It’s such a daring task to talk about this subject because of all the information, ideologies, and research out there. Nutrition can be extremely personal and we should be careful when approaching this subject. Obviously, I can't even scratch the surface of nutrition with one blog. However, one of my main motivations with Spark With Stark is to make it simple, effective, and efficient for you. This way you can see results and still have the capacity to enjoy the other important areas of your life. I'm going to start out talking about fat loss because this is what the majority of people can relate to but I will eventually give you my perspective on all your nutrition goals. Like I mentioned before, I don't believe in cookie cutter programs because we all have different individual variances. Instead, I'm going to talk about the keys to fat loss. These keys are science based and have worked extremely well for me as well as others in the past. It's important to remember these keys are only designed to give you a great starting point. Follow the guidelines and make small adjustments to your needs. Again this is not about being perfect, its about finding an enjoyable process to reach your goal. This is going to rock your world.
1.) Eat in a caloric deficit
The most scientific fundamental approach to nutrition. Basically, if your body "burns" (uses) more calories than you consume you will enter a caloric deficit. If you string together 7 days of a 500 calorie deficit then you will lose 1 lb. of fat (3500 calories= 1 lb. fat). So we need to have an idea of how many calories we are consuming. Now, I know what your thinking. Tracking calories does not mean weighing out every gram of carbohydrate and protein. In fact, I don't really like the phrase "tracking calories", because it has so many negative connotations in today's society. I prefer to look at it as being aware of how much your eating throughout the day (budgeting or awareness). When you think about it, this is not a bad concept. If we want to take care of our bodies, we should be responsible enough to be aware of how much we are consuming throughout the day. So I need to eat in a caloric deficit? Okay that makes sense. But how do I know how many calories I should be consuming? There are many nutrition calculators out there but the important thing to remember is they are just educated estimates. The only way to truly know how many calories you are burning throughout the day is to sit in a lab all day and have tests done on you. Assuming none of us want that lifestyle, it's time to accept that calories aren't perfect little numbers to follow throughout the day. It's an estimate and we should view it as such. This also helps with letting go of being perfect when "tracking your calories". With that being said, I suggest the Mifflin Equation. (Named after Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, JK). Plug in your information and you will get some estimates on how many calories your body burns throughout a normal day (caloric maintenance). Make sure you plug in information that pertains to your lifestyle throughout the week, not including workouts. Stick within a 500-700 calorie deficit of that number on rest days. On days you workout, add 200-400 calories to that deficit, assuming your workout takes about an hour (200 is on the low end, and 400 is an intense workout, if you work out longer you might need to add more calories. I also have a very accurate system inside the Spark Well program. Members will have access to my ‘nutritional blueprint’ that will give specific practical steps in order to set up nutrition success.
If you have no idea what portion sizes typically look like. Take 1-2 weeks and measure out your food. Develop an educated estimate and then get rid of the measuring cups (because we aren't measuring or weighing food regularly, there will inevitable be a couple hundred calorie variability. Embrace it. If you aren't losing weight fast enough, you can always lower your initial calorie goal to account for human error). It's important to remember that it's just a starting point. It's not absolute truth. Eat within that deficit for a couple weeks, assess your progress, and make small adjustments if necessary. Weigh yourself everyday (if your emotionally attached to your number, start with once a week and work up to every couple days). Use an app such as "Happy Scale" that will give the weekly average of weight loss. Unfortunately, weight loss doesn't happen in a linear fashion. There are peaks and valleys due to normal body processes. Once you realize this, it will become easier not to get attached to just one number. So just eat in this deficit and lose weight. Simple right? If it was that simple for everyone, we would all look like Greek Gods/Goddesses, which brings me to my next point.
