With the New Year there will always be folks trying to lose weight. I hope they are successful and this post is aimed at helping them set up the basics of how to change their diet to lose some weight. I could shameless plug the book my friend Jeremy and wrote here, but look it up if you want, otherwise just use this as a primer.
Priority one: Total calories taken in
This is where the battle is won or lost. Figure out how many calories you take in each day (suing something like MyFitnessPal or otherwise can be a good start). A simple way to do this is track your calories for a week and see how your body weight changes (in pounds). Take how much it changes over the week and multiply that number by 500 and that is how many calories you were above or below your needs each day. Your goal with weight loss is to keep yourself in a 250-500 calorie deficit each day. Follow this for two weeks or a month charting your weight loss and when you start to see less weight lost go ahead and decrease your calories again another 100-300 and run it again. If you find the amount of calories you are taking in is less thank your bodyweight (weight in pounds) multiplied by 10 you need to just maintain that weight for a little while and increase your calories to give your metabolism a break. The type of calories you take in here doesn’t matter if you just want to lose weight. You could eat nothing but Oreos and lose weight as long as you don’t take in enough calories and you would lose lean mass like crazy on that plan (don’t do that, it is a horrible decision).
Priority two: total protein taken in (macronutrient ratios)
Once you have the total amount of calories you want to take in each day it is time to figure out how many of those calories are going to come in from protein, carbs, and fats. Your goal for protein should be 1-1.25g of protein per pound of body mass to help preserve muscle mass. Fat should be .3g per pound of body mass, and carbs should be set at least .75 grams per pound of body weight. You should have some discretion calories from this point so you can put them in to the macronutrients however you prefer. You can look at the nutrition facts on foods you eat along with using apps that help you track your macros and just follow that to help you stay on track. Also, if you are trying to gain weight you can drop your protein intake down to .75-1g of protein per pound of body mass each day and increase the carbs and fats accordingly.
Priority three: nutrient composition
Now that you have an idea of the calories you are looking to get in and the macros they are in, we can start to look for higher qualities in those areas. For example animal protein is a better source than getting your protein in through only bread. Eating potatoes are a better source of carbohydrates than jelly beans. Make better choices here and you will likely get better outcomes, use some common sense for this (chicken breast is a better choice than fried chicken).
Priority four: nutrient timing
This is when you take in different nutrients and is relatively simple. Aim to get in protein throughout the day in generally normal boluses. This means take in 20 or more grams of protein with each meal with three meals per day (you can go a higher number here, but that isn’t necessary). Then take in carbohydrates specifically around your workouts (before, during, and after). Finally, take in fats the other points in the day when you are not taking in carbs since it slows down digestion of carbs.
Priority five: supplements (maybe)
If you are looking to help with weight loss you can look in to an ECA stack (ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin). This might help you lose a bit more weight if everything else is in order, but is not necessary. There are a number of other supplements that might help a bit here, but do your own research and look in to examine.com as a good reference here.
Side note: micronutrients
This is not getting in to the importance of different vitamins and minerals for long term health. This is an acute and simple method for setting up a diet to help you lose weight and learn what to track and follow. Make sure you are getting enough of your vitamins and minerals, especially over the long term in your life.
There are a lot of factors that go in to weight loss. Start off with the simple concepts and then work your way in to the minutia. Remember it first starts with caloric balance and then worry about your macronutrients. I hope this helps and if you have any questions please put them in a comment below.