Our goal is to change your body from a machine that burns carbohydrates for energy to a machine that burns fat for energy.
If you’ve ever tried any of the fad diets that seem to come out weekly, you probably lost several pounds over the first couple of weeks and then your weight loss slowed down. There are a couple of reasons for this:
First, heavier people usually have a higher basal metabolic rate to begin with, and as the weight comes off, their BMR slows down.
Second, a lot of it is water weight, especially if the diet includes reducing your carbohydrate intake.
Normally our body gets its energy from the carbohydrates we eat. But when you reduce the amount of carbs you eat, your body looks to it’s glycogen stores for energy.
Glycogen is a type of carbohydrate stored in the liver and muscles. It holds onto water. In fact each gram of glycogen holds on to about 3-4 grams of water. When it’s burned for energy. it releases the water it’s been hanging on to. That’s the water weight you lose, it’s not fat and that rate will slow down.
Your Diet Must Be Sustainable And Reasonable
As I’m sure you know, these fad types of diets aren’t sustainable and that’s usually why they fail and you go back to your old habits.
In order to lose body fat you need to follow a diet that’s sustainable and reasonable. It’s pretty much agreed that losing 1-2 pounds a week is sustainable and reasonable.
In an earlier post, How To Eat More Without Gaining Weight, I discussed the fact that not all carbohydrates are alike. The source of those calories is important because as those calories course through our body they have different effects on our hormones that store fats, the reward centers in our brains which make certain foods addictive like sugar and flour, our feeling of hunger or fullness, the amount of energy needed to digest and absorb the nutrients in the calorie, our blood sugar, and our metabolic rate.
I also mentioned two other very important things in that same post:
- In study after study, scientists are finding out that low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets out perform low-fat diets in terms of weight loss every time. I’m talking about healthy fats like nuts, avocado, yogurt, and certain fish; and
- You need to add more protein to your diet because 1) protein has a higher thermogenic effect than other foods, which means your body burns more calories digesting and absorbing the nutrients from the protein calories; and 2) you need protein to build muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories are burned in maintaining that muscle, even at rest.
Uh-Oh, Here Comes Some Math- Sorry
Alright, now we have to do some math. You might want to get your grandchildren to help you here. Just teasing, you and I aren’t there yet. I hope.
One pound equals 3500 calories. Losing 1.5 lbs. per week means a calorie deficit of 5250 calories per week or 750 calories per day. That’s what it takes to get your body adapted to burning fat rather than carbs for energy on a low carb diet.
What about the breakdown of the macronutrients- proteins, carbohydrates, and fat?
Typically, we eat between 300-400 grams of carbohydrates a day. Now, we want to reduce the amount of carbs we eat to no more than 100 grams per day and no less than 60 grams per day. (This is where the apps like “Tap & Track” or “My Fitness Pal” come in. They list hundreds of thousands of food items with their macronutrients- protein, carbohydrate, and fat).
One day a week you’ll increase your carbs to around 300-400 grams which allows you to refill the glycogen stores in your muscles. But you’ll adjust the amount of protein and fat for that day so you don’t go over your total daily calorie requirement. I’m not talking about pizza and cookies. The additional carbs will come from healthy sources like vegetables, potatoes and whole grain breads.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about your total daily caloric requirement. We talked about reducing this amount by 750 calories per day because 750 x 7 equals 5250 calories per week or 1.5 lbs. of fat lost per week. But, since we’re increasing our carb intake once a week, we really need to divide 5250 calories by 6 days which equals an 875 calorie deficit per day.
“But, what about the new exercise routine I’m beginning? Doesn’t that factor into it?” Yes it does. If we assume that your exercise routine will burn off about 200-225 calories per day, then you really only need to reduce the calories you eat by about 650 calories.
A Helpful Example With Mr. Bill
Using the BMR calculator, let’s say Mr. Bill (remember him from SNL?) weighs 170 lbs. and his total daily calorie requirement is 2400 calories (remember, this is the amount he burns each day to maintain his current weight including exercise). We subtract 650 calories and get 1750 calories per day. This is the amount of calories that Mr. Bill will consume each day.
I hope you’re doing okay with the math because there’s a little bit more coming.
Remember that 1 gram of protein equals 4 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrate equals 4 calories, and 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories.
To add muscle mass without being a bodybuilder or an athlete, eating 1 gram of protein for each pound of weight is an accepted standard. So our 170 lb. Mr. Bill will eat 170 grams of protein or 680 calories of protein per day (4 calories x 170 grams). We subtract this from 1750 and we have 1070 calories left to be divided between carbohydrates and fat.
Mr. Bill is eating a low carbohydrate diet and trying to keep his carbs between 60 and 100 grams, so let’s say Mr. Bill eats 80 grams of carbohydrates per day. That’s equivalent to 320 calories coming from carbohydrates (4 calories x 80 grams). That leaves him with 750 calories left to come from fat. That’s approximately 83 grams of fat (9 calories x 83 grams). And the total equals about 1750 calories consumed per day.
That’s how you arrive at your total daily calorie intake and the macronutrient breakdown per day.
My only caution would be the number of grams of fat. Study after study shows that fat is no longer the bad guy, except for trans-fats. But since there are still researchers on both sides of the fence, I would limit the number of fat grams to no more than 120 per day.
You can read Part 1 of this blog here.
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