I always wanted a simple post to point people to that walks them through what steps they need to do to lose weight with quantitative data supporting their goals. This post is it, a stepping stone to start and learn more. Fitness and Diet consist of always learning and trying, so here’s a great place to start.
First, run your desire to do so by your doctor. Second, if you can swing it, run what you want to do by a Nutritionist. Doctors are not Nutritionists and cannot give you the awesome meal plans & advice customized to your body and goals like Nutritionists can.
80% of it is diet, the hard work anyway. At least for me. The rest is working out with a variety of cardio and strength training. Simplest plan is to order Tony’s 10 Minute Trainer if you’re a beginner, and just do 10 minutes a day for 5 days a week for 1 month. If you want to add of the extra 10 minute a day exercises a day because you’re feeling great, good for you, do so. While doing that, do a high protein diet using the math below. If you are anti-math, you can use the spread sheet I provided as well as links to each of the calculators.
5 Steps to Success
- calculate how many calories you need per day to lose weight
- calculate your target macronutrients per day to lose weight
- document your starting weight and body fat percentage
- track your food on myfitnesspal.com and adjust daily
- don’t let these numbers run your life, it’s ok if you’re off by a few grams/calories
Step 1: How many calories should you eat per day?
Why? Calories are what your body uses as fuel. If you take in less than you burn, the theory goes your body burns fat, muscle, and other sources for fuel to make up the deficit. We want to ensure you eat enough so that doesn’t happen, but still slightly less tha you need to safely lose weight.
Calculate Basil Metabolic Rate
How many calories you need per day at minimum to exist.
http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/ (it’ll show in green above once you hit calculate bar)
I’m male, 34 years old, 5′ 8″, and about 150 lbs. My BMR is 1633.
(Note, if you want more accurate measurements, use your Lean Body Mass vs. weight. This is optional).
Multiply by your lifestyle. Mine is sedentary since I sit behind a desk all day, which is 1.2. If you walk or are slightly more active, you can use 1.375. Anymore than that, and you can use the Harris Benedict Formula #’s which are 1.55 if you do exercise/sports 3-5 times a week, 1.725 if you do them 6-7 times a week, and 1.9 if you workout 24/7 or exercise heavily every day while having a physically strenuous job.
Mine is 1633 * 1.2 (computer geek) = 1960.
I’ll assume you want to lose as quickly as possible, and you have no target body fat percentage, nor target weight, so we’ll put you on 1 lb per week to be safe which is a 500 calorie deficit per day. If you get hungry, you can eat up to 200 calories which’ll put your calorie deficit at 300 calories which averages to 1/2 a pound a week. We want success and learning, not starving because of #’s. Keep in mind, if you have high body fat, do both diet and exercise, then you’ll most likely lose more than 1 lb a week initially.
For me, to lose 1 lb a week, I’d have to eat 1460 calories a day.
Step 2: What are your “splits”, meaning how much protein vs. fat vs. carbs should you eat per day?
Eating different amounts of macronutrients throughout the day affects all kinds of things about your health. We’re going to use the baseline customizations; no high protein/carb/fat diets here, just balanced nutrition to get you started with the option to do a calorie deficit if you REALLY want to lose additional weight.
Here are the constants you’ll need to know:
Protein = 4 calories per 1 gram
Fat = 9 calories per 1 gram
Carbs = 4 calories per 1 gram
Assuming you’re working out even a little bit, let’s use the 2 grams of protein per body weight IN KILO’s (not Pounds) formula. There are MANY others, but this is a good starting point. It’s ok if your protein is over what you need a little bit. In fact, myfitnesspal.com defaults to low value, around the 15% range for protein which is the average for Americans. Any amount of exercise requires enough protein and fat to help your body build and recover. Below is the baseline equation for how much protein you’ll need a day:
your weight in kilo’s * 2 grams of protein = how much protein grams per day
For non-Americans on the Metric System, this is easy, just double your weight and round down.
For Americans, it’s like this:
(your weight in pounds / 2.2) * 2 grams of protein = how much protein grams per day
If you’re lazy, you can just say “1 gram per my body weight in pounds”. If you’re overweight, you should use your lean body mass instead.
I’m 150 lbs, so I’ll need 136 grams of protein per day. This means I need 136 grams * 4 calories per gram = 544 calories a day from protein.
Next, fat is 0.4 grams * your body weight.
I’m 150 lbs, so I need 150 * 0.4 = 60 grams of fat per day. This means I need 60 grams * 9 calories per gram = 540 calories per day from fat.
Carbs we calculate with what’s left over.
My 500 calorie deficit per day target (calculated from Step 1) is 1460 calories per day. If we subtract the 544 calories of protein, and 540 calories of fat, I’m left with 376 calories to get from carbs. Dividing 376 calories by 4 calories per gram = 80 grams per day from carbs.
So our target macro’s for the day:
Protein = 150 grams = 544 calories
Fat = 60 grams = 540 calories
Carbs = 80 grams = 376 calories
The slang term splits denotes your protein, fat, and carb macro percentages, so the above would be:
Protein = 37%
Fat = 40%
Carbs = 26%
You’ll hear others who use extreme, non-negotiable splits like 50 | 30 | 20, etc. Myfitnesspal.com will default to 15p | 30f | 55c for a sedentary lifestyle. You can adjust this through their profile settings. The above, even without using lean body mass, is customized to fit your body best vs using generalities. Beyond my spreadsheet below, there are other macro calculators online with adjustments based on the type of diet.
