So you're smashing it in the gym but EVERYONE knows the real results come from the food you're eating. Fat loss is a slow process and you NEED to be patient. You also need to know what you're doing in the kitchen if you want to banish that belly fat....
1. Understand Calories
Calories are the amount of energy provided by different types of food. The different macronutrients (carbs, proteins and fats) all contain different amounts of calories per gram. Fats contain the most amount of calories at 9kcal per gram, whilst proteins and carbs both contain 4kcal per gram.
Your body consumes calories from the food we eat, and then burns them through daily activity. Everyone will burn a different amount of calories on a daily basis, this comes down to age, gender, activity level and various other factors.
I could go on all day about how calories work etc. but the big rule you REALLY need to know about calories and muscle building is this:
When you eat LESS calories than you burn each day you will be in a CALORIE DEFICIT.
This means your body will use stored fat (amongst other things) for energy.
Understanding this means you can manipulate your calorie level to lose weight and shift some body fat.
This is the first thing we do on my online programmes as it's probably the biggest factor when it comes to reaching a weight loss goal. Figure out your basal metabolic rate or maintenance calorie level and from there aim to maintain a daily calorie deficit of around 300-500 calories.
2. Focus On Proteins and Plenty Of Veg
Protein is used by the body to build new muscle tissue, the more muscle you have the less fat you will have. Aim to get it from sources that are as clean as possible. Lean animal sources such as chicken, fish, turkey and eggs are ideal. These are all complete proteins and give you all the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own.
Just like with calories we can manipulate our macronutrients to help our results. Protein is the most beneficial of the three macros for weight loss for a number of reasons. It helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer and we even burn more calories through the process of digesting protein than we do when digesting carbs and fat. That doesn't mean we should ignore the other macros as they all play a role in our body. Try and aim for a macro split like this for weight loss...
Also remember that although veg is technically a carb, its a fibrous carb so yields very few calories. Fill up on greens to keep yourself feeling full without packing in too many calories.
Carbs are still needed when losing weight. We need carbs to fuel us through our gym sessions and for energy in general. They come in two types:
During the majority of your day aim for slow release/digesting carbs such as wholegrains, veg, oatmeal etc. These complex carbs will give you a sustained release of energy throughout your day.
Ideally keep these types of carbs to a minimum or for post workout. They are broken down faster by your body meaning the energy from them usually gets stored in your body rather than gradually released. Foods like white pasta and bagels for example will potentially spike your blood sugar levels and make your body crave more sweet food. After exercise our blood sugar levels will have dipped - consuming simple carbs will help restore blood sugar back to where it should be.
4. Pre Workout
You need energy to push yourself through a heavy gym session regardless of your goals and regardless of what type of training you're doing. But what you choose for your pre workout meal can have an impact on the workout and your performance. Different foods will also be utilised and stored differently in the body.
Before your train, consume a meal that is roughly 75% carbs and 25% proteins, around 60 - 90 minutes before you hit the gym. Ideally go for those slow digesting carbs (oatmeal, whole grains etc) to help give you that energy you need to push right through to the end of the workout. That little bit of protein will help fuel your muscles and increases amino acid delivery into the muscles during the workout. Somethings like a wholegrain chicken sandwich for example, just be sure to include it in your calories for the day.
5. Post Workout
No matter what or how we've trained, post workout our body has used up various sources of stored energy and is in a depleted state. The purpose of your post workout meal should be to replenish your energy stores.
Post workout you should aim to consume a meal that contains fast digesting proteins and the simple carbs mentioned above. These will give your muscles the protein it needs to build new muscle tissue and prevent further muscle break down. Protein shakes are ideal as they are designed to get the nutrients your body needs to the right places quickly, try and consume one within at least an hour of your session. Check the label, avoid any that are high in sugars. Some post workout shakes are actually designed to support weight loss so keep an eye out for these.
6. Clean Up Your Nutrition
Before you even start with counting your calories and tracking your macro nutrients I'd recommend giving your overall nutrition a bit of a clean up. Try and cut out processed foods as much as possible as these are damaging to your health in general and contain a lot of chemicals and poor quality ingredients. I try and follow a caveman style diet as much as I can. Before you go to eat something ask yourself has it come from a plant or animal source (has it been killed or grown?) if it has then go for it, if not then you need to keep those kinds of foods to a minimum.
HOWEVER I don't eat like this 24/7 and I wouldn't expect my clients too either. It's all about being sensible and eating those not so good foods in moderation. If you tell yourself you can NEVER eat chocolate for example then you're going to just want it more. You need to find an approach that works for you. Personally I eat super clean Monday to Friday then on weekends I allow myself a bit more flexibility. Factoring in 'cheat days' gives you something to look forward to and breaks up your week a little.
7. Fat Loss Foods
We already know some foods are low in fat and whilst there is no magic fat loss super food, some will help towards a weight loss goal more than others....
Eggs - eggs are one of the best protein sources around. They are packed with nutrients and make a great choice whatever your goal, especially for breakfast!
Green Tea - starting your day with a mug of green tea and swapping your regular tea or coffee for this super fat burner could massively aid your fat loss goals. Even better taking it in supplement form (i.e. as a capsule) is more time efficient AND has been shown to have the same effects as drinking it. Green tea increases norepinephrine – one of the body’s key fat burning hormones. It also provides powerful antioxidants and prolongs thermogenesis – the body’s ability to generate heat and burn calories.
Salmon - not only is salmon another great source of protein, it also contains omega 3 essential fats. Its these fats found in food like salmon that turn on your body’s fat burning systems and block fat storage.
Oatmeal - oatmeal is an ideal food source for breakfast as it has been proven to leave you feeling fuller for longer and less likely to suffer food cravings throughout the day. Try it with water instead of milk to reduce the calories and avoid any of the ones with artificial sweeteners.
Coconut Oil - studies have shown it has a massive effect on blood sugar levels by regulating the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose, meaning you won’t get that insulin ‘spike’ where you quickly become hungry and feel like eating more carbs. It can be used in a variety of ways including replacing normal cooking oil in cooking and baking. It can even be added into black coffee or taken as a supplement.
8. Eat Small Meals Regularly
Try dividing your meals up into smaller portions and eating regularly throughout the day. This approach keeps you from getting hungry and binge eating and can also help keep your metabolism working away.
9. Get 8 Hours Of Sleep
Without going into great detail about how lack of sleep can actually affect the hormones that control our hunger cravings, you need to get enough sleep simply to have enough energy to hit the gym and smash your workouts throughout the week! This is actually a really big factor. An experiment was carried out where two groups of people followed the exact same diet and exercise plan, but one group got less sleep than the other. Guess which group lost the most weight?
Some people turn their nose up at supplements but I believe when used in combination with an effective diet they are a great addition and can really help you reach your goals. First of all you need to have an all around healthy, balanced diet. Supplements are designed to do just that - supplement a healthy lifestyle. It's a bit like putting modifications on a car that doesn't run properly. You need to get the basics first. Once you get that these supplements are great for helping muscle growth.
Green Tea Extract: As mentioned above green tea can have a big impact on your body in regards to helping it burn fat. You can get the benefits of around ten cups of green tea in one little capsule plus its a pretty cheap supplement.
CLA: Although its not a magic weight loss pill CLA is a fatty acid found in meat and dairy products. When used in conjunction with a healthy diet research has shown positive results on its ability to help with weight loss.
Caffeine: A caffeine supplement can be particularly useful when aiming to lose weight. It can give you an energy boost to power you through your workouts and it can also help to keep your metabolism ticking over.