Figuring out a diet that will work for you
How should you structure your diet? The following tips are from Tom Venuto’s Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (highly recommended reading), with a tiny bit of extra stuff here and there from knioette, Feckless, and katiekatums.
- Don’t “diet”, form lifelong habits. The changes that you make over the next 90 days are changes that you want to keep for life. That means that you don’t stop your healthy eating habits when you reach your goal weight! Since you’re forming long-term habits, you should keep things that you like and avoid the things you don’t like. Don’t force yourself to choke something down just because it’s healthy. (Be willing to compromise a little though!) Anything is okay in moderation, so start by trimming back the things that you know are unhealthy for you. Also, try to add in fruits and veggies wherever possible. If you’re not a fan of veggies, take a walk through the vegetable aisles, and pick some random, weird looking vegetables and then google recipes involving them. Be adventurous. 😉
- Keep your muscle mass, also known as lean body mass (LBM). Muscle burns more Calories than fat. It also looks and feels nicer, since you’ll be toned and firm, rather than loose and mushy. Add strength training to cardio to maintain or increase your LBM while you’re losing fat. You can figure out what your lean body mass is by figuring out your body fat percentage, then subtracting the pounds of fat from your total weight. As an example, if 90dger A is 120 lbs, with 25% body fat, then she has 120 – (25% x 120) = 90 lbs LBM. If she loses 20 lbs, but her bf% stays at 25%, then her body fat is only 25 lbs, BUT her lean body mass also dropped to 75lbs! If you have two people at the same height and weight, but one has more muscle mass/less body fat, the other has less muscle mass/more body fat, who do you think will look better? Feel better? Have more energy? Remember that 1 pound of fat looks a lot bigger than one pound of muscle. To help maintain or increase your LBM, aim for slow weight loss and eat lots of protein. Try to get 0.5-1.0 g of protein per day per pound of lean body mass; and make up the rest of your Calories with (good) fats and carbs.
- Figure out your Calorie requirements to hit your target weight loss rate, and don’t drop below them. Aim for a small Calorie deficit.
To figure out what your Calorie goal should be, first calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Now multiply this number by a factor based on your daily activity level. This gives you the Calories that you would need to consume to maintain your weight. Next, subtract 15-20% to create find Calorie target to reach 1-2 lbs of weight loss per week.
For example, if 90dger B is 30 years old, 6’0” tall, and weighs 250 lbs, his BMR is 2334 Calories. If he’s sedentary, then his maintenance level is 2800 Calories. If he wants to lose 1-2 lbs per week, he should consume between 0.8×2800=2240 and 0.85×2800=2380 Cals.
I think it’s important that everyone calculate their recommended Calories now. If you start off eating 2800 Calories or more a day, then suddenly cut back to 1800, you’ll trigger your body’s starvation response. It’s a bad idea and it will be hard to maintain. Instead, reduce your Calories gradually as you lose weight. If figuring out your target Calories for weight loss seems confusing (or boring), Livestrong will calculate your target Calories for you and will automatically update it as your weight changes.
- Don’t just diet, get out and exercise. It’s better to exercise to reach your caloric deficit, rather than to use diet alone. Your body responds to the stresses you give it. If you diet alone, you’re losing lean body mass in addition to body fat. If you exercise in addition to dieting, you force your body to burn mostly fat, while it tries to build muscle mass for your exercises. Cardio is very good for cardiovascular health, in addition to its extra Calorie burning capability. Weight lifting and resistance training are very good for making muscle.. and guess what? The more muscles you have on your body, the more Calories you burn throughout the day – muscle burns Calories, fat does not. Ladies, don’t fear the weights. You won’t get bulky. Yoga and stretching are also very important – stretch after each workout to prevent injuries. Chances are, if you’re lifting weight, you’re not hitting all the supporting/non showing muscles, which can lead to injuries down the road due to asymmetry (muscles work together, not alone). Yoga can fix that by hitting those muscles Men, don’t fear yoga. You sure as hell won’t get as little as women. Besides, why turn down some extra flexibility? 😉
- Don’t aim for “as low as possible.” Try to actually hit your Calorie goal. If you drop your Calories too low (more than about a 1000 Cals below maintenance), you might temporarily slow down your metabolism, break down your muscle mass, and feel sluggish and awful. Listen to your body. It’s not unlikely that your actual BMR is higher or lower than the calculated value. When you make any changes, pay attention to how your body responds.
- Eat frequently and don’t skip meals. This one is more for comfort. If you let yourself get very hungry before each meal, you’ll be more likely to overeat. If it’s already natural for you to eat two meals a day without feeling hungry in between, then you’ll still be able to lose weight that way, as long as you don’t exceed your daily caloric intake. Small snacks throughout the day help you stay in control when you sit down to eat. If you tend to be hungry after dinner, plan ahead. The reason night snacking is usually a bad idea is that most people have already reached their Calorie goals by dinner. If you know that you like a snack most evenings, then make sure to leave room for it in your Calorie budget so that you’re still within your goals.
- If you’ve hit a plateau, increasing your Calories slightly might be better than cutting them further. This is called “Calorie cycling” or the “zig-zag” method, and there are plenty of descriptions online if you want to go this route.
- Lose weight slowly and steadily to decrease the risk of gaining it back. It took a long time to put the weight on, it’s not going to disappear in 90 days. Aim for a weight loss rate of about 1-2 lbs per week. You can lose more than that, but you’ll risk burning yourself out and eating away at your muscle mass. If you have more than 13-26 lbs to lose, I hope that you’ll stick around with us for Round 3.
So what should I do today?
I recommend that you sign up for an account on MyFitnessPal, Livestrong, SparkPeople, FitDay, loseit.com or another online calorie tracker. Track everything you eat for a week before you start changing your habits. Make sure to set your calorie goals there, but ignore them while you’re getting started. Once you have a feel for how many Calories you eat in an average day, start targeting the biggest offenders. As you make make changes, feel free to post about it in the dailygoal posts!