- This is for the general fitness person looking to lose fat without having to go crazy with super low-calorie diets.
- You need to have an established caloric deficit while eating the right amount of protein, fat, and carbs.
- This is intended for the healthy individual.
- If you are unsure about your health, consult with your medical doctor or registered dietician before starting any exercise or nutrition regimen.
- I have no affiliation with MyFitnessPal. I make no money promoting their product. I’m just a guy that wants to help people lose fat using a great tool.
Let’s face it …
If everyone knew how to eat to reach the goal they wanted, and in this case, fat loss, there would be a lot less fad diets, bro gurus who starve clients, and people saving money on crap supplements that are meant to suck the funds from your wallet instead of the fat from your belly.
While there are many ways to skin the cat, so to speak (even if I dislike cats. Dogs>>>>>), often times we find the what works for the short term, because of drastic calorie restrictions, meaning eating WAY less than the body needs while exerting more energy than your are intaking, it isn’t sustainable.
How many of you have EVER lost that 10 lbs just to gain back 20? How many of you need to “drop 20 lbs as fast as possible”?
Unfortunately, fast fat loss is POOR fat loss. Not only for your general health but for your hormones (fat stores metabolic hormones) as well as your metabolism. It’ll reek havoc on your system, make you feel incredibly tired/lethargic, and you just won’t function optimally (however, there is some data in those who are extremely overweight or obese that losing weight quickly at first can be beneficial).
No one likes to hear this but the fact remains; in an otherwise healthy human being, barring any kind of metabolic syndromes or health issues, in order to lose body fat safely, efficient (note: not QUICK), and sustainably, you have to eat the most amount of food (calories) while maintaining an energy deficit (caloric deficit).
This also goes against broventional wisdom that you need to eat 1200 calories (if you’re a female) and 1500 calories (if you are a male). Unless you are 5’4″, 120 lbs, and needing to lose some body fat, that is INCREDIBLY low. Of course, there is varying ranges on the spectrum but most fall in the middle.
Now while there are many off-shoots of this post I can go in to so far as “how many carbs?” or “how much protein” or “is calorie cycling needed” or the many other questions, this is simply a guide to create your own meal plans as I have found, personally, that having a meal plan far out-does guessing what you will eat.
If you are one who tracks macros (If It Fits Your Macros aka IIFYM) and you find it easy and it’s working … KEEP GOING! It works. I have done it. Many others have as well. Because again, at the end of the day, it comes down to calories and THAT’S what matters.
I know for myself, when I have a goal of fat loss (especially when getting in to competition leanness), having a meal plan keeps me from having to think about what I will eat next. My calories (thus my macros [protein, fat, & carbs]) are set and all I have to do is eat, train, and live my life. Not worrying about the minutia of everything else.
MyFitnessPal is a tool MANY people use to track their food and it’s after I started playing with it that I realized this can be a POWERFUL tool if utilized properly.
What I am going to do is give you a step-by-step guide on how to create your very own meal plan, show you how you can make substitutions if necessary, and get your nutrition in order so that you can start seeing progress.
Also, at the very end, I will link you to a Precision Nutrition pdf you can download and print out yourself to mark your meals so that it gives you accountability. When you calculate you how many on-plan & off-plan meals you’ve had, you can then question your progress (or lack thereof) by how close you stuck to the plan.
Disclaimer: This guide is intended to help you create your very own meal plans. This isn’t professional medical advice and if you choose to create your own, you understand the risks in anything nutrition & fitness related. You should always consult with your physician before you start anything involving fitness or nutrition planning and programs.
How Do I Find My Starting Point?
Well we know that maintenance calories for most people sits anywhere between bodyweight x12-15kcals
When it comes to fat loss for the general population (smaller, less-active females, really overweight males and female) who are training 1-3 days/week, you can start bodyweight x8-9kcals. For the general population (shorter females who are more active, taller females, more active individuals) who are moderately active (training 3-5 days/week), you will start with your current bodyweight weight x10-12 to find your calories intake needed for fat loss. Wherever you fall activity wise + your body fat amount is where you’ll start. The more fat you have, the bigger the deficit you can have. The smaller and/or leaner you are, the smaller the deficit to preserve your lean mass a bit more.
For illustration, I will use myself and essentially, you will plug in your own data to create it for yourself.
This means this:
Current bodyweight (BW) 175 lbs x 10-12 = 1750-2100 calories.
Yes, you read that right. That is what I will need to maintain a caloric deficit.
Now height, current fat mass/lean body mass (more-so how you look) will determine where on the spectrum you will sit.
If you are a woman, 5’7″, 150 lbs with fat to lose, and you lift 2-4x/week, you will eat 1500-1800 calories!!!
Yes, this is physiology, not broology. You NEED to eat. Don’t fear food.
Once you set your caloric goals, this is when the nitty gritty of HOW MUCH in terms of macros (protein, fat, and carbs) you will need to ultimately function while losing body fat.
From this moment, I will reference everything according to me eating 2100 calories for fat loss since you generally (re: not ALWAYS depending who you are) want to start at the higher end in the event you need to cut calories slightly.
Let’s Set These Macros Up!
While simply being a caloric deficit is needed, eating enough of each macro is imperative for hormonal function (this is ESPECIALLY important for you, ladies as hypo caloric diets, yo-yo diets, going 0-carb reek havoc on your thyroid) as well as daily function like having the energy to lift, work, and not be an angry bipolar mess because you haven’t eaten.
Let’s get a quick reference as to how many calories are per 1g of a macronutrient.
Protein = 4 calories per 1g
Carbs = 4 calories per 1g
Fat = 9 calories per 1g
Protein is necessary as ever living cell in your body is made of proteins as well as the fact that protein is muscle sparing (meaning when you are in a caloric deficit, it helps hold on to the lean body mass you already have) and builds muscle, keeps you full, longer, and has a higher thermic effect (meaning your body has to burn slightly more calories to process/digest it).
Protein recommendations are 0.8-1.2g/lb.
Now…I personally set it based on lean body mass (lbm) which technically that’s what you need protein for…to preserve your lean mass. Plus, if you are really overweight, protein after a certain point just becomes an expensive macronutrient. For lbm, I set it at 1.2-1.4g/lb/lbm.
From a satiation standpoint as well as holding on to the lean body mass you have, I would start with 1g/lb. People will say you need less. Some will say you need more. To keep everyone happy, just start in the middle and adjust as needed.
This means at 1g/lb, I will have 175g protein.
175g protein = 700 calories.
2100 (starting) – 700 = 1400 calories remaining
Now, if I wanted to set it purely on lbm, let’s say my lbm is 155lbs (meaning I have 20lbs of fat mass). I would then multiply my lbm times 1.2-1.4. This would equal 186-217g protein. Is that a little more accurate? Sure. It is going to make a huge difference? Probably not.
Le Carbs and Fats
While the feud of how much to eat is an age old question like why did the chicken cross the road, it’s for the most part, semantics, if you are a healthy human being.
You don’t want to have too little of either (unless medically necessary which further goes in to consulting with your physician or Registered Dietician).
Eating “healthy” is a completely subjective phrase so while I understand what you are saying, it’s about eating the right quantity of those healthy foods.
And while eating candy or pop tarts all day would be ideal, it isn’t (and yes, it sucks because I love them, too).
Going for minimally processed and high nutrient-dense foods is ALWAYS the go-to.
Choosing the potatoes over potato chips. Choose veggies over veggie chips. Choosing steamed/baked/grilled/roasted foods instead of fried foods. Eating well AND NOT downing a bottle of wine or a bunch of mixed drinks or a bottle of wine. You know, making wiser choices with food that will AID in your efforts, not destroy them.
Getting in omega-3 fatty acids which is good for heart health, can help improve insulin sensitivity, and great for the brain and is found in fatty fish such as Salmon or highly concentrated fish oil such as that from Nordic Naturals.
