Updated: Nov 14, 2019
The media has projected this idea over past years that in order to loose weight we should eat a low carbohydrate diet with low calorie intake and that fats are the enemy. It is alarming how many people aren't eating enough, and I'm here to tell you that all macro nutrients are important for long term weight management.
To be honest, it depends on each individual as to what their calorie and macro nutrient intake should be, calories shouldn’t be so much the focus as an individual could consume all of their calories in one McDonalds meal. The type of calories consumed should be the real priority.
There is a big difference between calorie dense, nutrient poor foods (processed, packaged and tinned foods) VS nutrient dense foods, majority of which are low calorie (clean eating). The average female at 25-30 years of age has a Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR (calories required at bed rest for the body to function) of approximately 1,500 calories per day; majority of females would not be consuming this. (My BMR is roughly 1,400 calories however I consume anywhere between 2,200-2,500 calories).
For men this would be higher with a BMR of approximately 2,150 calories per day (however many men eat well above this especially those trying to gain muscle, this would be more like 3,500 calories).
BMR provides a very basic guideline, please do not focus only on this theory. BMR takes into account a number of different factors like: age, weight, height, how active the person is day to day and whether the person is looking to gain or loose weight, as we age research suggests that our BMR drops as our metabolism slows down.
Consuming less than your BMR long term, can cause metabolic damage making it even harder to loose fat, the body continues to adapt to what we feed it. At the other end of the spectrum there must be a mention of overeating and what this can do to the body, with obesity being right up there as one of the leading causes of death!
If the body does not have enough energy to function it enters ‘fight or flight mode’ which sets off the adrenal glands releasing unnecessary adrenalin around the body and elevating cortisol levels (the stress hormone response). The body’s natural response is to hold onto body fat in preparation for defence, particularly visceral and subcutaneous fat stored around the stomach and love handle area (typically seen in Western society).
Even stressful thoughts can cause the body to enter this mode, as the brain is unable to decipher the difference between what is reality and what is thought, very important to keep in mind.
‘Fad Dieting’ does not work, temporarily a person will loose weight by dropping calories or eating a lower carbohydrate diet (mainly muscle and water, not fat!) then once the person concludes their diet and starts to eat more, the body will store this food for later as it is scared that it will be starved again. As a result the person will end up heavier than what they were to begin with creating the ‘yo-yo’ effect, this is incredibly unhealthy for our bodies and particularly our hormones.
To all readers, if you are eating less than your BMR and particularly if you are an active person, I would recommend slowly increasing your calorie intake weekly. If you have been sticking to a low carbohydrate diet (ketogenic type approach) especially over a long period of time, then you will need to be careful when increasing your carbohydrate intake, increase this bit by bit so that the body doesn’t get as much of a shock.When advising my clients to eat more, they are hesitant and quite resistant to the idea at first, due to what they have been programmed to believe, but they soon realise it works!
I had a client drop 7 kgs in 2 weeks just by eating more food, this is the only thing I had asked her to change!
Other Recommendations For a Well-Balanced and Sustainable Approach to Nutrition:
Eat smaller balanced meals every 2-3 hours, to keep the metabolism firing and to stabilise blood sugar levels.
Eat consciously, before consuming a meal appreciate the process it has been through to reach the plate in front of you, try not to watch TV or scroll Facebook the same time as eating.
Monitor portion sizes.
Track what you are doing and only trial one idea at a time, do this for a minimum of 30 days.
If you have no idea where to start, a suggestion is to download the application MyFitnesPal and start recording what you eat as you go, this will provide the calorie and nutritional breakdown of the foods being consumed.
Include protein sources where possible with every meal and also vegetables (plenty of greens). Consume good fats throughout the day and majority of carbohydrates and fruit around training mainly after training (1-2 cups will do for most people).
When eating clean you will be surprised at how much fuller you will feel and how much harder it will be to hit your daily-required intake.
Eat the biggest meal in the middle of the day if possible as opposed to in the evening, that way you will burn the energy in the afternoon and wake up hungry and ready for breakfast.
Make food swaps for healthier natural choices (follow me on Instagram for healthy treat ideas).
Shop around the outside of the supermarket and stay away from packaged, tinned and processed foods down the middle isles, these are full of foreign chemicals that the body will store, as it cannot identify what they are (on this point, also note that environmental chemicals from things like cleaning products can put spanner in the works for your fat loss goals - google 'endocrine disruptors').
When having a ‘cheat meal’ cut it off at the one meal and have a plan before hand, make sure you are still having something well rounded. Watch portion sizes and frequency.
Green vegetables will help to alkalise the body reducing inflammation and aiding digestion.
Eat organic where possible to minimise the ingestion of herbicides and pesticides (Cide = death!).
Learn the difference between High GI foods and Low GI foods.
Those who think they may be intolerant to anything like refined sugar, lactose, or gluten to name a few, remove these in isolation from your diet for at least 1 – 2 weeks then slowly reintroduce them again in isolation to see how the body reacts.
Find a more natural high quality protein powder to use after training and perhaps as a snack or meal replacement throughout the day.
At minimum, consume a quality multi vitamin, high strength organic fish oil and super greens.
I’m not a huge fan of supplements, but if you have any specific questions you are welcome to comment below or PM me.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone but there are numerous benefits to it! I will look into posting an article or a link about this over the coming weeks.
Meal prep for success, have meal options and clean treats on hand to minimise the chances of reaching for fast food options.
Importantly, Respect your body! This is about lifestyle it is not a diet!
Don’t necessarily label foods ‘good’ and ‘bad’, we all have our off days and our best ability changes from day to day. When having a ‘bad’ day of eating or a ‘bad’ meal forget about it and move on, don’t starve for the rest of the day or spend the next day eating no carbs or sugar and doing an hour of cardio, that is not respecting our bodies nor is it actually going to be beneficial.
We can’t out exercise a bad diet, as most of us would have been told before it really is 80% nutrition, and for results our nutrition habits need to be in check!
I believe that cravings occur partly due to emotional attachments and poor habits and also partly due to deficiencies.
Keeping a food diary with a mood section can help to identify emotional eating habits.
In terms of deficiencies, when the body is craving ‘bad’ carbohydrates we might be lacking ‘good’ carbohydrates, the same goes for sugars and fats etc.
Try these things first, if you are still experiencing difficulties it might be a good idea to go and get a blood profile done at the local GP or consult a Naturopath etc.
This is just basic advice for the general population, I am not a qualified nutritionist but I am passionate about this topic! This advice comes from my personal experience, courses I have attended and from seeing what works best for my clients.
Thanks for reading :) Jaime