It really is quite simple. The same method is used in both trying to gain weight or trying to shed some fat. The most common mistake most people make is quitting early from not seeing the results they want to see quick enough. It takes time to get your body into a bad condition, and usually it sneaks up on us. It’s easier to get away with more abuse if you’re still young, but like everyone on this planet, age catches up. It also takes time to fix the damage done, and trust me, it can be fixed if your mind is in the right place.
If you read the post on How to Count Calories then you already have a good idea what you should be trying to do. It all boils down to how much energy you consume from the food and drink choices you make during the day to how much energy your body actually requires to keep your muscles and organs working and allows you to do your daily tasks.
It’s very IMPORTANT for you to know that no exercise attempt can fix a bad diet. Going for that walk, jog or session at the gym is not rewarded by making bad food choices. Walking the length of a football field burns the equivalent of a single M&M, so eating half or a full pack is unrecoverable by normal standards. You’re dreaming if you think that a walk around the block did anything at all for you. Unless you are bed ridden and barely move during the day, walking will do absolutely nothing except perhaps help with blood circulation.
It’s also IMPORTANT to know that starving yourself to lose weight will have negative effects to your goal. Sure you may lose a little at first, but that will only go so far, and a certainty that you will give up because you’re not seeing the results you expected, and in many cases put the weight right back on and then some. Sound familiar?
There are so many variables related to gaining and losing weight so I’ll try to make this to the point. The most effective way I’ve found to gain or lose weight goes like this:
We all require a certain amount of calories to survive. You can do it the healthy way, or in an unhealthy manner. It boils down to how many calories in total you consume in a day, and how many you actually need. We all have different levels of requirements. Age, height, weight and activity levels measure how many calories your body needs to fulfil it’s daily needs. So if you don’t have an active lifestyle, the calorie requirements for your age, height, ideal weight and level of physical activity (or lack of) would be lower.
Nutrition is more important than exercise, but the two together are two thirds to the key to getting results. The last is rest. Those three are what balance a truly healthy lifestyle.
So, assuming you have learnt to count your calories, your first step is to find what your current Basic Metabolic Rate is. As mentioned in the post about How to Count Calories, your Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) is what I’ve just been talking about … our daily caloric allowance. BMR is the formula used to calculate your total requirements, and it’s also the tool you use to help you get back to where you’re supposed to be. Here are some links you can use to find out what your current, and what your goal BMR’s are:
There are also some really cool diagnostic scales on the market that give you your current BMR and other details very useful for monitoring your progress.
You will be quite surprised by the differences in amounts of calories in different foods and drinks. We sometimes assume that because we don’t really eat ‘that much’ that we won’t get fatter, but depending on the types of foods you’re eating, you could be way off. That’s why counting calories is the best method I have found to gaining or losing weight, and keeping it off permanently. Right, you need to learn to count calories if you haven’t yet, and then you need to do the exercise of counting the calories in the foods and drinks you currently consume. It might seem daunting at first, and I didn’t say it was easy, I said it’s simple, and it is. You just have to do the work. In consolation, you won’t have to keep counting your calories 24/7, 365 a year. This is because after making the effort, you will have learnt the correct portion sizes of your meals to maintain a certain weight. You will be more conscious of everything you put in your mouth.
Now that you know how many calories you are consuming per day, compare it to your ‘ideal’ goal weight and you will see the difference in calories. To get to your ideal weight, you will need to either start lowering your daily caloric allowance or raising it, depending on what your goal is. I would recommend dropping or raising it in small increments (250 calories a day) until you start moving in the direction of your goal.
Monitor your results regularly to stay on track. In cases of trying to lose weight you will need to lower your intake slowly, by 250 calories a day until you start losing around half a kilogram a week. Keep at that pace and lower further as your Basic Metabolic Rate starts to change with your results. Don’t quit, use the same formula until you reach your goal weight. You will be eating the correct amount from there on.
This exercise teaches you the importance of portion sizes. To balance your meals on a macro-nutrient (proteins, carbs and fats) level, read my post on How to Balance Macro-Nutrients.
Regarding step 4 and using the opposite example, trying to gain weight, the exact same method is applied. For both cases, doing it in small increments will come more naturally to you than trying to just go straight to the amount of calories your goal weight BMR is, unless the two are very close already. Going up too high in calorie difference will promote more fat storing and will increase your fat percentage. Dropping the calories down too low too quickly will eventually also promote fat storage. Your body will lose all kinds of good weight, water, muscle … and go into ‘starvation mode’ , causing you to lose muscle mass and gain fat with age. Commonly referred to now in the fitness industry as ‘skinny fat’.
Split your daily calorie allowance over smaller and more regular meals. It helps to curb the craving to snack when on a calorie deficit (when you are decreasing your daily calorie intake). It’s also been said that the metabolism speeds up to accommodate the changes in nutrition. I sometimes eat up to 8 times a day, but as far as full meals there are only three, sometimes four. The rest of the ‘meals’ are more like snacks, for example, protein shake with a handful of raw almonds and a small block of dark 85% chocolate, washed down with a piece of fruit. All remaining within the calorie allowance for my goal at the time.
Start to learn the difference between good and bad fats, proteins and carbs. Balancing your meals with the correct sources of macro-nutrients will further tweak your goal’s results. Post for that to come soon…