Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
When it comes to losing weight & dropping fat, is there anything more frustrating than going to bed hungry?
Or have you ever really wanted to eat something but you have to use every ounce of your will power to stop you?
You’ve only a few hundred calories left in your daily quota yet it’s only lunch time. You go for a walk, you try to distract yourself but all you can think about is food.
Some days, drinking lots and lots of water & bulking up your veggies gets you over the line. Other days, your will power runs out and you’re ravenous and go all out on a binge!
If this describes you, then you’re not alone. I have felt this way before.
In this blog post, I’m going to describe strategies you can incorporate into your daily life to help maintain a toned, trim & lean physique while keeping hunger at bay.
In it, I firstly describe what the goal of being in a calorie deficit is. Secondly, I explain how you should structure your plate and your meals. Finally, I share some additional tips and tricks when dieting making a lifestyle change.
I always say, when trying to tone up and get leaner, your goal should be to eat as much food as possible while staying within your calorie limit.
How can this be done? Eat foods that are either highly satiating (or very filling) or relatively low in calories but high in volume. High volume foods take longer to eat, fill you up more and make them a must for fat loss. These foods typically have higher fibre & protein which keep you full & satiated while keeping your overall calorie count relatively low.
Highly Satiating Foods (foods that make you feel fuller for longer) e.g. Oats, Boiled Potatoes (White or Sweet), Chicken breast etc.
High Volume Foods (foods that are quiet filling even though they are low in calories). E.g. Spinach, Brocolli, Watermelon.
I have found taking this broad approach and strategy works best trying to get down to a lean physique. It is important to note that calories in vs calories out is the most important factor when it comes to dropping body fat.
However, remember that not all calories (and specifically the nutrients within these calories) are created equal - they can have vastly different effects on your hunger, hormones and the number of calories you burn.
In this blog post, I have strategically chosen methods built around including nutrient dense foods which are relatively low in calories and are great for keeping you fuller for longer in between meals.
To dive deeper into this topic, I’m now going to go into the above in more specific detail:
Protein At Every Meal
Of all the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats), protein is the most important one. It will help you build more muscle, recover faster in your training and in terms of nutrition, it will keep you fuller (or satiated) for longer.
Think about the time it takes you to chew a piece of steak or chicken breast. Good sources of protein to add to your diet include:
Boost your protein intake up and you’ll immediately notice a huge difference. The majority of the time, when I onboard a new client, their protein intake isn’t adequate enough for their goals. My recommendation (which is on the higher end) is to have 2g of protein per Kg of Bodyweight. So if you weigh 75Kg, this would be 150g of protein.
Carbohydrates at Every Meal
This might come as a surprise to you, but having carbohydrates along with protein at every meal is essential in keeping you satisfied for longer and helping you move towards building the physique you desire.
Now to be more specific - the way you prioritise your carbohydrate intake is important. Think of your carbohydrate intake as being like a pyramid where we start with the most important foods at the bottom and work our way up. My order of priority would be: Non-Starchy Vegetables, Starchy Vegetables, Complex Carbohydrates & Fruits.
Starch is a form of carbohydrate which usually make up the majority of most people’s carbohydrate intake. Starting out on my list of priority, non-starchy vegetables should be a no brainer. Aside from all the micronutrients they contain, they are the kind of high density, low-volume foods mentioned above which allow you to eat more of them without intaking many calories.
Before I give specific examples of non-starchy vegetables, I recently got asked a question from a client of mind inquiring – do calories in vegetables do count? The answer is yes, they do count! Of course, they are less energy dense than other foods and there is something wrong if you’re cutting out vegetables to reduce your calorie intake but, their calories still count.
Examples of non-starchy vegetables include:
To give you some context of the calorie count of some of these non-starchy vegetables, the standard packages of mushrooms sold in supermarkets are 200g. In order to get approximately 100 calories from eating mushrooms (excluding the oil used to cook them), you would have to eat 5x 200g packages! Don’t be shy with your non-starchy vegetables.
After you’ve added lots of protein and non-starchy vegetables to your plate, next in line would be starchy vegetables. Examples include:
Beans, legumes and lentils are also a great source of protein making them an excellent food choice if you need to tie yourself over for longer between meals. If you have difficulty digesting them, soak them in water overnight. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, beans & legumes are a great way to increase your protein and carbohydrate count.
Side note: Fresh vs frozen vegetables – which are better? Online forums argue over the dumbest things sometimes and this is one of them! There is not much of a difference between fresh and frozen vegetables – the most important thing is you’re eating them.
