Weight loss is tricky.
You need to know how many calories each day you should be eating, what your balance of carbs, proteins and fats should be then what you do when you add in exercise and even the exact times of day you should be eating.
Is it any wonder so many of us get it wrong? So if you goal is to lose a few kilos, here are the key things you need to know to get the results you are looking for.
1. HOW MANY CALORIES DO YOU NEED?
The average number of calories we need (remember it basically changes each and every day), is impacted by our age, genetics, muscles mass, activity levels, current weight, hormones, menstrual cycle and of course gender.
There is not one exact number we can pluck out and stick too, and basically calorie requirements change daily.
Most importantly, increasingly sedentary lifestyles mean that as we are less active than ever before, often public health guidelines on recommended calorie intakes grossly over-estimate what the average person is burning each day.
As a rough guide, a small female doing less than an hour of exercise each day will require just 1400 to 1600 calories each day, while an average male will need just 1800 to 2200 calories per day.
Based on this for sustainable weight loss, women will generally respond well to any dietary regimen based on 1200 to 1400 calories and a male 1600 to 1800 calories per day.
While this may sound a lot of calories, the truth is once you keep a strict log of the calories you consume, you will see how easy it is to eat more than this on an average day.
2. YOUR MACROS
The other key variables that impact fat metabolism is the relative proportions of carbs, proteins and fats in the diet.
While low-carb diets (less than 20 per cent total calories coming from carbs) will result in quick weight loss initially, low-carb intakes over time compromise metabolism as muscle mass is used as an alternate fuel source.
Active individuals will need 45 to 50 per cent of total energy from carbohydrates to support fat loss, while less active individuals may need as little 30 to 35 per cent total carbohydrates to lose body fat.
If you have been restricting your calorie intake and still not seeing weight loss results, it is worth checking your macros — you may find that your percentage of total carbohydrate intake is too low for the amount of activity you are doing.
Or you may find that your fat intake is too high. Fat intakes over 30 per cent of total calorie intake are unlikely to result in fat loss.
3. WHAT ABOUT THE EXERCISE?
Calorie restriction is an important aspect of weight loss, but if you are training regularly, you need to factor this into your baseline calorie intake.
For every hour of intense physical activity that you are doing you will need an extra 200 to 300 calories on top of your baseline intake. These calories are best consumed around the time of your training.
For example, if you train first thing in the morning, add an extra 200 calories to your breakfast meal, while if you train late afternoon, add in a 200 to 300 calorie snack an hour or two before you train, or a small snack beforehand and an extra 100 to 200 calories with dinner.
Unfortunately, light walking each day, or light low intensity sessions of less than 30 minutes duration will not result in you needing significantly more calories each day.
4. YOUR MEAL TIMING
No matter how restricted your calories are, if you eat too few calories during the first half of the day and more at night, your weight-loss results will be compromised.
As such, aim to eat your largest meals at breakfast and lunch before making sure you have at least 10 hours without food overnight and a relatively small dinner.
5. CHECK YOUR HUNGER
Extreme hunger is a sign you need more calories when you are trying to limit calories to lose weight. The best time to introduce an extra 100 to 200 calories to your intake is around the times you are hungry.
For example, if you are hungry late morning add extra to your breakfast, or if you are hungry after lunch, add some extra food to your lunch. Hunger is one of the best indicators of the times you need to eat a little more to keep losing weight as metabolic rate increases.