We have looked at the fundamentals of managing your weight daily and over longer periods of time.
Energy balance dictates everything, we try to manage our overall food intake and push our activity up in a way that is sustainable. Within that food it's ideal to eat close to certain amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fat because nutritional research has consistently pointed toward the benefit of these targets.
Breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day for fat loss, nor is it a bad thing to eat later in the evening if we like. The old myth of 'don't eat carbs past x o'clock' definitely has no merit once we are looking after energy balance, and eating little often doesn't give our metabolism some extra fat loss boost.
We don't have to eat totally 'clean' sources of food to promote fat loss. We certainly do want the majority to be nutrient dense though, so we promote our health and well-being, but we can fit the odd nice thing in here and there, which is great.
Supplements aren't going to make a dent in fat loss in any meaningful way, but there are some that can potentially add to health and performance.
When you start out tracking your food you fall in to a sequence of eating certain things at certain times and trying to stay within your calories. This is great because you learn a ton about what foods and times actually suit you, plus you start to filter out anything that was high calorie and may have been causing you problems managing your weight.
Now that you've got a little bit of experience under your belt let's take a look at how we can refine things a little further, let's look beyond the basic guidelines.
Bigger Meals Versus Smaller Meals.
One of the first things you tend to figure out by trial and error is that eating too little and eating too little far apart will make you hungry. You might also notice that you tend to stack calories earlier or later in the day. Again, there is no right or wrong, just what suits you and that will make things sustainable.
If you look at the image below you see the 4 meals or snacks spread out across the day may well suit someone who just doesn't get hungry in between, but for somebody else it might be really tough as hunger rears it's ugly head.
Below the line is an example of someone who eats fewer, but bigger meals. The bigger meals keep them feeling full until the next one and so on, until the day is complete.
There's no real right or wrong in either case when it comes to fat loss, but once we look at muscle gain and gym performance it can change a little.
If you find the way you are approaching things starts to get difficult then experimenting can help. Hungry all the time because you're constantly eating small meals? Try eating bigger, fewer meals, even just one that's bigger and then take it from there.
From the video on timing we learned that the timing doesn't matter in an overall sense for fat loss... but it really does, just not in the way we've been sold for so long e.g. breakfast/don't eat late at night. Instead it's a case of timing for what suits your lifestyle, and the minimise hunger.
Satiety - Protein & Fibre Are Your Friend.
If you're in a calorie deficit and losing weight it can be tough tackling hunger. Heck, sometimes it's even like that when you're not in a calorie deficit. How do we keep ourselves feeling fuller for longer?
Here we look at satiety, which is the state of feeling satisfied to capacity in terms of food.
If I give you three maltesers and tell you to eat them the satiety value of those three maltesers is quite low. You're not going to stay satisfied for long.
If I give you a couple of cooked chicken breasts and a plate of vegetables then the satiety value of that meal is a lot higher. Even if I give you enough maltesers to match up to the same amount of calories as the chicken breasts and vegetables the satiety value will be much lower for the maltesers.
Foods containing fibre are great for keeping you feel full, as are quality sources of protein. Maltesers have neither, so this might start to help you understand why foods like chocolate, biscuits and items you'd label junk food make it easy to put on weight.
More nutrient dense sources of food are better choices, and protein and fibre based foods (plants) are amazing for keeping you full.
Have a look at the images below for some common sources of both.
Fibre is found in edible plants and is an undigestable source of carbohydrate.
It basically passes through you, but on the way provides a whole host of benefits. It slows down the time it takes food to pass through the stomach and on to the small intestine, this helps with feeling full. It also adds to gut health and many high fibre foods such as whole grains are linked with other positive health benefits such as lowering susceptibility to heart disease, colon cancer and diabetes.
The recommended daily intake is around 25-35 grams per day.
Can you eat too much? Yes, but you'll probably poop your pants trying before anything else happens so it doesn't fall within the realm or practicality.
