Weight Loss 101 By Jon Chong
What you need to know and practical applications
By: Jon Chong, BSc. HNsc (Human Nutritional Science)
Exercise and performance nutrition specialist
The new year is upon us.
And, with it comes the inevitable influx of “resolutioners” and people hoping to start off the year with positive change. Some of those goals are personal: call mom more, save more money, and travel more. Some of those changes are big and scary: leave that job I dread going to, start a business, move to a new city.
But for many, and the most common personal goal of all, is the goal to lose weight and get into better health. Whether if it is due to years of neglect and your body is now something you no longer recognize, or it’s because you simply can’t keep up with the kids, grandkids or dogs anymore. Losing weight is near the top of most people’s list for positive changes to make at the start of the year.
Now, there is an important distinction to make between “weight loss” and “fat loss.” Oftentimes, when people are referring to “weight” loss they are referring to losing body fat. Putting it simply, weight is the measure. Fat is what we are actually trying to lose.
Unfortunately, the human body is very adaptable and good at creating fuel from whatever it needs to keep you alive. So, in order to ensure that the loss in mass from your body is fat and not muscle or other tissues; there are a few golden rules to keep in mind.
Eat enough protein
- Consuming enough protein will ensure that your body has enough amino acids floating around so that it doesn’t have a reason to breakdown your hard earned muscle for energy
You need much less protein than previously thought in the past to both maintain and stimulate muscle growth.
- Easiest way to figure out your minimum protein requirements is to take your target weight (in pounds) and multiply that by 0.7
Ex: if you weigh 130lbs that would be 130 x 0.7 = 91g/day of protein
- To put that in perspective: one 3.5oz (100g) chicken breast has 31g of protein in it
- This is about 3 chicken breasts a day worth of protein
- This is your minimum You want to try your hardest to eat at least that much per day
- Exercise helps increase the total amount of energy you expend per day
- More energy expended means less of it has an opportunity to be stored as excess body fat
- Exercising your muscles is the most effective way to ensure any calories burned after the workout is completed is mostly fat. The more you use your muscles the more important your body sees them. As a result, it will be less likely to break them down in place of fat. Especially if fat is available.
That said, a combination of weights and cardio training is absolutely the best type of program to incorporate.
- However, if you had to do just one: weight training and gaining more muscle mass has a much stronger relationship with long term fat loss than just cardiovascular training alone
Lastly, 150 minutes per week of “vigorous” physical activity is what is recommended by the Canadian Exercise and Physical Activity
- “Vigorous” being loosely defined. But essentially any activity that brings your heart rate into around 60-75% of its max for your age. Or, when your breathing starts to become heavier. But you can still carry on a conversation.
- Making sure the exercise is challenging enough to force a change but not so difficult that it takes days or more than a week to recover from is key to ensuring good adherence and consistency to your goals.
Get quality sleep
- Sleep is probably the most overlooked and underutilized factor when it comes to fat loss.
- Getting enough sleep as well as restful sleep is one of the best things you can do to ensure that you are able to recover from exercise and use fats for energy.
- At rest, the largest proportion of the energy being used by our bodies comes from fats. So, when you are sleeping and resting adequately your body is more inclined to use fats for energy.
Manage your stress
- Chronic stress is something that can very negatively impact your abilities to lose both weight and fat.
- This is because, while under stress our body tends to hold onto more resources because its “flight or fight” response is activated. As a result, it becomes harder for the body to mobilize fats for energy.
- Furthermore, chronic stress can cause you to hold more water. Exacerbating the problem because water and fat tend to be stored in the same areas.
- As a result, taking the proper steps to decrease your overall stress, self-care and mindfulness practices are great habits to get into in order to ensure that your body is in the best possible position to lose the weight you want it to.
Remove trigger foods
- Now, if you just LOVE your sour cream and onion potato chips. And, if you know that as soon as that bag pops open you are eating the whole thing - just don’t have them around.
- Delicious foods are just that: delicious. And, if you have certain foods that make it difficult for you to eat in moderation the simplest way to ensure you don’t overeat is to not have them nearby or within easy reach
- That is not to say that you can’t have a few “treat” foods now and again. But, limiting those treat foods to foods that you have an easier time not overeating is going to make it so you can stay in a calorie deficit for longer and more consistently. Which is the REAL key to both weight and fat loss.
Pack meals and snacks in advance
- “If you fail to plan. You plan to fail.” Packing meals and snacks in advance takes the guesswork out of where and what you will be eating.
- As a result, it becomes more difficult to overeat and push yourself out of a calorie deficit because you know exactly what you are eating. Since, well, you packed it
- Added bonus is the time you would have normally spent deciding on lunch can now be spent on more productive activities.
Create consistency in your portions
- Many people tend to underestimate their food intake and overestimate their exercise/activity level
- So, in order to again ensure that you are not inadvertently eating more calories than you thought and sabotaging yourself without even knowing, using a tool like a kitchen scale or measuring cups when portioning out your meals for the day is a very good idea.
Drink enough water
- Thirst and hunger are 2 very powerful drivers of human behavior. (Hangry is absolutely a real thing). However, if you are a person that finds it challenging to consume enough water in a day, but you somehow have an abundance of food around it can be difficult sometimes to discern what signal your body is trying to give you.
- And, more often than not, people tend to choose food as their default. Because, eating something tasty is far more enjoyable, most of the time, than drinking a glass of water.
- So, keep a bottle of water nearby and hydrate often.
Manage your appetite
- As stated earlier, hunger is a powerful feeling. And, when it happens it takes no prisoners. Being able to discern true hunger signals and keeping yourself in a physically and psychologically “fed state” is one of the best things you can do to make sure you aren’t hitting the drive though on the way home from work, because you didn’t eat enough at lunch
If on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being hungry enough to order everything on the McDonald’s Menu and 10 being so full you wish you wore leggings or sweatpants) You want to keep yourself around a 7.
- This is because: Hunger is both physiological and psychological
- Oftentimes we eat because we are sad or bored. Or we eat because we feel physical pain in our guts.
- As a result, if you are able to drink enough water, eat more fibrous foods, and foods that are higher in protein - these foods will sit your stomach longer and blunt the “physical feeling” of hunger
- Whereas being mindful of when and how much you have eaten during the day (see points on packing meals and snacks in advance) will help you discern if you’re truly “hungry” or just “feel” hungry.
Lastly, at the end of the day the biggest predictors of success when it comes to any weight loss or fat loss journey are: consistency and time spent in a CALORIE DEFICIT.
The more consistent you are - the less time you will need to get to your goals, and vice versa. Everything outlined above takes that into consideration.
Whether it's strategies to increase your energy output (exercise), or ways to ensure you don’t accidentally overeat (measure your portions and pack meals ahead of time), creating, maintaining and staying in a calorie deficit is the key. So, if and when you decide to embark on your journey; it is important to always keep that concept in mind.