If your main aim is to lose body fat, it’s really not that difficult. You will need a bit of determination, but apart from that you just need to get your diet in order and take some steps to ensure you preserve your muscle tissue whilst you are losing fat. After that all you need do is be consistent until you get the job done.
And even if your main goal is to build muscle, if you are carrying too much fat you’ll need to address that first, otherwise you’ll just put on far more fat than muscle due to the fact that your insulin sensitivity will be very poor. You need to get down to below 15% body fat (22% for women) before starting a muscle building program. And 10 – 12% (15 – 18% for women) would be better.
So if you want to start shedding the excess fat, the best diet plan to allow you to do that is as follows…
Eat A Calorie Deficit
To lose fat you need to consume fewer calories than you expend. This is the main requirement of any fat loss program. In fact it’s the only requirement really. You can do this by consuming fewer calories than normal, or by expending more calories than normal. Or you can do a combination of the two. Either way you can only lose fat if you are taking in fewer calories than you are using up in your daily activities.
But you don’t want to cut your calories by too much or you will run into problems. For a start it will be much harder to sustain; and also if you maintain too high a calorie deficit for too long your metabolism will slow right down, which will make it more difficult for you to continue to lose fat. And on top of that it will be much harder to maintain your muscle mass if your calorie intake is too low.
So if you take your body weight (in pounds) and multiply it by 12 that should give you a good idea of how many calories you should eat each day. But everyone is different, so you will need to monitor your progress and adjust as necessary until you are getting the results you want.
To do this just weigh yourself once per week, first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything, and keep track of your weight. If you find it’s decreasing at a satisfactory rate then you are ok. But if it’s staying the same or decreasing only very slowly, reduce your calorie intake by about 250 per day. And if this still doesn’t work, reduce it by a further 250 per day.
An ideal rate of weight loss can be anything from 0.5 – 2lbs per week. If you don’t have much fat to lose it should be 0.5 – 1lb per week. But if you have more to lose it can be 1 – 2lb per week – or even a little more if you have a lot to lose.
Eat Enough Protein
Getting sufficient protein is just as important when on a fat loss diet as it is when on a muscle building diet – perhaps even more so. The reason for this is that a sufficiently high protein intake is the most important dietary requirement for helping you to maintain muscle tissue while you are losing fat.
So always ensure you eat a good amount of protein each day – about 1g per pound of body weight is ideal. The best sources are meat, fish, eggs and whey protein. But milk and cheese are also good; and beans and nuts provide protein too.
Don’t Neglect Fats
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet – even if you are trying to lose weight. Around 25% of your daily calories should come from fat, mostly from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources (oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil etc.), but some saturated fat is also beneficial. Trans fats should be avoided however.
Top Up With Carbs
After you have calculated your protein and fat requirements, the balance of your calorie intake will come from carbohydrates.
So for example, if you weigh 180lb and you want to have a calorie intake of 12 times your body weight, that would equal 2160 calories per day. You then simply work out how these calories would be divided up between protein, fat and carbohydrates.
You want 1g of protein per pound of body weight, which is 180g. Protein has 4 calories per gram so you are getting 180 X 4 = 720 calories from your protein intake.
Fats should account for 25% of your calorie intake, which is 540 calories. Fat has 9 calories per gram, so that means you would want 60g of fat per day (540/9 = 60).
The balance of your calories will then come from carbs. That’s 2160 – 720 – 540 = 900 calories that need to come from carbs. Carbohydrates also have 4 calories per gram, so you need 900/4 = 225g of carbs per day. Or thereabouts; it doesn’t have to be exact of course.
Most of your carbohydrates should come from healthy whole food sources such as rice, oats and other whole grains (provided you tolerate grains well), potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa and beans. And don’t forget to factor in your fruit and vegetables too. Highly processed, refined and sugary foods should be avoided as much as possible.
And that’s really all you need to know about how to construct the best fat loss diet plan for you. Whether you divide your calories and nutrients up into three meals per day or six does not matter. And whether you eat most of your calories early in the day or late does not matter much either.
The only other thing that does matter is your pre and post workout meals. Eat a good amount of protein and some carbohydrate about 1.5 – 2 hours before training and again soon after your workout. And on your off days you may find you get better results by eating the majority of your carbs in the evening. But apart from that there’s really nothing else to worry about as far as your diet is concerned.
So What About Exercise?
Although exercise is not essential for weight loss, it is highly recommended. The main reason for this is that you’ll want to maintain your muscle size and strength as you lose fat. That way you’ll look good when you have lost the excess fat, instead of just looking like a smaller version of the way you look now.
And the only way to avoid losing muscle while you are losing fat is to do a properly designed weight training program.
But don’t make the mistake of using light weights for high reps, as that won’t get you the results you want. You’ll need to use fairly heavy weights and a moderate rep range of around 5 – 8.
Cardiovascular training is useful too, although I’d avoid jogging. But doing a short high intensity cardio routine two or three times per week can help accelerate fat loss, and is especially useful when you are trying to lose those last few stubborn pounds.
So that’s my complete guide to the best fat loss diet plan. If you’d like more detailed information on how to eat to lose fat, the book I’d most recommend is The Renegade Diet by Jason Ferruggia. Check out my review of it here.