The fact of the matter is, if you’re trying to get in shape and your diet isn’t bang on point, it’s REALLY not going to happen.
In today’s day and age, almost everyone has a few hurdles to clear in their diet before they can start thinking about advanced approaches that will progress weight loss, fat loss or muscle gain.
I want to map out where I believe you should start, and where you can advance towards as you gradually tick the boxes…
STEP 1 – CLEAN UP THE DIET
When I first started training properly the ONLY thing PTs told me to do with my diet was CLEAN IT UP. Eating clean essentially means eating INGREDIENTS. Think fruit, vegetables, chicken, fish, meat, nuts, seeds, eggs…your body has no use for junk food except to store it as fat, so CUT OUT THE CRAP!
By training properly and eating the right foods, my body started changing in a matter of weeks.
STEP 2 - LEARNING ABOUT CARBOHYDRATES
It took me a few weeks to get the clean diet down (meaning that I wasn’t craving junk food anymore or breaking and having a cheat meal). At that point, my results started to slow down and it was time to take it to the next level.
We all know that carbohydrates can encourage weight gain, this is because carbohydrates are a sugar that get converted into glycogen in the body, which then gets used for energy, stopping you burning fat.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN STOP EATING CARBS! What it means is UNDERSTAND what carbs you should be eating and when you should be eating them.
Fruit and veg are your 2 best carb options. Go easy on the fruit as it’s high in fructose (sugar), 1 piece a day is enough. Do NOT go easy on the veg. Vegetables are full of fibre that will aid digestion, keep you feeling fuller for longer and even discourage food storing as fat.
Starchy, complex carbs such as wholegrains and potatoes should only be eaten in small amounts, directly pre lifting for energy release and post lifting when your body is in anabolic (fat burning, muscle building) mode.
STEP 3 – CALORIE COUNTING
Yes, calorie counting is essential in losing weight, but it should come into play LATER, when your clean diet has taken shape, your understanding of carbohydrates has had an impact on your intake, and your results have started to steady. This happened to me after a few MONTHS, and that’s when I started looking at my calories…
How many calories a day you should be on is 100% subjective. You need to factor in your height, weight, age and daily activity level. Use a method called the Harris Benedict Formula.
You want to be very careful to decrease your calories GRADUAllY, and KNOW WHEN TO STOP! If you go too far, you won’t be able to train properly and you will push your body into starvation mode, encouraging it to store fat. I have seen this happen countless times. Too low calories will have the OPPOSITE of the desired effect.
STEP 4 – COUNTING MACROS
IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) is a relatively new dieting method and in my opinion, it is for the more advanced.
Within your specific calorie count, you split the 3 macros – FATS, PROTEIN AND CARBOHYDRATES – into appropriate percentages and then weigh them out into grams. You need MyFitnessPal to do this and it is extremely time consuming and confusing at first, but after a few weeks it does become second nature.
The biggest misconception with macros is that you can eat whatever the hell you want as long as it fits your numbers. I highly recommend you do not do this, I have experimented with it in the past and it definitely did not work for me. In my experience the people it works for tend to have a hell of a lot of muscle mass, which means they can be a lot more gung ho with their diet choices!
Like calorie counting, macro counts are 100% subjective and depend on your aesthetic goals, workout routines and nutritional sensitivities. For example, if your goal is to gain muscle, you would have a high carbohydrate and protein %, but a low fat %. If your goal was to lose weight, you would have a higher protein and fat %, but a lower carbohydrate %. HOWEVER, everybody has different macro splits as everybody has a different body type and method of training. I cannot stress enough that it is SUBJECTIVE.
STEP 5 – CARB CYCLING
It has taken me almost 2 years to get lean enough that carb cycling is even an option for me. You do not need to carb cycle by any means; eating clean, knowing when to eat starchy carbohydrates, counting calories and counting macros within those calories is DEFINITELY enough! However, I enjoy pushing myself and sort of have to for my job, so carb cycling has been a part of my diet for the last month or so, and I am seeing results.
Carb cycling is a way of calculating your macros so that you have high, medium and low carb days.
A good place to start is to go low carb on none exercise or cardio only days (carbs from vegetables only), and high carb on heavy weight lifting days (leg days for example).
If you lift, it is really important to ensure you have enough carb days in your diet to sustain your training and results. For example, I lift weights 6 days a week and I am on a 3 low day, 1 high day cycle. However, one athlete I know is currently ‘cutting’ for a competition and is doing 1 day low, 1 day high.
As I keep saying, it really is 100% subjective and will totally depend on your body type, training, goals and nutritional sensitivities.
If you are interested in learning more about your diet and what your specific calorie, macro or cycles should look like, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and enquire about online personal training.