Ready set fatloss phase check!
We typically have the best intentions when it comes to losing fat, but we tend to focus our attention and energy in all the wrong spots.
There is no secret to fat-loss but there are definitely more efficient and less efficient ways of achieving it. There still requires some effort and consistency on your end but a-lot of the time ways you may have done things in the past may not necessarily work for you right now (work commitments, age, injuries, so on and so fourth.) If this sounds like you, that what you've done before seems near impossible, what you think you have to do &/or you never have gotten to where you know your true potential lies then listen up.
Understanding Energy Balance and the Fundamentals of Nutrition
We could say that energy is another word for calories. Our energy balance is defined by the number of calories we consume through eating and drinking and the number of calories our body burns to complete all its necessary functions and any type of physical activity.
In order to maintain our weight and body composition there should be a balance between the calories consumed and the calories burned. That doesn’t mean that we should consume each day exactly the same number of calories as the calories we burn but it is more about achieving balance over time (say a weekly period.)
Creating energy balance helps us to maintain a certain weight, but if our goal is to lose weight we have to create a caloric deficit, meaning burning more calories than the ones we consume. When our body cannot cover its caloric needs through food it starts burning fat for energy.
A CALORIE DEFICIT IS SIMPLY UNAVOIDABLE WHEN LOSING FAT.
Now if we are in the biz of looking sexy we need to pay attention to macro distribution as-well as energy balance, we don't just want to be a smaller yet flabbier version of ourselves.
Losing weight seems quite simple when it is explained as Energy in and Energy out, nonetheless, paying attention to the quality & macro distribution of food we consume is crucial in order to achieve sustainable results - lean, toned & strong AF. Our body reacts and processes differently each food because of its macronutrient content. Macronutrients are nutritive components of food that our body uses for energy and they are separated into 3 big categories:
Learn more about macronutrients:
All three macronutrients are crucial for a healthy and sustainable diet and each one of those has different functions and beneficial properties for our body. When it comes to designing a weight loss plan we need to make sure that we focus on meals that provide us with the energy we need to complete all the activities of our day, make us feel full but at the same time help us meet our caloric and micronutrient goals & leave us some fuel in the tank for those fire training sessions.
The most important macronutrient in a fat-loss phase is protein. Being in a low energy state means can = being catabolic or in 'breakdown mode' which unfortunately for us our body doesn't just breakdown fat is also looks for other sources to convert to energy too. It's important we support it with extra protein in these fat-loss phases. This is going to vary based on your goals, activity level, your current muscle mass + more. If we work off the studies these show positive outcomes from 2-3+ per kg of body weight in protein, so if you're 60kg this would look like 120g to 180g protein per day.
Once we have total calories and protein accounted for the rest of the macro distribution really comes down to personal preference, some may like more carbs than fat and vice versa, there is a consideration in general to not go below .5g per kg of body weight worth of fat to maintain general health.
My personal preference is carbs as opposed to fat as this allows me more food volume & better energy availability in my training sessions + who doesn't love carbs?
Satiety Index and Hunger Regulation
It's always going to be hard managing hunger in a fat-loss phase, there are things we can do to mitigate this but I'd be lying if I told you that we can rid this feeling completely. We are eating less than what our body needs to maintain itself so our body will signal for more food, we can't rid this but we can use strategies to mitigate the effects.
What we eat can determine how full we feel, different foods affect in different ways our sensation of fullness. Satiety is a term used to describe the feeling of fullness or the loss of appetite after a meal.
The Satiety index has a rating of foods that have been tested for their satiating effect in a 240 calorie portion.
THIS IS AN EXAMPLE GRAPH OF THE SUTDY COMPLETED WHERE THE COMPARISON WAS MADE TO WHITE BREAD - WHITE BREAD WAS 100% MEANING BOILED POTATOES WERE 3 TIMES MORE FILLING AND A CROISSANT WAS ONLY HALF AS FILLING AS WHITE BREAD.
The more filling foods have the following characteristics:
- They are high in fiber: Fiber helps with digestion and it is usually high in water content that increases the feeling of fullness.
- They are high volume - low energy density: Foods that are high in volume but have low calories usually are high in water and air content so they are more filling than processed foods and they reduce hunger.
