Disclaimer: This blog is intended for the beginner NOT the advanced gym rat or seasoned fitness buff, when you have several years of successful dieting under your belt you think differently because your circumstances (athletic performance could be one) are different. This is step one of many to get a beginner to where you are at now. We are just trying to master one thing at a time.
The nutrition world is SO overwhelming.
Even I say that, and I’ve been in the industry for a number of years, so I know the beginner is just freaking swamped with trying to figure out what to do.
Many people that come in our doors just don’t know what to do with all the conflicting info out there, and I mean, its no wonder.
Do they do Atkins, Paleo, Low-Carb, Low-Fat, Not Eat after 6, or was it 7, do time zones matter? What about whole grains, ever hear of IIFYM, South Beach, North Beach, WEST SIDE!, Mediterranean, is butter a carb…?
$hit, the list goes on!
Personally, I feel this is why so many beginners just give the big middle finger to “dieting” and eat whatever they want.
After talking to so many people I decided to help clear the air of all of these “diets” and start with the bare bones science of this world to help YOU have the best idea of where to start. After that, we will get into the nitty-gritty of this world.
Number One Diet Rule
Yes, this IS a calorie game. No matter how you look at it it is about eating less and moving more.
If you burn more calories than you consume then you WILL lose weight.
That rule RIGHT THERE is the cornerstone of most diets, no matter how they try to spin it at the end of the day, it is about eating less than your body needs.
Before some people get all butt hurt about me forgetting macro breakdowns, meal timing, and supplements, this is NOT about that. Yes, they DO have a part of the picture but in the end, NOTHING comes close to diet success as in eating fewer calories.
If you take a look at popular diets such as IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) and IF (Intermittent Fasting), Carb Backloading, or whatever, they will still have you eating less at the end of the day.
That point right there brings me to the next most popular question.
How Many Calories Am I Supposed To Eat?
There isn’t a magical number out there for everyone, so I can’t give a one size fits all number, but I can tell you how to find YOUR number.
Oh, your gonna hate this, but it’s how we do it for all of our clients here at RTC. You are going to start calorie counting.
BUT I HATE CALORIE COUNTING!
Well, I hate looking at my bank account on certain months but I have to in order to keep from going broke, so get over it.
You are going to get a calorie counting or food tracking app (MyFitnessPal is one of the more popular ones) for your phone and track what you eat, and I mean everything you put into your mouth, for as far back as you remember AND for at least 7 days; also you need to either weigh yourself or get a pair of skin calipers to get some measurements.
Don’t worry about inputting your workouts or exercise, just focus on the calorie number.
From there I want you to average out the amount of calories you eat on a daily basis and compare it to the scale OR the skin calipers from your starting measurements to the final ones.
Side Note: 7 days is the minimum I recommend for getting a baseline number of calories. I typically get a better idea at around 14 days.
If you lost weight OR skin caliper thickness then you are on the right track with the amount of calories you are eating.
If you stayed the same then that is the number of calories you need to maintain your current look.
If you gained size, well you know what that means.
What To Do Now
From there, if you find that you are gaining fat then I recommend cutting 15% off your average calorie number. If you are holding your current weight or measurements then I recommend cutting 10% of your average calorie number.
Example: If you find that you are GAINING size and averaging about 2100 calories a day then we will take 15% of 2100 which is 315 calories and subtract it: 2100 – 315 = 1785 (I’ll just say 1800 for easy math)
Example: If you find that you are MAINTAINING size then you want to cut about 10%. So if you are eating 1900 calories you will take 10% of that number which is 190 calories and subtract it from your average calorie number: 1900-190 = 1710 (or just 1700 for easy math)
Could you cut more or a larger percentage? Yes, but you’ll feel it and I find that it’s harder to maintain that vs. a 10-15% calorie cut.
What you will do is maintain that calorie amount until your body stops progressing and then cut 10% AGAIN.
Side Note: I am NOT factoring in the benefits of exercise here because if you do exercise you’d be surprised that you may not have to do too many calorie cuts before you hit your goal. So my advice is to WORKOUT and workout hard. The results are so much better that way.
That’s it! Seriously it’s that easy. Just find YOUR calorie number and cut 10-15%. Track your food and you will start dropping (assuming that you don’t have massive cheat meals).
With all that said, people always want to look for short cuts or loopholes through this and ways to allow themselves to eat more food or ways to go faster. Everyone does it, heck so do I! Below I have several of the most common beginner loophole questions when it comes to faster ways to drop fat or eat fewer calories.
What about the 1200 Calorie Myth
I’ve done intensive internet research and website trolling to really find the history of the 1200 calorie myth and to be honest I didn’t find anything that holds merit or let alone makes sense.
In my opinion, it is what it is, a myth.
NOW I am NOT saying go off and eat 1200 calories or less for maximal weight loss, NO! Generally, I have found people that do well on those few of calories are small framed people (there is a big difference in the number of calories a sedentary 5ft 100 lb person needs versus a 6ft plus 250 lb bodybuilder), and elderly people.
Look at weight loss like throwing a ball, the harder you throw it down to the ground (the faster you cut your calories), the higher it’s going to rebound. This is why crash diets have such nasty rebounds and very little likelihood of sticking. Let’s say though, in that ball metaphor, that if you lobbed the ball down, then the rebound is minimal.
What about calorie burning drinks?
I wish I could think of a clever metaphor for this one but, alas, I cannot without coming across as an idiot. Anecdotal evidence and personal experience shows me that what people tend to drop with those drinks are just water weight and NOT fat.
Scale weight and fat weight are two different things. You can drop 10 lbs of water weight and look the exact same but drop 10 lbs of body fat and you’ll look VERY different.
Does Meal Frequency Matter?
For the beginner just starting out, it does not matter. At the end of the day, it’s the total calories consumed, not how many meals you ate. So you can eat as many meals as you want as often or infrequent as you want just as long as your hitting YOUR calorie number at the end of the day.
If you don’t want to eat breakfast, then that’s ok, don’t. If you want to only eat 2 meals a day, that’s ok, just make sure you’re not breaking the 15% rule. Again, at the end of the day, it’s the total amount of calories consumed.
I’m sure you have heard that meal frequency matters, but for where you are at now- just starting out -let’s not worry about it and make it harder on you. Let’s just worry about the calories first, then we can go from there.
Staring on Monday
One more time, here is what you need to do:
-Get a calorie tracking app
-Get starting measurements
-Track at LEAST 7 days (preferably 14 days) of calories
-If you are gaining then cut 15%, if you are maintaining than only cut 10%
-Track your numbers daily
-Track your measurements every two weeks
-If you stop losing weight, cut another 10%
People have a hard time believing that this is all it takes; that tracking your calories is really the solution to help when you drop weight. Well, it is. There has been such an information overload, that you can see how easily it is to confuse someone who is just starting out.
In the next blog, I’ll go over macronutrient breakdowns and how they, if done correctly, can help you with fat loss when you are ready for it.
In Health and Awesomeness,
Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other letters behind the name) is the Owner of Rowlett Transformation Center in Rowlett, TX.
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