3 Nutrition “Hacks” with the basics
I only used the word “hack” to get you to click on this because it’s trendy
Hack #1: reverse engineering fat loss calorically
Reverse engineering is basically beginning with the end in mind. While this may not fully apply to your nutrition, we can use bits and pieces of the reverse engineering concept to effectively hack your nutrition success. Say you’re 200lbs and want to lose 20lbs of fat while keeping your muscle so you look more “toned.” Gosh, I can’t stand that word, moving on…. Here’s what most people will do:
- Go on some restrictive FAD diet (some rebranded version of Atkins or keto) because Sheela and Francis at work told them to.
- Start P90x because they had a stint of success with that 10 years ago.
- Have 3 weeks of insane progress but quit because they want their brain back.
Can steps 1-3 work? Sure, and it probably does for a handful of people, but it doesn’t work for most people. I hate to sounds cynical, but anytime I see a friend or acquaintance get really fast results and find out they are doing steps 1-3, I do think to myself, “let’s see how you’re doing 6-12 months from now.” Don’t get me wrong, I truly hope that it works for them for the rest of their lives, but I’ve seen steps 1-3 run their course for soooo many people only to watch them “relapse” and lose all confidence in their healthy lifestyle endeavor.
If we can just learn to become brilliant at the basics and actually understand what drives weight loss, fat loss, and muscle gain, wouldn’t that be helpful? Wouldn’t it make people bulletproof to every other FAD diet that’s going to come down the line? So, without further adieu, hack #1 is understanding energy balance and how it must be applied to the goal of fat loss. You already know this, but it bears repeating. In order to lose fat, you must be in a caloric deficit, which in other words means that you must burn more calories than you consume/drink in a day, and this must be done consistently.
In a perfect world, everyone would make an appointment with their local trust health and fitness pro and step on an inbody scale to get a more in depth analysis of their body composition and metabolism, but most people won’t do that, so we must use basic math to have a starting point calorically:
Take your bodyweight, multiply it times 10, and that’s your starting calorie goal. For the 200lb person, that’s 2,000 calories. Is this a perfect plan of attack, no, it isn’t, but it’s a starting point and you can adjust it as you go based on the rate of progress.
Hack #2: Match your macros to your goals
If you’ve every worked with me, you’ve heard me say this time and time again, calories are king, but macros matter. In case you’re lost on what macros are, first of all their full name are macronutrients. Macronutrients are what make up the calories in our foods and drinks. There are 3 macronutrients and their names are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, which are vitally important as well, but they don’t contain the calories, macronutrients do.
All 3 macros are important to our health, but it’s important to understand a little bit about each one. Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred energy source. Unfortunately, most people eat far too many carbohydrates and get too many empty, non-nutritious, calories here. But carbohydrates like veggies, fruits, and high fiber grains and starches are great for you and much lower in carbohydrates.
Protein can be an energy source, but it’s not a preferred one. Protein gets broken down into amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle, along with a host of other functions in every other system in the body. Protein may be the GOAT macronutrient in that it preserves necessary muscle mass when enough of it is eaten, it has a natural fat burning effect called thermogenesis, and it keeps you fuller longer.
Fat is the most calorically dense macronutrient out of the 3 macros, which probably led to the low fat diet crazes in the 90s, which were a failure by the way. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Eating too many calories while not strength training makes you fat. Fats are essential in our diet for many things. We need adequate fat to support metabolism, cell signaling, the health of various body tissues, immunity, hormone production, and the absorption of many nutrients (such as vitamins A and D).
So, as you can see, all macronutrients are important in our diet and we need all of them, but the better question to be asking, is how much of each should we be consuming?
Again, this is just a basic starting point, but I like to recommend people get a pretty balanced percentage of each of them. More specifically, a 30/30/40 split is a good starting point. This means that 30% of your calories are going to come from carbs, 30% are going to come from protein, and 40% are going to come from fats. Simply download the MyFitnessPal of Fat Secret app to your phone, set up your calories and macronutrients from the above information, and now you’re ready to get some feedback around your nutrition intake. Most people have zero awareness of calorie intake and macronutrients. Tracking your intake helps big time with this, just make sure to be as accurate as you can when inputting your intake.
Hack #3: Build out 3 of your own meal plans
I’ve been asked this more times than I can count:
“Do you do meal plans?”
No, I do not do meal plans.
Here’s why I don’t do meal plans. If I do your meal plan, I’m enabling you and I’m not empowering you. I want you to learn how to think for yourself and not outsource that to me. This is part of the learning process that you need to go through in order to learn this for the rest of your life! I’ve already provided for you the calorie equation and macro percentages, now you have to put that into your app and build out a few meals and see how they fit, and when they don’t fit, where are you falling short in your macros? Or, how are you going over in your calories? Or, how can you get more calories if you’re undereating?
You see, by you going through this experience, making mistakes, learning from them, making adjustments, and then making progress is the ultimate HACK you could ever learn. Remember, I only used the word “hack” to get you to click on this article so you could be empowered with becoming brilliant at the basics. Most people look for “hacks” to try and find a shortcut. Don’t shortcut your success, you’ll likely only short circuit your success.