When it comes to changing the physical shape of our bodies most people are at a complete loss as to where to start.
But I can guarantee you, if I could walk up to anyone on the street right now and ask them ‘how do I lose weight’, I would get some sort of an answer from them such as ‘don’t eat too much’, ‘don’t eat carbs’, ‘don’t eat sweets’, ‘do high intensity every day’, ‘eat low fat/low sugar foods’, ‘don’t eat after 6 pm’ – you get the idea.
I mean technically, some answers may be somewhat helpful, others not so much (don’t get me started on ‘don’t eat carbs’!!!) but how do we sort the useful information from the rubbish?
Start with the below:
Priority 1: Calories In vs Calories Out
This is the highest priority, the king and the base of the pyramid is your calorie intake!
To change your body composition the first thing you need to understand is that in order for your body to lose weight it must be in a calorie deficit (meaning you burn more calories than you take in). And in order to gain weight it must be in a calorie surplus (meaning you take in more calories than you burn). This is a simplified version of what happens, but essentially if you are trying to change your body composition the first thing you must look at is how many calories you need on a daily basis to achieve your goal.
Now there are multiple factors that come into play when working out your recommended calorie intake so please do not pull a magic number out of thin air, book a consultation with a professional.
Priority 2: Macronutrients
Now, you might have noticed I didn’t really specify what kind of weight in the above priority. When it comes to losing/gaining weight, this weight can be either fat or muscle. If you are in a calorie deficit but do not have the right balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates/fats/protein) you run the risk of losing muscle rather than fat – and who wants to do that? The same goes for trying to gain weight in the form of muscle, you may actually end up putting on fat as weight! To ensure you are giving your body the best chance at losing fat and gaining muscle you need to ensure you are eating enough protein in your diet. This will help you retain and build muscle, and also help keep you fuller for longer. Again, this is very individualized to the person and their goals.
Priority 3: Food Timing
As we move up the pyramid, the other factors become less important when it comes to body composition. The timing of your meals and snacks should be built around what works best for you. This will give you the best chance of sticking to any changes in your diet.
For example, if you are trying to build muscles, then having a high-quality protein source at every meal and snack throughout the day will give you the best chance at building muscle. If you work night shifts, make a plan that works with your schedule. If you know that you consume a lot of your calories at night time, try to figure out a better alternative to have at this time.
And remember, nutrient timing won’t suddenly transform your physique or performance. Especially if you aren’t doing the fundamental nutrition habits consistently yet.
Priority 4: Food Composition
By ‘food composition’ I am referring to the quality of the food. What is it made of? Is it micronutrient (vitamin/minerals) dense? What is the satiety value (how full will it make us)? This is where a lot of people get confused between ‘healthy eating’ and ‘eating for weight loss or muscle gain’. It is vital that you eat a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber – but will that make you lose weight or gain muscle? The short answer is no. You don’t have to live on salads if you want to lose weight but you do need to incorporate a variety of nutrient dense foods to ensure you can feel and perform at your best. When it comes to changing your body composition the fact of the matter is that you can do so whilst enjoying what some would consider ‘unhealthy foods’ (so long as you are in a calorie deficit), and eating a diet full of healthy, nutrient-dense foods may not result in fat loss if you have not addressed the first priority (calories). This is where a balanced approach to body composition is key.
Priority 5: Supplements
Fat burners, detox tea, meal replacements, gainers, BCAA’s, Creatine, protein, CLA – the list goes on. Some work and most absolutely do not.
Most will burn a hole in your pocket but will burn zero fat or get you zero gains. Taking supplements will have the least effect on your body composition compared to the other factors, which is why loading up on supplements should be your last priority. However, if you have successfully addressed the rest of the pyramid you can then look to introduce supplements that have been proven to be effective. You can go and spend a ton of money on all the potions and pills that you see on Instagram and Facebook – but take my word for it, you won’t achieve your goals without addressing the previous priorities, and all you’ll be left with is some seriously expensive pee.
Remember, like anything in life, you need to do it consistently to see results. Your body won’t change overnight but with the right guidance, nutrition plan, and the ever-vital consistency – you will see results. And you can do it!