Losing weight fast is really that simple.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re going low carb, low fat, vegetarian, ketogenic, paleo or whatever, the calorie deficit is what produces weight loss.
You can lose weight eating crappy food. As long as you don’t eat too much of it.
It’s just not easy.
The reasons why you might find it difficult to lose weight are myriad and most of them live only in your head.
You’re likely operating with faulty information and/or have conjured up a lot of demons and reasons why it just can’t be done.
Whether it’s chronic stress, food addiction, unhappiness or just bad habits, your personal issues are what gets in your way of achieving permanent weight loss.
But don’t let that stop you. Because weight loss should be simple.
And that is what this article is about.
Perhaps not a secret but there sure is a lot of confusion on this obvious point.
A sustained calorie deficit has to occur. There is no getting around it.
Forget about all the other hype and misleading BS.
Keep it simple.
How many calories your body needs is based on two numbers, your resting metabolic rate or RMR and your physical activity level (sometimes abbreviated as PAL).
RMR is what your body consumes just running itself. The energy required to keep all your organs functioning, body repair mechanisms working and fuel your basic body requirements. Your RMR is the total energy required to keep you alive if you laid in bed all day.
Your PAL is the additional calories burned based on your activity level. Are you a desk jockey who comes home and lounges on the couch or do you work construction and then hit the gym every day for a 2 hour workout?
Your activity level drives additional calorie requirements.
Add your RMR and PAL together to get TDEE. This is how much you’ll burn each day in total.
You’ve got four options.
Option 1 is your traditional diet. Force yourself to east less.
It works for awhile until your willpower fades.
Obviously this can work if you do it consistently. But it is not your best strategy.
Option 2 sounds viable but it is hard to do.
A primary reason you are overweight is because you are eating too much and you are eating crappy food as well.
So if you go for option 2 you end up eating even more bad food because you get hungrier from working out.
It’s like pushing a rope. Real hard to win this battle.
Option 2 can work if you already eat well but you’re typically not overweight if you eat well. So it’s a good theoretical option but typically not practical.
Option 3 is a winner. Take a little off from both ends of the equation. Makes sense.
This is the one I recommend. The key to making it work is in the “How you eat less” part.
Rather than just forcing yourself to eat fewer calories using your willpower and self control (which eventually runs out), you’ll attack eating less by eating differently.
You focus on what you’re eating (quality calories) and the amount you eat tends to take care of itself.
Option 4 sounds great if you can do it. This is what Michael Phelps does when he is training. He eats 7000 calories a day and burns all of it keeping his body fat at about 5%.
It’s not really an option for us mere mortals.
That depends on a lot of things.
Think about this:
A 200 pound guy with 30% body fat has 60 pounds of fat on his body. That means his Lean Body Mass (LBM) is 140 pounds (200-60). Lean body mass is everything else besides body fat so muscles, bones, organs, ligaments, etc. are all part of your lean body mass.
Let’s say he wants to lose 20 pounds. It seems he has it to lose.
So after he drops 20 pounds (of fat), he now weighs 180 and has 40 pounds of body fat. So his new body fat percentage is 22% (40/180).
A second 200 pound guy with 10% body fat is going to have a real hard time losing 20 pounds. His LBM is 180 pounds and his body fat is 20 pounds.
You can’t get to zero pounds of fat. This guy would have to sacrifice muscle mass to lose 20 pounds. And you don’t want to do that.
Put him in a concentration camp and he will eventually lose 20 pounds, some fat and some muscle.
Be careful not to cannibalize muscle when you’re trying to lose fat.
When you have a lot of fat to lose, it is both easier to lose it and you can be more aggressive going after it.
So your starting point (LBM and body fat %) really drives how aggressive you may want to be when planning your calorie deficit.
A broad rule of thumb is to plan a deficit of between 400 and 1000 calories a day.
400 is a good lower limit because if you go any lower, it just takes too long to see results. There is nothing wrong with going slower. It’s just that you are more likely to stay engaged if you are seeing results and a 400 calorie deficit will show results pretty quickly.
600 is more reasonable than 1000 for the upper end of calorie reduction. While it’s true you want to see results, if you make your diet too hard to stay on (i.e., you’re starving everyday) it is not going to work out for you.
Other factors to think about are your physical size and body composition.
So another rule of thumb is if you’re under 175 pounds, start with a 400 to 500 calorie a day deficit. If you’re over 175 pounds, go for 500 to 600 calories.
And with respect to body fat, if you have greater than 25% body fat, use the higher deficit (500 to 600 calories). If you are under 25% body fat, go for a 400 to 500 calorie deficit.
TDEE is exactly what it stands for. Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This is the total amount of energy (in calories) your body consumes in a day.
Now, as you know, TDEE is comprised of RMR (resting metabolic rate) and PAL (physical activity level).
RMR is the energy your body needs to run all its systems and take care of itself.
PAL is the additional energy you need based on your daily activity and your additional exercise needs.
So, to lose weight, you plan your daily intake of calories to be less than your TDEE.
When you lose weight, two things happen simultaneously.
Your RMR is reduced because you are a smaller person now. There is less of you to take care of so less energy is required.
And your PAL is decreasing as well because you don’t have to carry around the former “big you.” You’re now the new “mini you.” Again, this uses less energy.
Do the math. Your TDEE is getting smaller as you lose weight.
This is why your weight loss slows down and eventually halts from a planned caloric deficit.
Plan on seeing a slowing of your weight loss and eventually it stopping altogether.
This is expected.
Don’t slit your wrists, get depressed and conclude that dieting will never work for you.
This is supposed to happen.
Take a deep breath. Congratulate yourself for making it to this critical point. This is a cause for celebration.
