Over the past 10 years of coaching women in weight loss and body transformation, I see the same mistakes being made over and over again. In todays post you’ll find 5 fundamental nutritional principles that can’t be avoided if you want long-lasting results.
You may have never heard of them, as in 2020 we live amongst a sea of misguided, unregulated, sales-oriented miss-information. Especially in the nutrition space. Accurate information is often overlooked as it doesn’t grab attention like a quick-fix does. We get addicted to extremes and to thinking that in order to make progress we need to go ‘all out’. But guess what? You don’t.
These fundamental principles are really all you need to get started, and I apply them to every client I work with.
1: EAT MORE FOOD, AND EAT OFTEN
I have met only a handful of women over the years who were eating even close to the right amount of calories for their fat loss goals. On average, numbers range from 1100-1500 calories per day, and often with a couple of 2700 calorie days thrown in there.
Women generally believe that the less they eat, the better their results will be. What they don’t factor in is their body’s physiological needs, most importantly a need for safety, and a need to reproduce. Safe bodies can make babies, unsafe bodies cannot. A ‘safe’ body for most women, is one that has enough body-fat for hormone regulation. If your calories are too low, your body won’t feel safe, and you won’t lose weight.
Women also fail to take into account their activity levels. Ladies, if you want to train like an athlete, you need to eat like one.
With almost all new clients, I increase the quality of food, the amount of calories eaten on a daily basis, and the size of the individual meals. Often my clients can’t finish the food in the first week, but are surprised to see weight loss at their first check in. That’s about all it takes to realise that eating more, and more often, is key. It’s also not long after that when they find themselves asking when their next calorie increase is!
How to implement this:
Firstly, track your food intake for 7 days, including everything you eat. A good calorie tracking app is MyFitnessPal and it’s free. Secondly, calculate your basic metabolic rate, by multiplying your weight in pounds by 12. That is the number you should be eating, on a rest day, to maintain your weight.
Eg I am 72kg; 72 x 2.2= 158 (weight in pounds). 158 x 12 = 1896. That’s approximately how much I need to eat in a day to maintain my weight, if my metabolism is healthy.
2: EAT MORE PROTEIN
Protein is the body’s primary building block. It plays an important role in weight management, helping your body repair and build tissue (the key one here being muscle from training). It also makes ‘dieting’ easier as it increases satiety.
Also very importantly, adequate protein intake ensures you don’t lose too much muscle when losing fat. When you diet, and are on a calorie deficit, your body burns your fat stores, but it also taps into your muscle stores. Ensuring you have enough protein, and are lifting weights, is the best way to ensure that the majority of your weight loss comes from body fat.
I personally recommend animal protein as a priority. It is the most anabolic, meaning your body uses it more efficiently than plant protein in building and sparing muscle. You want to eat around 1.5-2x your bodyweight per day. I personally prescribe 2x bodyweight for most clients, unless they’re not used to eating protein, or have trouble digesting it, in which case I start them off with the lower target.
How to implement this:
Track your food for 7 days (as above), and check how much protein you’re eating. Use the example below to calculate an ideal amount of protein for you.
Eg I am 72kg; 72 x 1.5 = 108. 72 x 2 = 144. I need to eat between 108-144gms per day for best results.
3: TRACK YOUR FOOD
If you’re not tracking your food intake, and you have no idea how much you’re eating, you’re kind of like a Powerlifter without a barbell. You can’t do anything.
You may lose weight simply by removing large amounts of food, or food groups (such as carbs, animal products, sugar, etc), or exercising like a maniac for a period of time but once this progress stops, you have got nothing to work with. And that’s assuming you can keep the restriction up long term.
In order to optimize your fat loss or muscle building, you need to learn how much fuel your body requires, what foods work best for you, what nutrients different foods contain, etc. The more you learn about food, and how your body uses it, the better your success will be. Body transformation is all about finding a calorie target that works for you, and then manipulating it over time.
Don’t mistake what you see on social media with real life. ALL body transformations that stick, or involve considerable muscle gains, require consistent food tracking, followed by adjustments where necessary, followed by more consistent food tracking. This also applies to the women taking performance enhancing drugs. There are no exceptions.
Food tracking is a time consuming practice, which involves planning, organizing, and making sacrifices. This is a practice that can be difficult to learn, but becomes easy over time with great reward.
How to implement this:
Download a calorie-tracking app, such as MyFitnessPal, and start entering all your food (as above). See how much you are eating. Eat that much consistently (or using the calculation from the first point), and track your progress with weight and measurements.
4: EAT MORE FIBRE
Fibre is a carbohydrate (‘carb’), but it is not digested in the small intestine thus it acts differently to your most-loved carbohydrate friends, starch and sugar. Starch and sugar provide us with glycogen (fuel), whereas fibre makes its way all the way to your large intestine, bulking up your stool (poo), and feeding your good bacteria.
If you don’t eat enough fibre, not only do your good bacteria starve (and in some cases resort to eating your own gut lining), you also risk constipation, as the food in your bowel can’t move through properly. When you are constipated, your body can’t eliminate waste efficiently, thus leaving you feeling tired, bloated, and sometimes, in pain.
How to implement this:
Include fibrous foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. A typical fibre target that works well for most people is 20-30gms per day, more if you’re heavier, and less if you’re lighter. Again, you can track this on a calorie app.
5: EAT MORE VARIETY
When I came up in the bodybuilding world, there was a lot of emphasis on eating ‘clean’. Specifically, our diets consisted of, and were limited to, the following foods; beef, chicken, fish, eggs, oats, rice, sweet potato, rice cakes, apples, broccoli, peanut butter, whey protein, and Udo’s oil (a horrid tasting omega 3-6-9 fatty-acid blend). All other foods were ‘bad’.
I basically choke of the thought of eating like that again, and also cannot believe we were that stupid, as it turns out you can achieve amazing results, and in most cases better results (if you factor in health, vibrancy, and sustainability), by eating almost any food, provided that, you can track it (point 3).
These ‘clean’ diets work well because there is little variation, thus getting to peak condition (lowest body-fat possible for you) is easier. However, this is not an approach that’s required for your every day competitor, or a woman who just wants to get the most out of her body.
The negative side of ‘clean’ eating, is it’s hard to maintain, it’s socially isolating, and falls short nutritionally in the long run. For my friends and I who ate that way, relentless cravings for other foods lead to binge eating, and punishing ourselves for eating ‘non-optimal’ foods (I’m talking things like strawberries and avocados). So, this kind of eating comes a set of problems.
I have never recommended this kind of strict approach (with the exception of two or three week periods, right before a competition for my clients with more stubborn bodies), though many coaches still do as it’s the bodybuilding way. I am strict on the total calories and macronutrients, but not their source. I have had countless clients make it to the comp stage, and win, without adopting this kind of strict ‘clean food’ eating regimen. Variety is key in long-term success.
How to implement this:
Eat a variety of foods. When it comes to meats, mix it up, eat the rainbow when it comes to vegetables and fruits, understand that different foods come with different nutritional profiles. If you love chocolate, include it. If you love ice cream, include that too. SO LONG as your macros/calories are accounted for, you will still lose body fat.
So that’s it ladies, my top 5 nutritional tips. Notice that supplements, fad diets, intermittent fasting, and heavy calorie/nutrient restriction, don’t make an appearance here. They aren’t required, nor are they healthy and sustainable long term.
If you want me to expand further on any of these points in upcoming posts, let me know!
For nutritional consultations, contact me for more information 🙂