Complex carbohydrates come next on my carbohydrate list. These are often the most common form of carbohydrates we intake but they shouldn’t be prioritised before your vegetable intake. When it comes to complex carbohydrates, two forms which come to mind which register really high on the satiety index (how full you feel after eating them). These two are oats and potatoes.
Oats: Besides porridge just tasting phenomenal (yes I’m bias), after a good bowl of porridge, you rarely feel hungry after it! On top of that, porridge is so versatile in how you cook it. I like adding 1-2 scoops of whey protein and blending it up before cooking it on the hob. I would recommend increasing the amount of water you add to your porridge so it feels like you’re eating more.
Note: Don’t mistake whole-grain oats with flavoured or refined oats. There is a big difference in both.
Potatoes: Both white and sweet potatoes are another fantastic complex carbohydrate source that help keep you fuller for longer. White potatoes seem to be getting a bad rap for some reason. The reason being is because they’re usually modified and cooked as fries or mashed with lots of added butter, milk and cream and therefore automatically branded as a food you should avoid. They also aren’t as slowly digesting as sweet potatoes which is a fair point.
However, boiled potatoes are one of the most filling foods you can eat and can perfectly fit into a healthy diet. There are only 80 calories per 100g of potatoes. Adding 1-2 cupped handfuls to your meals is a great way of providing your body with some good complex carbohydrates (especially if you’re active) and will help you feel psychologically satisfied.
Sweet Potatoes are also one of my favourite complex carbohydrate sources and I love to make homemade fries with them. Either way, don’t be afraid to add white or sweet potatoes to your plate.
Soups: I specifically left soups until last because depending on the type, they usually have a combination of non-starchy, starchy and complex carbohydrates. They are a classic example of a high volume, low calorie food which I really enjoy having around lunch time. They are super quick & convenient to have to tie you over between meals.
Note: Not all soups are created equal. Some contains lots of cream for instance and usually are much thicker in texture. I like the Avonmore vegetable (100 calorie) option the most and I like to add some chopped up chicken breasts for a protein hit to it. In general, per 100g there should be no more than about 40-50 calories on the packaging.
Note: Rice would be another example of a complex carbohydrate but I don't find eating it as filling as some of the other sources named above so I excluded it.
Whenever I try to reduce my bodyfat and get leaner, my favourite fruits include berries – raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and Pink Lady apples!
Have you ever eaten more than two Pink Lady apples in a row? Probably not because they are so nutrient dense. Calories in berries are also super low. 100g of strawberries for instance has only about 32 calories.
One of the things that annoys me most on the internet nowadays is people arguing over whether fruit is healthy or unhealthy. The claim is that fruit contains a lot of sugar and by eating a lot of fruit, your sugar intake drastically goes up and this contributes to weight gain.
As Jordan Syatt would say – ‘Who ever got fat from eating fruit?’ Name me one person who is overweight solely by eating too much fruit! Like everything, moderation is key but don’t be afraid to eat fruit just because of it’s sugar count. If you just focus on the fructose (fruit sugar), you are ignoring all of the other vitamins, minerals and fibre found in fruit.
I bet after reading this, the first thing you thought of was to take a drink of water (or some form of beverage!). It’s common for us to mistake being hungry with being dehydrated.
Staying adequately hydrated with water is a great way to keep hunger at bay. I recommend intaking about 40ml per Kg of Bodyweight. So if you weigh 70Kg x40ml this would be 2.8 litres a day.
Coffee and various forms of tea (black tea, peppermint, green tea, chamomile) I have found are a great way to also prolong the desire to eat something. I find having a coffee in the morning helps tie me over for a few hours while after every meal, instead of reaching for something sweet which I always crave, I will have a hot drink.
Another smart way to manage your overall caloric intake is to swap whole milk with almond milk (I apologise to all the farmers reading this!). Per 100ml, almond milk only has 13 calories compared to 64 in whole milk. To put that another way, a pint of almond milk contains only about 70 calories compared to about 350!
I personally don’t like how zero calorie drinks such as coke zero or lemonade make me feel. But some of my clients like to take them and they feel it helps with their sugar cravings which I have no problem with (just be mindful of how you feel after drinking them).
When eating in a calorie deficit, the goal should be to eat as much food as possible while staying within your calorie target. A great way of achieving this is eating high volume, low calorie foods and structuring your meals properly. This includes:
All of the above might sound simple, but it’s not easy. There will be ups and downs along the way and progress is never linear. It’s all part of the process.
The most important thing is you don’t quit. Having a flexible and non-restrictive approach greatly increases adherence.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this beneficial.
References: Syatt J (2012) - "The Dieters Dilemma."
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Adrian McDonnell -
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