As a trainer and nutritionist, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people tell me they’re doing everything right, but they still can’t seem to lose weight. It’s hard not to smirk when I hear it because it almost always comes down to the same basic principle.
Calories in versus calories out.
That’s essentially what it boils down to – a game of calories, whatever your goal may be. Many will argue it’s not, and that you can actually lose weight while keeping a high caloric daily intake. But this is only true if your energy expenditure (activity level) for the day is higher than what you are storing. Which means at the end of the day, you are still consuming less calories than what your body is using. If you want to lose weight or body fat you have to consume less calories than what your body is using in a day and. Vice versa, if you want to gain muscle you need a surplus of calories for your body to build upon. Sounds simple enough. But why is eating healthier still not helping you achieve your goals of weight loss?
The truth is, many healthy foods are still packed with calories. Take almonds, for example. They contain good amounts healthy fats and are widely recognized to be a smart snack choice – but because of their fat content they still check in at nine calories per gram. Another great example is Quinoa. It’s a superb, healthy food choice but one cup of cooked Quinoa has roughly 222 calories, 39g of carbs, 8g of protein and 4g of fat. To make matters worse, most people don’t stop at 1 cup per meal. And at the end of the day, all of those calories add up.
So how do you get the best of both worlds? They key is portion sizes and knowing what your caloric intake for the day should be, and where those calories come from. Let’s say your goal is to drop body fat. If you are a 200-pound guy trying to lose weight, you’ll want take in a minimum of 160 grams of protein in your daily intake. That’s .8g of protein per pound of bodyweight. Going lower than that might hinder your lean muscle mass weight and when it comes to body composition you aren’t trying to lose lean muscle, just fat. So it’s crucial you know how many calories you need and knowing how to break them into your three macros. Here’s a simple generic way to know the basics.
Protein: Consume a minimum of .8g of protein /lbs of weight
Fats: Consume 20% of your daily caloric intake from healthy fats
Carbs: After you’ve figured out how many calories you have left, add them in form of complex carbs and veggies. To take this one step further, consume most of your carbs before and after your exercise plan.
So there’s the very simple formula. Remember, if you’re trying to lose weight, don’t go believing that “organic” or “natural” foods are automatically better for your goals – they might still carry the same if not more calories than the “regular” version of what you are eating. Eating healthy is important, but knowing how to eat for your goals is the only way you’re going to reach them.