When it comes to getting on top of the fat loss game, you’ve got to first get on top of the meal planning game. Diet cannot be stressed enough for maximum fat loss because if you aren’t consuming fewer calories than you burn, you aren’t going to lose weight despite how much exercise you perform.
Considering the fact that you can easily undo an entire hours worth of time spent in the gym with about three minutes of aggressive eating and you can easily see how problematic an improper diet can be in the weight loss battle.
You simply cannot exercise away a bad diet. Some people think they can – and they try; they definitely try. But almost one hundred percent of the time these people wind up injured, burned out, or overtraining, causing them to stop with their workouts altogether.
By that time, they’ve also likely picked up some nasty food-related eating habits and are really set to experience problems with fat loss.
So, before you even start working out, take some time to plan your meals for your fat loss diet. It’s the single most critical thing you could do that would impact your results.
That said, here’s what you should be doing to achieve maximum fat loss with your meal planning.
Make Sure Calories Are In Alignment
Before anything else gets figured out – what types of protein you’re going to eat, how frequently you’re going to have your meals, or what foods you’re going to eat for your glorious cheat days (which is probably what most of you are thinking about right now), you must figure out your target calorie intake.
This will be the magic number of calories you need to eat each day to see weight loss happening.
There are many fancy formulas you can plug your numbers into that will give you this number but to keep it simple, just multiply your body weight in pounds by 10-13. If you’re up on your feet running around all day, go with 13. If you’re glued to your desk at work, only getting up to go to the bathroom, then use 10.
This is now your number. I don’t care if you have a diet that’s 100% comprised of chicken breasts, oatmeal, and almonds, if you eat 500 calories more than that number a day, the chances are high you will not lose weight. It’s the law of thermodynamics – and you can’t cheat science.
Make Sure Protein Is Sufficient
Next up, you’ve got to make sure your protein intake is sufficient. This is almost as critical as calorie intake, but not quite. You absolutely must take in enough protein otherwise you set yourself up to lose muscle mass. Since your muscle mass is what largely determines your metabolic rate and how many calories you get to eat from part one, you don’t want to say goodbye to this body tissue.
Fat is the enemy, not muscle. Therefore, aim to get at minimum of one gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you’re one of those people from part one who multiplied their calorie intake by 10 or you do a lot of endurance cardio work for sports, you should bump this intake up to 1.5 grams per pound to be safe.
Now, turning to your calculators, multiple this number by 4 (how many calories are in a gram of protein) and subtract this from the total number you got from above.
This is now how many calories you have left after protein has been accounted for.
Dietary fat, different from above, is not the enemy when trying to lose body fat. It’s actually something that is going to help keep your fat burning hormones high, keeping you from feeling like you might start eating right through your pantry door, and keep your skin, nails, hair, and tissues healthy.
We want to have you taking in a minimum of 15% dietary fat for fat loss, so taking that total calorie number from step one, multiply by 0.15.
Divide this number by 9 and you’ve got your minimum total fat grams per day.
Note that you will not be eating any of these fat grams immediately before or after your workout, so you are to save those for later meals (more info on this below).
Lastly, we come to your carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are essential for maintaining exercise performance, so you can’t completely shun those either. Carbohydrates can also be highly variable in a fat loss diet depending on your own individual preferences.
Do you need to use a low-carb diet to experience maximum fat loss results? Certainly not.
That said, some people do really well on these diets so you have to figure out what’s best for yourself. Before anything else, let’s figure out carb intake for the workout.
Ideally you want about 20-50 grams of carbs before the workout and another 20-50 grams of carbs after the workout. This will provide the body with enough energy to get through the workout and replenish the muscle glycogen reserves.
The more weight training work you’re doing in your workout, the more carbohydrates you will need to recover from it effectively. Moderate intensity cardio does not deplete muscle glycogen, but sprint training cardio does so that’s another thing to factor into the equation.
Again, multiple the total number of carbohydrates you’re going to place around the workout period by four (number of calories per gram) and subtract this from the running calorie total (total calories minus protein calories minus minimum fat requirement calories).
This leaves you with how many calories you now have left to allot throughout the day.
Allotting The Remaining Calories
How you choose to allot these remaining calories will be your choice; some people prefer to eat more dietary fat, others prefer more carbohydrates. This will be an individual difference and something that you’ll have to find out for yourself.
If you typically feel sluggish and tired after a high carbohydrate meal, that’s a good indication that you should eat a higher fat, moderate to low carb protein diet.
The reverse is true if you feel energized after a big plate of pasta, for example.
Planning Your Meals
Now that you’ve determined how many calories and how many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates you’re going to eat, it’s time to get a meal plan going.
Ideally you will have a pre-workout meal (comprised of 20-25 grams of protein and 20-50 grams of carbs), a post-workout meal of about the same composition, and then three to six other meals depending on your meal frequency preference.
The notion that more meals will speed up your metabolism is not correct, so go with whatever meal frequency you feel most comfortable with.
If you prefer not thinking about food and watching the clock all day, you’ll likely do better with fewer meals. If you find eating more frequently keeps your hunger and cravings under control, go with six or maybe even more meals if you really like them small.
Do whatever you’re more likely to stick with because that is what is going to determine success. A diet is only good if you are using it.
One final point to make, however, is that it is a smart idea, for maximum fat loss and especially if you tend to be a bit carb sensitive, to put more of your carbohydrates for the day around the workout period, making the remaining of your meals more protein and fat based.
This will help to control blood sugar and insulin levels better, which, if they get too out of control, can make fat loss harder.
This is one thing to definitely keep in mind when planning out your meals – and again, fat should not be eaten around the workout as it’s going to slow digestion and transfer of nutrients to the muscle cells, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish at this point.
So, now that you’ve figured out your fat loss diet, choose foods that are going to be satisfying to you while staying within your total plan figures. Obviously you will receive far more nutritional benefits from eating foods that are closer to their natural state than heavily processed foods, not to mention these often control hunger a great deal better, so this is what should make up the bulk of your fat loss diet.
Finally, be sure you also re-evaluate all the numbers of your diet every month or so depending on how progress is going so you can make adjustments to any of the contributing factors to keep progressing along.