As a personal trainer and a gym owner with a degree in nutritional sciences I get lots of questions about nutrition and weight loss. Should I be eating Paleo? Are low carb diets bad? I have been eating gluten free for 3 months and I still haven’t lost weight? I understand the frustration as I have had many points in my life in which losing weight has been difficult. As I get older I find it more challenging to lose weight easily. When I was in my early 20’s I could make one small change to my diet and I would start noticing physical changes within a couple of days. Now heading into my 40’s that isn’t the case. I’m not going to discuss on any diet specifically in this blog, but rather talk about the overall philosophy and the recommendations I give my clients that want to lose weight. There are a few key rules I encourage people to follow without even talking calories, macros, or quality of food. If you are not doing these things start adding them to your routine and you may be surprised with the results on the scale. If you are participating in high intensity training like Crossfit or kettlebells, or if you are focusing on a solid strength training routine then these guidelines will help you out significantly.
Stop Snacking and Grazing
Give your body the ability to burn through some fat storage. If you are constantly snacking (even on healthy foods) you are constantly giving your body fuel to feed off of rather than pulling from fat stores. I usually recommend eating every 3-5 hours, meaning don’t eat ANY calories within 3 hours of your last meal and don’t go longer than 5 hours. Going longer than 5 hours will usually cause people to be over hungry and over eat. Lots of people have heard somewhere that our ancestors grazed. Well our ancient ancestors also had a lifespan of 30years old. They also ate whenever they could because food was scarce at times and they had to work phyically for every meal. If someone tries to use our ancestory to explain how we should eat, kindly make the mental note that they have probably received nearly all of thier info from the internet. Here is a decent break down of meal timing that would assist with weight loss.
Afteroon Meal 3pm
Dinner 6pm or 7pm
Remember, no food between meals. No healthy snacks or a piece of fruit. Just wait. You won’t die I promise. Of course this goes for people that are healthy and are not suffering from diabetes or hypoglycemia.
Eat more Carbs and Eat Less Fat….. Yes, that means even the good fats too
Too many people come in to my gym just ruined with eating low carbohydrate diets. I get it, if you are a desk jockey that never gets any physical activity beyond getting a donut at work, then low carbs are probably a fine choice to manage weight. If you are an active person that trains with a moderate to high intensity then low carbing it is a great recipe to destroy your thyroid and jack your cortisol levels. Yes low carb diets can assist with weight loss, but how many times have you seen people gain that weight right back. It happens all the time. If you have the time look up the research articles that have studied high intensity training and low carb diets. Here is an easy to read article by Precision Nutrition that has references all set out for you to dig into explaining how low carbs are pretty much a horrible idea for you if you train hard.
Let’s talk about fats now. There are some great fats out there. Avocados, egg yolks, coconut oil, olive oil, fish oil the list can go on and on, and if you read enough you will find just as many people think some of these precious foods are equally bad. For the sake of this article lets just say that all of these sources are good for your health. Here is where the issue lies, people that want to lose weight and get lean are just eating too damn much of them. A few slices of avocados and an egg yold are great. Eating an entire avocado and 4 egg yolks with your coconut oiled up bullet proof coffee for a meal is not going to help you lose weight… Those calories are still extremely high and you can’t out exercise an over indulgent diet.
Balance out your Macros
When eating meals always eat protein, carbs, and some fat with each meal. People freak out about insulin levels etc… One of the biggest mistakes is eating a snack with just carbs. This is not a good habit when wanting to lose weight. I also discourage eating a high carb mixed with a higher fat together at the same time. A donut is a great example of that mixture. Doing so will spike insulin levels and a cocktail of high fat and carbs will cause your body to store fat much easier. If I were to quantify a general portion rule for the person that trains hard and wants to lose some weight it would be something like 40%carb, 35-40% Protein, 20-25% fat. What this means besides that donuts will make you fat is that going through a bag of pretzels by itself isn’t a good thing either. If you want pretzels eat some protein with it.
Know what you are putting in your body. Track your Food for 1 week.
I strongly encourage people to track their food for an entire week. This means weigh out and measure everything you eat…..It doesn’t mean using rough estimates. Nearly all the studies that have been conducted on people that estimated thier nutritional intake have shown that they consistently under estimate thier intake. When I tell people this they tend to freak out and say how hard it is and that they don’t have the time or energy to do this…. My next response is, don’t do it then and keep doing what you are doing if it is working for you. Do people absolutely have to measure everything they eat to lose weight? No, I am sure there are some people that do just fine without it, but I recommend everyone to do this for at least one week. It is eye opening and it will teach a lot about what and how much you are consuming. Nearly everyone that does this says something like ” Wow, I had no clue how many calories are in ______?” or ” I didn’t realize how much I actually eat in a day?”. There are so many great Apps for your phones nowadays that make it easy to do. My Fitness Pal is one of my favorite food tracking apps. Here is short little tutorial I wrote on how to use MyFitnessPal.
It’s OK to be a Little Hungry
Too many times I see people freak out when their stomach rumbles a little bit. It is OK. Feeling a little bit hungry is normal especially when people are programmed to graze and eat through out the day. When you change things up a bit you will feel hungry. Drink some water. If you are a healthy person with no known health conditionin you will be just fine waiting for 4 hours till your next meal. Keep the goal the goal and follow the plan. The hunger will subside and you will eat again. And if you say you are starving after not eating for 3 hours get a grip. You are not starving, you will survive I promise. The more you practice eating in these windows the easier it becomes. Remember you trained yourself to graize all day you can train your metabolism to wait to eat every 3 – 5 hours.
This could be an entire article and book. There are numerous guidelines to follow but I will say one thing. If anyone tells you to eat less that 1200 calories per day run in the other direction. Another big mistake I see people make is eating low calorie. I had a client a few years ago had a doctor put him on a 500 calorie diet…. Guess what he lost 40lbs and within 3 months after coming off the diet he gained 55lbs. If you want to work with a qualified nutritionist I am more than happy to refer you in the right direction.
There are numerous other more specific strategies to losing weight the right way, but these are some very important aspects that should start you off on the right foot.