Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
To paraphrase a client of mine – “before I started I didn’t eat as much food but I put on weight. Now I’m eating more food but I’m losing weight. How is this?” Now what I’m about to say might sound like I’m contradicting myself but I’m going to say it anyways – often people need to eat MORE food than they currently are eating to lose weight, not the other way around. Let me explain.
basic metabolic rate (BMR)
I’m not going to dive too much into the science but there is this little known, but very important thing called your Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR). What is your BMR? Your BMR or RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) is the minimum amount of calories your body needs to perform everyday functions such as breathing, blood circulation and everyday brain activities. Your BMR does not take into consideration exercise or daily activity. Think of it as the least amount of calories you would need to consume if you were to stay in bed all day without moving.
Why is it important to know your BMR? To give you an insight into the minimum amount of calories you need to consume daily without exception.
Which Category Are You?
And now lets dive into the problem. Starting out, a lot of clients I train (girls especially but also guys) fall into three categories:
Most clients of mine would be best described by number 3. When I get them to track their calorie intake, one of two things usually happens.
Building Habits - The Key
Regardless of which category the fall into, I focus on building some habits slowly into their lives. This might be something as basic as drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning to adding some protein to their breakfast. Either way, when they slowly make these sustainable, easy to follow lifestyle habits, often what happens is when they track their food intake they don’t even hit their BMR – their minimum daily caloric intake.
This often means me encouraging them to have a form of a shake to make up the remainder of their calories or on the flip side, me being bombarded with questions on why they have to eat more food than ever before even though they want to lose weight.
Less Food = Faster Fat Loss?
If this sounds like something you struggle to get your head around, I don’t blame you. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that ‘less is more’ and therefore eating less food = faster weight loss. This method does sound logical right? We all know that consuming excess calories leads to weight gain. Therefore, surely consuming less calories leads to fat loss? But as briefly mentioned above, this logic is not always true – here’s why in more detail.
While it is true that a calorie deficit (eating less energy than you expend) results in fat loss, a deficit of usually about 20% of maintenance calories is adequate. What this would mean for a female weighing 65Kg with a maintenance level of approx. 2,000 calories would be to drop her calories by 400 (20% of 2,000) to 1,600 calories. What this wouldn’t mean for the same female would be to drop her calories (often without even realising) to 1,100 which is well below her BMR of 1,350.
Why is this severe calorie deficit a problem? Because you’re not even supplying your body with enough energy for it to carry out its basic everyday functions (breathing, blood circulation and everyday brain activities). Therefore, when you do supply your body with some food, its going to prioritise putting that food to use to carry out those basic everyday functions at the expense of using food to fuel your exercise sessions, build lean muscle or tone up.
The reason a lot of my clients (particularly women but also men) struggle to eat the amount of food I recommend to tone up and get leaner lies in their previous eating habits. Often, prior to starting their lifestyle journeys with me, they were consuming high calorie but low nutrient foods. These are foods which don’t necessarily make you feel satisfied or energised after eating them yet they bump up your calories significantly. In fact, they’re often foods we want to eat more of because of the sugar cravings they give us yet after finishing them, we still feel like we could eat more. Examples include cereals, biscuits, cake, chocolate, white breads & wraps, scones, croissants, donuts, fizzy drinks & high calorie caffeinated hot drinks (latte’s – even though I agree they do taste awesome!) you get the idea. So while its easy to consume a lot of these foods, its actually not a lot of volume of food. Here’s two examples to show you what I mean:
Guess what else contains 700 calories?
While both of these meals have the same amount of calories, one meal is low in nutrients, the other is nutrient dense. One will make you feel tired and sluggish, the other energised, active and alert.
When clients of mine slowly transition into eating nutrient dense foods, the reason they struggle so much to hit their calorie target is that their bodies are not accustomed to eating 3-4 nutrient dense meals a day. They may have one meal (usually dinner) which contains a lean protein and some vegetables. But then the rest of the day is often a combination of eating low nutrient foods for breakfast such as cereals and toast along with snacking on domino foods (foods which are easy to eat with little nutrient value) such as chocolate, sweets, taytos, biscuits and even fizzy drinks.
If you’re reading this and it sounds like I’m reading off your daily food diary, there’s no need to feel guilty or panic. I get it. In fact, I’m not perfect (nor do I ever want to be for that matter) and my transitional period of a lifestyle and specifically eating habits which didn’t serve me into ones which did took time. It was by no means an overnight success story. If you find it hard to make changes in your life or if you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, the reason is often because you’re trying to do too much at once. Don’t go cold turkey and make a list of 100 things you need to instantly change. Focus on adding one new habit a fortnight. Start off slow and gradually build up. It might seem easy at first – this is a good thing. But the challenge comes in doing it consistently over and over again. This takes more time and gets better with repetition. Start slow and aim for long term & sustainable progress – not quick fix & short terms changes.
You don’t have to eat 100% perfectly all the time. Eating chicken and broccoli and some rice isn’t perfect – it’s prison. Yes, it will give you some short term marginal gains, but ask yourself can you see yourself living and eating like that for the rest of your life? Probably not.
Instead of going ‘all in’ on your nutrition, focus on being disciplined the majority of the time. This is going to mean different things to different people depending on what chapter you’re on. For some people, it might just be a matter of having a good breakfast and eating what they want for the rest of the day, for others it might be being disciplined 80% of the time with the remaining 20% of their calories coming from the foods we all like to enjoy and eat. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, I don’t advise going ‘all in or nothing’ with your food. This usually results in your will power being tested to the limit until you eventually can’t take it anymore, go on a massive binge and your weight rebounds to the point where you end up heavier than you were when you started.
Focus on making a lifestyle change where you can include the foods you enjoy and still get the results you desire. In fact this is the principal of my online coaching – regardless of whether you’re an athlete doing your personalised version of my ‘Aesthetic Athlete’ program or a young professional who wants a sustainable and enjoyable body transformation through my ‘Lean for Life’ program.
The training methods in both of these programs vary but the principles and specifically nutrition principles remain the same – get the results you’ve always wanted without sacrificing the foods you’ve always loved.
Interested in learning more? Why not claim your free consult call where we’ll dive into your health & exercise history, your specific goals and devise a plan which will make it work for you. If it doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense to you, no problem. If it does, then you’ve just taken the most important step into making a lasting lifestyle change and writing your own success story.
Claim your free consult call today.
Thanks for reading.
Adrian McDonnell -
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