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Your dieting history: Is it destroying your current efforts?
One of the biggest variables, and most commonly overlooked, when it comes to reaching your ideal physique, is your dieting history. You could be doing everything right, eating the right amount of food, staying 100% compliant to your plan; however what you have put your body through in the past plays the biggest role in current success. This includes past dieting efforts that have appeared to be successful or even unknowingly keeping your body at severely low calories.
How to avoid this?
The best way to avoid this is find someone knowledgeable in nutrition and the body. Magic shakes, magic fat burners, endless hours on the treadmill, 2 or 3 classes in a day, none of it leads to long term success with physique goals. The best option is to work one on one with someone to help tailor your nutrition and program to your body’s needs. No cookie cutter program found on the internet can provide you with this. No caloric intake food calculator will be able to provide you with this, as your metabolism and hormones are NOT equal to someone the same height and weight. Finally, it is important to understand that you cannot always be in a caloric deficit. You need prolonged periods of time that you are eating at or slightly above maintenance calories. Use this time to increase your metabolic capacity so that the next time you diet you can do so on higher calories.
I want to lose weight and tone up.
Most people blame age or genetics for why they can’t get into an old pair of jeans or why they can’t get the butt they always wanted. The hard truth is very few people actually eat and train for their current goals. The biggest misconception I hear:
“I can lose weight and tone up.”
This is false. Losing weight requires a caloric deficit. Gaining muscle requires a caloric surplus. You are not able to do both at once. Choose one goal and work on it, then work towards the other goal. Also remember you cannot stay in a caloric deficit forever. If you stay in a caloric deficit for too long you may slow down your metabolism.
You need to decide on what your goal is and follow through on one goal at a time. If you are trying to reach physique goals than I highly recommend tracking food intake. It is impossible to guesstimate whether you are in a caloric surplus or deficit.
If you are an athlete and training for performance then eat when you are hungry. I am talking about physique goals here.
Biggest take away from this point:
You need to eat for your goals. It is not because you are 50 or 20 that you aren’t reaching your goals. It is not because you don’t have the genetics for a fabulous rear view. You haven’t put in the time, sweat, tears and hard work both in the gym and in the kitchen. Now get to work!
I need to increase cardio to see results.
Have you noticed if you run 30 minutes three times a week you quickly can run faster and cover more kilometers within those 30 minutes? The fact that our body adapts to steady state cardio is great if you are an endurance athlete. This is not great if you are looking for physique goals. Over time your body becomes a much more efficient fat burner. Sounds great right? It is only great if you are training for a marathon. If you are training for a physique you want to be an inefficient fat burner, meaning you burn through calories faster, not slower.
The take away from this point:
Unless you want to be a better runner or endurance athlete stick to lifting and high intensity intervals for your training. Manipulate your calories to see weight loss.
***This does not mean cardio does not have a place. I do have clients on programs which include short metabolic circuits in their training and some including running because the client enjoys running. The most important thing is to use it in conjunction with a proper plan. The cardio should not be your go to for results. Fix your nutrition and lift heavy.
Misconception: I shouldn’t be hungry in a deficit.
Hunger is a natural response to being in a caloric deficit. It is something you have to accept if you are looking to get lean. Now extreme hunger is not normal and you should address this with your coach. A diet should never be torture. There are healthy/ sane ways to go about them and dangerous ways.
There are macronutrients?
Sometimes I wish I still lived in the time where I had no idea what protein was or why my body needed it. Ignorance was bliss. I ate pasta and didn’t worry about the amount of chicken on top. Well, those days were over long ago.
Understanding what macronutrients are and what your body requires for your goals is important. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. All are imperative to a healthy body. There is no inherently “bad” food; a healthy metabolism can lose weight on a diet filled with “bad” or “junk” foods. I would not recommend this, as the individual would not be meeting any kind of micro or sometimes macro nutrients requirements and the physique you end up with would likely not be the one you wanted.
It is important to be eating nutrient dense food, especially when trying to lose weight in a caloric deficit. If you are in a caloric deficit your body loses weight because it is not being given enough nutrients to sustain its current size. You need to ensure that you are providing your body with as many nutrients as possible in the calories that you are giving it.
How much should I be eating?
It is rare that I cut back what a client is eating. It is much more common for me to INCREASE their food. I can’t even count the amount of times I have heard “I eat 1200 calories a day because myfitnesspal.com told me to”.