If my body is burning 2,500 calories a day, all I need to do is eat 2,000 calories per day in order to lose weight right. Well if you eat 2,000 calories of candy bars and ice cream then you might weight but not necessarily lose fat. Why? Because the quality of your food intake will somewhat account for what type of weight is lost (muscle versus fat). Most agree that you need a balance between macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) with the addition of plenty of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). To ensure adequate micronutrient intake make sure your eating different vegetables and fruits throughout the week (taking supplements as needed). As far as macronutrients go, everyone is different. Some people do better with higher protein, while others do well with higher carbs, and even some do well with moderate fats. Its important to realize that each macronutrient plays a vital role in how your body works. Any diet that eliminates any one macronutrient is dangerous in the long run for many reasons. The best thing I can do for you is give you the starting point, which brings me to #3.
3.) Consume At least .7 grams protein per pound of body weight
Start out eating .7-1.0 grams of protein per lb. body weight. Take the remaining calories and divide them into fats and carbs however best fits your lifestyle. Don't count carbs, don't count fat's, just make sure your getting enough protein while staying within a caloric deficit and let everything else figure itself out (This is kind of like flexible dieting, but allows for even more freedom and satisfaction). Eventually you will be able figure out if you feel better with higher or lower amounts of carbs. Once you find out how you react with carbs, that fats will adjust accordingly. Remember, the key to weight loss is total caloric intake so don't feel bad if your carbs go higher one day just as long as you are staying within that deficit (with adequate protein). Don't steer away from any one certain food (unless you have an intolerance or allergy obviously). Eat whole foods about 80% of the time. Save the processed, high sugar foods for 20% of the time. One of the reasons why counting your protein is so important is because its gives your nutrition structure. You won't be able to eat junk food all day and hit your protein goal. This automatically helps you choose better food sources. Protein will also help you maintain (or gain) muscle mass which helps shape your body in a way that looks appealing (fat loss).
4.) Drink plenty of water and limit drinking calories
The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate daily intake for men is roughly about 13 cups of water and 9 cups of water for women. However, this number depends on a lot of factors and is very individualized. The point being, adequate water intake will help keep you full (along with various other bodily functions) and help you make better food choices as well. Brownies and water anyone? I didn't think so. Avoid drinking large amounts of calories. If your drinking nutrition shakes, that's one thing but be aware of drinking large amounts of milk, juice, soda etc. Just be conscious of these liquids if you want to make a caloric deficit enjoyable, which brings me to my last point.
5.) Make it enjoyable
In my opinion, the most important part. If you are constantly miserable, why do it? Its all about making a caloric deficit as enjoyable as possible. If you have roughly 2,000 calories to eat in a day, how do you make that enjoyable? Well if you eat 6 meals, that's roughly 330 calories per meal. Waiter, i'll take the side salad with 3 and 1/2 carrots please. Count me out. Enter, intermittent fasting. Although there are benefits to fasting and a lot of science behind it, I'm not really into fasting per say. I just try and make my caloric deficit as enjoyable as possible and that looks different everyday depending on my schedule. My motivation here is to help you stay in a caloric deficit while being able to enjoy life. For a lot of people it works best by saving the majority of your calories for later in the day/night when you can enjoy big satisfying meals with friends and family (I will write future blogs on this idea because there is so much to cover here). This also helps with enjoying the foods you love. During the day, eat nutrient dense foods that will keep you full for longer periods of time. Eat lots of protein, vegetables, drink lots of water, and drink some caffeine which will help with appetite suppression. During the night, you can then enjoy eating large meals with friends and family (burgers, fries, steaks, potatoes etc). You can also enjoy the occasional ice cream, chocolate, cookie treats, or alcoholic beverages if it fits into your deficit. PLEASE DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND ME. You can still eat throughout the day just as long as you stay in that caloric deficit. Don't starve yourself. Find whatever method works best for satisfying your lifestyle. If you are exercising, eating balanced, and eating within a caloric deficit...you can eat the foods you love and reach your goals.
I hope this provides a little bit of structure and some value for you as you move along your wellness journey. Please reach out to me if you have any specific questions about nutrition, exercise, or stress management. Your best is yet to come!