Say you want to lose body fat.
- Find a random diet on the internet,
- Log into MyFitnessPal and have it spit out numbers based on how much weight you want to lose, go straight into 1200 or 1600 calorie diets because you heard that was the way to go.
- Try something like keto or low carb.
- Cut out all of your favorite foods because they are “bad”
Chances are you do atleast one of those. And they aren’t wrong per se.
However, there is much more that goes into it than just saying I want to diet and then starting that day or the next. Just following a 1600 calorie diet or the keto diet isn’t enough.
Sort of a side note, but one common misconception is that people should always be trying to lose fat, but for online clients, we dedicate periods of time to this rather than always being in a fat loss phase.
In the past I have talked about the importance of nutritional periodization.
Great, so you shouldn’t always be trying to lose body fat.
But how come I cant just find a diet online and start dieting?
Because its only a small portion of the equation, there is much more that goes into it.
And in this blog I want to dive into what exactly needs to be in each fat loss plan to ensure its success.
A lot of people push things off, but if you are someone who has dieted multiple times, I’m sure you have just dove right into a diet without any preparation.
Diving right into some things can be good, but in this case, you need to have a “pre-diet” before you start your fat-loss diet. Especially if you have dieted multiple times before with little to no success.
Just like professional sports teams need the preseason to get ready, you need the pre-diet phase to get ready for a calorie deficit.
Things that we do in the pre diet phase:
- Establish a good calorie baseline.
- Work on good eating habits (slowing down when eating, a good base of whole foods).
- Make sure their weight has stabilized over the last 4-8 weeks (jumping right back into a fat loss phase after losing weight is not a great idea).
- Ensure they aren’t over doing cardio or high-intensity activity. So we get their training volume to the optimal amount.
With clients, we do not plan on going straight into a fat loss phase, there are some initial things they must cross off of the list. This ensures they are ready to handle a calorie deficit.
In saying this, some clients who had poor eating habits prior do see some good fat loss in this initial stage.
This phase can take anywhere from 4-16 weeks.
➡️How long the phase will be
A big mistake when you search for a diet online or use random calorie numbers is that the plan doesn’t tell you how long you need to be doing that for.
I have talked extensively about metabolic adaptation. Read that HERE.
To ensure success we set up a general timeframe (8-12 weeks seems to be the sweet spot) of how long the fat loss diet will be.
This helps the client realize this is only temporary and to see if there are any events or challenges that need to be worked around during this timeframe.
Too many people just have a vague goal of fat loss and then find themselves getting in the endless diet mindset trap without having a plan of how long they will diet for.
➡️Have a set number of meals
Structure is crucial during a fat loss diet.
One way we can get some structure is by having a set amount of meals per day.
If each day is different this will make adherence tough, and this also takes a lot of the needless guesswork out, so all they need to do is execute.
Pick a number of meals you know you can stick to per day.
3-5 seems to be best for most.
Say you chose 4 meals and you have a busy day. On this day maybe you only have eaten once, now you know you still need to get 3 more meals in.
Now that you have how many meals you are going to eat per day you can now take out any eating outside of those meals.
Snacking can a fat loss killer. Mainly because we snack when we are bored or hungry, and the types of foods we choose when we snack are usually tasty, so they are much easier to overeat.
During your fat loss phase, take out snacking. No grazing. You only eat during your designated meals.
We have clients aim for meals and no snacking unless it’s high protein and a part of their set meals per day.
Again, this just maintains the structure and takes a lot of the guesswork out.
➡️Limit alcohol/no alcohol:
But drinking alcohol during a fat loss phase makes adherence nearly impossible.
While drinking does add extra calories, what happens after the drinking is usually what kills people.
You overeat that night, then get poor sleep and are tired the next day. So you lay around, and because you lay around you are bored. And because you are bored you start to think about tasty food because you feel like crap.
For online clients we have them either aim for no alcohol or a very moderate amount per week.
Usually its 0-2 times per week, and about 1-3 drinks when drinking. Anything more and you are going to make fat loss very tough.
Too many people just wing their fat loss phases. Just like we preach tracking your workouts if you want to progress, or tracking your expenses if you want to save money, you need to track something during your fat loss phase.
Tracking doesn’t necessarily mean tracking calories.
You can go without tracking macros/calories, but it certainly helps and increases your chance of success.
You can track how many sources of protein you get per day, you can track just calories/protein, you can track how many meals you are having per day, you can track hand portions, it doesn’t matter, but just tracking something is always going to give you a better chance at success.
Some things you MUST track:
- Bodyweight (2-3x per week, first thing in the morning post bathroom, pre food or drink). Take the averages for the week.
- Measurements. Maybe your weight isn’t going down as much as you’d like, but then you look at measurements and you see your waist is going down.
- Progress pictures. Maybe you look better? Isn’t that the goal?
Stop following a diet and then not tracking anything.
99.9% chance you wont stick to it.
Do I need to say more here? If you are reading this, chances are you know the importance of weight training.
We HAVE to keep doing weight training during our fat loss phase in order to maintain muscle.
Each client gets a step goal.
Why steps and not cardio?
Because it’s tough for most people to get to the gym or dedicate 30-60 minutes to cardio.
With steps, they can get them in while doing other things like:
- Hanging with friends, family, their kids
- Doing housework
- Grocery shopping
- Walking with a loved one
Also, when we diet, our body tries to conserve energy where possible, hitting a step goal can combat this.
➡️Plan after the diet
Last but certainly not least.
There has to be a plan AFTER the diet.
A lot of people diet for fat loss, and then when its done they just go back to what they were doing before.
Uhhhh not good, not good at all.
This is the most important part of the diet actually. Without a plan after the diet you will most likely lose all the progress you made during the fat loss phase.
If this scares you, that is good, it should.
With all online clients we have a plan to transition them out of an energy deficit so they can enjoy the progress they made during the fat loss phase.
Some further reading/listening on how to set up this phase up:
PODCAST with Brandon DaCruz
That’s it. You now have everything you need to set up a successful fat loss diet.
Now you can find a diet on the internet and use it in combination with these and your chances of success will go up dramatically.
If you need help and guidance setting this up, fill out the application for online coaching HERE.