Nutrition for Fat Loss - Part 2.2: 5 Steps to Determining Your Macronutrient Percentages
For examples of macronutrients in common diets read Part 2.1 - Macronutrients
5 Simple Steps for Basic Healthy Eating
1) Start with A LOT of vegetables. Adding vegetables increases your fiber intake which always helps with fat loss. Aim for 5-10 servings of vegetables per day depending on body size.
2) Eat 1-3 fruits a day. Fruit is nutritious, but it’s still sugar and fructose at that. So eat them, but don’t overdo it.
3) Eat a legitimate source of protein with each meal. Typically you want to choose leaner protein sources, but sources with a moderate amount of fat are ok.
4) Fats like healthy cooking oils, nuts, and seeds can be added, but in limited quantities. A common problem I see with Paleo eaters is they take the “eat lots of fat” rule too seriously. They end up eating WAY too much fat to where their overall calories are too high for fat loss.
If you stop here, you are eating a standard Paleo diet. Lots of veggies, some fruit, lean-moderate fat protein, and occasional fats.
5) Lastly, add in your starchy carbs. By eating say 7 servings of vegetables and 2 fruits in one day, you are getting somewhere around 90g of carbs. This may be enough for someone who is 50+ lbs overweight or for the average person on non-workout days. More active people will probably need more carbs before and after workouts and possibly more throughout the day.
Add in “good carbs” like brown rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, legumes, and quinoa one serving at a time until you hit you calorie goal. Servings could range from 0-8+ depending on body size and activity level.
This will give you a solid nutritional base and if you want to keep it simple stop here.
Messin' with Macros
Let’s go back to step 4. After satisfying your vegetable, fruit, and protein goals, the remaining calories will come from some combination of fat and starch. You could also go all fat or all carbs from here. This is where it varies from person to person.
Deciding how much extra carbs or fat to add is really a personal preference. Keeping calories the same, does eating 20% carbs cause you to lose extra fat verses eating 60% carbs? Not really. Body fat distribution will change some with different percentages, but in the end it’s more about what percentages make you feel energetic, satiated, and comfortable on a caloric deficit.
So going back to steps 4 and 5, try adding only fats(or fat+protein) and no starches for a few weeks and see how you feel as well as how compliant you are to your calories. Some people adjust to the lower carb/high fat way of eating and feel great after a couple weeks. Others continue to feel crappy or just find this way of eating too restrictive.
After a few weeks, try replacing a serving of fat for a serving of starch every couple of days and take note of how you feel. You may find that a little starch makes you feel much better or you may find it makes you feel more sluggish. It is all about trying different amounts of carbs and fats to determine the right balance for you. You will probably fall somewhere in the middle between the low fat/moderate-high carb and high fat/lower carb extremes. Play with different amounts of fat and carbs to see what is ideal for you, but keep steps 1-3 constant.
If you want to know exactly what your percentages are, you will need to log your food in nutrition app or site that has the daily breakdown of macronutrients. Take note of the daily breakdown, how you feel, and how successful you are.
Marco percentages could range from:
high carb/low fat/moderate protein of 65/10/25 to
low carb/high fat/high protein of 10/45/45
Eventually you will find a macronutrient percentage that works and allows you to get leaner while having sufficient energy and strength. Give it a try and good luck!
Additional Points to Keep in Mind
If any of this sounds confusing, it’s because finding the right percentages can be tricky and it takes a good amount of self-awareness to nail down what works for you. This is where a personal trainer experienced in nutritional coaching for fat loss comes in handy.
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