For any goal, understanding the basics of how to lose weight is more important than the fine details, such as which diet you’ll follow or what new type of exercise regimen you’ll try because these details won’t be effective if the fundamentals aren’t there.
As weight loss specialists here at Plato Weight Management, we see this error made all the time.
A client opts to follow a Mediterranean diet, for example, but fails to take the time to calculate how to reach their caloric deficit amount so they can lose weight.
This is a problem because if their caloric deficit calories are 1500 per day but consumes a total of 2500 calories from their Mediterranean recipes per day, they’ll put on weight instead of losing it.
Therefore, in this blog post, we’ll talk about:
- How to calculate your caloric deficit
- What type of foods to cut back on
- What types of foods to eat more of
- Portion control
- Extra tips
- How much weight you can expect to lose weekly
How to calculate your caloric deficit
If you would like to use an online calculator to calculate your weight loss calories, you can do so here.
To manually calculate your calorie intake for weight loss, you first need to find out how many calories you need to intake, not to change your current weight, also known as your maintenance caloric intake.
Keep in mind these calculations are estimates, so they’ll never be 100% accurate, but they are good enough as a guideline to follow while dieting.
Calculating your maintenance calorie intake is the exact same as calculating the number of calories you burn on a daily basis.
We burn calories through four mechanisms: metabolism, the thermic effect of food, NEAT, and exercise.
If you would like a more thorough breakdown of these mechanisms, please check our lesson here:
To calculate how many calories you burn through circulation, breathing and cell production (metabolism) as well as the breakdown of the foods you consume (the thermic effect of food), you can use the Mifflin-st Jeor formula.
For women the formula is: 10 X weight(kg) + 6.25 X height (cm) – 5 X age (y) – 161
While for men it is: 10 X weight(kg) + 6.25 X height (cm) – 5 X age (y) – 5
Now, to find out how many calories you burn from exercise and NEAT, you will take the sum of your equation and multiply it by your general physical activity level each week.
- Sedentary (little exercise)= 1.2
- Lightly active (light exercise 1-3 days per week= 1.375
- Moderately active (moderate exercise 3-5 days per week)=1.55
- Very active (intense exercise 6-7 days per week)= 1.725
- Extra active (very hard exercise= a physical job or twice a day training)= 1.9
Once you’ve done this, you’ll now have your maintenance caloric intake!
Now, of course, you aren’t looking to keep the same weight.
You are looking to lose it. So we will subtract 500 away from the value to get for your maintenance caloric intake, and this will be the number of calories you should consume daily to lose weight.
You could subtract 700 calories away from your maintenance calories for faster weight loss.
However, when starting to prevent you from feeling too hungry and tired with the possibility of breaking your dieting, consequently, we recommend keeping to 500.
What type of foods to cut back on
Now you may say, “If I am following a specific diet, like the Mediterranean diet, for example, why should I need to know what foods I should cut back on? Shouldn’t the Mediterranean diet already exclude these foods?”
Well, yes, it will, but the meal plans included for these diets mostly focus on recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and won’t take into account foods you consume while snacking.
Therefore, knowing what foods to cut back on when snacking and why is important when dieting too.
So, most importantly, you’ll need to cut back on sugary and processed foods.
If you do that, your cravings will reduce, and as a result, you will end up intaking fewer calories. Also, if you change these refined carbs (bad carbs) to complex carbs (good carbs), you feel more full throughout the day due to their fibre content.
For instance, a 2019 study by Maki et al. found a link between a high complex carb diet and a lower body mass index.
What types of foods to eat more of
Whatever diet you select, make sure to intake a sufficient amount of protein, unsaturated fat and fibre.
Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, each meal should include a protein source, an unsaturated fat source, vegetables/salad and a small portion of complex carbohydrates.
Getting sufficient amounts of protein from your diet is especially important when dieting as it helps you maintain as much muscle mass as possible.
Research has also shown that getting enough protein reduces body weight, appetite, and cardiovascular disease likelihood (Veldhorst et al., 2010).
For instance, Weigle et al. (2005) found that individuals on a high protein diet consumed 441 fewer calories each day.
Generally, one should aim to get 30% of their weight loss calories from foods with protein.
And healthy sources of protein can be found in pork, eggs, salmon, shrimp and chicken.
But since these may not be suitable options for vegetarians or vegans, good plant-based alternatives are tofu, legumes, quinoa and beans.
There’s two types of fat: healthy fats and harmful fats.
The good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, whereas the harmful fats are trans and saturated fats!
These are not called good and bad fats because good fats contain fewer calories than bad fats, as every gram of fat, whether good or bad, contains nine calories.
Conversely, they are called good and bats fat due to the positive or negative attributes associated with them.
These are not referred to as good and bad fats since good fats have fewer calories than bad fats, as every gram of fat, good or bad, has nine calories.
They are referred to as good or bats fat based on their favourable or bad properties.
A common misconception people have about the difference between good and bad fat is that bad fat contains more calories.
But this is wrong because no matter if it is good fat or bad fat, one gram of fat has nine calories.