How much someone should be eating is is a very individual question, however it is probably the most common one I hear from random members of the gym who approach me for advice. The answer will not be found in calculators on the internet or fancy apps. The truth is: Even if you enter in your height, weight, age, activity level, etc that does NOT take into account you as an individual. Your metabolism, hormones, and history are the biggest factors in what you should be eating. A calculator will also not take into account if you have metabolic slowdown or metabolic damage.
The best option is always to consult a professional. We don’t try to treat our cavities or illnesses ourselves, without professional guidance. We should not approach our health this way either. If that is not an option the second best option is to follow these rules:
*Ensure you are eating fibrous veggies. While targets are different for everyone ensuring you are eating fibre throughout the day is an easy way to stay on track.
*Eat 1x your body weight in protein. If you are trying to gain muscle then 1.5 times your body weight. If you weigh 120 pounds eat 120 grams of protein.
*Eat your healthy fats! It is essential, especially for females, to have adequate fat intake. Again, these targets will vary based on your goal and overall caloric intake.
*Do not cut out carbohydrates. “Keto” diets nearly cut out all carbohydrates. This is dangerous for overall wellbeing and will also cause you to rebound and gain back all the weight you lost once you introduce carbs again.
*Do not cut out any food group UNLESS you have allergies or sensitivities. There is no good reason, or solid scientific research that gluten causes disease or milk causes inflammation. If your body can tolerate those food groups then eat them. If you cut them out then try to reintroduce them you may end up with a sensitivity you never had.
*Eat variety! Like stated above, cutting out food groups can lead to sensitivities that you never had in the past.
*A general starting point, but again does not mean that it applies directly to YOU or your situation is below. Your numbers depend on your metabolism, hormones and past dieting efforts.
o 15x your body weight to maintain your current weight.
o 16x+ your body weight to repair metabolic slowdown or damage.
o 10-13x your body weight to lose weight.
Always start on the higher end of weight loss calories.
Do NOT use the scale to measure progress. Take pictures and measurements.
Gaining muscle does not mean looking like the Hulk or a professional body builder. It also does not mean you should be gaining 50 pounds in your “off season”. Building muscle means giving your body shape. The shape you have if you just diet down is skin, bones, and flat muscles. If you want to turn a pancake bum into a high and tight booty, add shapely shoulders, turn waving triceps into a long lean arm, and a tiny waist then you need to BUILD it. It does not come just because you lost weight.
If you are looking to gain muscle these are reasonable figures for men and women:
Year 1 – 20-25lbs
Year 2 – 10-12lbs
Year 3 – 5-6lbs
Year 1 – 10-12lbs
Year 2 – 5-6 lbs
Year 3- 2.5-3 pounds
10 pounds in the first year may seem like a lot but you have to remember that it is distributed around your entire body, over the course of an entire year. You are looking at no more than 1 pound, MAX, of muscle in a month. That is based on a proper training and diet program as well. Just because you pick up weights and eat food does not mean you will build quality lean muscle mass.
In regards to food with building muscle you need to be eating over maintenance, which means you need to gain weight. Keeping those above figures in mind, if you are a new female trainee and are gaining 3 pounds a month you can be sure that it is NOT all muscle. For a 1 pound muscle gain in a month you are looking for a .5 pound fat gain. Do not let this discourage you. This is a time to rebuild your metabolism, build some metabolic capacity (meaning you can eat more food while dieting and more food while maintaining) and restore some homeostasis to your hormones. This time is needed. It also gives you a break from the strict world of dieting down.
Weight loss comes from dietary compliance.
At the end of the day your results come from dietary compliance. You CAN NOT out train a bad diet. You are not able to fix your waving arms by doing 50 tricep kickbacks a day. You are not able to lose your belly fat by doing 200 crunches a day. Diet is your main weight loss tool. Weight training and HITT help to shape the body you want, help to maintain the muscle mass you do have and also help to build strong bones. It will not be the determining factor in your results.
Also, women tend to lose from the top down, and there is not anything you can do about how your body loses weight. If you lose from the top down it means that you have to strip your upper body of nearly all your fat before your body will start taking fat off of your “trouble” areas. No amount of targeting the trouble areas will help with this fact. It takes time and dedication to lose from our trouble areas.
The most important thing I want people to take away from this is that you need to eat (and train) for your goals. Maybe starving yourself will work short term but you WILL put the weight back on, and probably more. And the next time you try to take it off it will get harder. Whatever your goal is eat and train for it.