Moving on from yesterday’s post i’m going to set out the fundamentals behind starting a fat loss diet. Before we go into anything though I want to mention that context is everything and everyone will be different in setting a diet up in this regard. This is simply a very standard approach to figuring what works best for you.
The graph below is a good representation of how someone should approach any diet, however for clarity the following criteria should be followed for a fat loss diet (in order of importance:
– Set a calorie deficit
– Set protein intake
– Set fat intake
– Everything else depends
First, and most importantly, is to set a calorie deficit. If you are not in a calorie deficit you will not lose fat – simple. Some of you may have read pieces by people claiming ‘a calorie isn’t a calorie’ and other such nonsense but at the end of the day even humans are subject to the laws of thermodynamics. A good starting point for creating a calorie deficit is to set a calorie intake of 10-12 cals/lb total body weight. These figures have been used for years and basically create a deficit of around 20% from maintenance. Whether you use the upper or lower end of that depends completely on context (e.g. activity levels, how fast you wish to lose fat/weight and much more).
The next most important aspect of a fat loss diet is setting your protein intake. One of the problems people face when dieting in a calorie deficit is that muscle mass is also lost. However some bright spark found that increasing dietary protein was the best way to limit body (muscle) protein loss. There are other reasons to increase protein intake which I will quickly mention and they are; protein is the most filling macronutrient and protein requires more energy to digest than both fat and carbohydrate. So, getting straight to the point of an appropriate guideline for protein intake… 1-1.5 grams/lb total body weight is a good standard to use. Leaner athletes should use the upper ends whilst more overweight/sedentary individuals should go towards the lower end. Very obese/sedentary individuals can go as low as 0.7 g/lb as increasing beyond that doesn’t show any physiological advantage.
Dietary fat is the next important factor for a number of reasons. Firstly it is important to hit your requirement for essential fatty acids w-3 and w-6, however this is a low amount which can easily be made, especially if supplementing with fish oil capsules. Secondly lowering dietary fat too far can be detrimental as it increases hunger, particularly between meals as dietary fat slows gastric (stomach) emptying, and ultimately reduces adherence to the diet. I recommend setting dietary fat at around 20-25% of calories. Meals containing 10-14 grams of fat are a good guideline however this changes depending upon meal frequency. Again context is important but this is a suitable generic guideline.
This brings us to ‘everything else’. Once you’ve set your calorie intake then by subtracting protein (4 cals/g) and fat (9 cals/g) you can work out what’s left for carbohydrates (4 cals/g). The bulk of your carb intake should surround any workouts performed and carb intake will change depending upon activity levels. However not all of these remaining calories have to go on carbs. If your diet that day takes you slightly higher on fats or proteins or you simply prefer or train better on a lower carb diet then that’s fine so long as you don’t go over you calorie target.
But there you have it, a basic starter for fat loss diets.