It’s about that time of year where Facebook and Instagram feeds are going to have every other person posting “new year, new me” posts.
Personally, I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but plenty of people are. Before the New Year is here, you should get some planning done and know where you’re starting so come 1/1/2020 you have a plan ready to go.
Here are a few tips to get you on the right path for the new year.
For fat loss, you need to eat around 10-12 calories per pound bodyweight. To build muscle mass, you need to eat between 16-18 calories per pound bodyweight.
These are starting numbers, so as you begin to lose weight, you need to adjust your calories because you’re lighter. On the other hand, if your goal is to build muscle you will need to increase calories over time because you are going to get heavier.
If you don’t see any results in a week or two, you may need to decrease calories (weight loss) or increase calories (build muscle). Do this in 10% increments, so if you are eating 2000 calories and your goal was weight loss, you’d decrease by 200 calories to 1800 calories since that is 10% of 2000.
Before you decide to just go to the lowest end of the calorie range, remember that we want the minimum effective dose. So for weight loss, you want to eat the maximum amount of calories you can while still being able to lose weight. For weight gain, you want to eat the minimum number of calories you need while still getting stronger and putting on muscle mass.
By following the minimum effective dose, you give yourself some room to adjust your diet when you get stuck at a certain weight or body fat percentage. You also reduce any possible side effects.
For example, on a very low calorie diet for weight loss you:
risk not getting enough micronutrients (compromises long term health)
decreased energy levels
decreased ability to recover from workouts
decreased immune function
decreased sex hormones
decreased brain function
decreased body temperature (you’re cold all the time)
Increased hunger levels
You generally don’t feel good
So, start with the highest calorie intake you can eat while still seeing the scale move. Don’t set yourself up for failure by eating 1000 calories a day.
For higher calorie diets, you risk: putting on excess body fat. If done for too long and too much body fat is put on, you risk the same issues that come with being overweight (high blood pressure, reduced insulin sensitivity, changes in blood lipids and cholesterol, etc).
You need around 1 gram per pound lean body mass. If you don’t know your lean body mass, you can use bodyweight instead. Now, you can be within 0.8-1.5 grams per pound lean body mass and be perfectly fine.
If you use MyFitnessPal or other apps, you sometimes need to input a percentage instead of a specific number of grams. 1 gram per pound lean body mass is going to be, for most people, between 25-35% of calories.
Why the focus on protein?
Studies are showing that when you keep calories and protein content the same across all diets, the results for fat loss are the same. So there isn’t anything magical about being: vegan, keto, intermittent fasting, carnivore, Whole 30, or any of the other diets or supplement programs. They ALL get you the same result for fat loss, so find something you can stick with forever.
The exact amount of fats and carbs don’t matter as long as they fit your calorie goal and you get enough protein. In fact, even food quality doesn’t matter all that much. Jordan Syatt (SyattFitness) just did a weight loss challenge where he ate a Big Mac and soda (not diet) everyday to prove that calories and protein are what matter for fat loss.
Now, if your goal is to pack on muscle mass, improve your health, or improve your athletic performance, then food quality and your ratio of carbs and fats will start to matter.
That’s a topic for another email but, for health purposes, a balanced diet with moderate amounts of fat (25-40%) and carbs (similar percentages) is a good start for most people.
You have your calories and your perfect breakdown of carbs, proteins, and fats and now you’re ready to go, right?
What happens if you make a casserole dish and there aren’t any calories listed in the recipe, how are you going to track that? There is a reason most bodybuilders eat things like chicken, rice, and broccoli. It’s easy to track and weigh everything.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to making “mixed” meals like soups, stews, and casseroles try to work with strict tracking. You’re going to have to estimate the calories in that meal.
Next, try and plan for each day of the week. For example, if you want to include fish, maybe you eat fish every Wednesday. If you like Mexican food, maybe it’s taco tuesdays (yes, you can make tacos work with your diet). Or even just a simple, “we eat red meat on Monday.” My wife and I used to do Thai Tuesdays and make a Thai curry every Tuesday night.
Here’s the thing, you don’t need to have the perfect template, try something. If it doesn’t work, you probably just need to change one or two days, not the entire week of plans.
By setting up your week this way, there is no guessing. You know what you’re going to eat a week from now, and you have a general idea of what you need to get from the grocery store without making an extensive list each week. This plan eliminates many of the decisions you have to make everyday.
Now, moving to actual meal planning. You will need to set a day aside to prep food each week, but it could
For me, that’s having a protein, starch, and vegetables ready to go for lunches. So chicken or beef patties, rice or sweet potatoes, and some baked or grilled vegetables are made on Sunday. Don’t want to make a bunch of different things, set aside one of those meals mentioned above and use that meal as your “meal prep meal” and just make a ton of extras.
A “meal prep meal” I like doing is shredded chicken or pork. You can put an entire pork shoulder or chicken into a slow cooker or instant pot and season it how you like (Mexican or BBQ are my go to ideas).
Having those ready to go is also great for those nights that you don’t feel like making anything or don’t have time to make something.
Finally, how many meals should you eat per day?
Generally, people do best with 3-5 meals. If you get hungry in the afternoon, I’d recommend at least four meals, with one of those meals being in the later afternoon (I like to call it lunch #2). This helps keep snacking down to a minimum.
You plan for everything during the week, and then the weekend comes and you don’t have any food plans.
You can easily ruin an entire week’s worth of progress over a weekend, so have some plans. This usually means having some food for breakfast or lunch ready just like on the weekdays. So the tip here is simple, plan Saturday and Sunday (or the day’s you’re off work if you work weekends) just like you would the week days.
To wrap up, set your calories based on your goals. You want the minimum effective dose for your calories and about 1 gram per pound of body weight for protein. Finally, don’t set yourself up for failure by having a disconnect with your meals and they way you want to track them. Hope this helps you get started with your New Year’s plans.