This guide is intended to further your knowledge on eating well, and to help you lose weight while staying healthy. Maybe you are well on your way to being quite fit, and you just want to see yourself be a bit leaner. Maybe you are just starting out on your journey, but you are concerned about the long road ahead. Don’t be. Some of the methods and strategies that I discuss require careful decision making and attention to detail, while others simply give tips and advice on being aware of what you eat. I encourage you to take whatever steps you feel comfortable with.
Getting Lean Through Dieting
- Keep protein intake high to prevent loss of muscle.
- Keep carbohydrates low regularly. On days with moderate carbohydrates for keeping energy levels up, choose from foods with fibre.
- Spread your meals evenly throughout the day (every 3-4 hours).
- Drink plenty of water. I recommend at least 2-3 litres (for women and men respectively).
- Sleep well. Your body is more efficient with 7-8 hours of sleep.
- Exercise! Balance your healthy diet with physical activity.
No matter where you are in your journey, the principles listed above will always be important to remember. As you can see, points 5 and 6 extend beyond the foods we ingest. Being healthy requires a holistic approach to your lifestyle. You should also find ways to keep your stress to a minimum, and take part in more activities that you enjoy.
In regards to the second point, if you follow a diet with no processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour, etc.), then you are at risk of feeling lethargic. To prevent this, consume “healthy” carbohydrates every three days.
Different Methods for Dieting
Caloric Intake and Calorie Deficits
This is the most common method for losing weight. There are numerous “calorie calculators” online that help you achieve low (100) to high (500) daily calorie deficits. The goal with a 500 calorie deficit every day is losing 1 pound of fat per week, because 1 pound of fat requires 3500 calories to burn. Some methods, like The Harris-Benedict equation, can help you set your targets by plugging your weight, height, and age into a formula.
Chris Powell’s method is much easier to remember, and does not require memorizing a complex equation or always entering numbers online. Simply multiply your weight by 12 to get your daily calorie maintenance, and then consume fewer calories than the given number to lose weight. Going over your daily calorie maintenance will make you gain weight, while matching it will maintain a constant weight.
We should not always think of a calorie deficit as being 100-500 calories. Everyone can theoretically lose 1 pound of fat every week by eliminating 3500 calories from their diet, but not everyone has the same caloric intake starting out, and some people can afford to lose more than just 1 pound of fat per week. For this reason, some methods advise a calorie deficit equal to 20% of your daily calorie maintenance.
If you choose to measure your calories, make an effort to get enough from proteins depending on your fitness goal. In general, someone who wants to get more muscle mass and lose fat at the same time should try to have a significant amount of protein at every meal. Someone who is just looking to maintain their muscle mass should eat a significant amount of protein at one meal at least.
Eating Clean and Staying Hydrated
This is a simple method and it will work for anyone who is not competing or already at an incredibly low body fat percentage. Record what you eat, either tangibly or mentally, and begin eliminating or minimizing bad foods. Obvious bad foods are processed meals or ingredients with high sugar, fat, and salt contents, as well as anything that is sugary or “junky” (fast food, most chips, etc.). To take this a step further, you can also rearrange the quantities of your foods so that your biggest meal is after your workout. Any meal that is not proceeding a workout should be relatively light.
Another important note about your healthy meals is to eat them every 3-4 hours. The benefits of this include increased alertness, higher energy levels, and simply having enough calories for metabolic maintenance throughout the day.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine determined that women require 2.7 litres of water per day, and men require 3.7 litres. We all get a bit of water from certain food and beverage sources, so drinking that much water every day is not actually necessary. Thirst – or a dry mouth – is our body’s way of telling us we are dehydrated. Simply keep yourself hydrated regularly to avoid being thirsty, and you will not have to worry about measuring your water intake.
Different methods work for different people. You will never find out what works best for you if you do not stick to any given plan for at least three weeks.
Strategies for a Modern Lifestyle
My biggest tip is to buy whatever you can in bulk. For meats, this usually means shopping at Costco or talking directly to a butcher and asking for something like 5 kg of chicken breasts. Buying your chicken in bulk is particularly effective. You can freeze the majority of the raw meat for future uses, and immediately cook up to 3 days worth. Whether that is one, two, three, or maybe more chicken breasts depends on your diet.
This strategy does not work as well for fresh produce, but you can still find ways to be efficient with your time. Suppose you shop for mushrooms, lettuce, red peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and sweet potatoes on the same day. With proper storage, those items could feed you for up to a week. Mushrooms would have to be cooked and eaten within 2 days. Lettuce would last 2-3 days. Red peppers would most likely last up to 3 days, broccoli and cauliflower up to 4-5 days, and asparagus can go just beyond that. Sweet potatoes, other root vegetables, and gourds all have the longest shelf lives.
Get creative with your favourite proteins. Find ways to use them in different dishes to keep yourself excited about your diet, and to always enjoy what you eat.
I encourage everyone to have fun cooking new dishes and preparing their food in exciting ways. However, if time is a constraint, or if you need to simplify your cooking to make keeping track of calories and macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins – easier, you can prepare individual ingredients instead of complete dishes. Or, you can do both at the same time for the ultimate time saver.
Let us use that 5 kg of chicken from earlier as an example. Four chicken breasts have been set aside, and the rest have been frozen. All four will be cut into strips and cooked the same way. Half of the cooked chicken will immediately be combined with cooked red peppers, onions, and other ingredients, and baked in the oven for a delicious chicken casserole. The remaining cooked chicken will be stored in the refrigerator and used for a variety of meals – whole wheat chicken wraps and chicken salad – over the next day or two.
Common Low Carbohydrate Foods
Chicken, turkey, beef, pork, and lamb.
Haddock, cod, trout, and salmon.
The list is endless. Spinach, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots are just a few.
Again, the list is endless. Eat whatever you enjoy for snacks. Seasonal berries go well with yogurt. Apples, oranges, pears, and bananas make for portable snacks.
Dairy (and Eggs)
Feta and Parmesan are your best options for flavourful cheeses. When buying yogurt, avoid anything with added sugars or flavours.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds and walnuts have some of the least fat for nuts.
Olive oil, coconut oil, and unsalted butter.
Calories in Foods
I will not cover all the nutritional values of foods in this guide. I recommend downloading the MyFitnessPal app on your phone, or simply visiting the website www.myfitnesspal.com to check calories and nutrients.
Food for Thought
I hope you all learned something new reading this article. At the very least, my objectives are to help people make more informed decisions and to be more conscious of what they eat. No matter how big or how small your dietary changes may be, just remember to stay dedicated and work hard. You will be rewarded!
Until next time,
Owner and Lead Trainer