Bretton Curtis - TOBS
Tracking what you eat is the most effective way to ensure you are in a caloric deficit.
You may have heard of a diet program called If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM), this diet uses a set amount of calories, as well as a prescribed amount of carbs, fats and proteins. You simply multiply your current bodyweight by an activity factor to figure out your Total Daily Energy Expenditure or TDEE. Your TDEE is the amount of calories you burn each day after taking account calories expended from general physical activity and exercise. If you eat at your TDEE everyday you would ideally not lose or gain any weight, you would simply maintain your current bodyweight. In order to lose weight, you will have to eat less calories than your TDEE, or also known as a caloric deficit.
How do I find my TDEE?
Calculating your TDEE is very simple and can be found with fairly close accuracy with a simple multiplication and honest assessment of your activity level. There are also many free calculators online you can use with questions that make it simple if you are unsure. As a general rule of thumb you would use a multiplier of 12 for a sedentary lifestyle (desk job, not an avid exerciser) up to 15 for an active person that frequently exercises.
Example: a 200 lb person that works at a desk and doesn't do much exercise would be
200 x 12 = 2400 calories to maintain his or her current weight
The same 200 lb person that is in an active job where they are on their feet walking or
doing a physical job and also excersises 4-5x a week would be at an activity level of 15
200 x 15 = 3000 calories to maintain his or her current weight.
This is the most simple method and I personally have had success using these numbers for my own weight loss/gain (this can work both ways if you want to gain some mass)
How much can I eat and still lose weight?
Once you calculate your TDEE, it's time to decide your caloric deficit. While the more calories you cut, the faster you will drop lbs, it's important to not be too aggressive, because you may get too hungry and lose control and fall victim to a binge spiral where you diet aggressively until you lose self control causing you to later binge and go way over your daily calorie budget. Remember, you are in this for the long haul if you really want to lose it and keep it off.
Since we know that 3500 calories is equal to about 1 pound of fat, and about 1 lb of fat lost per week is an achievable pace, we'll aim for 1 lb a week at first. There's two trains of thought here,
A 500 calorie daily deficit over the course of 7 days for the person that is extremely
disciplined and can actually adhere to it over the weekend, or
A 700 calorie daily deficit over a 5 day work week, and a 0 calorie deficit/surplus aka
"maintenance calories" on Saturday-Sunday. This is better for folks that want to enjoy
themselves a little on the weekends and eat a little more. This can be good or bad, some
people can control themselves and not go way overboard while some need the rigidity
of a 7 day defict in order to stay on track and not "fall off the wagon" every weekend.
Example: A 200 lb person with a 12 activity level would need 2400 cal/day (16,800
cal/week) to maintain, in order to lose 1 lb per week they would have to eat either 1900
cal/day for 7 days a week (13,300 weekly calories) or 1700 cal/day for 5 days and 2400
cal/day on Saturday and Sunday (13,300 weekly calories).
Remember, you should be thinking about your entire week of calories, not just day-to-day. If you have an unplanned "cheat day" and eat 5,000 calories in one day you just blew your calories for the whole week and will not lose the weight as fast as you would like. Not to mention, unplanned deviations from the diet will erode our credibility with ourselves and can undermine our discipline in the long term.
How much should I be worried about the amount of carbs, fat and protein in my diet?
These numbers are mostly flexible and are easy to calculate. Carbohydrates and Proteins have 4 calories per gram, while Fat has about 9 cal/gram.
Fat - It's important to not cut so much fat out that it affects your health, fat is essential for many things and should stay at about 30% of your daily calorie intake based on this study.
Protein - The amino acids in protein are essential for building/repairing muscle as well as maintaining bone health and forming healthy blood cells and antibodies to illness. A minimum of 7 grams per 20 lbs will be ok (bare minimum) but if you are active in the gym and trying to build muscle a good rule of thumb is 7-10 grams per 10 lbs of bodyweight.
Carbohydrates - Carbohydrates are not needed for survival, where protein and fat are essential. Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred source of fuel and are good for energy during activities requiring short bursts of energy. After calculating your fat and protein levels, you simply take your remaining calories and divide by 4 to get your allowed carbohydrates.
Example: a 200 lb person with an activity level of 15 would require 3000 calories to
maintain, and 2500 calories per day/7 days a week to lose 1 lb body fat per week.
Starting with Fat, we will multiply 2500 x .3 (30% of daily calories) = 750 fat calories or
83g fat per day (750 fat calories/9 cal per gram)
Next, Protein, since this person has a high activity level and needs protein to build
muscle, we will use 1 gram protein per pound or 200 G protein/day (200g x 4 calories
per gram = 800 protien calories per day).
Carbohydrates, since we know we have a caloric budget of 2500 calories and know we
spending 800 on protein already and 750 on fat, that leaves us with 950 calories left to
spend on carbs (2500 - 800 - 750 = 950) 950 calories divided by 4 calories per gram of
carbs leaves us with about 238 G carbs/day. You can check your math by taking all of
your macros and adding them up 200p + 238c = 438 x 4 cal/g = 1752 + (83 g fat x 9 cal
per gram = 747) = 2499 calories per day.
How to count your food
There are several free apps you can use to track your food such as MyFitnessPal and you simply use a food scale or measuring cups/spoons to portion your food, taking note of how much of each food you're consuming. Also many packaged meals or fast food restaurants have data already on there for you to quickly select and add to your daily diary. The apps also feature a ups scanner for canned/box goods, even some pre packaged meals.
How to track your progress
The scale is going to be your best gauge for weight loss, but keep in mind it will vary day-to-day based on several factors and could be discouraging when you have been sticking to it and the number goes up. It's very important to measure your weight at the same time every day in a very repeatable enviornment. I recommend doing it first thing in the morning and writing it down on a calendar, also its a good idea to take a weekly average to track progress week by week instead of day by day.
Remember consistency is key here and your results depend on your adherence to the program. "Compliance is the science" - Stan Efferding