While I cannot give out specific recommendations on this end, I will give what I would use for myself, as a relatively lean trainee and then you can make your own decisions from there.
If I have 1400 calories left and want to go 50/50 in terms of what I eat, then I would allocate 700 calories to carbs and 700 calories to fat.
700 calories for carbs = 175g carbs
700 calories for fat = 77g fat
Thus making my macro goals 175g Protein – 175g Carbs – 77g Fat
This would seem like a well-rounded diet is in place. Not too much of anything. However, if you are a little more overweight, especially for your height, you may want to increase your protein and fat by a little and drop the carbs down just enough to make a positive change. If you are already relatively lean, you can get away with upping the carbs a little more. Again, it’s trial and error.
Using the numbers in place, I will now go on to MyFitnessPal and create my plan using my targeted numbers.
Setting Up Meal Plans on MyFitnessPal
I must admit, it may seem like a daunting task at first but that’s because you have no data in there to start. However, like anything else in life, as you go along, it gets easier and easier until you virtually have to just press a button.
Setting Your Calories & Macros
Let it be known, these numbers are estimates. They are not hard numbers and you will need to adjust as time goes on. And for this very purpose, this is what I have to work with.
MyFitnessPal offers premium services where you can individualize the exact gram amount per macronutrient. Otherwise, it’s done by percentages (%) only.
While I can still set my own caloric goal, I will have to rely closely to percentages instead of the numbers I came with above. That’s ok, because the deficit remains.
Once you’ve established this, you can now start entering your meals.
As stated previously, I like structured eating more-so when it comes to a goal such as fat loss simply because I don’t want to have to think. I’m a simpleton.
I personally eat the same thing over and over and have no issues. If this isn’t you, later on, I will tell you how you can make changes when necessary.
Remember, set your protein first (this could be in the form of chicken, protein powder, beef, tuna, salmon, turkey, bison, kangaroo [if you’re Aussie], etc]) and make sure you divide it relatively equally among your meals. This will ensure you won’t get a huge heap at one meal than virtually nothing at the next. Then from there, choose your carb for the meal and fat.
What I like about MyFitnessPal is the ability to use grams(g) of food. It’s smaller than ounces and puts it right on the money.
You will do this for each food in the meal.
UPDATE (1/13/2015) – You do not have to break down by serving. Using the iPhone, you can hit ‘decimal’ and be able to multiply the ‘1g’ or whatever serving amount by typing in exactly how much.
Once you do that, you will hit the button below the meal then hit ‘Save Meal’. Name it then it’ll be saved.
You will do that for each meal.
Once you’ve plugged in your meals, double check your requirements have been met.
Once you have your meals in, you can just plug them in each day as long as you stay within your calorie requirements and protein requirements.
For instance, if you want breakfast twice in one day (Meal 1), then plug it in twice.
You may or may not have to add or take away food from another meal to off-set it.
What makes it easy is once you’ve had your meals created, just going in and editing the current meal is far easier than entering a ton of new data.
Find a few meals you can be consistent with and then plug and play.
This will allow you to prep a few days in advanced so you know what you’re eating and won’t have to guess.
Wrapping It Up
There are many approaches to fat loss.
This is just one way (I personally love) that will help you organize yourself as you train hard and get your nutrition right in order to lose the fat you want to lose as effective and as efficiently as possible.
The one thing you will definitely need is consistency. Do not change your plan if your plan is actually working.
Keep moving forward!
Precision Nutrition – All About Measuring Compliance (What you need to know about compliance and how to create your grid)
Beradi, PhD, John, and Ryan Andrews MS, MA, RD. The Essentials Of Sport And Exercise Nutrition. 2nd ed. Precision Nutriton, Inc, 2013. Print.
Precision Nutrition,. ‘Research Review: How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Work? | Precision Nutrition’. N.p., 2010. Web. 31 July 2015.
Syatt, Jordan. ‘Training And Nutrition For Fat Loss: The Ultimate Fat Loss Guide’. Syatt Fitness. N.p., 2015. Web. 31 July 2015.