With so many diets and gurus going around touting their product as the next best thing to achieve fat loss, it can be super confusing as to what you actually need to do to lose body fat.
In today's blog, I thought we could break down the fundamentals of what a good fat-loss tailored meal would look like, and by following a few simple steps, how you can create thousands of different meals that can help you smash your fat loss goals.
So first off without getting into too much detail fat-loss is acquired by achieving what the industry call an energy or calorie deficit.
This simply means there's a shortage in the amount of calories we consume through foods and liquids relative to the amount of calories that our body needs to maintain our current weight.
If you've attempted to lose weight in the past you may know that it's easier said than done, especially consistently over time.
The main reason why people find it hard to maintain a calorie deficit is because of the foods that they're eating. For example, they tend to eat a lot of processed and refined foods that are very dense in calories and low in nutrition.
These foods don't really fill us up leaving us often over consuming in calories.
In knowing we need to achieve a calorie deficit, how can we use food to achieve this?
Let's get into a little more depth around what exactly we're going to put on our plate to give us the best chance at maintaining an energy deficit in turn achieving fat loss.
Foods can be placed into categories called macronutrients, which means nutrients the body requires in large quantities to give us energy.
The first macronutrient we're going to be discussing is protein.
There are a range of foods that we would classify as good sources of protein from all our meats like chicken, beef, lamb and pork to seafood like salmon, white fish, shrimp and prawns.
Other protein sources include eggs, dairy products like greek yogurt and cottage cheese.
If you're plant-based, tofu, lentils and beans do contain some level of protein.
Protein is going to play an important role in your fat loss journey and here's why;
Protein is classified as the most satiating of the macronutrients meaning calorie for calorie, it will fill you up the most and keep you full for the longest.
In knowing that a calorie deficit is imperative to achieving fat loss, this makes protein massively important if we want to have long-term success.
On top of being extremely filling, protein is helpful to build and repair muscle.
In your case, if we're going to be in a calorie deficit for an extended period we want to try and preserve our muscle mass. Adequate levels of protein help us do this.
Lastly, you may have heard something about protein being quite tough to digest...
This is true as our body will actually use up to 30% of the energy from that protein source just in the digestion process.
This is a bit like getting a 30% discount at a shop. You get all the benefits of the protein but not all the calories that it contains.
Added up over time, up to a 30% discount on a calorie intake can be quite significant.
Given how important protein is, we're going to add a palm size for females and two palm sizes for males to every meal.
It's worth noting that if you have a fat loss goal to keep the protein sources relatively lean in the beginning, just to save on calories.
We will talk more about fat intake shortly.
The next of our macronutrients we will mention is carbohydrate.
You'd have to be living under a rock not to understand just how controversial carbohydrate intake has been over the past 30-years.
A lot of this has come from the high-carb era in the 70's, 80s and 90s, and also from popular diets like Keto and Atkins who recommend very little in the way of carbohydrate.
Carbohydrates are simply sugars, starches and fibers found in different foods.
Carbohydrates can be quite a good source of energy, especially if they have starch or fiber with them as that can slow down the release of sugar into the body.
Although many people would recommend cutting out carbohydrates, I don't and here's why.
If you've been struggling with your weight, there's a fairly high chance you've been consuming a large amount of processed foods of which mainly comprise of carbohydrate.
To achieve consistency long term, we need your way of eating to somewhat mirror your current food choices as this will make the transition into a calorie deficit much easier.
To do this, we're simply going to try and swap out the refined carbohydrate for carbohydrate sources from whole foods.
Some of our more common foods high in carbohydrate include potato or sweet potato, fruits, corn, barley, grains, beans and lentils.
Although they're processed, breads and pastas can come in handy too.
All other vegetables technically come under carbohydrates, but we're going to keep them separate for now, of which i'll explain why shortly.
For our perfect fat loss meal we're going to add a cupped hand of carbohydrates next to our palm of protein and for males you're going to add two cupped hands of carbohydrate.
So that's protein and carbohydrate sorted.
The last macronutrient we are going to mention is fat.
Fat's have been demonised for a number of decades now, particularly saturated fat and a lot of that demonisation has come from poor research done way back in the 1950's.
If you want to read more into that, I'll leave a links at the end of this blog.
Unfortunately that research was picked up by the United States government, who eventually came out with recommendations like the food pyramid, of which placed any foods containing
high levels of fat (especially saturated) in the eat little category.
Still today we see low-fat touted on food products.
It's important to differentiate the different types of fat as there are some that are highly beneficial to our health, and some that are not.
Without going into too much detail, you may have heard of unsaturated fats, mono and poly.
These are fats that are considered beneficial to health as they help ease inflammation, improve blood cholesterol and improve brain health, just to name a few.
They generally come from plants, vegetables nuts and seeds.
When you hear of omega-3 ,6 and 9 these are the fats that we're talking about.
You've also got saturated fat which is the type of fat that's been demonised a lot over the past half a century, and this type of fat can come from dairy, animal or coconut products.
Recent studies show there is absolutely no evidence that reducing your saturated fat intake
reduces your risk of coronary and cardiovascular heart disease, or stroke.
Lastly you've got trans-fats.
Now these are the fats that we do need to be wary of.
Trans-fats are simply vegetable oils that have been heated in the presence of hydrogen gas.
This process is called hydrogenation and allows the oil to become more stable giving it longer shelf life.
Trans-fats are generally used in a lot of processed foods as they are much cheaper and they preserve for longer, so all your foods like baked goods, processed foods, pizzas, margarines and fried foods will all contain trans-fats.
Now we have a good idea of the different types of fats, here's some of the foods containing more of those beneficial fats like omegas-3, 6 and 9.
All good quality oils like olive and nut oils, avocado, dairy products, egg yolks, raw nuts and seeds, olives and coconut products.
When it comes to adding fats to our main meal, we're only going to add a thumb portion.
Again, it's going to be two thumb portions for males.
The reason we're adding much less is fat is it's much denser in calories when we compare it to the macro counterparts.
One gram of fat contains 9-calories where protein and carbohydrate only contain 4-calories per gram.
You need to be mindful that you don't over consume on fats as you still need to maintain that calorie deficit.
This is why earlier on I also mentioned sticking to leaner cuts of meat for the same reason.
Fats have fairly high levels of satiety like protein, so they're very handy when used in the right quantities.
So in our perfect fat loss meal we have a palm of protein, a cupped hand of carbs and a thumb of fats.
The very last type of food that we're going to add in is our vegetables.
Although vegetables in theory are carbohydrate, they are very low in energy and extremely high in nutrients.
This combination is called a nutritionally dense food.
To make sure we're giving our bodies all the extra vitamins and minerals, what we call micronutrients, we're going to add a fist full of vegetables to the plate or for males two fists.
Vegetables are high in fiber too which will help to keep us fuller for longer, again giving us a good shot at not over consuming on calories and maintaining the calorie deficit.
Now that we have our recipe to fat loss success, I want to add in a few caveats based on your own current circumstance.
These meals are a guide and will need to be adjusted to fit you. For example, if you have a reasonable amount of weight to lose, say 20 plus kilo then you may need to add an extra meal, as your maintenance level will be higher than someone that is a little smaller.
Also I recommend males start with four meals instead of three, especially if you have a decent amount of body fat to lose.
Your activity levels may also dictate your energy. If you have a very active job or work out a lot
you may require slightly bigger portions or even an extra meal.
If you're used to only eating two meals a day, you may just want to adjust the portions to fit with that eating frequency.
Listen to your body and adjust the diet based on how you look, feel and perform.