Take Home Point 1 - The importance of Consistency
One of the key things that separates those successful at losing fat and those who are not is consistency. Quite simply, you have to give any methodology you choose to use enough time to see if it works. You also need to ensure you have at least 2 methods for assessing your progress. The main 4 methods I use are: -
- Body fat measurements
- Progress Pictures
- Scale Weight
- Tape Measurements
When setting calories, or starting a diet, stay consistent with it for at least 4 weeks before deciding whether it is working or not. One of the most common mistakes I see is people losing patience after only a couple days. The longer you have been overweight/unhealthy for, the longer it will take for results to occur.
So, don't get bogged down in the details but be consistent with the big things that matter: -
-Calorie Intake/Energy Balance
-Quality of your nutrition
-Quality of your training
-Quality of your sleep
-Managing stress effectively
-Improving gut health and digestion
Take Home Point 2: The Importance of Good Quality Sleep & Stress Management
Stress is "the generalised, non-specific response of the body to any factor that overwhelms, or threatens to overwhelm, the body’s compensatory abilities to maintain homeostasis” (Torres & Nowson, 2007)
Stress can be sub-divided into: -
- Physiological: Training, injuries, illness, nutrition, activity etc.
- Psychological/Perceptional: Work, commuting, family. social life etc.
We want to be concerned with chronic (long-term) stress which results in the hyper-activation of the HPA (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal) axis and the release of cortisol.
Chronically elevated cortisol --> Chronically Elevated Blood Sugar Levels -->Chronically high insulin levels--> Insulin resistance
Impacts of chronically elevated cortisol on fat loss: -
- Decreases your body's ability to make and convert thyroid hormone. Result: lower metabolism due to a thyroid imbalance
- Decreases your body's ability to use insulin. Result: Insulin resistance
- Decreases your body's ability to use leptin. Result: You eat more than your body requires
- Increases Gut dysbiosis (good to bad ratio of bacteria) and leaky gut. Result: Food sensitivities and infections
- Suppressed immune system. Result: Prone to infections
- Negatively impacts gastric 'juices' leading to poorer nutrient digestion. Result: Fatigue & nutrient deficiency
In the workshop I outlined 5 main ways to manage stress levels: -
- Use active, rather than passive coping mechanisms. Passive coping mechanisms are those seeking out a distraction from your stressors (alcohol, smoking, comfort food etc), whereas active coping mechanisms are about facing the problem head on.
- Get outside in the sunshine at least once per day
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Organise your days into high and low stress phases - plan some downtime each day
“Sleep is a physical and mental resting state, in which a person becomes relatively inactive and unaware of their environment” (Gonnissen, 2013)
It's not just about quantity - Sleep quality (i.e. quantity of REM and SWS) more important than overall sleep duration (Gonnissen, 2012)
Reduced sleep is a risk factor for overweight and obesity.
In order to improve your sleep, try the following: -
- Try to stick to a fixed bed time and wake time across the week (even weekends)
- Sleep in a dark, well-ventilated room
- Turn all electronic devices off at least 30 mins before bed
- Avoid bright light exposure before bed
Take Home Point 3: Linear Approaches Don't Work Forever
Eating less and/or moving more will only work for so long. This approach would be considered a linear approach to dieting whereby you would keep restricting calories (or expending more energy) in order to lose weight fat.
This approach will be effective for those individuals with more body fat to lose. This is why a linear approach would be a good starting point for most individuals.
However, there will be a point where your body will fight back and you will reach a plateau. It is at this point that undulating methods will need to be employed whereby you have specific periods of time that are geared towards fat loss, and specific periods of time where maintenance is the goal (and recovery and restoration take priority).
I have written about the approach I like to take with my clients which comes in the form of a diet break.
You can read about this method here.
One of the key points that is crucial to understand is that you cannot spend all your time actively trying to lose weight and placing yourself in a calorie deficit. This is a very ineffective way of trying to lose weight and in the long run is doomed to failure.
Take Home Point 4: The Importance of Structure
Structure provides you with guidelines and rules to follow. As a result you now have accountability. Accountability is crucial for fat loss.
When adding structure to your nutrition, don't try to attempt too much too soon. Start with the basics and add details as you go.
This is a sample of how you can add structure: -
Week 1: Eat 4 times per day, every day
Week 2: Eat 4 times per day, every day. Ensure you have a palm sized portion of protein in every meal.
Week 3: Eat 4 times per day, every day. Ensure you have a palm sized portion of protein in every meal. Include some starchy carbs or fruit after training sessions.
Week 4: Eat 4 times per day, every day. Ensure you have a palm sized portion of protein in every meal. Include some starchy carbs or fruit after training sessions. Consume a minimum of 3 litres of water every day.
Without structure it is very difficult to be consistent. So ensure you set yourself up with a plan that is realistic and right for your goals.
Take Home Point 5: How to Work Out Your Calorie and Macronutrient Requirements
Protein Requirements: 1.8-2.2g per kg bodyweight
Therefore, an 80kg individual would require between 144g-176g Protein every day. You should try to divide protein equally across your meals throughout the day.
For example, if you eat 4 times per day, the 80kg individual consuming 176g should consume roughly 44g of protein in each meal.
Fat Requirements: 1g per kg of bodyweight
Therefore an 80kg individual would look to consume 80g fat per day.
Carbohydrates: Whatever is left over
Try to opt for starchy carbohydrates and fruits rather than refined carbohydrates.
If body-fat is outside of healthy ranges, increase fat intake and reduce carbohydrate intake.
If body fat is within healthy ranges, decrease fat intake and increase carbohydrate intake.
Healthy Body Fat Ranges: -
How to Workout your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate): -
Males: BMR = 66.5 + ( 13.75 × weight in kg ) + ( 5.003 × height in cm ) – ( 6.755 × age in years )
Females: BMR = 655.1 + ( 9.563 × weight in kg ) + ( 1.850 × height in cm ) – ( 4.676 × age in years )
Example - 80kg Male, 180cm tall, 30 years old
66.5 + 1,100 + 900.54 - 140.28 = 1,926.76 calories
Another point to bear in mind is that calorie intake does not need to be the same every day. You can have days that are higher in calories (these days would preferably coincide with training days) and days that are lower in calories.
Another point to bear in mind is that these are just estimations of calorie needs. Therefore you need to stick to these amounts for a couple of weeks and track weight/body fat to see how your body responds.