If we think of our calories or targets as a daily allowance of money how we spend our calories can make or break our success. So to get the best return on investment we want to opt for the high volume, highly satiating foods. The satiety index is our best friend here. So making some simple swaps with what you currently eat can make all the difference. Things that score low on the satiety index we want to limit during a fat-loss phase and have in small less frequent amounts - these lower scoring foods typically are highly palatable and easily over consumed so using strategies like: placing them in hard to reach spots out of site, simply not buying them in a fat-loss phase.
Why planning & tracking your food intake is important?
Planning ahead leaves less to chance, it is well researched that the more decisions we make in a day the worse the decisions become. If our budget of calories is reduced (hello fat-loss phase) we want to be wise with our spending. Spending time ahead of the day (the night before or once a week) is going serve your future self well when life catches you by surprise. Failing to plan is planning to fail so sit down and get those plans in.
MEAL TIMING / DISTRIBUTION
Working with your schedule, are you an early rise but you train later in the day? Maybe you are a late sleeper and backload alot of your work at the end of the day.
What I typically see with the people I coach is that they fit into either two categories:
Category One: They are eating too little throughout the day & overeating on dinner dessert / Or Restricting during the week and going all out on the weekends - the bing restrict cycle.
Category Two: They don't have a plan on what they will eat and just leave it up to feeling.
The way we tackle this is going to look different depending on your lifestyle and goals but generally speaking category one sees great success in eating more protein throughout the morning & planning ahead on some food to eat after dinner.
Category two does will with time-bound meal planning potentially reducing the eating window in a fat-loss phase, knowing exactly what they will eat and when ahead of time based on their numbers. When this doesn't work? Having the first meal later in the day isn't most optimal for those who are super hungry in n the morning or who workout first thing in the morning.
Tracking our food intake can help us understand better our eating habits and the micronutrient content of the food we consume during the day. By being specific and accurate with our reporting we can control the portions of each macronutrient in our diet and make adjustments in order to reach our goals.
The final piece of the puzzle is creating barriers and setting your environment up for success.
Setting our environment up for success, we want to make it easy to be in alignment with our goals and we want to make it harder to engage in behaviours that take us away from our goal.
We want to remove friction where we can such as meal prepping, if we prepare our food ahead of time, the likelihood of us eating this prepared food is higher and if planned right is exactly where we need to be in terms of macro's.
Another example is having some protein powder on you at all times, have some in the car, our gym bag, at work. Keep other snacks that fit within your day or are easily interchangeable in case of emergency!
Another example is keeping our sometimes food / highly palatable foods out of site out of mind or simple not purchased during our fat-loss phase. Things we typically overeat on make them harder to access.
MANAGING OUR SLEEP & STRESS
Eating less than our body needs to maintain itself is a stressor, among a whole plethora of other things I bet you could name! Think of our stress load like a cup there is only a set amount of stress our bodies can take until the cup starts overflowing #cuemeltdown - we need to ensure our stress management and stress levels are not too high prior to commencing a fat loss phase. We need to be in a position to where we are both willing AND able to commit to a fat loss phase.
Stress load is a combo of: personal, health status, work, training & nutrition, so before you think the answer to all your prayers is to jump into a deficit phase be sure to assess your overall stress load.
Ways to manage your stress load:
- Mindfulness such as: meditation, breathwork, journalling and reflection, visualisation.
- Reducing time on electronics such as TV and Socials
- Having a routine / structure with good sleep hygeine
- Diet Breaks or Refeeds
- Setting clear boundaries with yourself & others
Cardio or Weights? The studies show both a beneficial and how much is going to be super goal dependant. If we are in the biz of lean & toned / looking good naked then do more weights. If we are just looking to lose some fat and have no specific body composition goals (the tight and toned look sits in the looking good naked category) then we can do a combo of both whatever is most enjoyable.
Resistance training is crucial to maintaining our tissue (hello muscle mass) but sometimes we can't just add more on top of this due to the recovery demands so we may need to change the approach to add some more cardio - this is used as a tool to expend energy!
ALL IN ALL THIS BEST PLAN NEEDS TO FACTOR IN YOUR LIFESTYLE, NEEDS, REQUIREMENTS, RESTRICTIONS. MOST OPTIMAL DOENS'T MEAN BEST FOR YOU. IT NEEDS TO BE SOMETHING YOU CAN FOLLOW.