However, the difference between them is that good fat supports immunity, hormone production, nutrient absorption and metabolism, while bad fat raises bad cholesterol levels while reducing levels of good cholesterol.
And sources where you can find good fat are unsalted nuts, salmon and avocados, while sources that contain bad fat are cheese, pizza, hamburgers and kebabs.
And, like protein, we want about 30% of our daily calories from fat guys, the vast majority of which should be good fat, if not all!
Please follow the link here to read about the best type of exercise to undertake for weight loss.
Portion management is being aware of the amount of food you eat and adjusting it based on its nutritional value and your fitness aims.
Regulating portions is vital since eating too much can get in the way of your weight reduction efforts, and, to be honest, it’s easy to end up with more food in your meal than you planned, heightening calorie consumption.
Further, portion management can help you build a healthy eating regimen, which increases your chances of meeting your dieting aims.
A convenient and easy method for portion control is to use your plate to estimate.
- A dash of high unsaturated fat foods like butter or cheese
- One half of a plate of vegetables
- One-quarter of a place of protein sourced foods
- One-quarter of a plate of carbohydrate sourced foods
For more tips and tricks for portion control, be sure to check out our blog post on the benefits of controlling portions while dieting here.
- Intake coffee in the mornings as it can boost your metabolism, which means more calories burned at rest.
- Avoid sugary snacks and fizzy drinks as these are just empty calories that won’t keep you full over the course of the day and will further make you crave high-calorie food after a short time.
- Drink water before eating as you will intake less.
- Have a well-rounded breakfast including good fat, protein and fibre for the reasons discussed already.
- Choose whole foods over processed foods as they are richer in beneficial nutrients and their effect on satiety is a lot more favourable.
- Eat slowly at meals, as this has been shown to be a great method for portion control.
- Get an adequate night’s rest of at least 8 hours to reduce the impact that hormones have on your calorie consumption.
How much weight you can expect to lose weekly
Losing 1–2 pounds (0.5–1 kg) weekly is a healthy and acceptable rate, according to Finkler et al. (2012).
More than that is too much and can potentially put you in danger of various medical issues, including gallstones, nutritional insufficiencies, and a slow metabolism (Vink et al., 2016).
That said, depending on how much weight you have to lose and if you are just starting out, you will lose weight faster than 2 lbs weekly due to several factors such as a decrease in water weight. Although, this will stabilise to the estimates of Finkler et al. after several weeks.
When you have fewer calories than your body uses each day, your body begins to draw on its ready state energy reserves, referred to as glycogen.
Because the water in our body is stored with glycogen, as much as 4 grams of water per 1 gram of glycogen, when you use glycogen for energy, your body also loses water (Kreitzman et al., 1992).
Unfortunately, a large percentage of people looking to lose weight want big results fast, so they opt for a fad diet which could be as little as 800 calories daily, which is dangerous as you will not be able to intake adequate levels of vitamins and minerals for health.
In contrast to fad diets which are very unhealthy, low-carb diets, for instance, when adhering to a moderate caloric deficit for sustainable weight loss, can be beneficial for health in a number of ways, including a decrease in blood glucose, triglycerides and bad cholesterol levels while improving blood pressure.
In sum, understanding and getting the basics right for weight loss and learning how to lose weight is crucial for the long term, which is most often the length of time required for those looking to reach a healthy BMI category.
Although short-term success may sound appealing, the initial spike in weight loss is solely down to a decrease in water storage, and once you return to regular eating habits, this water weight will return just as fast as it left.
For help in finding a path to weight loss that also meets your nutritional needs and avoids the dangers of fad diets, contact us here at Plato Weight Management. We are weight-loss experts and can help you reach your ideal body weight in an effective and evidence-based manner.
Maki, K. C., Palacios, O. M., Koecher, K., Sawicki, C. M., Livingston, K. A., Bell, M., Nelson Cortes, H., & McKeown, N. M. (2019). The Relationship between Whole Grain Intake and Body Weight: Results of Meta-Analyses of Observational Studies and Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients, 11(6), 1245. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061245
Veldhorst, M. A., Westerterp, K. R., van Vught, A. J., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2010). Presence or absence of carbohydrates and the proportion of fat in a high-protein diet affect appetite suppression but not energy expenditure in normal-weight human subjects fed in energy balance. British Journal of Nutrition, 104(9), 1395–1405. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0007114510002060
Weigle, D. S., Breen, P. A., Matthys, C. C., Callahan, H. S., Meeuws, K. E., Burden, V. R., & Purnell, J. Q. (2005). A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82(1), 41–48. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn.82.1.41
Finkler, E., Heymsfield, S. B., & St-Onge, M.-P. (2012). Rate of Weight Loss Can Be Predicted by Patient Characteristics and Intervention Strategies. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(1), 75–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2011.08.034
Vink, R. G., Roumans, N. J., Arkenbosch, L. A., Mariman, E. C., & van Baak, M. A. (2016). The effect of rate of weight loss on long-term weight regain in adults with overweight and obesity. Obesity, 24(2), 321–327. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.21346
Kreitzman, S. N., Coxon, A. Y., & Szaz, K. F. (1992). Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 56(1). https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/56.1.292s
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