Any diet will get you to lose fat if you are strict enough. Depending your body chemistry, some diets work better than others. Some people have success with a high carb, vegetarian diet while others thrive off a low carb, high protein diet. There is an unresolved debate on which diets work better simply because the correct diet is a matter of personal preference. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The purpose of these two blogs (Part 2.1, 2.2) is to show you a handful of common diets and to take the next step beyond calories in order to find what macronutrient percentages work best for you.
Calories are important, but there is more to it than JUST counting calories.
For a basic rundown on calories read Part 1.1 - Calories and for how calorie restrictive you should be read Part 1.2 - Dieting Intensity.
Calories count, yes, very much so. But it is not the ONLY thing that counts. In almost all cases you have to run a caloric deficit to lose a substantial amount of fat. That is why I wrote my blog “Nutrition for Fat Loss Part 1: Calories“. It is not to say that calories is the only thing that matters, but if you don’t address it, you won’t lose fat. Many people lose fat by counting calories, and MANY lose by never counting them at all. Most would say that they had to eat better in order to lose weight. They had to cut out things like junk food, processed foods, and sweets and replace them with veggies, lean meats, and some good carbs. Guess, what happened when they ate cleaner? They ate less calories. Try losing weight by counting calories and eating junk food is nearly impossible because you have to fight cravings, constant hunger, and low energy the entire time.
I have personally tested this theory while in college. I started personal training while in college and was taught that calories was the ONLY thing that mattered in fat loss. So with my goal of getting leaner I went from 192 down to 166. I did it solely by counting calories. My diet consisted of healthy foods like lean meat, good carbs, and protein shakes, but it included a lot of unhealthy foods like, pastas, Taco Bell, Burger King, and Jack In The Box. I remember regularly eating bagels and Red Bull WITH the sugar in it. Even though I ate this crap food, I still kept to my goal calories. This meant that I could only order a small cheeseburger and a 5 piece chicken nuggets instead of a value meal. The “diet” meal yields 550 calories versus 1200+ for the value meal.
I lost fat and reached my goal by only counting calories. I lost 22 lbs of fat and 3 lbs of muscle. You might think I lost the muscle because of the low quality food. This may have been the cause, but I was also doing too much cardio, balancing a 40 hour work week with full time school, not getting enough sleep, and taking in too much caffeine and fat burners. So not too bad of results given the situation.
As always I wish I had a better before picture, but you can see the difference losing 26 lbs on my 5' 8" frame. According to the dates it took 7 months, but I did not cut down in Nov/Dec that year. So not bad for 5 months total.
That was one of my first diets and I have learned a lot since then. So aside from eating a certain amount of calories, how should you eat to lose fat? Here are just a handful of common diets out there today:
Each diet will have different percentages of carbs, fat, and protein. So, which one works best for you? The next step after determining calories is finding a solid macronutrient ratio that works for you.
Macros in Popular Diets
Macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. We often speak in percentages of macronutrients when looking at different diets or someone’s overall food preference. A popular diet back in the 90s was based solely off this concept. The Zone 40/30/30 diet. Remember the ZONE bars? The idea was that 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat was the ideal macronutrient breakdown to lose fat. Although specific diets like these can work for some, no diet is ideal because everyone will respond differently.
Here is a breakdown of “macros” for the diets listed above. This data was compiled by a common meal plan I made for each. I tried hard to be realistic and unbiased when creating these meal plans. Also know that the vegetarian and vegan diets are healthy versions of such with considerable effort to eat protein.
Figuring out what marcos work best for you is mostly trial and error, but I typically recommend people to start at about 45/30/25 (carbs/fat/protein). In order to figure this out, you have to track your food, know the daily percentages of macros, and take note of how you feel.
Know your calories and be consistent with them. If your calories change significantly from day to day, you won’t know if the changes are the result of different calorie amounts or marco percentages. Also, on more active days you may end up eating more calories. This is another factor to take note of.
Read my next blog in the Nutrition for Fat Loss series, Part 2.2: 5 Steps to Determining YOUR Macronutrient Percentages
1) JD Wright, MPH, J Kennedy-Stephenson, MS, CY Wang, PhD, MA McDowell, MPH, CL Johnson, MSPH, National Center for Health Statistics, CDC. Trends in Intake of Energy and Macronutrients - United States, 1971—2000, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). February 6, 2004 / 53(04);80-82
2) Food database from www.myfitnesspal.com
Personal Trainer serving the Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Los Altos area. Breakthrough Personal Training: 744 San Antonio Rd. Palo Alto, CA 94303. Nutrition for fat loss, weight loss, macronutrients, what percentages of macronutients should I eat?, macronutrients in popular diets.
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