Foods which are rich in fibre generally have a whole host of other nutrient benefits as you can see from the visual. Fruits and vegetables contain many, many important vitamins and minerals for health and a diet with adequate fibre also helps you poop on the regular which is a huge deal too. Many people fall short with fibre intake so by definition many people are not eating enough nutrient dense food which over time negatively impacts health in other ways.
Food sources high in protein such as lean meats and dairy have high satiety value too, and when you match the two together - fibre and protein - you get meals which keep you satisfied for longer.
But we want our meals to be delicious and to taste great as well as just keeping us full right? Here's a great example from the recipe book.
The cajun beef and vegetable rice dish comes in at just over 500 calories, it's got 40 grams of high quality protein, rice and veggies which make it an amazing option for so many reasons. It's got great nutrient value, it'll support repair and recovery from training, and it'll keep you satisfied for longer compared to something with similar calories but less protein/fibre.
Take a look at over 500 calories worth of junk food in comparison.
This type of food is low in fibre, low in protein, low in nutrient value and very easy to over-eat. Eating foods like this every single day makes it very difficult to manage your weight and now you should have a better idea why.
To summarise on timing and satiety you can see that in a theoretical way timing doesn't really matter, but in practice it really does.
We are looking to position our meals throughout the day in a way that suits us, with protein and fibre in our meals really helping things. The food composition video told us that we've don't have to eat 'clean' all the time, which again is great in theory, but in practice we really do want to prioritise healthier, nutrient dense options because of all the benefits they provide.
You can fit a treat in here and there, but there needs to be a sense of realism to things.
Fruit As A Source Of Fibre - Juice Versus Whole.
Back to the fibre and specifically fruit. What about fruit juices. Are they good for you? Does the sugar in fruit make you fat?
Fruit is nutrient dense, so yes, it's good for you.
The sugar in fruit does not make you put on fat. Too much energy in your diet does. Fruit can contribute to overall energy, but let's be real here, nobody gets overweight or obese by eating too much fruit. It's from eating too much high calorie junk food, and there might be a tiny bit of fruit in their diet.
Anyone overweight or obese is usually sedentary, they don't do much physical activity and have a cluster of poor lifestyle habits that add up in a bad way. So realistically, no, fruit does not make you fat.
It's very hard to over-eat on fruit anyway, as all the fibre will make you want to poop.
What about fruit juice then? Should we drink the juice or eat the actual fruit?
You can see from the images below that once you 'juice' fruit it removes the fibre content. Glorious fibre! Remember, fibre helps you keeping feeling fuller for longer and it's just been taken away. The calories remain the same. It's much easier to over consumer your daily energy needs through liquids that contain calories than the food equivalent.
If you get enough fibre in every day and you enjoy a juice then have a juice.
If you DON'T get enough fibre in every day then eat the fruit to help with this.
Either way both are nutrient dense and great for you in the context of any overall healthy diet and lifestyle.
For weight loss - if someone who is overweight and unhealthy wakes up some day and says 'I'm going to start drinking more fruit juice to be healthy' and changes little else, well you can see the flaw in their actions after going through all of our content.
Setting Habits For The Future.
We have spoken about timing, protein (we'll go further into this in a separate piece) and fibre intake through plants being important in practical terms for trying to lose weight.
When you start out you'll be tracking your food on Myfitnesspal to learn about the protein content, the calorie content, and basically trying to learn about so you can make the best decisions you can.
But I don't want you to track forever. Trust me, you won't want to have to track forever either. What you will be doing though while tracking is setting the foundation for making these decisions good habits that will serve you well in the future. Once you've spent a chunk of time tracking and losing weight you'll then get to a point where we break away from that and try to manage your weight purely by making conscious decisions day to day without relying on technology to help.
