How To Set Yourself Up For Weight Loss
By Tyler Woodward
Weight loss can seem daunting, even unobtainable, but don’t worry we’re here to help make your weight loss journey as effortless as possible.
- Step 1 - Plan Of Attack
- Step 2 - Macronutrients And Micronutrients
- Step 3 - Setting Yourself Up For Weight Loss
- Step 4 - Tracking Progress
Step 1 - Plan Of Attack:
The first step in any weight loss journey is to create a plan of attack for how you will go about accomplishing your weight loss journey. To do this we have to establish what your weight loss goals truly are:
- How much weight do you want to lose?
- Is there a timeline you would like to accomplish this weight loss by?
- If so how much “freedom” are you willing to sacrifice to meet these goals
- How active are you currently? Are you willing to increase your activity level?
Once you’ve established these goals I recommend writing them down, so that they are ‘written in stone’ or ‘real’ and can no longer be simply forgotten. The next step is to figure out the means to the end, how you are going to go about accomplishing these goals.
If you haven’t read my article, “The Weight Loss Equation” I highly recommend checking this out for a more in-depth look into how weight loss works, but here’s a brief synopsis…
Weight loss is driven by a calorie deficit, consuming fewer calories than you burn. Calories are simply a unit of energy and the total amount of calories that you burn in a day is often referred to as your metabolic rate or more accurately as your total daily energy expenditure.
Your energy expenditure is dependent on a number of factors:
- Basal Metabolic Rate - This is what people generally think of as ‘metabolism’, basically it’s how much energy your body burns to maintain homeostasis or normal body functioning. If you didn’t move an inch throughout the day, this would be equivalent to the amount of calories you burn.
- Non-Activity Exercise Thermogenesis (NEAT) - This is the amount of calories you burn from activities throughout the day that we typically don’t account for like talking, chewing, fidgeting, ect,
- Exercise - This is the amount of calories you burn from intentional movement like going to the gym or running/walking a mile.
- Thermic Effect Of Food - Every food must be broken down into smaller components in order for our body to be able to process and utilize the energy contained within it. Certain macronutrients like protein require more energy to be broken down into usable energy. While worth mentioning this is a very nuanced topic that we’ll save for a future article.
Step 2 - Macronutrients And Micronutrients:
Now that we have a basic understanding of our metabolism, let's talk about food. As we all know, foods contain a number of calories depending on their composition and weight, but they also contain a given portion of both macronutrients and micronutrients. There are four types of macronutrients:
- Protein - 4 kcal/ gram
- Carbohydrates - 4 kcal/ gram
- Fats - 9 kcal/gram
- Alcohol - 7kcal/gram
Our body uses these macro and micronutrients in order to build an assortment of biological compounds like hormones, glycogen,muscle or fat depending on what the body requires at the time. For example, iodine is required to produce the thyroid hormone and iron is necessary to produce hemoglobin for our red blood cells.
Generally the goal for our diet should be to consume these nutrients at the same rate at which our body consumes them. If we do not consume these nutrients at least at the same rate our body uses them then over time we will become deficient in them. When we become nutrient deficient our body is forced to compensate. To compensate for the lack of this nutrient, the body pulls from its stores (if it has any, not all nutrients can be stored readily).
This compensation process is what drives weight loss. By consuming less energy than your body is burning it’s forced to pull from its glycogen (carbohydrate) and fat stores to make up for this lack of consumed energy. Resulting in weight loss over time.
I recommend a relatively high carbohydrate, moderate fat and moderate protein diet for both fat loss and general health because of the differences in how glucose (carbohydrates) is processed by the body compared to fatty acids (fats)
- Glucose Metabolism (aka Cellular Respiration) - When there is enough glucose in supply, the cells will naturally favor glucose metabolism because it is the most energetically efficient. Meaning that per molecule of glucose, more ATP and CO2 will be produced in the cell compared to fatty acid metabolism. CO2 signals to the cell to uptake more oxygen and increases blood flow to the areas (by acting as a vasodilator), upregulating the rate at which the cell can burn energy. Additionally, the byproducts of glucose metabolism like CO2 are recycled to fuel other biological processes down the line.
- Glucose metabolism is the body’s equivalent to “clean energy”
- Fatty Acid Metabolism - Fatty acid metabolism is our body’s natural backup system, when glucose is short in supply, the body will shift to using fatty acids or fat as fuel. While “burning fat as fuel” sounds great, we know that fatty acid metabolism is less efficient than glucose metabolism, but it also produces a number of “sub-optimal” byproducts mainly ketones and catecholamines, that signal to the cell to slow its consumption of energy . These byproducts upregulate the production of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
- While this isn’t “optimal”, fatty acid metabolism is not “bad”. If our cells didn’t have the ability to break down fatty acids, then we wouldn’t be able to lose fat! The goal is to minimize burning fat, so we can maximize burning glucose because of the benefits of glucose metabolism.
Last, but not least we need to consume enough protein to at the minimum maintain as much muscle mass as possible, while we attempt to lose fat. It is very inefficient to burn protein as fuel, so it’s only used as a last resort in our body and requires the breakdown of our muscle in order to do so.
Remember, these are macronutrients, not the enemy. Carbs don’t make you fat. Fat doesn’t make you fat. Protein doesn’t make you fat. But consuming excess calories from any/all of these macronutrients will make you fat :)
While much less commonly spoken about micronutrients are an equally important consideration for your diet. Micronutrients include:
- Electrolytes - Sodium, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Chloride, Phosphorous
- Trace Minerals - Iron, Copper, Molybdenum, Chromium, Sulfur
- Amino Acids - Including all 9 essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids
While micronutrient deficiencies may seem foreign or abstract they are very prevalent in today’s society. To combat micronutrient deficiencies the US dietary guidelines provide recommended daily allowances for each micronutrient intake to prevent micronutrient deficiencies from occurring, but most people do not meet the recommended intakes of these nutrients, resulting in deficiencies over time.
It’s also important to understand that these are guidelines and your required intake likely varies from person to person based on any number of factors. If you are worried about being micronutrient deficient micronutrient tests are able to accurately test your body’s micronutrient levels.
Read More: Are Starches Fattening?
Step 3 - Setting Yourself Up For Weight Loss:
- Step 1 - Find your caloric maintenance then subtract ~ 20% to put you in a caloric deficit
- For weight loss we estimate that most people will be in a caloric deficit if they consume about 11 calories per pound of their current body weight
- I weight 200lbs so I would be able to consume ~2,200 calories daily while maintaining a caloric deficit
- Step 2 - Set up your macronutrient intake
- Carbs - I recommend having carbs make up for about 50% of your calories, divide this by 4kcal/gram
- Protein - Recommended intake should be about .8 grams/ per pound of bodyweight
- I weigh 200 lbs therefore should consume 160 grams of protein * 4kcal/gram = 640 calories
- Fats - About 25% of your diet, take the amount of calories you have remaining and that’s about how many calories of fat you should consume (or divide by 9kcal/gram to get the amount in grams)
- Step 3 - Micronutrient Intake
- Make sure you are consistently consuming micronutrient dense foods
- Use the FDA guidelines for Recommended daily allowance for micronutrient intake as a guide
Step 4 - Tracking Progress:
Tracking your weight loss journey can be a difficult and frustrating task. There are two main ways to go about it of which you can use either :
- The Infamous Scale - The scale is a great way to track your weight as it declines over time. Sadly, weight loss is usually not a linear journey and your weight will fluctuate a lot throughout the day and day to day. If you choose to use this method I recommend weighing yourself first thing each morning, to make it as consistent as possible. If you don’t like looking at the scale, then maybe only weigh yourself weekly or even not at all. I personally find the scale very rewarding as I see my weight drop over time, but remember it is normal for your weight to fluctuate and you will be heavier some days than others. While this can be frustrating, it is not your weight day-to-day on the scale that matters so long as you are losing weight over time, be that week-to-week or month-to-month.
- The Mirror - If you have a bad relationship with the scale, then the mirror can be your best friend. When we lose weight/fat over time it becomes very visible all over our body when you’re seeing features you have that you didn't know existed or had not seen for years. In reality, the number on the scale is kind of irrelevant. I mean if you and I both weigh 200lbs, but if you’re 5’ tall and I’m 6’... you could probably use to lose a couple pounds. We should also note that weight (like calories) does not provide any information about your body’s actual composition. Two people at the same height and weight can look completely different if one has a lot more muscle mass. I recommend getting to a body fat level that you are both comfortable and confident in that does not interfere with your daily lifestyle.
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