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How Do I Create A Diet to Lose Weight?


Creating a diet to lose weight is simple. Creating a diet and sticking with it is not. Here's what it'll take:


Knowledge.

Planning.

Prepping.

Discipline.


Knowledge


To lose weight you need to know what you're eating. You need to track what you put into your body now, before you start creating a meal plan. I use MyFitnessPal.com (owned by Under Armour). It's not perfect but it does the trick.


The goal is to figure out your daily and weekly intake of overall calories as well as your macros (protein, carbs and fat). Once you know how much you honestly eat you can begin.


The much-to-generalized rule of thumb is this:


Calorie deficit equals weight loss; calorie surplus equals weight gain.


More specifically, 3,500 calories equals roughly one pound of weight loss or gain (of body fat). But it's not all how much you eat. Calorie surplus or deficit includes calories burned, so if you're used to doing 30 minutes of cardio and burning 120 calories per day, then changing your cardio will affect your surplus/deficit. Clearly. Eat the same amount and increase your cardio and theoretically you'll lose weight. Eat the same amount and decrease your cardio and theoretically you'll gain weight.


When I'm transitioning from bulking during the off season to contest prep, I begin by reducing my calories by only 3,500 per week (or roughly 500 per day). Because I'm on a specific schedule I need to be prepared to make adjustments every 3-4 days. If I'm losing too much weight too quickly it's a sign that it could be muscle loss and I'll want to increase my calories ever so slightly. If I'm not losing weight I know that I'm not in the calorie deficit needed to lose body fat. Typically, I don't increase cardio until I absolutely need to do so. For me, that means that when my calories finally decrease from bulking of 5,000+ calories down to 2,500 calories per day and I'm not losing more body fat I start increasing cardio beyond my normal levels. Why? Because when I'm below 2,500 calories a day I get HANGRY (hungry+angry). If I start cardio too soon I have no where left to go before the competition.


But for someone who isn't competing and not used to doing cardio, it may be helpful to increase cardio earlier on.


A few words about "good" calories and "bad" calories. There's some fact in this. While a calorie is a calorie, the ingredients will also come into play. If you're eating 2,000 calories of Haagen Dazs ice cream a day and not eating a well balanced diet, clean from processed foods, you will not achieve your weight loss goals.



Planning

Eating clean is key. The meals you create must be devoid of processed foods and simple sugars. You should be eating whole foods, veggies and fruit, protein and fat. Yes, even fat so long as it's mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. Stay away from trans-fats and saturated fats. (Flax seeds = good. Twinkies = bad.)


To move forward you're going to need to buy a good food scale and decent size glass containers like these. Meal plans mean nothing if you don't measure your food and prep multiple meals at once. You're going to need to get used to preparing food for multiple meals. If you wait until it's time to eat you're not going to be successful. Plus, even if your goal is to lose weight you're going to need to eat more frequent (albeit smaller) meals.


Before I describe my meals let's take a moment to talk about the frequency and timing of meals. It's important to eat frequently, at least one meal every 2-3 hours depending on how long you're awake during the day and when you work out. Here's why: our bodies were designed for survival in the wild where it was impossible to know when the next meal would be available. We're designed to store calories as body fat for the lean days when we can't find nutrients. Conversely, when we eat our metabolism increases and our bodies are more likely to use the calories than store them, especially when we're operating in a caloric deficit. As a result, smaller more frequent meals keep you feeling full and your metabolism humming.


Did you know that massive Sumo wrestlers eat one huge meal a day (breakfast) that consists primarily of rice? Don't be a Sumo wrestler when you're trying to lose weight. If you eat one meal your body is going to want to store the calories. Instead, eat frequent, small meals.


My meal schedule during contest-prep looks like this:


6am - Breakfast #1

8am - Breakfast #2

9am - Pre-workout protein and carb shake

11am - Post-workout protein and carb shake

11am - Post-workout meal

1pm - Lunch #1

3pm - Lunch #2

5:30pm - Supper

7:30pm - Dinner

9pm - Essential Amino Acid Shake with Metamucil


Now that we've reviewed the principles of frequency, let's talk about the actual food.


Some people like to vary their meals and look for something different each day. Nothing wrong with that, although it makes meal-prep far more complicated. Instead, I would vary the sauces I use but keep the meals essentially the same.


My goal with each meal is to have a macro-ratio of 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fat. Each person responds to macros differently and that can also change throughout life. There are some fitness enthusiasts who explain that different body-types should have slightly different ratios and there may be some benefit to that, but the overall concepts are based on how your body utilizes each macro.


When you think...


...protein, think of maintaining/building muscle. Too little protein and you'll lose muscle. Our goal is to lose body fat and maintain muscle.


...carbs, think of every-day energy. Too little carbs and your body will break down muscle for energy before breaking down fat.