You'll learn about energy and food, what are the good choices and the not-so-good choices for you. If you're preparing recipes from the packs provided (I highly recommend this) then you're building up a catalogue of go-to meals which taste great and will serve you well down the line. I'd be looking to have a dozen or so varied meals which you're competent at cooking and enjoy to swap between across the weeks
When the time comes that you want to maintain your new weight you'll need to stick to your newly formed habits. Things won't be as restrictive, but the timing of meals is going to need to be fairly similar to what you have been doing. One of the big learning points is that constant grazing and snacking throughout the day is a huge cause of weight gain.
There are periods of hours at a time during the day where you just don't need to eat. We don't NEED the energy. When you do eat, tasty meals with nutrient rich sources of protein, carbohydrate, and fat that you actually love eating should be on the menu through habit.
Sprinkle in some treats here and there and you've got a sustainable, enjoyable way to manage your weight.
The path you're on now is setting you up for future success, keep that in mind.
Your Physical And Social Environment.
We have looked at timing, protein, fibre and setting habits. These are just some of the important factors that need to be refined beyond those basic guidelines that we've learned about. Energy balance is the single most important variable in managing your weight, it seems quite a simple concept, but so many other things can affect and influence your ability to stick to the goal.
It can be easy enough to do for a day, for a week, or even for a few weeks. Long term success comes from learning about the nuances to those initial guidelines, and then gaining experience implementing these finer details over time.
Let's finish up this piece on an incredibly important piece of the puzzle.
One of the biggest disruptive forces in anyone managing their weight is their environment, both physical and social. You're probably familiar with the sayings 'you are a product of your environment', and 'you are the average of the five people you have around you most often'.
Where do you spend most of your time and who do you spend it with?
Firstly, your physical environment must support your goals. Picture what's in your fridge and presses at home right now.
You know you have certain meals and snacks that you're most likely to eat throughout the day by now. Does your home environment support this? Is there too much junk food in the house? You need the puzzle pieces ready at hand so you are enabled to make good decisions, especially as we are all busy.
You also need to limit the opportunity to make too many bad choices. We can fit nice things in, but over consuming them is easy if they're at hand and at hand in abundance.
Your home environment is controllable but where you work and the outside world is a lot trickier, so it requires good decision making and planning.
If you work in an office or a sedentary environment I'm sure you're all too familiar with the sight of the image above. Lots of chocolates, buns and biscuits at hand almost all the time.
We know that lack of movement and taking in a lot of low protein, low fibre, high calorie foods all the time is counter-intuitive when it comes to managing weight.
You'll need to make good decisions. Bring snacks with you to work, a good example would be a protein bar you like, and have it at a set time. Habit formation is the king of turning things on it's head when it comes to your external physical environment.
Shops, petrol stations, restaurants, and even other people's houses fall in to the same category in that they mostly offer high calorie, lower nutrient dense sources of food. Things can be stacked against you, but now you are aware and once you spend enough time making good decisions you'll be able to overcome any challenge.
Remember, you can fit nice things in, it just takes some degree of planning.
Your social environment can obviously affect your nutrition as well as many other things. In terms of food if you live with somebody else then controlling what's in the press or fridge has possibly just become more complicated.
You'll need social support from those closest to you. Everyone thinks they know a lot about nutrition, be ready for that. The majority of the scientific literature may point overwhelmingly to something but you can bet Karen from accounting will tell you it's wrong because she read something somewhere.
When it comes to work or out in the world the reality is most people have very, very limited knowledge on how to properly structure their nutrition to manage weight and support health.
You'll need to deal with everything so just be ready to stick to your guns when you need.
Saying that, I would like to finish on an incredibly important point and that is food is a huge part of socialising and spending good time with people you care about.
It's important that even though you're trying to form good habits and chase your goals that it doesn't cause stress, put a strain on your relationship with food, or put a strain on your relationships with other people.
Friction will happen, but overall remember that some of the best experiences you can have is in the company of the people you love and enjoying food together.
It is completely possible to manage your weight, have a healthy relationship with food and to enjoy food socially. It just takes time and effort to learn how.
I hope this article has helped delve a little further beyond the guidelines and show you what can help you on the road to success. If need anything I'm always just a mail away.