In essence, losing weight is simple: Eat the right food at the right time and in the right quantities.
However, if losing weight were that simple, there would be no yo-yo dieting and emotional eating.
The truth is that there are many factors that influence weight loss but applying these 4 basics steps will set you up for diet success:
Step 1: Know your numbers
Always work out your resting or basal metabolic rate (BMR) first. This is the amount of calories your body needs to survive.
Bear in mind that activities of daily life and exercise impact this figure and, as a result, you will then need determine your active metabolic rate (AMR).
Step 2: Create a deficit
To lose weight effectively, it is essential that you adjust your calorie intake to meet your basic metabolic needs (BMR) and fuel your daily activities (AMR), while also creating a slight calorie.
Start with a small deficit of between 50-100 calories per day and work your way up to no more than a 500-calorie-a-day deficit. That is the upper-most limit of a ‘healthy’ calorie deficit.
READ MORE | Cut 500 calories now!
Step 3: Consider meal composition
Any diet that restricts or eliminates an entire macronutrient or food group over a prolonged period of time will have a detrimental effect on muscle, which only serves to reduce your metabolism and stunt your physical gains.
With a lack of one macronutrient, your body only has muscle-derived protein to fall back on when all other available energy sources – carb-derived glycogen or stored fat – are depleted.
Also, each macronutrient serves a specific purpose so it pays to understand their roles to inform when you eat them and in what proportions.
Carbs are crucial for those who are healthy and want to lead a highly active lifestyle.
Granted, if you insulin resistant, pre-diabetic or diabetic some degree of carb restriction is warranted. But once your insulin response returns to normal, you can start to reintroduce good quality carbs into your diet according to the guidelines in this article.
In general, any balanced diet should provide sufficient carbs to aid recovery and fuel high-intensity exercise, just consume your carbs at strategic times. And get most carbs from natural sources such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed or man-made foods as far as possible.
READ MORE | What does following a balanced diet really mean?
It is also essential to eat sufficient protein because our muscles need protein to repair and grow. A handy guide to determine your daily protein requirements is eat double the amount (in grams) of your body weight (in kilograms). For example, if you weight 60kg you need to consume 120g of protein. To put this into perspective, you can derive 25g of protein from one medium-sized chicken breast.
Fats are also essential, but the right balance needs to be found between saturated fat and the unsaturated variety, which are generally considered to be the healthy kind.
Current guidelines suggest that no more than 10% of your fat intake come from saturated fats from animals, with the rest coming from natural food sources such as avocado, oily fish, nuts, seeds and unsaturated oils.
However, one food item that you should avoid, if not complete eliminate, is sugar. This substance is not only a saboteur of weight loss but it is also addictive and wreaks havoc with your hormones, which negatively affects metabolism and is a primary driver of hunger.
The sugar content of Westernised diet has also been linked to the growing list of lifestyle diseases that plaque so much of society today.
If going cold turkey on sugar is not for you then start by opting for the better alternatives such as dark chocolate, xylitol, sucralose and other non-sugar substitutes., then slowly start to wean yourself off them over time.
Step 4: Time your intake
Having established the foundations of a good, healthy diet that will assist your weight loss efforts, your final consideration should be macronutrient timing.
Despite conventional wisdom and advice to the contrary, a balanced diet does not always mean that each plate of food needs to have the right proportion of macronutrients.
Consume most, if not all, of your carbs during your post-workout meal – a dietary strategy commonly referred to as carb backloading – offers the ideal balance between limiting carbs to boost insulin sensitivity and reduce fat storage, while still fuelling your body with it needs to grow and perform.
Avoiding carbs at night also has its place in a weight-loss diet. However, not all carbs are ‘evil’. If you have starchy veg at night, such as butternut, sweet potato, pumpkin and corn, you may increase your insulin levels slightly but not so much that it negatively influences weight gain.
The rest of your meals can predominantly include proteins and fats to meet your daily macronutrient ratio requirements and also your daily calorie intake.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.