How to Lose Weight
This blog post is a very general guideline to losing weight, and more specifically, body fat. Before I begin, I should state that I am not a doctor. I am not a nutritionist. I don’t have any degrees or letters after my name. What I do have is almost 20 years of experience, research, and trial and error. So if you are looking for scientifically studied ways that lab rats lost weight on the latest fad diet, this isn’t the place for you.
With that out of the way, let’s dig in. I did not grow up overweight. I never really had any weight issues. I was always a skinny kid, but I was never one of those kids that had visible abs without doing anything for it. In fact, the first time I ever had visible abs, I was 28, and I weighed around 155-160 pounds. Right now, I’m 35 years old, 183 pounds, starting a bulk, and look way better with my shirt off than I did when I was 28. I have tried and followed many “diets”, some of them for very extended periods of time. That includes the Paleo Diet, the Ketogenic Diet, Intermittent Fasting, and others. Basically the only thing I haven’t tried was vegetarian or vegan (and never will). I’ve also worked with a personal trainer, an online trainer, and used a highly regarded diet app. I’ve done those at home DVD workouts, crossfit, powerlifting, bodyweight workouts, etc etc. You get the point, I’ve tried pretty much everything.
So what got me into the best shape of my life, at age 35? Counting my macros. I should say that I’ve been tracking my food and counting my macros for several years at this point. And yes, you can do that incorrectly, as well. And I did. So what changed for me? Something that sounds so simple, that it’s almost stupid. I actually spent time to find my Maintenance Calories. I cannot stress enough how important that is. You absolutely CANNOT accurately and precisely lose weight without knowing how many calories your body needs to maintain your current body weight. And that’s not something people want to hear. When people start a “diet”, they wanna start right away and watch the number on the scale move lower and lower right away. Who wants to be told “We need to get you to stabilize and maintain your weight for 2-4 weeks first”? Not me. But I came to the conclusion that I NEEDED to do that.
So here’s what I did…
There’s many, many formulas you can find online on how to measure your maintenance calories. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which one you choose. Why is this? Because every single one of them is just a guess. None of them know you as an individual. Better yet, none of them know your BMR, your activity level, and so on. So because of that, I kept it simple. I took my body weight, which at the time was 184 pounds. I multiplied that by 13. Why 13? It’s the middle range, in terms of activity level.** I’m slightly active during my day to day. I hit the gym 5-6 days a week, I play with my kids, I cook dinner, I walk my dog. But I also sit at a desk for the majority of the work day. If I did none of those other things besides work, I would’ve multiplied it by 12. On the flip side of that, if I worked construction, or had another job where I was on my feet all day, I’d multiply my body weight by 14. So I’m in the middle, so I multiplied 184lb x 13. That got me to 2,392 calories. For ease of tracking macros, I rounded up to 2,400 calories.
So I have my “test” maintenance calories set. Remember, I had to see if these were my true maintenance calories. But now what? Now I had to break those calories down into the 3 macronutrients, Protein, Fats, and Carbohydrates. To understand how to track them within your calories, some basic math is required.
1 gram of Protein = 4 calories.
1 gram of Carbs = 4 calories.
1 gram of Fat = 9 calories.
So obviously, fats are much more calorie dense. More than double that of Protein or Carbs. So the total amount of Fats you’re gonna consume will be much lower than Protein and Carbs.
I like keeping Protein high, especially when trying to lose body fat. You’ll see a lot of people recommend 1 gram of Protein per pound of body weight. That would’ve brought me to 184g of Protein per day. But I went higher. I like to go 1.2-1.4 grams of Protein per pound of body weight. Personally, I did 1.2. So 184lb x 1.2 = 220 grams of Protein per day. We multiply that by 4 (1 gram of protein = 4 calories) and that gives us 880 calories.
Next is Fat. I personally know that I perform better with a little bit more fat in my diet. I simply know this from years of experience. Some people do better with more fat, some with more carbs. But even with more fat, I wasn’t super high fat. A low range of fat would be around 50 grams per day. I set my fats at 70 grams per day. 70 grams of Fat x 9 calories = 630 calories. Now when we add Protein and Fat, that brings us to 1,510 calories.
Carbs fill out the rest of the calories. We do this because when we want to reduce our calories to lose weight and body fat, the first thing we do is drop carbs. So my total calories for the day was 2,400 calories. My Protein and Fats took up 1,510. We subtract 1,510 from 2,400, and we get 890 calories left over for our carbs. Each gram of Carbs is 4 calories, so we divide 890 by 4, and that gives us 222.5 grams of Carbs. To make life easier, I rounded that up to 225 grams of Carbs per day. So to recap:
Protein - 220 grams = 880 calories.
Fat - 70 grams = 630 calories.
Carbs - 225 grams = 900 calories.
Total Daily Calories = 2,410 calories.
After I figured that out, I tested it. I weighed myself everyday to keep an accurate log of my weight. For 2 weeks, my weight stayed exactly the same. And I felt good, because previous to that, the diet app I was following had me at 1,700 calories a day. I felt like crap, and I was always hungry. After I decided my maintenance calories were set, then I devised a plan to drop some weight. I like to try and keep my calories as high as possible while still losing weight. All I did was cut out 100 grams of carbs. That dropped me from eating 225 grams of carbs a day, to 125 grams per day. That put me in a 400 calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is when you are eating under your maintenance calories. And no matter what any guru tells you, a caloric deficit is the only way to lose weight and body fat.***
So I went from 2,410 calories, to 2,010 calories. I changed nothing else. I kept my same workout schedule and training plan, and I did no cardio. A very important point of going into a caloric deficit, is you MUST still train hard. And that means continuing to lift heavy weights. So I started losing weight, and pretty quickly. In the first two weeks of doing this, I lost 8 pounds. I did this right before going on vacation with my family, so it worked out great. I happened to undo it all on vacation, but when I got back, I implemented this same strategy and got back to under 180 pounds before beginning my muscle gaining bulk for the winter.
In the next blog post, I will dive into my approach for coming out of this fat loss phase, and how I used reverse dieting to do so.
A very important thing to note, is that this is what worked for me. This is not the end all be all of diet advice. I’m just one person who has tried many things, and this is what has worked best for me. That’s not to say other methods won’t work for you, because everyone is different. I wanted to show ONE of the ways to do it.
The main point of this blog post and making you do all that math was to stress the importance of finding your true maintenance calories, and your ideal macronutrient intake. It’s very difficult to navigate your way to an end goal without knowing what your starting point is. Leave a comment down below if you enjoyed the article, or if you have any questions, and continue to be #FueledByFusion.
*BMR = Basal Metabolic Rate. How many calories your body burns everyday just by doing nothing.
**This is based on TDEE formulas. That stand for Total Daily Energy Expendeture. Depending where you look, it ranges from anywhere between 11 and 16. From my personal experience, under 12 is too low in calories, over 14 is too high in calories, in terms of maintenance calories.
***There is a caveat to this. If you have hormone issues, you will not lose weight in a caloric deficit. For example, if your thyroid function is off, you will have a much more difficult time losing weight. When I was down to 1,700 calories, my fat burning basically shut down. My body was holding on to every calorie I ate, and it was basically in starvation mode. So while it’s true that you need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, you should probably get some blood work done to check your hormone levels. The more you know about your body, inside and out, the better prepared you’ll be for whatever your goal is.