Hey everyone, Derek and Rachel here again. Below is Part Two of our series on fat loss: 4 Specific Strategies to Keep Caloric Intake in Check.
To follow up on our previous post (The 4 Keys to Achieving and Maintaining Fat Loss) this post will cover 4 specific strategies that can be used to keep caloric intake under control with all of the different challenges life throws at us.
Although fat loss is not JUST about calories (see our previous blog post here), creating a caloric deficit is the first area we target when trying to set up a plan specifically for fat loss. The two main ways this can be achieved are by increasing activity or by decreasing food intake.
Below are 4 strategies that make it much easier to maintain a caloric deficit or caloric maintenance without depending on meticulously counting calories or doing hours of cardio. (Neither of which are sustainable long term.)
1. GET AS MUCH NON-STRESSFUL MOVEMENT AS POSSIBLE
Getting significant amounts of non-stressful movement through the day can significantly impact caloric burn for the day. Non-stressful movement for the purposes of this blog post will refer to any low intensity exercise that is also relaxing. Leisure walking, cooking or light biking would fall into this category. Sports, while fun, do not fit into this category as the intensity is generally much higher.
For a 150lb female, the difference between 5000 steps and 20,000 steps can be anywhere from 400-700 calories on top of normal daily caloric burn. That can be the difference between seeing results and a dead stop in fat loss. Walking also allows time to relax and decompress which can have significant benefits for self-control later in the day. (We'll touch more on the impact on self-control in a later post.)
2. LEARN YOUR MEAL BLOCKS AND PORTION SIZES
Once you have figured out the general food intake you require for fat loss, it can make the process much more simple if you learn the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat) included in various foods and create 'blocks' that you can substitute in and out of different meals.
Once you have these blocks established and know what portion sizes look like, you can easily 'eyeball' your portion sizes and achieve your fat loss goals without even having to count calories.
As an example, if you typically have a salad with 2.5oz (70g) of chicken and 2tsp of olive oil, knowing that 3.5oz (100g) of salmon is approximately equivalent in fat, protein and caloric content to the chicken and 2tsp olive oil makes for an easy substitution.
(Note: If you don’t have a kitchen scale to measure out the portions, Precision Nutrition has a great article on selecting portion sizes for fat loss using nothing but your own hand. Their approach is slightly different than ours, but I have absolutely no hesitation recommending their site.)
3. BALANCE LARGE SOCIAL MEALS WITH INCREASED ACTIVITY
We just finished the Christmas season. If you were like me, there was no chance that you were going to miss out on enjoying the multiple family dinner feasts!
Instead of restricting ourselves at these meals, we took the approach of ensuring that our exercise output approximately matched our food intake. We adjusted our workout schedule so that that we had a big workout on the day of the feast as well as the day before or day after. This guaranteed that most of those calories would go straight to our muscles and avoid being stored as fat.
Rather than dreading the holiday fat gain, we were actually looking forward to an opportunity to add a bit of muscle mass! We didn't go crazy and make ourselves sick, but we definitely enjoyed some healthy feast sized portions.
4. ADJUST MEAL SIZES AND TIMING AS YOU GO
Don't be attached to fixed meal times and sizes. Use your hunger as your guide. If you’re hungry, eat. If you're not hungry, don't eat. Don’t give in to the pressure to finish your plate or take a large portion if you’re not hungry. Storing excess fat on your body isn’t going to do anything to help the starving kids in Africa. (Yes, your mother was wrong!)
If you eat a large dinner, especially if it includes a large amount of fat and protein, it's very possible that you may not even get hungry until 10:00am. Rather than forcing yourself to eat because “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, listen to your body. The best advice is always the advice that works for you.
There are exceptions, but in general if you are around home or if you are able to take a pre-portioned snack with you, save eating until you actually get hungry.
(Note: There are several things that can cause false hunger that we’ll discuss in our next post, but if you pay attention to your body and are aware of those factors, hunger can be used as an excellent measurement of when and how much you should eat.)
Pick one or two strategies from above, write them out on a post it note and stick it somewhere you'll see it every day. Pick the strategy that you think will be easiest to apply or the one that motivates you most. Reader’s choice. Practice using these strategies for the next month.
When you have successfully incorporated the first two habits into your life, go back to our post and pick two more. Set an alarm each week in your calendar to remind yourself to go back and add another strategy if you're ready for it. Enjoy!
Derek & Rachel
Live For Today Fitness
Email us at email@example.com with any questions, comments or corrections.
Check out our other blog posts in this series here: