How can I lose this stubborn fat?”
The first piece of advice I can give – and we all know this is true – there is no magic pill to lose weight. Unfortunately, some have been willing to risk their lives in that pursuit. I’m suggesting a safer approach …
As wild as this may sound, the secret to this whole fitness/nutrition/weight-loss subject is simple: to control your body composition, just need to understand that your body is an Input-Output system.
All of the tools that I recommend here can be found quickly by doing a Google Search.
STEP 1: Find a TDEE Calculator
Do a quick Google search to find a Total Daily Energy Expenditure calculator (a “TDEE” – see “Links” at the end of this article).
The TDEE calculator also takes into account how many calories you’re expending in an exercise program; this type of calculator gives you a decent estimate of how many calories your body needs to operate at an optimum maintenance level, based on 1) Daily activity, and 2) Basal metabolic rate (BMR). By maintenance, I mean, finding an even balance between calories consumed and those burned, thus leading you to maintain your weight. BMR refers to how many calories you would burn if you just sat on the couch all day doing nothing.
STEP 2: Identify your “Goal Composition”
Once you have your TDEE number, you can then identify your goal consumption for the day. The strategy is to operate at a caloric deficit, or to eat less calories than your TDEE number. This will cause your body to burn fat for energy.
A word of warning: You don’t want your deficit to be too extreme. That’s generally unhealthy and as a sustained practice, it can also negatively affect your hormone levels.
Note: Operating at a caloric deficit will also burn muscle too, we’ll get to that later in the article.
STEP 3: Macronutrients … What?
There are 3 macronutrients: Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins.
Disclaimer: If you have any health related reasons to keep your protein, fat, or carbohydrate intake at a certain level due to your doctor’s recommendation, trust your doctor before me!
Generally you want your protein consumption (per day) to be around 0.5 – 0.8 grams for every pound you currently weigh.
Fats & Carbohydrates:
Fats and carbohydrates will make up the rest of your daily caloric intake. Fats play a role and manage your hormone levels among other things so don’t cut these from your diet completely. Carbohydrates act as your energy source, so I like to recommend eating them in the morning and prior to high activity events in your day.
Step 4: Calculate Calories from Fats, Carbohydrates, and Protein
At this point, you may be asking: “How the heck do I do that?” I’m glad you asked!
- Proteins: 1 gram (g) weight of a protein is equal to 4 calories (c)
- Carbohydrates: 1gram weight of a carbohydrate is equal to 4 calories
- Keep the sugar carbs low!
- Fats: 1 gram weight of fat is equal to 9 calories
BONUS #1: Alcohol (liquid weight)! A single gram of alcohol is equal to 7 calories. You’ll need to account for this if you drink. These aren’t good calories, despite how good they may feel!
- 3 oz of chicken breast equals 22 to 25g of protein; this is about 88 to 100 calories
- A slice of whole wheat bread (most types) is equal to 15 to 20 g of carbs and 2 to 4g of protein;
- All together we’re looking at 96 calories (on the high side of those estimates) for that slice of bread
Bear in mind: There will probably be some dietary fiber in there to account for as well.
Hint #1: Use nutrition labels (read the labels) on foods to help you calculate your caloric consumption.
Hint #2: At the end of the day, when you head to bed, aim for a total number of around 300 calories below your TDEE (assuming a goal of weight loss).
As a general rule of thumb, weight loss should occur at a rate of 1 pound per week. But don’t be shocked if, when you first begin, there is a drop of 3 to 5 pounds a week.
BONUS #2: As your sodium levels decrease, you also lose water weight. This leads to an increase in ‘weight’ loss.
STEP 5: Food Choices
Having a high-protein diet will reduce the body’s consumption of its own muscle tissue, when operating at a caloric deficit. This will also help your body focus on consuming its own your fat instead of muscle tissue. The Atkins, or all-meat diet, is one popular example.
Alcohol does this “funny” thing when consumed (and it metabolizes). The body treats alcohol as a toxin. When metabolizing alcohol, the body stops all other metabolic functions, so it can deal with this “toxin” in the system. So, if you just had a tough workout and then drank alcohol, muscle repair will effectively stop until the alcohol in your system has been “dealt with” (metabolized).
