)
Calorie total minus protein calories minus fat calories = 720 (calories for carbohydrate)
To now convert 720 calories into grams, all we need to do is divide it by 4, which equals 180 grams for carbohydrates.
If you’re wondering how we arrived at these figures, remember:
1g protein = 4 calories
1g carbs = 4 calories
1g fat = 9 calories
Simple! An easy method to work out your calorie and macronutrient breakdown somewhat personalised to your body type. The caveat to this is that it’s only a starting point, and must be monitored and adjusted as you go.
To understand where we got some of the macronutrient guidelines from, remember to read back over the full series where we dive deep into each of the three.
You can read the previous instalments here:
If you want to take all the thinking out of this, have it completely personalised to your body, and more importantly, reap the value of the coaching process that’ll take your results to the next level, please get in touch here.