If your goal is to look more toned, more defined or reduce your bodyweight for health purposes then you need to focus on fat loss as the outcome. This week I’ll share 5 of my top diet tips for shedding that excess body-fat. The primary determining factor with any diet goal is adherence – Can you actually stick to what you have planned? Personally, I think the biggest reason why most people fail to get the results they are after is because they focus their efforts in the wrong places and then become demotivated when they don’t succeed. If you apply these 5 tips then I’m confident that you will set yourself up successfully for losing body-fat, no matter how you choose to approach it. Layer on general principles like eating slowly, eating slightly smaller portions than you would normally choose and adding more green vegetables to your plate then losing fat should become simple and seem like less of a chore.
#1 - Track
If your goal is to lose fat then you need to do some form of tracking. If it is your first time trying to lose fat or you have failed in the past then it’s likely you are going to have to start tracking food quantities in some capacity. It may be as simple as taking a detailed food diary that you can review every few days or at the end of the week or it might be that you enter everything into a tracker like MyFitnessPal to see the calorie and macronutrient breakdown.
This is necessary initially to raise awareness of what and how much you eat as well as to get used to what you can eat and when. Other worthwhile things to track are your body measurements (like waist and thigh circumference) or bodyweight according to the scale. These can give objective measures of progress which can help keep you motivated or make dietary adjustments when necessary. Getting into the habit of tracking helps keep your goals at the front of your mind, increasing motivation and holding you accountable to what you set out to do.
#2 - Plan Ahead
Forward planning goes a long way to help make sure you stay on track and to minimise the effect that set-backs have. I’ll share a couple of ways you can plan ahead to make sure you diet is successful. When you are cooking dinners at night, prepare double and take some to work for your lunch the next day. Even think about setting aside some time once or twice per week to batch cook your lunches. This will help minimise the likelihood to stray off the plan as you already have meals prepared and with you that you need to eat.
Another good strategy is to plan out what you are going to have in your tracking app the day before. It doesn’t mean you need to have everything prepped and ready to go but put it in, check the calories and then you have your meal plan for the day sorted. No stress, just go with what you have planned. The final strategy that I’ll share is saving calories through the week if you know you are going to have a night out or special occasion planned. For example, if you are normally in a 300 calories deficit, consider upping this to 600 Mon-Friday giving you an extra 1500 calories to play with by Saturday all while keeping yourself in the deficit for the week.
#3 - Eat More Protein
For some protein can be a macronutrient that is lacking from the diet even before we consider restricting food or calories. There are many benefits to eating protein with its primarily role being when digest it provides the building blocks for the growth and repair of vital, active lean tissues within the body. Lean sources of protein like chicken breast, prawns or white fish help you feel more satiated and are generally harder to overeat than carbs or fats which can be most refined. During calorie restriction – which is necessary for fat loss – higher intakes of protein have been shown to help preserve lean mass. That means you hard earned muscle is spared and any weight lost is actually fat which ultimately what will improved the look or composition of your body. Your protein should be evenly spread throughout your meals. Breakfast is usually a problem meal for some which can be lacking and is particularly important because the last protein feeding could have been 12+ hours before. Consider having eggs, high protein yoghurts like skyr or supplementing with a protein shake.
#4 - Eat your calories
While this may seem obvious, I think it’s a big area where people go wrong.
So what do I mean?
When you are trying to lose fat, you must restrict your food and calorie intake. It becomes even more important to try and eat foods which are high quality and filling. The big mistake is to drink your calories. I assume everyone knows to avoid sugary soft drinks as they are high in sugar and very easy to consume a lot of calories very quickly. A lot of the drinks that are sold as healthier alternatives also contain a lot of sugar so you should check the labels and avoid them. Another place where those hidden calories sneak into your drinks are in coffee or tea in the form of added sugar or the syrups that are added to your fancier coffees. For context, a large Starbucks whole milk latte has around 300kcals and Naked ‘Green Machine Juice Smoothie’ has 257 calories and 54g sugar in a small 450ml bottle. Both have similar calories to a Mars Bar or Krispy Krème Raspberry filled donut which are more obvious choices of junk food and wasted calories.
#5 - Eat Higher Quality Foods
Try to make up the bulk of your food intake with foods that are less refined and of high quality. Generally the more refined a particular food is, the less nutrients it contains and the more opportunity there are for hidden calories. Generally these foods are less filling and easier to overeat. Think along the lines of fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and legumes. If you prepare your own meals from fresh ingredients, you are more in control of what goes into it, you can decide on portion sizes and you can also save money in the process. There are definitely some ready style meals or ready cooked meats that are very convenient and have their place just try to make sure you don’t overly rely on them and know where they fit in to the bigger picture. We are generally aware of the types of food that are refined and that should be minimised. It’s never a good idea to exclude whole food groups from your diet as it often leaves you craving that thing. Certain cereals and breads can be particularly calorific so it can help to be more aware and seek out diet-friendly substitutes or alternatives.
Hope the above 5 times have provided you with some extra help and guidance on how to get into that calories deficit with no fuss and stay there! Here is a quick recap of the top 5 tips for weight loss.
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Allan Young is a Personal Trainer and coach educator in Glasgow who operates Strength Coach Glasgow and is a 4x Scottish Champion Olympic Weightlifter.