It’s only four days away…
Do you know what I’m talking about?
I’m talking about New Year’s Resolutions.
With the New Year comes a million Facebook ads and TV commercials on the newest, latest-and-greatest diet ever. If you talk to any family member or friend, suddenly they’ve become a nutrition expert and will tell you what diet you should be doing.
Fat loss isn’t the only goal you can (or should) set, but it’s the most common, which is why I’m focusing on it for this email.
So, what should you do to be successful in 2020?
Layne Norton, PhD created a Fat Loss Pyramid. It’s kinda like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in that if you don’t fulfill the needs of the lower level, the next level won’t matter much.
The problem? Most people flip the pyramid upside down and try to start at the top; this will set you up for failure.
There are seven levels, from lowest to highest they go: sustainability and adherence, caloric deficit, exercise, self monitoring, protein and fiber intake, carb and fat macros, and finally at the top is supplements.
Most people like to jump right to supplements, carbs, and fats and ignore everything else. So let’s breakdown each level on why they’re important.
1) Sustainability and Adherence (The Base)
Keto blew up this past year, and it seemed like it was the greatest diet ever… until it wasn’t. It’s really hard to have a social life with friends and family with the keto diet. It’s also tough to change the way to cook and make food to adjust for the ultra low-carb, high-fat meals you need. Not saying it can’t be done, it’s just not easy for most people.
No matter what kind of diet you choose, the best indicator for success is if you can stick with it for a long period of time. If you decide you’re going to try whatever diet is going to come out in 2020, can you stick with it for 6, 12, or even 24 months?
When we talk about adherence, what you’re really doing is a lifestyle change, so keep that in mind if you decide to try a new eating plan.
Also, it depends on what your family likes to eat and what you know how to cook. If you cook Italian all the time, it’s going to be really hard to do a low-carb diet. But a higher carb diet might work for you.
For me, the diet I stick to best is a mixed diet with moderate amounts of carbs and fats. Too many carbs and I get bored with the food, but too much fat and my performance in the gym goes down. The biggest downfall is that the combination of carbs and fats make food taste better, so it’s easier to eat way too much if there are no methods of portion control used (hand guide, food scale, measuring cups, etc).
2) Caloric Deficit
You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. The amount of calories you burn in the gym is equal to about 2-4 of those holiday cookies you ate over the past couple weeks.
A simple online calculator shows that a person weighing 200lbs will burn roughly 550 calories after 60 minutes of weightlifting, and a little over 600 calories for an hour of jogging. The average chocolate chip cookie has about 60 calories, so that’s about 9-10 cookies you can “burn.”
The problem is, the fitter you get, the less calories you burn because your body gets more efficient at using fuel sources. Also, the more calories you burn trying to do more than an hour a day (you don’t need more than an hour of hard exercise unless you are training for a specific sport), the hungrier you will become, making it that much harder to stick with your diet.
Having a slight caloric deficit (300-500 calorie deficit) is what you need to start with to kickstart fat loss, keep your energy levels high, and keep hunger low.
FYI, being hungry is part of losing weight. There will be times when you are hungry, and you’re going to have to learn to deal with that.
You can’t out exercise a bad diet, but exercise makes things go way faster. Without exercise, specifically resistance training, about half the weight you lose will be lean body mass. While you may reach your goal weight, it’s going to be really hard to maintain. With exercise, very little of the weight you lose is lean body mass, so when you do reach your goal you can actually stay there and you don’t do the yo-yo diet of up and down 10-15 pounds.
Of course, there are other benefits to exercise, but when strictly speaking about fat loss, maintenance of lean body mass and the little bit of the caloric deficit are the primary drivers of fat burning.
This is more complex than the paragraph I’m going to write, but you need to be able to track your food and have at least a little knowledge about what foods contain how much protein, carbs, and fats.
You also need to know how you respond to stress and what can push you off the rails. Everything is great when life is easy, and it all goes to h*ll when “life happens.” Knowing how you respond and developing habit changes around them is important for your long term success.
There are many more aspects of self-monitoring, but Devin is much better at explaining them, so reach out to him if you want to learn more.
5) Protein and Fiber Intake
All diets work the same when protein and calories are equated for.
What does this mean? Whether you are keto, vegan, carnivore, or fasting, if you eat 150 grams of protein and 1800 calories, you’re going to get the exact same results with eat diet in terms of fat loss.
Protein is very filling. Most people complain that they can’t reach their protein goal when first starting at GST because they get full before they can finish their meal.
Fiber is important for a couple reasons. One, fiber is filling so it helps you get full faster. Two, high-fiber foods are usually low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, so they add nutrients to your diet, and take the room of less-filling less-nutritious foods. Fiber is also important for gut health.
6) Carb and Fat Macros
A lot of people like to fast forward to this section and skip the rest. Whether it’s the old school fear that fat will kill you, or the new fear that carbs will kill you, people like to know the exact amount of carbs and fats they need.
Here’s the thing–the exact ratio doesn’t matter that much. Unless you’re an elite athlete or training for a bodybuilding show, an exact ratio dialed down to the gram is going to be more frustrating than beneficial.
Unless you can follow the five other points that come before this, don’t worry about them. Eat enough calories and protein first, then we can talk about fat and carb ratios.
Not saying this isn’t important, some people do better higher-fat or higher-carb. And most bodybuilders get shredded using a high-carb, low-fat diet. But you have to get this other five points down first.
7) Supplements (The Top)
Do supplements work? Yes, a handful do.
Are they magic? Nope.
You have to have the other six points mastered before you can even begin to consider taking a fat burner, muscle builder, or any other type of supplement.
So in the meantime, stick to a multivitamin and protein powder.
Each part of the pyramid is important, but don’t jump ahead and focus on the fancy stuff. Instead of yo-yo dieting this year, take time to develop the bottom four levels of the pyramid so you can reach your goal and eventually stop dieting all together.