Meal Prepping For Fat Loss

Losing Fat Like a Pro: The No Bullshit Approach

I have always wanted to be lean. I remember being at school with guys who had 8-packs at aged 18 and wishing I looked like that.

For a long time I blamed the easy scapegoats. Thyroid. Slow metabolism. Genetics. I resigned myself to just being ‘heavy set’ for life.

But ultimately, this was all bullshit. In reality I was emotionally eating, using food as a crux, not listening to my bodies hunger signals, and taking every opportunity I could to avoid doing exercise.

Simply put, I was eating more calories than I was using up per day.

Fast forward 20 years and I am only just getting a handle on things.

1. Deal with your demons

Diets tend to focus on what to eat, but neglect the psychological aspects.

I tend to overeat when stressed, busy or bored. Learning to recognise and control that is a key discipline. Spend more time doing this than worrying about what to eat. Even if you ate the healthiest foods alive, you would still get fat if you didn’t sort out overeating issues.

Recognition is the first step. Know when you are eating because you are hungry and when you are not.

Why is the second step. Why do you want to lose fat? What is your motivation? If I said I’d give you a million pounds in 3 months if you lost 6kg, do you think you’d have difficulty controlling yourself around food?

Plan is the third step. Forget fad diets. Forget reading Cosmo, Men’s Health or other rubbish. Below I’m going to lay out exactly what type of diet to follow. And it isn’t a magic formula, it’s just eating less calories, whilst eating the right amounts of macronutrients to preserve lean body mass.

Action is the second step. Now you recognise your eating habits, why you want to do this, and have a plan, all you need to do is follow along.

2. Determine your calorie requirements

As stated, to lose fat you (usually) have to be in a calorie deficit. How many calories you burn everyday depends on your current weight, height, body composition, metabolic rate, foods you eat, exercise you do, and general activity levels.

I’ll tell you right now, no-one knows what your number is. But we can ESTIMATE it based on studies done on the general population.

To find out what your daily calorie burn is, head to this calculator (there are others, I just like this one) and enter your details. Then look at the results in the following table.

TDEE Calculations for Fat Loss

 

BMR stands for your Basal Metabolic Rate. This is how many calories you would burn in a coma. I burn between 1,840 and 1,997 depending upon the formula used.

TDEE is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This is your BMR plus calories used moving about, thinking, breathing, walking, working, exercising etc. The TDEE is affected by how much activity you said you did in the previous step. I burn between 2,852 and 3,096.

WARNING: Most people overestimate their activity levels, so I recommend you err on the side of caution.

Let’s use the Katch-McArdle (Hybrid) formula, which gives me a TDEE of 2,900 (I rounded it off to the nearest 50).

Again, bear in mind these are estimates. And if I am very active on one day (I walk to work and go to gym) I will probably burn more, and if I am lazy the next day (stay at home and don’t go to the gym) I will burn less.

But ON AN AVERAGE day of the week, my calorie requirements to maintain my current weight will be 2,250.

3. Create a deficit

To lose fat you must eat FEWER calories than your TDEE. The bigger the deficit, the faster the weight loss. But be careful, too great a deficit can lead to problems (which I why I am always concerned when I see men eating 1,200 calories a day).

A general rule of thumb is to eat 10%-30% fewer calories than your TDEE per day. 30% will give you the fastest fat loss, but you will feel hungry, and you must have your food and training well set up to prevent muscle loss. 10% is more achievable for most people as you can get away with being more lax, but the slow rate of fat loss can be demotivating.

Personally, I go for the 30%.

So, I subject 30% from my TDEE which gives me a suggested calorie intake of 2,030, which I’ll round up to 2,050.

I should therefore eat 2,050 calories per day, which will put me in a deficit of 850 calories per day, equating to roughly 1.7 lbs or 0.8kg weight loss per week.

Again, on days I exercise, my deficit will be larger than 30% and on days I rest my deficit will be smaller. But it will average out, so I don’t vary my calories day to day. I eat the same everyday. Other people zig-zag their calorie intake but I don’t want the extra hassle.

Reality check.

In April 2017 I was eating 2,050 calories per day as the formula suggested, but I was losing weight faster than 1.7lbs per week (this was after a month, so it wasn’t just the initial water weight loss experienced at the beginning of all diets).

Does this mean I was defying the laws of physics?

Of course not. It was simply that my daily energy expenditure was higher than the predicted 2,900 calories.

Because of this, I increased my intake from 2,050 to 2,200 to allow me to eat a little more food, a little more satisfied, and a little less tired.

4. Set macronutrient goals

Now you know how many calories you have to eat, you could just go off and eat that number, and you would lose weight, guaranteed.

But WEIGHT loss is not the goal, FAT loss is.

To ensure you lose the most FAT it is not enough just to eat the right number of calories. You also have to eat the right number of calories from each of the three macronutrients (sometimes referred to as ‘macros’), which are carbohydrates, fat and protein.

My recommendations for settings these are as follows, but they are not set in stone. However, before you say ‘I’m carb intolerant!’ or ‘I can’t eat that much protein!’ I recommend you at least TRY my suggestions for a month then take stock.

  • Protein: 0.8g – 1g per lb (pound) of bodyweight (I would eat 180g because I weigh 180 lbs)
  • Fat: 0.3g – 0.6g per lb of bodyweight (I would eat between 54g and 108g)
  • Carbohydrates: The rest of your calories

I prefer to opt for the higher level of protein (some people want to go even higher than this, but I want some calories spare for carbs) and for the lower range of fat (again, because I want calories for carbohydrates).

