There are a ton of diets out there. There is a ton of advice your friends and family swear by. You may have had success with some and struggled with others. I’m going to assume if you are reading this article you are either overwhelmed or hit a hard plateau with dieting and are sick of overcomplicating things. Today, I’m going to stick to the basics and give you the quickest tips you can implement right away to get yourself losing weight.
Dial in the Nutrition
Here are 3 tips to dial in your nutrition that will naturally elicit a caloric deficit, while maximizing your fullness on a diet and prioritizing keeping your hard earned muscle.
Increase Your Protein
You are either building or have built a good amount of muscle. Even if your goal isn’t to be huge, chances are you want to at the very least keep the muscle you currently have and prioritize getting rid of the fat. Increasing your protein intake is the best place to start.
The Benefits - Not only does having a higher protein intake help retain muscle on a diet by providing the necessary building blocks, it's a macronutrient that is VERY satiating by nature. Try eating a 6oz chicken breast vs a bowl of rice. I guarantee you will get fuller quicker off the protein before you get sick of the rice. Not only that, protein uses up 20-30% of its calories just to break itself down! So you are actually burning some calories just by eating it! Carbohydrates only burn 7-10% and fat only burns 2-4%. So if you are going to over consume one macronutrient this is the one that’ll do the least damage and provide most benefit.
Check out my article on Clean Eating vs Flexible Dieting.
Increase Your Veggies
This is like my ultimate diet hack. Prioritize eating the protein and veggies on your plate, and you’ll fill up so much of your stomach with those two that you won’t be hungry enough for the actual calorically dense foods. This will create a natural, sustainable deficit without making you feel like you're starving yourself on the diet.
The Benefits - Most people are starving on a diet because 1) we don’t even bother eating our vegetables and 2) we’re also lowering our carb and/or fat intake by 500 calories so there is physically less food being consumed. By replacing that extra space you’d normally fill up with carbs and fats with more roasted veggies, your stomach is still getting the satiety from the sheer volume of veggies you can eat while being very low in calories. You can fill up half your plate with veggies and it’ll only be up to 100 calories at best. Plus, you get the bonus benefit of visually allowing yourself to see a nice fully covered plate versus a sad one that just shows a piece of chicken and a sad cup of rice.
Lower Your Processed Food Intake
For most people this may be the only thing they need to take away to hit their weight loss goals. The general principle of a diet and losing weight means creating a deficit (usually ends up being somewhere between 300-500 calories to start). Processed foods as I’m sure you know are SUPER easy to overeat (and most likely hit 500 calories doing so), and not satiating at all.
The Benefits - If you remove or limit the amount of processed foods, you are being proactive in taking away the culprits that cause you to eat in a caloric surplus and thus take you off your diet. It’s not necessarily a matter of good foods versus bad. We are simply using this as a tool to set ourselves up for success and make it easy to create a caloric deficit without taking large amounts of food away. If you do still want to incorporate processed foods, that is okay, just remember it may lead you to overeat and take you out of a deficit.
Dial In The Workout
Here are 2 tips to maximize your workouts for muscle gain/retention, while allowing you to sustain the habit even after your diet is done.
Increase Your Step Count
The biggest struggle I see with clients on a diet, is that they start doing hours and hours of cardio on the treadmill, which is a losing battle. Your body is built for efficiency, and on a diet, your body will get better at burning LESS calories the more you do cardio (because you aren’t eating enough food to replenish and it wants to keep you from starving). It’s also not sustainable. I find most clients can lose the weight, but aren’t able to keep the weight off a year after they’ve gone off the diet.
The Benefit - By focusing on increasing your step count, you are introducing it as a habit that you can learn to take with you long after your diet is gone. By shooting for 10,000 steps at the start of your diet, try to think of ways throughout your day you can get those steps versus trying to just do a cardio session at the gym. Go for 10 minute walks after each meal, or take a walk with your family and play with your kids. This will allow you to get that extra caloric burn, but not turn it into this daunting task that you are only doing for the sake of losing weight. You won’t have to do as much cardio to maintain the physique you achieve at the end of your diet as it took to get there, but you are going to have to keep some steady level of extra movement through your day to warrant extra calories to consume.
Increase Your Resistance Training
Instead of adding hours and hours of cardio, focus more on the resistance training component. While cardio has you burning LESS calories the more you do it, resistance training has the opposite effect.
The Benefit - The more muscle you have on your frame, the more calories you burn at rest. Muscle is calorically expensive to have, so just by adding muscle you will burn more calories at rest. It doesn’t take much gym time either. Just 2-3 days a week of a full body or push/pull routine will get you packing on the muscle you want.
Check out my article on The Best Resistance Training Routine for a Beginner.