If you want to lose body fat, it’s really not that difficult to do. You will need some determination, but apart from that, you just need to eat the right diet, do a bit of cardio, and take some steps to ensure you preserve your muscle tissue while you are losing the fat. Apart from that, all you need do is be consistent until you get the job done.
And even if you really just want 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 way to structure your diet 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, either 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 body 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 harder to sustain, and also, if you maintain too low a calorie intake for too long, your metabolism will slow right down, which will make it more difficult for you to continue to lose fat. On top of that, it will be much harder to maintain your muscle mass if your calorie intake is too low.
So, to start with, 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 how your weight is changing. 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 that 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.
However, if you don’t want to track your exact calorie intake, that’s fine. Just eat less if you are not losing as well as you’d like.
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 your muscle tissue while you are losing fat.
So always ensure you eat a good amount of protein each day – at least 1g per pound of body weight. The best sources are meat, fish, eggs and whey protein. But milk and cheese are also great in moderation, and beans, nuts, and even grains, also provide some protein, although the quality is not as good as that derived from the animal sources mentioned.
Don’t Neglect Fats
Fats are a crucial part of a healthy diet – even if you are trying to lose weight. You should be looking to get around 25% of your daily calories from fat, most of which should come from the more healthy sources, such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and extra-virgin olive oil. Some saturated fat is also beneficial, but you should try to avoid refined vegetable oils, margarines, and other sources of artificial trans fats.
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 four calories per gram, so you are getting 180 X 4 = 720 calories from your protein intake.
Fats will account for 25% of your calorie intake, which is 540 calories. Fat has nine calories per gram, so that means you will 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 four 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 brown 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, to an extent, is your pre and post workout meals. Eat a good amount of protein, and some carbohydrate, about 1.5–2 hours before training, and then again soon after your workout. And on your off days, eat the majority of your carbs with your main meal of the day, and eat much less with your other meals. But apart from that, there’s really nothing else to worry about as far as your diet is concerned.
What About Exercise?
Exercise is not essential for weight loss, but 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 some resistance training – preferably a well-designed weight training program, but you could do a bodyweight program at home if that suits you better.
But don’t make the mistake of using light weights for high reps, as that will give you sub-standard results. You’ll need to use fairly heavy weights, and a moderate rep range of around 6–10.
Some cardiovascular training will also be very useful to help you burn additional fat, as well as to improve your fitness. Jogging, however, is not very efficient, and you’d be much better advised to do a short high intensity cardio routine two or three times per week instead. And if you want to do some additional cardio, just go for a brisk walk a few times per week. This will be particularly useful when you are trying to lose those last few stubborn pounds.
So that’s my guide to constructing the best fat loss diet plan. You may find it easier to manage your calorie intake if you incorporate some form of intermittent fasting into your routine. But either way, just follow the advice given here, and you should be able to lose as much body fat as you wish, without any problem. Best of luck.