Once you have your protein and fat numbers, work out how many calories that equates to.

Protein is 4 calories per gram, fat is 9 calories per gram.

So, if I eat 180g protein and 60g fat, that is 180*4 + 60*9 = 720 cals + 540 cals = 1,260 calories.

This leaves 2,050 – 1,260 = 790 calories for carbohydrates.

At 4 calories per gram, this gives me a carbohydrate intake of 197.5 or 200 rounded up.

The final breakdown to lose fat for me looks like this:

  • Calories: 2,050
  • Protein: 180g
  • Fat: 60g
  • Carbohydrates: 200g

5. Choose the right foods

There is absolutely no obligation for you to eat supposedly ‘healthy’ foods to lose fat. You could eat at MacDonald’s every single day, and as long as you get the right number of grams of each macronutrient as calculated above, you will lean out.

BUT…

And there is a big but.

Poor food choices will make it more difficult to stick with a calorie deficit because you will have sugar cravings and won’t feel full. The right food choices will leave you feeling more satisfied and curb your sugar cravings, and improve your performance at the gym, so you will find it easier to stick to the appropriate number of calories.

Also, eat whatever you want any you’ll find it difficult to reach your macronutrient goals. A diet consisting purely of doughnuts, chocolate and crisps makes it impossible to hit your protein goal, and therefore you aren’t following the diet plan!

BUT…

That doesn’t mean you have to be super strict either. You can have crisps, chocolate and doughnuts should you want to, just include them as the occasional treat. As long as they fit in to your macros, you will continue to lose fat.

Personally, I find it very easy to overeat, and can’t just have one cookie and be done with it. I need the whole packet. For that reason, I personally stay away from certain foods for my own sanity. After a few weeks of eating unprocessed, natural foods without too much refined sugar, my cravings subside anyway.

But, like I say, the choice is yours.

Personally, my meals consist mainly of the following foods. I only put these here for reference. Once again, they are NOT essential for fat loss. You can eat anything you want provided it hits your macro and calorie goals.

Proteins

  • Eggs
  • 100% fat free greek yogurt
  • Lean beef (mince and steak)
  • Chicken breast
  • Protein powder
  • Turkey bacon
  • Fish (I don’t eat this but most do)

Fats

  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Fish oil supplement (as I don’t eat fish)
  • Peanut and other nut butters (although I prefer whole nuts)
  • Almonds

Carbohydrates

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Spinach
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Rice (brown and white)
  • Pasta
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Any vegetables really!
  • Sauces (ketchup and sweet chili sauce in my case)

Here is a photo showing some of these foods in prepared meals. It doesn’t look too bland does it!?

Meal prepping for fat loss

Two dishes I eat regularly. A beef and veg stir fry, and hot sauce fried chicken with sweet potato fries.

6. Lift heavy weights

This wouldn’t be a good fat loss article without mentioning exercise. If you are eating less calories than you burn on a daily basis you will lose weight. To ensure that the majority of that weight is fat and not muscle, and to ensure you look good when you are lean, you need to perform resistance training.

I lift heavy weights 3 times a week for 45 mins to 1 hour. That’s enough to get the job done if you are doing the right thing.

I’m following Phrak’s Greyskull Linear Progression program right now, but I’ve had good results on others too. Once again, the best program is the one you are going to stick to. No program has all the answers. Pick one, follow it, then gauge your results.

7. Add metabolic work if necessary

Eat right and resistance train and you’ll make great progress. If you are following all the points above diligently and you are not losing fat after one month, then you probably overestimated your TDEE. Rather than drop food intake I prefer to add metabolic work in to the mix.

I do 1-2 sessions per week of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and some incline treadmill walking if I feel like it. These session can burn an extra 200-500 calories per day.

If you are already losing fat at a decent rate, feel free to save the cardio for another time

8. Be realistic in your goals

Got a holiday in 2 weeks and want to drop 10lbs of fat? Forget it.

Fat loss is all about going slow and steady. The number that gets floated about is 1-2 lb of fat per week is acceptable, but if you are very overfat this is too little. Instead, aim to lose 0.5-1% of your bodyweight per week. If you have your diet and training dialled in, you might be able to lose faster than this, but you may also find the kind of calorie deficit required to maintain that rate tough to stick to.

9. Track your progress

Track your weight. I use the Happy Scale app because it employs a moving average to smooth out daily weight fluctuations which can drive me mad.

Track what you look like with photos, measurements and looking in the mirror. Weight doesn’t always tell the full story.

Track what you eat (at least for the first month) until you get an idea of how many calories foods contain. I recommend using MyFitnessPal.com.

Some people argue that weighing and measuring everything can lead to mental health issues. People become obsessed with food. Yes, this can happen. Only you know if you are susceptible to this or not.

Personally I have had better fat loss results when weighing and measuring. It’s just too easy to over eat otherwise. In reality because I prepare multiple meals for the week in advance, I don’t have to do too much measuring on a day to day basis which helps.

10. Persist!

The greatest weapon you have in your arsenal is persistence.

There will be days you want to give up. There will be days you feel too tired to get off the sofa. There will be days you splurge and ‘accidentally’ double or triple your calorie intake. There will be days you devour the office cake.

That’s okay. These things happen to the best of it.

What will set your fat loss journey apart from the others is drawing a persistence. Getting back to it the very next day or hour.

In such situations remind yourself of the WHY. Why are you doing this? If you have a strong reason you will recover. If you don’t, it is time you got one.

I wish you the best of luck in your fat loss journey. The process is simple, but not easy. But the information on this page is enough to get you the lean body you want, I promise you that.

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