How much should I be eating to lose weight?
Without getting too bogged down in physics, your net energy balance (in versus out) dictates how much energy is available to be stored, or how much needs to be given up for fuel. This is the basis of what we are trying to manipulate when we are attempting to change our body composition (percentage fat versus muscle). Think of it like a bank account made up of daily debits and credits; whichever one is the majority will dictate the future balance in the long term. We can estimate how much energy we need to cover our daily activity in the same way we can estimate how much money we need to earn to cover our outgoings. We will know if we’ve got it right or wrong depending on the results after a week or so.
Use the below formula to estimate your energy expenditure at rest and multiply it by your activity level to get the total energy expenditure. This is the process we go through with all of our new clients and continually reevaluate as long as they are training with us.
Men: Weight (kg) x 12.3 + 704 = REE Women: Weight (kg) x 10.9 + 586 = REE
1.375 Light Active 1.55 Moderately Active
1.725 Fairly Active
1.9 Very Active
Calories and Weight
Once you have this number you can double check it against an activity monitor if you have one i.e. a fitbit. Then most importantly, monitor your energy intake and changes in weight over a seven day period. This will zero in on your actual energy expenditure by comparing it to a real outcome; your changes in weight. If your bodyweight decreases over time, you are withdrawing from your reserves, like dipping into your savings if you are spending beyond your means. Weight loss is just spending beyond our means in terms of energy. The opposite is true for gaining weight, and if nothing is changing, we are maintaining a state of energy balance. Review your changes in weight every seven days and adjust your calories accordingly. See this task as an experiment where you can figure out exactly how your body responds to changes in intake.
What are Macros?
Where does energy in our diet come from? There are four main nutrients that provide energy, three essentials, one not. These are protein, carbohydrates, fats and alcohol. Protein and fats have a structural need, i.e. they are needed to build new cells. We need a relatively large amount of protein per day and a proportionately smaller amount of essential fats. Getting enough protein takes planning, getting enough essential fat can be left to good food choices (oily fish, healthy cooking oils, nuts etc.)
How important is protein?
A high protein diet benefits those trying to lose fat and gain muscle. How much is enough? Research suggests that if you are training or you are trying to lose weight, then your diet should contain at least 1.6g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. Once you’ve got a handle on this then you can look to increase your protein intake as far as an upper limit of 2.5g per kilogram of bodyweight. This has two positive effects; it both increases protein synthesis to increase or at the very least maintain lean muscle mass and it limits easily accessible energy from carbohydrates and fats instead favouring harder to breakdown and less efficient proteins.
Planning your diet
Prioritise protein when planning meals. The first component of every meal should be a proportion of your daily protein target. For example, if you are eating four meals a day, the first food you plan should be aimed at meeting a quarter of your protein target. The second priority is then highly nutritious, high volume, low energy foods such as leafy greens i.e. spinach, broccoli etc., salad leaves, mushrooms, tomatoes, asparagus, berries such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries etc., and citrus fruits such as oranges, clementines, lemons, limes, grapefruit etc. Then once these are added you can make up the rest of your mealtime calorie allowance of sources of carbohydrates and fats.
Group foods together according to food groups such as high carbohydrate, high fats, high protein, fats and protein, and carbohydrate and protein. Foods high in carbohydrates and fats are highly likely to be very calorie dense, not at all satiating and poor quality, these should be minimised or avoided if they trigger binge eating (“once you pop you can’t stop”). I’d never advocate cutting out foods entirely , particularly if you enjoy them, however they should not make up more than 10% of your energy intake. Foods within the same food group become interchangeable to make planning simple.
Supplements are an easy way to bolster your nutrient intake and should be relied on like a dietary insurance policy if certain foods are in short supply. As this is a light guide I’m not going to go into any detail for each one separately however I would recommend the following: whey or casein protein to maintain optimal protein synthesis, creatine monohydrate and omega-3 for mental acuity and joint health, and zinc and magnesium and vitamin D3 for recovery and to aid sleep. See the dosage displayed on the brand of supplements you buy for information on how to take them.