You Mom was right; eat your vegetables! The veggies you’re hopefully eating are basically packed with dietary fiber and micronutrients, including Iron, Calcium, etc. Fiber is great for both your digestive system and your overall health. But fiber is basically void of value in terms of calories. This is because fiber cannot be digested and micronutrients don’t carry any caloric value. Vegetables are great when trying to lose weight because you can eat plenty and not consume many calories. Steamed broccoli and yellow mustard was one of my favorite treats when I was out of calories for the day!
Carbohydrates, including Fats
When you see “Total Carbs” on a label, and then Dietary Fiber listed just below that, you can simply subtract it from the Carbohydrate amount. Fats are also healthy as they help with hormone regulation. Ultimately, carbohydrates are your least valuable choice, since they are either used by the body for quick energy or stored as body fat.
BONUS Tip for Smart Phone users: The application MyFitnessPal is a very useful resource for tracking your daily food consumption, as well as calories burned through exercises. It is even capable of scanning your foods’ barcodes (again, read the labels). Once scanned, the app includes that foods’ nutritional values in the calculations!
Step 6: EXERCISE
Lifting weights, also called resistance training, will put muscle on your bones and it triggers your muscles to burn calories, even while at rest.
That’s why bodybuilders will eat “so much” all the time – this population needs to feed those muscles to keep them there. Muscle will be the first thing your body wants to eat – for energy – at a caloric deficit, if the body isn’t getting enough protein.
As a weightlifter for sure, but with any type of exercise, you’ll want to make sure each gym session isn’t just swinging around 3lb dumbbells. Instead, create and follow a regimented workout plan that targets specific muscle groups. As a competition weightlifter myself, left me assure you that you won’t get bulky.
High Intensity Interval Training (Cardio)
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), is one form of type of exercises commonly known as cardio. HIIT is the best type of exercise for burning fat. HIIT achieved by alternating sprints, walking, jumping, or any activity that gets your heart rate up, and keeps it up for at least 15 to 20 minutes. But it must also be noted that that HIIT / Cardio also takes the largest toll on your body, in terms of fatigue, potential for injury, and heart-related risks.
NOTE: There are many forms of cardio exercises, including Low Intensity Steady State (LISS). Cardio can also be walking, jogging, biking, swimming, circuit training, etc. – anything that gets your heart rate up, and keeps it there for a period of time. For the focus of this article, I am recommending HIIT as the type of cardio I use. If there is enough interest, I’ll write more about cardio in future articles.
The (Exercise) “Industry”
Just like weight loss plans (I mentioned one), there are countless exercise plans out there. Some exercise programs are intended to make money for the person or corporation selling that particular plan. In general, many of these plans, ride the wave popularity the health industry generates. But there are also many exercise plans can be found for free on the internet. I am happy to provide more resources if you contact me directly (see Conclusion, below).
In reality, you don’t need any particular plan, nor is exercise “necessary” for weight loss. Exercise has many proven benefits, including more energy, better rest, positivity, an increase in metabolic function. For many, there is also the added benefit of increased self-esteem.
The only “plan” I would personally recommend is one that targets your larger muscle groups first, since these muscle groups will consume more calories than smaller muscle groups. Examples of larger muscle groups would be your latissimus dorsi (the muscles on your back responsible for pulling), your quadriceps and hamstrings (commonly known as your thigh), and your pectorals (your chest, responsible for pushing).
I’ve shared a lot of information about nutrition, as well as technical information about exercise. My goal is help others realize that understanding nutrition and exercise takes some effort but isn’t unattainable. While I make no claims of being an expert on this subject, I do consider myself experienced and have found that I can control my body composition with a strong degree of both predictability and consistency.
Examples of TDEE Calculators:
- If It Fits Your Macros: http://iifym.com/tdee-calculator/
- Fitness Frog: http://www.fitnessfrog.com/calculators/tdee-calculator.html
- The 5:2 Fast Diet: http://thefastdiet.co.uk/how-many-calories-on-a-non-fast-day/
Eric Simpson is a Cape Cod washashore who loves bodybuilding, coffee, and exploring the collision of technology and humanity. Shoot him a note if you’ve realized that your company’s lackluster social media presence is a concern.