Now we turn our attention to the other crucial part of your weight loss plan the diet. Everyone likes to eat, but no one wants to diet. However, no workout routine can make you lose weight if your diet isn’t on point. You can’t outrun a bad diet.
Weight Loss Essentials Calories In vs. Calories Out
Calories are a way to measure how much energy the food you eat contains. You use that energy to fuel your body and brain and store any excess energy for future use. If you consistently eat more calories than your body needs, your fat cells store the energy as body fat.
The key factor for weight loss is a calorie deficit. You need to eat fewer calories than you burn over time.
You will lose weight on a diet of junk food and candy without exercising as long as you’re in a calorie deficit. That’s not an encouragement to eat crap, just an illustration of how essential the “calories in vs. calories out” concept is for losing weight. Healthy eating offers many other benefits, including providing the nutrients your body needs and making sure you’re losing fat weight, not lean body mass.
If you want to lose weight, and unless you’re going from very sedentary to very active, you have to eat less to create a calorie deficit.
Counting calories by precisely weighing and measuring everything you put in your mouth is one way to ensure you’re eating fewer calories than your burn. It can be a highly effective method, but it requires time and know-how, and many find it a chore.
If you want to count calories, you’ll find a thorough guide to doing so here:
However, if you don’t want to bother with tracking your exact calorie intake, Strength Log’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss lets you use hand-size portions for an easy and practical way to adjust your food intake.
But first, let’s look at the three macronutrients your body needs for energy and building materials.
Protein provides amino acids: the building blocks your body uses to create new tissue and maintain and repair your cells. Strength training and protein from the foods you eat work together to build new muscle tissue.
During weight loss, protein becomes even more critical. A calorie deficit, essential for losing weight, increases muscle breakdown, but lifting weights and eating protein boosts your muscle-building process enough to offset muscle loss.
In other words: you won’t get the desired results if you don’t eat enough protein.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
To live a healthy life and maintain your muscle mass during energy balance, you don’t need more than 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (0.36 grams per pound) of body weight. Most people get more than that without thinking about it.
However, if you want to build muscle or when you’re on a weight-loss diet, you need more protein than the average person.
According to research, 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg (0.65–0.91 grams per pound) body weight/day is sufficient for building muscle mass for most people.
During weight loss, when you’re cutting to lose body fat, it’s a good idea to aim for the higher end of that range, eating at least 1.8 grams per kg (0.8 grams per pound) to maintain or even gain lean body mass.
These are examples of excellent protein sources for building muscle:
Milk and dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, quark, casein- and whey protein powder)
Eggs (egg whites and whole eggs)
Red meat (beef, pork, lamb, game, ostrich)
White meat (chicken, turkey)
Fish and seafood
Soy-based foods (tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy protein powder)
Nuts, almonds, seeds
Dietary fat gives you a highly concentrated source of energy. Fat keeps your brain, cell membranes, and nervous system healthy and allows your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. In addition, your body uses fat to produce hormones, including testosterone.
How Much Fat Do You Need?
Getting 20–35% of your daily calories from fat is an excellent way to ensure athletic performance and health.9 If you prefer a lower-carb diet, you can increase your fat intake, but you probably shouldn’t go lower.
Because dietary fat is a concentrated source of calories, cutting your fat intake might sound tempting if you’re trying to lose weight. However, going too low is a mistake and might compromise your anabolic hormones, make you hungrier, and limit your body’s ability to absorb vitamins.
These are examples of potential fat sources in your diet:
Egg yolks and whole eggs
Fatty cuts of meat and poultry
Fatty fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel
High-fat dairy products
Nuts and seeds
Nut and seed butter and oils
Olives and olive oil
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are the essential polyunsaturated fats your body can’t produce on its own. They are naturally anti-inflammatory and helpful for keeping your cell membranes fluid and maintaining a healthy immune system.
The most beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are mainly found in marine sources like fatty cold-water fish and algae. If you are a vegan or rarely eat fish for some other reason, consider a quality omega-3 supplement.
In general, you get a balanced mix of fat types if you base your diet on a wide selection of diverse and mainly unprocessed foods.
Carbohydrates are the other primary source of energy from food. Unlike fats, carbohydrates are not essential. You can live your entire life and stay healthy without ever eating carbs. That being said, carbs are not bad and do not prevent weight loss.
How Many Carbs Do You Need?
While you do not “need” carbs, they are a good energy source, and many carbohydrate-rich foods provide plenty of valuable fiber and other nutrients.
How much carbohydrate you need depends on several things, including your body size, how physically active you are in general, the type of training you engage in, and the intensity and duration of that training.
For example, a young, male elite CrossFit athlete who works out rigorously for several hours every day and wants to add body weight will likely thrive on a relatively high carbohydrate intake.
On the other hand, a sedentary and overweight person who wants to lose weight without exercising a lot will need fewer carbohydrates.
Most important, though, is what you like, prefer, and want to do.
Some people feel and perform better eating fewer carbohydrates than average. Others prefer high-carb diets. Neither is right nor wrong but a matter of personal preference.
In StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss, we’ll go with a balanced approach, but if you like more or fewer carbs, feel free to adjust things to your preferences.
Because protein and fat are essential nutrients, those take precedence, and carbohydrates make up the rest of your calorie intake.
These are examples of quality carbohydrate sources you might want to include in your diet plan:
Potatoes, both regular and sweet potatoes
It’s not wrong to include a small to moderate amount of added sugars in your diet, but most of your carbs should come from unrefined sources like the ones in the list above.