Many of you eat frequently in restaurants or in friends’ homes. It’s an important part of your job or lifestyle. For you, overly prescriptive eating plans may not work, even if you wanted to try one. We give you the tips and tools you need to make sensible choices, and still enjoy your business dinners and meals with friends.
Restrictive diets almost never work. Most people who complete a restrictive diet end up more overweight than when they started. They make you hungry and grumpy. They can even deprive your body of the essential nutrients it needs to function properly.
1. Ensure You Are Consistently In A Calorie Deficit
When it comes to fat-loss you can forget almost everything you’ve heard about carbs, sugar, hormones and meal-timing. Weight-loss is created by one thing and one thing only: Consistently being in a calorie deficit. Consuming less calories than your body is using.
This is the law of thermodynamics. One of the most certain scientific laws there is.
This is good news because you can be in a calorie deficit while including food you enjoy. (We will cover this in point 8)
However, the key word is consistency. Being in a calorie-deficit from Monday to Friday isn’t good enough. As annoying as it is, weekend calories still count. What you average over seven days will dictate if you end the week in a calorie deficit or not.
Doing that over weeks and months (with strategic breaks where calories are increased to maintenance to give you mental and physical rest) is the number one factor to succeed at long-term fat-loss.
2. Eat More Protein. (1.5-2 Kg Per Kilogram Of Goal Bodyweight)
Protein, and the amino acids into which the body breaks down protein, are the basic building blocks of lean body mass (muscle). Without protein, we cannot maintain the muscles that we have and we cannot increase muscle. Our bodies need protein to produce the enzymes, hormones and other chemicals that we need to have a healthy bones, skin and blood, as well as muscles.
Some foods are high in protein. 100 grams of meat, chicken and fish all contain 20 to 25 grams of protein. Some foods contain moderate amounts of protein. 100 grams of eggs and cottage cheese contain 10 to 15 grams of protein. Some foods have a reputation for being a good source of protein, but actually contain relatively little. 100 grams of beans, lentils, nuts and tofu contain 5 to 10 grams of protein. We recommend that our clients eat 1.5-2 grams of protein per day per kilo of goal body weight. This is harder for vegetarians and vegans, but it can be done when you know how.
Why protein helps us lose fat.
Whenever we are in a calorie deficit, our bodies naturally lose both fat and muscle. By eating enough protein, we are able to maintain more muscle and lose more fat. We also need protein to recover from exercise. Maintaining (and building) muscle means a higher metabolic rate. The higher the metabolic rate, the more calories we burn.
Our body uses far more energy to digest protein than it does to digest carbohydrate or fat, something referred to as the thermic effect of food (TEF). In fact, up to 30% of the calories contained in protein are used in the digestion process itself.
Finally, protein triggers our body’s production of leptin, which is the hormone that tells us we are full (not hungry). By eating protein regularly, we stay fuller longer. We eat less and we are less grumpy. Protein is your number one tool to stop hunger becoming unmanageable and therefore keep you on plan.
3. Eat More Fruit And Vegetables
No doubt you know that fruit and vegetables support health by providing abundant vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are critical for the proper working of all of our body’s functions, and essential for disease prevention and disease risk reduction.
However, from a purely fat loss perspective, eating plenty of fruit and veg is especially powerful because they are high-volume/low-calorie foods. This means they take up a lot of room in your stomach at very little calorie cost. (For example, 300g of broccoli contains only 117 calories. 150g of raspberries – 48 calories).
So, the beauty of high-volume/low calorie food is you can eat it in abundance while remaining in a calorie-deficit. Just the physical process of chewing and swallowing more food has been shown to increase satiety. Fruit and vegetables also contain a lot of fibre which also helps to keep you full.
If you are tracking your calories, a good guide is using 10-15% of them on fruit and vegetables. You will be amazed by how much food this will enable you to eat!
4. Eat Sufficient Fat To Support Health
Fat, especially so-called “healthy fats” (Omega 3, 6 and 9 and particularly Omega 3) is essential for the proper working of many of our bodies’ functions, avoiding heart disease, memory loss and depression, slowing down the aging process and even increasing so-called good cholesterol (HDLs) and decreasing bad cholesterol (LDLs and VLDLs).
However, fat is also by far the most calorific of macronutrients at 9 calories per gram compared to the 4 calories per gram that both protein and carbohydrates yield. And fat is by far the easiest to overconsume. This is because fat takes up less ‘real estate’ on your plate and in your stomach, calorie for calorie than protein and carbohydrates. It also frequently requires less chewing. Think butter and oils. Over twice the calories, less room in your stomach, less effort to swallow.