...fat, think of starvation-preparedness. Zero fat isn't healthy because fats also provide nutrients like Omega-fatty acids. Too much fat and your body will store it.


Now the big variable from individual to individual is your body's preference for energy. Almost everyone's body will try to reduce muscle first. Some people will find it easier to utilize fat in their diets (for energy rather than storage) than others. Other people will find that too many carbs will result in excess calories being stored as fat. You'll need to be cognizant of how your body responds to your meals and you may need to make adjustments throughout your diet.


All right, so here's what I enjoy during my contest-prep:


Egg-white omelettes with one whole egg added in (for fat), typically along with one slice of whole wheat bread. (I can always adjust the amount of egg whites to play around with the ratios each day.)


99% lean ground turkey paired with jasmine rice, sweet potatoes or roasted potatoes. Again, I can adjust each of the ingredients based on the macros needed.


97% lean ground beef paired with jasmine rice, sweet potatoes or roasted potatoes.


Flounder, monk-fish, halibut or cod paired with jasmine rice, sweet potatoes or roasted potatoes.


Sugar-free whole wheat cereal with a scoop of beef protein isolate powder and almond milk (I'm allergic to dairy).


So right there I have eggs, turkey, flounder, monk-fish, halibut, cod and protein powder as my protein sources. That gives me a good bit of flexibility with my meals and allows me to adjust my diet based on availability.


Carbs come in the form of potatoes, rice and the occasional slice of whole wheat bread. A word on bread: bread is calorie-dense, which means that it's high in calories but leaves me feeling empty. As you can imagine, feeling empty or hungry is not helpful when trying to cut calories.


A few notes on food:

- I don't track calories from fruit or veggies. I should, but I try to keep this consistent throughout the year.

- I select low-fat/fat-free, low/sugar-free sauces.

- I use a lot of salt.

- I experiment with lots of spices.


The MyFitnessPal app allows you to track each ingredient separately or create your own meals so that you can easily track your calories and macros. I also have a spreadsheet that I use to track my meals. Here's what it looks like:




Meal Prep

Before you start cooking look up the macros for each ingredient online. I like to know each in terms of ounces. Based on this you can calculate how much of each ingredient you'll put in each container.


Remember: to reduce calories, DO NOT cut the number of meals. Instead, reduce the amount of food in each container (meal).


When you're eating six meals a day it's a given that you need to prepare multiple meals ahead of time. I set up an assembly line. On the counter next to the stove I put my scale, and next to that I set out my containers. Once my food is done I put a container on the scale (and press TARE), and scoop in my carbs. I go through each container putting in the carbs. Then I do the protein. Each time I put the container (empty or with food in it) I press TARE--it makes it a lot easier than having to do the addition/subtraction to figure out how much I should put in.


Let cool and then toss it in the fridge. All told, prep takes me around 20-25 minutes for me to make six to eight meals.



Discipline

It takes a lot of hard work and discipline to shed body-fat but it's so fast and easy to put it back on. Here are a few tips to for success:

- Plan a "cheat meal" once every two weeks. A cheat meal shouldn't be an entire pizza. It should be some sushi, or a slice of pizza, or a hamburger.

- If your family wants to go out to a restaurant for dinner, eat one of your meals at home first and then order a salad at the restaurant. Dressing on the side. (No, not ranch, Russian or bleu cheese.)

- Review the menu online at home before you go. Know what you want to order without looking at the menu at the restaurant.

- Get used to saying "no thanks" to sides of french fries, onion rings, chips, etc.

- Fill up on water. Seltzer or sparkling water is great. No ginger ale--it's sugar water.

- No diet soda. Surprisingly, diet soda causes your body to store calories as fat, so even though it may be calorie-free anything else your eating will destroy your progress.

- POPCORN, salt, no butter. Lots of popcorn, especially as a late-night snack. It'll keep you feeling full, you can eat a lot and it has very few calories.


If you crack, break down and have that Haagen Dazs, don't quit. Learn from it. Figure out where you could have given yourself a little treat early on so that the craving subsides.


A Final Word

Before I started my first contest-prep I had never "dieted" before. I never cut calories. I was a gangly kid growing up and I carried enough muscle to burn through a lot of calories. My wife and I enjoyed wine every night.


When it comes to dieting, wine is awful. You're basically drinking high-calorie sugar-water. I found the first 10 days absolutely horrible, especially in the evening. No matter what I ate it was never enough to feel satiated because I was so used to drinking wine and all that sugar with a super high glycemic index was flowing right into my veins.


Alcohol is not good for anyone and makes getting in shape difficult, but the sugar was a full-fledged addiction.


It took 10 days before I felt over it. And then something happened...I started feeling better and my abs started looking better. The inflammation in my joints disappeared. I was focused more easily on work. And I started losing weight faster.



Remember:


Knowledge.

Plan.

Prep.

Discipline.


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