In order to lose weight/body fat you need to be in a calorie deficit. In a previous blog I went over what exactly a calorie deficit is. Read it here.
Getting into a deficit can require a large variability in the amount of calories someone needs to consume and it’s different for everyone and is based on MANY factors.
The longer and the more drastic the calorie deficit is, the more you will start to struggle with things like low energy, hunger and cravings. Read here on what drops the most when you are dieting for fat loss, and read here to see why hunger and cravings rise.
It can be tough to stick to a calorie deficit over time. There are many things that will come up that will try to steer you off the path.
The good news is that there are some things you can do to make this process easier to stick to.
Lets go over them.
Have a meal timing structure.
What we do with online clients here is pick an amount of meals they want to eat per day. You also need to consider what’s practical for yourself as well. If you hate eating 8 times per day then that probably isn’t best for you.
If you hate eating 2 big meals per day then that probably isn’t best for you.
So find a number of meals per day that you know you can stick to.
4 seems to be best for most, but you can do 2,3,4,5,6 etc.
Once you have how many meals you eat per day then pick around the times you will be eating those.
Again see what fits your schedule best. You don’t need to have it dialed down to the exact minute but have a 1-2 hour timeframe when you will be eating.
The goal here is to ensure that each day is fairly similar. That way you don’t have to figure out each day how many meals to eat. This provides a good framework to work with and takes a lot of guesswork out of the process.
If you aren’t losing weight as you would like, then you simply eat a little less at each meal.
But if you aren’t losing weight and one day you eat 5 meals then the next 3, you really have no idea where to take away some food from.
Stick with your meal timing structure for atleast 1-2 weeks, if you find it doesn’t work then change. But find something you can stick to.
Have go to meals.
One of the biggest mistakes people make during their fat loss diet is changing up what they eat from day to day. Just like with the meal timing structure, there needs to be some consistency from day to day otherwise you will be spending a lot of time figuring out what to eat, and when you get super hungry you will be more likely to say screw it.
With online clients we have them pick out 1-3 go-to meals for the times when they are in a bind.
Some go to meals of mine:
Meal: Tuna Packets, Rice, Spinach Salad w. Tomatoes/Light Dressing (weigh this out), 1-½ Apple.
Meal: Oatmeal, Milk (1% or Skim), Protein Powder, Peanut Butter (weigh this out), ½ Banana.
Meal: Baked Chicken Breast, Pasta or Rice, Microwavable Veggies, with some teriyaki sauce over top (weigh this out).
Protein at each meal/speed up metabolism.
Making sure you get protein at each meal really checks a lot of boxes.
- It helps with building and maintaining your muscle mass. When we are losing body fat we want to try and maintain as much lean body mass as possible. It is also great for recovery from training.
- It can be very filling. This is super helpful when on a fat loss diet, because as we talked about earlier your hunger and cravings will rise over time.
- It uses the most energy to absorb and digest out of the 3 macronutrients. Now this isn’t going to make a dramatic difference, but when you are in a fat loss diet every little bit counts.
With online clients we aim for around 1g per pound of bodyweight for protein.
Some good sources of lean protein are:
- Chicken Breast
- Lean Steak Cuts
- Turkey Breast
- Ground Turkey
- Pork Tenderloin
- Low-Fat & Non-Fat Dairy
- Egg Whites
- Greek yogurt (my favorite is the oikos triple zero)
- Tuna packets
Keep fiber high.
Fiber can be very filling and great for your overall health. It is usually found in more nutrient dense foods as well so by having your fiber intake fairly high we can probably conclude that your diet quality is solid.
Most processed foods are low in fiber, which is not great for managing your hunger.
Its a good idea to get about 15g of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat.
Foods higher in fiber:
- Fruits (strawberries, banana, pears, apples)
- Vegetables (broccoli, spinach, carrots, brussel sprout)
- Any beans (black beans are my favorite)
- Popcorn (if you want a high fiber snack, careful with extra butter and what not).
- Chia seeds
Eat more high volume foods.
I wrote a blog going over how to increase your food volume here.
Again the goal with increasing your food volume is to keep you feeling full so hunger and cravings stay at bay.
One side note, I have been talking a lot about lowering hunger and cravings, however if you want fat loss to happen there is going to be some hunger and cravings involved. Trying to avoid this altogether is a sure sign you wont be making any substantial progress. Sorry but I have to be upfront about it.
High food volume would be foods that have a low calorie amount for the amount of food. Think things like watermelon, vegetables, popcorn, potatoes, rice, lean proteins etc.
Low food volume would be foods that have a high calorie amount for a little amount of food. For example think about how just two oreos pack 160 calories.
Just to make a point, a 4oz chicken breast has 120 calories!
The biggest mistake people make when on a fat loss diet is trying to fit in too many calorie dense foods and this just leaves them feeling super hungry.
There is no way around this, if you are trying to get lean, alcohol will make it tough. Even in moderation.
If you like to drink more than just a few then you can all but ensure fat loss wont be happening.
This sucks to hear but its the truth and people need to the trade offs.
Drinking itself does add a lot of calories, but its the trickle down effect of drinking that causes the most problems.
When you drink your inhibitions lower and you are more likely to say screw it that night with your food options.
Your sleep is also negatively effected which will then effect your decisions the following day as well.
If on a fat loss diet you should aim to drink VERY moderately and avoid it all together if you can.
A client recently went on a fat loss phase, and cut out all his alcohol and went from 205 to 195. We maintained that weight loss for about 6 weeks and then went back into another fat loss phase to get him even leaner.
The problem is that he was already getting far away from where his body was comfortable so this required more adherence to his nutrition.
He didn’t cut out drinking during this fat loss phase and as you would imagine he didn’t lose any weight during this second fat loss phase.
Read this to see how to manage a night out.
Have a start and end date.
Having an end date to your calorie deficit can make things much easier throughout the process.
I know a lot of clients that wouldn’t have stuck with it they didn’t have an end date.
There is something about having an end date that helps with adherence.
Too many people just randomly say they want to lose weight without a start and end date. Big mistake.
For most clients 8-12 weeks seems to be best for being in a deficit. However this is very individual to the client.
Have a few go to meals at restaurants.
Eating out at restaurants regularly will make sticking to your calorie deficit tough.
The goal of restaurants is to continue to get your business, so they don’t care about your calorie deficit, but instead just how tasty they can make your food.
With online clients we aim to reduce how often they go out to eat during a calorie deficit (another good reason to have a start and end date).
However, not ever going out to eat just isn’t practical for most.
If you can, it would be wise to have a few go to meals at restaurants you will visit.
This makes tracking MUCH easier.
Use calorie free beverages/caffeine strategically.
Alot of people think low cal/diet drinks are bad for your health, but this is only in absurd amounts.
However they can help with cravings, so they can be a tool you can use.
Caffeine can also be an appetite suppressant.
Keep steps high
High steps counts not only burn more energy, but they also help with managing hunger.
Read over this blog about how low activity can cause appetite dysregulation.
Another thing about keeping your activity or step count high is that it is simply less time you will be sitting around thinking about food.
Plan ahead for events/parties.
Too many people just wing these.
Have a plan for the party, but more importantly have a plan for the day.
Plan your meals the night before for any part of the day that wont be spent at the event.
This will ensure that most of your day is on track.
There you have it. You don’t need to nail down all of these, but the next time you are in a calorie deficit start to practice these and watch your adherence and progress skyrocket!
If you need more structure and accountability with your training and/or nutrition then fill out the coaching link here.