Take a week or so and just hang at your plateau. Give it a rest and enjoy your new smaller self.
And start again.
That’s how it works.
This simply means when you have a lot of weight to lose, you will lose it faster than when you have less to lose.
And when you approach your ideal weight, your rate of weight loss will slow down.
This should be expected.
You may start out dropping a pound a week or even more but this will eventually slow as you get closer to your planned weight.
So if you’re trying to lose 20 pounds of fat in five months, for example, don’t expect a 4 pound per month linear fat loss result. Maybe you’ll lose 10 or 12 pounds of fat in the first two months and then take the last three months for the rest to come off. The last few pounds will take the longest.
Macro nutrients are protein, fat and carbohydrate.
You need some of each. How much is what you’re probably confused about.
You will hear a wide variety of opinions on what to do in this area. From low carb to low fat to Zone, Adkins, Paleo, blah, blah blah. The vegans will tell you animal protein will kill you. Everyone has an opinion. There are many camps on “what to eat.”
There is some truth to everyone being unique. What works for me may not be perfect for you. But this is on the margins.
In general, some basic rules will work for everyone. Whether you like certain foods or if you have a moral reason for not consuming meat as an example, is another personal conflict. You’ll have to deal with that on your own.
You need protein for a lot of important stuff like healing wounds, building muscles and bones, repairing your organs, supporting your immune system and creating hormones and enzymes.
A primary objective of your weight loss program is to lose fat without wasting muscle tissue. You have to eat enough protein to ensure muscle wasting does not occur.
This is not near enough especially if you are training in any serious way.
Plan to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass (LBM) every day.
Remember LBM is not your body weight. It is your body weight minus your body fat. So it has to be calculated or estimated.
The scale is as simple as weighing yourself but the accuracy can vary. Calipers take a little more work but are pretty accurate.
You can also estimate your body fat using this calculator.
So let’s say the 220 pound guy from above has 20% body fat or 44 pounds of fat (220 x 20%). His LBM is therefore 176 pounds (220-44). So he should strive to eat 176 grams of protein per day, more than double the RDA requirement.
A personal side note. Just my opinion, but the government doesn’t know the first thing about what is good for you.
Whether it’s FDA, USDA, HHS or some other bureaucratic agency, they haven’t got a clue.
It’s because they don’t care about getting the right answer. That is not their agenda. That’s not the way they think. The answers are always political in nature driven by a completely different set of criteria.
Example: If you follow the USDA food pyramid to base your food choices, you are probably fat.
The food pyramid, advocated by your government, is a crappy diet. Plain and simple.
I digress. The point is, don’t be too alarmed if you’re not following RDA guidelines.
|Daily Protein Requirement Based on Height|
|Height||Daily Protein Intake
|Daily Protein Intake
|4’8″-5’0″||80 g||95 g|
|5’1″-5’3″||95 g||105 g|
|5’4″-5’6″||105 g||125 g|
|5’7″-5’9″||125 g||140 g|
|5’10”-5’11”||140 g||155 g|
|6’0″-6’2″||155 g||175 g|
|6’3″-6’4″||175 g||190 g|
|from the Fat Loss Bible, Anthony Colpo|
Full disclosure, knowledgeable people go two ways on this step.
Some calculate fat second and then give the balance to carbs. While others say to figure out your carbs second and then assign the balance to fats.
Anthony Colpo, who is a very smart guy, calculates carbs second. This book by him is very informative on this whole topic.
I do the fat calculation second for two reasons:
I have compared the two methods and typically, they are really not that far apart. So I don’t think it is a big deal to do it either way.
The Colpo method is a bit more tedious simply because it is manual. Read his book if you want to get further into his methods. Again, this guy really knows this topic.
You, however, want simple and easy so I recommend using this calculator.
Make sure you are on the IFFYM calculator. There are several different calculators on this site.
And that’s it.
You now have target macros for protein, fat and carbohydrate and you have a target per meal as well.
Hit your macros. Try to consistently get as close as possible but don’t freak out over it. You don’t need to be perfect.
Don’t worry about splitting hairs every meal. If 2/3 of a sweet potato will get your carb total for a meal, I’d eat the whole thing and try to make up for it next meal. Easy is probably better than exact.
Weighing, measuring and calorie counting sucks.
Let’s be honest. It takes a lot of the enjoyment out of eating.
And a habit that is not fun or enjoyable will be difficult to keep in place.
Use any nutrition calculator or app you like to get calories and macro nutrient ratios for the foods you eat.
There are a lot of calculators out there but many are tied to a specific product or service so expect to get pitched to buy their stuff if you use them.
A few independent ones I like are:
The Cronometer is pretty cool. It acts as a daily journal. You can enter both what you’re eating and how you’re exercising and it will give you both calories in and calories out. And it shows the data graphically which I like since I’m a nerd.
The National Nutrient Database (OK a little back slap for the government on this one). This database is very comprehensive and you get all the vitamin and mineral information as well. But kind of difficult to use.
Another good one is Nutrition Data.
Just find a data source you like and use it to build menus that satisfy your macros.
Forget about all the macros, ratios and calorie counting.
Just do this.
If you eat like this you’ll have great macros, get enough protein, lose fat, be satiated, not overeat and really enjoy your food.
What more could you want?
Comment below with anything that has worked well for you in the past.
photo credit: fitnesswatch-md.com
Mark aka The Old Spartan and Over-50 Fitness Savior is a 61 year old coffee guzzling father of five wandering the outdoors around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mark helps Men Over 50 get lean, healthy and strong so they can be cool dads and grand dads using his signature Spartan Method system.