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When it comes to losing fat to look good, people tend to go to extremes. All winter long you have tried to bulk up and pack on the muscle. While this is all good, you may end up with some unwanted body fat. So, you decide to either not eat much, eat too little, avoid certain foods like the plague, and end up miserable with less muscle than you had from the start. This does not have to happen.
In order to retain muscle while shedding body fat, you need to have a sustainable approach, not an extreme one. Even when prepping for a physique show, the athletes who look the best typically stay on track all year long, and don’t force themselves to lose fat fast by depriving themselves.
If you have an adjustable approach, depending on your goals at the time, you will always stay within your fighting weight, and be able to gain some muscle mass. Before laying out a sample meal plan, consider the following critical tips:
I am a big fan of intermittent fasting (IF). There are many benefits to IF that can help you reach your goals. Just be aware that cutting too many calories from your diet can lower you metabolism, leaving you hungry and primed to regain the fat that you lost. You also may find yourself eating the wrong types of foods after a long fast. So be mindful of the foods you eat to fuel your body.
Piggybacking off #1, you will not make progress by cutting calories and eating processed foods when you are hungry. Sure, if you are in a caloric deficit and are eating gluten-free this and fat free that, you will lose weight, however this will not stick long-term. As Josh Hillis Says, co-author of Fat Loss Happens on Monday, weight loss will be determined by the quantity of the food you eat, but body composition (fat and muscle) will be determined by your food quality. Eat 70% of your diet in whole and minimally processed foods that you like. Eat 20% in whole and minimally processed foods that you don’t like, but don’t hate. This will allow you to explore your pallet. If you follow those two rules, eat 10% of whatever you want. You have to let yourself indulge once in a while for your sanity and to kick-start your metabolism. This also allows you some wiggle room when you are in a crunch.
This is a guide to help you get an array of macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) in each day.
Try and include at least one to two servings from each of the following food categories.
Here is what I do to start people off on a base meal plan.
If you work out 2 hours a week, multiply the body weight you want to reach (say you weigh 190 and want to weigh 180), by 12 calories. If you work out 3 hours a week, multiply your target weight by 13 calories. If you work out 4-5 hours a week, multiply your target bodyweight by 15 calories.
NOTE: If you are in a muscle-building phase, simply increase calories to 12-15 calories times the bodyweight you want to get up to.
Another rule to follow is the protein rule. Men should aim for 1g of protein per pound of their target bodyweight, and women should aim for .75g per pound of target bodyweight.
Here is an example meal plan for a male that works out about 4-5 hours a week, weighs 190 lbs. and wants to lose 10 lbs. of fat. Keep in mind that there is no perfect calculator to figure out how many calories you need. This is simply a guide. The best way to figure out how much you need to eat is to keep a journal and adjust where needed.
180 grams protein
90 grams fat
270 grams carbohydrates