So be mindful. Ensure roughly 80% of your fat comes from healthier sources such as olive oil, avocado, oily fish, and cold-pressed seed oil to support your health. The other 20% – don’t worry about (see the 80/20 Rule below). Then make sure you aren’t overconsuming it.
If you are tracking your calories and macronutrients a good guide is 0.8-1g of fat per kilogram of goal body-weight.
5. Don’t Fear Carbs
Carbs are the body’s preferred fuel source. They are the dominant macronutrient found in most of what we eat, including bread, rice, pasta and beans on the one hand, and fruits and vegetables on the other. They are also in chocolate, coca cola and donuts. All carbohydrates, whether from broccoli or a donut, are turned into sugar in the body.
The body uses the sugar for energy and, if you are in a calorie-surplus, stores any excess sugar as fat. It is common knowledge that vegetables are “good” for you and donuts are less good. But this is true for many reasons, including the other ingredients donuts contain, much lower vitamin, mineral and Fiber values, and the number of calories donuts contain (most of which comes from fat). So avoid blaming the carbs in junk food like donuts for their lack of healthfulness and contribution to a fattening diet!
If your protein and fat targets have already been optimised you may need to reduce the amount of carbs you eat to achieve a calorie deficit. But as long as you are getting most of your carbs from wholefood sources such as rice, potatoes, bread, pasta and beans, carbs will support your health, mood, energy, training performance and greater overall activity while you are in a calorie-deficit.
6. Minimise Junk Food While Keeping Your Diet Enjoyable By Applying The 80/20 Rule
Roughly 80% of your calories should come from nutritious, whole foods such as fresh meat, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, legumes and whole grains. However, to make your diet psychologically sustainable, the other 20% can come from whatever you like to eat purely for pleasure. Unless you have a medical condition that prohibits it, nothing is off the menu. The science is very clear about this is two ways.
1. Adherence:– Studies show that people will not stick to a diet that excludes food and drink they enjoy indefinitely. Indeed, however long they manage to adhere to a 100% healthy diet, the diet is frequently followed by an equally long (or longer) spell of bingeing on the foods they excluded.
2. Health:– A diet comprised of 80% ‘healthy’ food is sufficient to improve and support health. Moreover, because it is sustainable, over months and years it is more supportive of good health than repeatedly attempting and failing to stick to a restrictive diet. Interestingly, merely losing body fat with ‘unhealthy’ diets has been shown to improve key health markers. We are not suggesting you do that. The more you adhere to healthy eating principles, the greater the benefit to your health. But you do need to know the required standard of nutrition to succeed with both your health and fat loss goals is realistic and sustainable.
So, as long as roughly 80% of your food choices are healthy, you have permission to indulge. Just make sure you:
Enjoy your indulgence. There is no point in eating a bowl of ice cream, a pizza or a slab of foie gras, and then beating yourself up. If you eat it, then eat it with purpose and enjoy it.
Think ahead. Before you indulge, make a mental note of what you are about to eat. It may be something high in sugar or trans fat. Think about portion size, and whether you want to reduce it. Think about whether “low fat” or “reduced sugar” alternatives are available that you could enjoy almost as much.
Be accountable to yourself. You ate it, you enjoyed it. Your job is to stick to the guidelines as often as you can. Remember your indulgences (what you ate, how much and when). Know that as long as you are still in a calorie deficit, your indulgence will not slow down your fat loss. Then pat yourself on the back for eating healthily 80% of the time.
7. Drink Plenty Of Water – For Health And Appetite Management
Alongside macronutrients, micronutrients and fibre, water is essential for our body’s functions to work properly. Sixty percent of our body is water. Much of the food we eat contains water. Also, water is produced in our body as a waste product when we burn calories. But, our body has a natural water deficit of around 1 ½ to 2 litres per day – more when we sweat.
When in a calorie-deficit, alongside eating sufficient protein and fruit and vegetables, drinking more water is also one of your greatest hunger-management tools. If you’re unsure how much water to drink, a useful guide when dieting and training for fat loss 0.03 litres of water per day per kg of goal body weight. If your goal weight is 60kg you should try to drink 1.8 litres of water. For simplicity you may round this up to 2 litres. If your goal weight is 90kg you should try to drink 2.7 litres, which you may round up to 3 litres.
8. Become More Active By Increasing Neat
For the reasons described in more detail above, become more active in your daily life. Walk more. Take the stairs. You will burn fat. You will look and feel better. You will live longer.
9. Engage In Regular Strength Training
As discussed above, strength training will ensure that the greatest amount of your weight loss is comprised of body fat as possible rather than a combination of fat and muscle.