One of the most common things I hear from my clients (particularly women) is “I think I eat OK, I just think I eat too much.” I love hearing this for two reasons. 1. It sounds like they already have a good relationship with food, and 2. They’re recognising that they will have to reduce portion sizes. For most of us, it’s true, we will need to reduce portion sizes, but how do we do that without feeling hungry? It’s important to note that this article is specifically for fat loss, so if your goal is gaining weight, or building muscle, this might not be the best advice for you.
There are two different approaches to nutrition that I tend to recommend, and it will all depend on how your brain works! If you’re good with numbers, order and control, you may want to count your macros (more on that in a moment). If you’re more of a creative type, we need more of a creative solution.
The Hand Portion Guide
How can you measure food without carrying a set of scales everywhere? Easy, use something you do carry everywhere – your hand! This WORKS, but you have to be honest with yourself. If you’re going to try this method of portion control, I recommend eating 4 meals per day. Add an extra meal between lunch and dinner, particularly if you usually eat dinner late in the evening.
Each of your four meals should follow the same guidelines for protein, carbohydrates, fats and veg, so you’ll quickly be able to learn how to judge your portion sizes. This guide is suitable for women aiming for fat loss, if you’re a man aiming for fat loss, double the portions.
- Protein – use a palm-sized portion of chicken, turkey, steak, pork, tofu, or whatever your protein of choice is.
- Carbohydrates – use a cupped handful of rice, pasta, potatoes, butternut squash, quinoa etc.
- Fats – use a thumb-sized portion of (real) butter, lard, oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, nut butters, etc.
- Vegetables – use a fist-sized portion of fruit or veg, use two fists if it’s a leafy green veg like spinach or kale.
And that’s it? Yep. Eat whatever you like, as long as it’s a real food (not processed/junk food), and you’ve used the guidelines above.
If you’re more logically-minded than creative, this option is probably for you. Counting macros (referring to macro-nutrients – which are carbohydrates, protein, and fat – and technically alcohol is the fourth macro-nutrient) is a scientifically accurate way of working out exactly how much of each macro-nutrient your body needs, weighing everything you eat, and tracking those numbers over time to create a calorie deficit (for fat loss; you’ll want to be in a calorie surplus for muscle growth).
I have used IIFYM.com’s macro calculator to figure out what my macros are, but just in case you’re interested, here’s the long way to find out what your macros are and how to track them:
- Work out your BMR (basal metabolic rate = how many calories you burn in a day at rest). This figure will be different for everybody and you’ll need to know your height and weight.
- Work out your daily calorie needs using your BMR and information on your activity levels. The Harris Benedict Equation will tell you how to do this.
- Given that 1 gram of protein = 4 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories and 1 gram of fat = 9 calories, you need to work out how many grams of each you should be eating per day. Start with protein, as you should be eating 1-2 grams of protein per pound that you weigh per day to maintain your muscle mass.
- Use trial and error to figure out your carbohydrate and fat requirements. Most experts will recommend beginning with a 40/40/20 split, which means 40% of your calories should come from protein, 40% from carbohydrates, and 20% from fat.
- Once you have figures on how many grams of each macro-nutrient you need per day, you can either use a plain old pen and paper, or a free app like myfitnesspal to track everything you eat or drink. Everything. Even if you have black coffee with 5ml of milk, track it.
- It takes a calorie deficit of approximately 3,500 to lose one pound of fat, and technically if you follow this plan to the letter, you should have full control over your weight loss.
Nutrition is simple, eat real food and eat the right amount. What complicates things is choice, emotions, desires, and willpower. Your food plan should keep you feeling full, happy, and rewarded – you should never feel deprived. If you need some help with your nutrition, get in touch for a free consultation, just send me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.