When is comes to starting a diet phase/cut/lean down or if you would prefer to call it a weight loss journey, so many people over complicate the obvious.
To keep things straight forward, if you are eating in a calorie surplus you will gain weight (be it fat or muscle or a combination of the two).
If you are eating at maintenance then you can’t expect to see much change on the scales in either direction. Sometimes physiques adjust slightly depending on what else you are doing workout wise (but lets not overcomplicate right now)
And finally we have the calorie deficit phase where measurements/scales should be dropping.
I’ve been in a surplus just over 6 months now, since I last competed in early September. In the first two months, the surplus wasn’t really in any controlled manner other than intuitive eating I suppose. I had a holiday and several birthdays all in quick succession. I missed training sessions and I drank a fair bit. So from November-now I have been in a more controlled calorie surplus.
I mention the word ‘controlled’ as the aim of this surplus was to gain lean muscle tissue (with any gaining phase you will incur some fat gain), but by keeping track of my nutrition and performance I have hopefully managed to keep fat gain at a minimum and (fingers crossed) gained some lean muscle tissue in the process – my lifts have improved so this should indicate some change in muscle mass – we shall see!
However, I am at that stage, like many reading this, where I have a holiday in 12 weeks and I want to cut back a little so that I feel more comfortable in a bikini and I would also like to see what I have been able to achieve over the last few months. This was always part of the plan and the timing fits quite well.
Up until recently I had been feeling reasonably comfortable with the extra few pounds and have been enjoying the additional strength and energy I have available for the gym. However in the past few weeks I have started to feel a little uncomfortable and something I feel very passionate about within fitness is that you should always feel reasonable comfortable with your body. Body confidence portrays across so many aspects of our lives and I’ve gotten to a stage where I felt I was reaching the point where my body confidence would take a knock if I carried on in a surplus for much longer.
So the 12 week cut started Monday and it got me thinking about how easy I’ve gone from a surplus to a 400 kcal deficit literally overnight without it effecting any part of my usual routine at all.
SO FIRST OF ALL LETS DO SOME MATHS
400kcal deficit a day is 2400kcal deficit in a week. (one day a week I am not in a deficit so this is based on a 6 day deficit)
In 12 weeks, in theory I should have created a 28,800kcal deficit.
To lose 1lb I would need to create a 3,500kcal deficit.
In 12 weeks of creating a 28,800kcal deficit this would IN THEORY mean I SHOULD lose 8lbs – which is give or take where I want to be.
Now please note, there are other areas that need to be considered when calculating for weight loss. Daily energy expenditure being the main variable here. I haven’t included any excess deficit made by additional cardio in the gym, but I also have to allow for a reduction in daily energy expenditure.
As we eat less, we typically become more sluggish and expend less energy in the day, so it is highly likely adjustments to my deficit or gym routine (including cardio) will need to be considered as the weeks go on.
However, you have to start somewhere and calculations can be adjusted as you go. In the beginning you need to just create a deficit, one that is logical (not too big that you are going to starve and binge and also not so small that you will be dieting for the next 6 months)
There are plenty of online calculators that can help you with your working out your calorie intake for your desired goal. If you want to keep things simple, you can cut calories from around 15-20% of what you are currently eating for a steady fat loss phase.
SO YOU HAVE YOUR DEFICIT – WHAT NOW?
To create a calorie deficit I firmly believe you do not have to do anything different to what you are already doing. If you eat 3 times a day fine, if you skip breakfast fine, if you eat more carbs than fats, again fine. Do not shift up a routine that works for your lifestyle in the bid to lose a few pounds.
Instead, look at your typical daily food and drink consumption and instead of turning your entire routine upside down, start looking at where you can save calories.
In my opinion there are 5 quick hits when it comes to creating a calorie deficit from food and drink intake. These are less detrimental on your overall food volume (very important when on restrictive calories) and are the easiest to cut out without a lot of will power.
- Remove excess daily liquid calories. Full fat/sugar drinks, milky coffees (especially those shop bought coffees). Some shop bought coffees have nearly 200kcals in – ditching 2 of those in a day could see you reducing your overall calorie intake by up to 400kcal! If you don’t fancy missing out on your latte completely, look for lower calorie options or halving the cup size.
- Reducing or swapping fruit portions. Now I am not knocking fruit. I LOVE fruit and it has certainly prevented me from reaching for the chocolate on a number of occasions. However, certain fruits are higher in calories than others. Mangos, bananas, dates, avocado, coconut are some of the main culprits. Instead of ditching these completely, try halving your portion size or alternatively try swapping them for lower calorie fruits such as berries to save on the calorie front but without missing out on your fruit fix.
- Swap the oils. Oily salad dressings and food cooked in abundance of oils will see your calories mount up. Oils are fats. Fat contains 9kcal per 1 gram consumed. 1 Tablespoon of olive oil has over 110 calories – so you can see how the calories add up! Look for alternatives such a 1kcal cooking sprays or use balsamic vinegar (or other vinegars) as a dressing instead of oil. Saving calories here won’t be noticeable on your portion size!
- Reduce your portions – but only slightly. By reducing certain portion sizes by just a fraction could see you save between 50-100 calories. I tried this with my oats in the morning. Instead of my usual 50g of oats I reduced the portion size to 40g and saved myself 39 calories. I have this meal twice a day. So effectively saving myself nearly 80 calories a day, and barely noticing the difference in the bowl. This could work well with starchy carb meals, just one less potato or 2 spoons less of rice could see a big reduction in your weekly calorie intake.
- Look for lower calorie swaps on your favourite treats, including alcoholic beverage swaps. Yes you can still lose weight and drink alcohol (within reason). Here are some of my favourite swaps:
Creating a caloric deficit can be as simple or as stressful as you make it. Ultimately a deficit is a deficit, however you go about doing it. But I always find from experience, it’s a smarter idea to create as little disruption to your current routine as possible in order for more adherence and consistency.