This is considered a moderate, reasonably high carb diet. A lot of exercise programs, to lose weight, will suggest a high protein diet for about a month. High protein diets often help you lose weight, and the increased protein helps you feel more full. Because of the lack of food flexibility, you should only do high protein diets with the help of a doctor or nutritionist who can give you literature to refer to ensure you’re getting enough required vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need to stay healthy. Eating lean chicken, black beans, almonds, and kale all day isn’t healthy for example.
For my low calorie, high protein diet of 1460 calories a day, that’d be:
Protein = 183 grams = 730 calories
Fat = 49 grams = 438 calories
Carbs = 73 grams = 292 calories
When in doubt, just skip the high protein, and focus on eating healthy foods, and use the calculations above. This is meant to get you started.
Step 3: Weigh yourself and measure your body fat percentage
Write your starting weight down somewhere with the date. Calculate your body fat percentage and put it next to it, whether the 3 measurements you’re supposed to take based on gender, or the average the electronic scales give you. There are multiple ways to do this, although, here are the 2 easiest ways:
- get a scale from Walmart/Target that has body fat percentage built in.
- get a digital fat caliper from either the above or GNC
Use either one RIGHT when you wake up AFTER you go to the bathroom. Write that down.
Repeat weekly. Do NOT stress about gains in either. Diet and changes are unique to each individual. We need #’s to track what’s happening to your body to learn and iterate.
Step 4: Track What You Eat and What You Burn
Go to myfitnesspal.com and sign up. Set it up with your desired calories/weight/food plan. Either use their suggestions or cook your own. Other options include Michi’s Ladder if you just want a substitution plan to change little by little with some guidance. If you’re feeling adventurous, the no thinking option like Tony Hortons Kitchen, while not workout specific, will get you healthier.
Doing even a little change vs. a big one is better anyway since little changes tend to last a lifetime. The point is to try new things that are healthy and find what you like. It’s ok to try 50 and they all suck. Eventually 51 won’t. Other times you’ll just gain an affinity for certain healthier foods or just try them in a different context and learn how you like them prepared.
At the bare minimum, eat something green every day.
Remember, if you burn 300 calories working out, you need to either update myfitnesspal on the web or on your phone with the app so you document it. It’ll then allow you an extra 300 calories per day so you can recover from your workout. Yes, it gets easier to both eat right & track over time. Like I said, 80% of the work vs. the physical stuff.
Step 5: Don’t Stress Fluctuations, We’re Here for the Journey & Knowledge
Your body weight fluctuates from 3 to 5 lbs a day. Muscle weighs more than fat and even small gains in it can cause you to gain weight even as you shed fat. Sometimes your body retains weight/water for a variety of reasons. Don’t stress the above, it’s just a good starting point. And remember, ladies, muscles sit there eating fat and burning calories even when you don’t use them. That, and strong is beautiful. You will NOT get all beefcake from doing Tony’s 10 Minute Trainer.
After 1 month, you should have a minimum of 5 entries: every monday + the last Friday you work out. This should give you an idea of where you’re at, if you plateaued, if you want to keep going, change your diet/macro’s/calories, or increase/decrease how much you work out.
Just try. Even if you fail, learning the above ensures you CAN succeed if you try again.
If you do go down that route, be sure to take high quality before and after pictures wearing the same clothes in the same positions in the same lighting setup. All the math and increased energy just don’t compare to the “transformation” that can be hard to see when you’re actually the one being slowly transformed. Also, measurements are another way to track progress. Finally, ensure you’re getting enough sleep, that’s the most important point that affects everything negatively or positively above.
If you want to continue improving, focus on Step 4. If you don’t cook, learn. I’ve been at this for about 18 months, and I’m a horrible cook, but I keep trying; my motivations are my kids, her majesty, and my personal health. So, I keep learning to cook even if I fail. Also, inputting the info is slow at first until myfitnesspal starts to remember your favorite foods, then it gets faster, as do you at entering it.
The HUGE assumption here is you’re eating no processed food, and no crap if you’re not doing a transition diet where you slowly wean yourself off bad stuff. Cheat meals are ok so you don’t go crazy, but strive to make those once a week, not once a day… unless you’re doing Michi’s Ladder transition, or just the “1 green a day” plan, then no worries.
Food wise, ensure you eat good fats (high monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated vs. saturated and trans fat) such as nuts, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon.
Ensure you eat lean proteins like lean cuts of chicken breast, edamame, eggs, low-fat dairy, and salmon. Every other day with both is good since the good fats from salmon omega-3 stay in you for about 48 hours. That, and you don’t go crazy eating chicken every day. Also, black beans are great too; tons of protein, no fats. Mixing in brown rice is ok since it has a reasonable amount of high protein that when mixed with beans ensures it’s a “complete protein”.
Finally, ensure good carbs. Things like ripe fruit (organic only for strawberries because their skin doesn’t protect very well from pesticides, of which we have no clue what they do to people), green vegetables, and whole grains (brown rice vs. white, quinoa, and “wheat” when in doubt). Any carb that’s from a box or has more than 2 ingredients or is “enriched flour” == you should be suspicious. Whole grain oats, whole wheat pasta that is 100% whole wheat, and just more beans. Yes, it’s near impossible to buy pure wheat bread from the grocery store, you’re not crazy. Buy wheat bread if you must (I’m a parent, I get it).
Also, water has no calories in it. Coffee has a negligible amount without milk or without sweetened almond milk. Both help make you feel full if you’re struggling with hunger.