Without question, the single most important factor at play when it comes to losing body fat consistently is dietary control ? managing what you eat, and how much you eat throughout the day.
A good combination of weight training and cardio is certainly important to encourage lean muscle retention and to actively burn calories, but nutrition is the one area where the vast majority of fat loss trainees go wrong.
It simply has a way larger margin for error. At the most, you?ll probably be spending around 3-5% of your total time at the gym.
That means the time you spend outside of the gym eating and recovering makes up the other 95-97%.
That's a lot of time, a lot of meals and a lot of food choices where things can go off course.
In addition, it's way to easier to consume a significant number of calories than it is to burn them. 45 minutes on the treadmill might help you burn 400 calories, but just 10 minutes spent consuming one additional medium sized meal will replace those calories just as fast.
The fact that consistent exercise also stimulates your appetite doesn't help the cause either, as many people will train hard in the gym and then simply over-eat in the hours afterwards without even realizing it.
It doesn't matter how healthy you eat go overboard on total calories and you won?t lose an ounce of fat.
If you really want to strip off 1-2 pounds of pure body fat every single week (this is the general pace I recommend you go at) you must have a properly structured diet in place that allows you to maintain a net calorie deficit over time from a well-balanced combination of high quality protein, carbs and fats. Otherwise, you could be completely wasting your time altogether.
Here's how I'd recommend structuring things?
The Best Macros For Cutting
Calories: 15-20% below maintenance
Protein: 1 gram per pound of body weight daily
Fats: 20% of total calories
Carbohydrates: Whatever calories remain after protein/fat is calculated
I don't care how you lay this out - whether it be 6 small meals a day or 2 large meals just focus on hitting these macronutrient numbers each day and you will lose fat at or near your maximum potential. In fact, this one step will be responsible for the majority of your fat burning results.
There is of course no such thing as the absolute best macros for cutting that will work optimally for everyone, but this is a very reliable breakdown that will work very well for most people in most situations.
It will keep you in a calorie deficit range that is large enough to stimulate significant fat loss, but small enough to keep your lean muscle tissue intact? it will provide you with enough protein to maximize muscle recovery and retention in between workouts? enough fat to keep your mood, energy levels and hormone balance in check.. and enough carbs to keep your training performance near its peak.
Also note that the exact macro numbers outlined should be treated as estimations. Hitting your total calorie target is quite important and should be aimed for within a hundred calories or so each day if you want to see the best results? but it?s not crucial from a fat burning perspective that you consume exactly 178.6 grams of protein and 69.4 grams of fat every day.
Obsessing about this could actually do you more harm than good, and as long as you come somewhat close you?ll be fine.
If you want to skip the manual calculations altogether, you can just go straight to my Free Macronutrient Calculator that automates the process altogether for you using this exact breakdown.
Or, you can learn how to figure this all out on your own using the following steps?
Finding Your Daily Calories
First calculate your basal metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn at rest?
Men: 66 + (13.7 X bodyweight in kg) + (5 X height in cm) - (6.8 X age in years)
Women: 655 + (9.6 X bodyweight in kg) + (1.8 X height in cm) - (4.7 X age in years)
Take that number and multiply it by your activity level?
Sedentary = 1.2 (little to no exercise)
Lightly Active = 1.375 (light exercise: 1-3 days a week)
Moderately Active = 1.55 (moderate exercise: 3-5 days a week)
Very Active = 1.725 (intense exercise: 6-7 days a week)
Extremely Active = 1.9 (intense daily exercise and strenuous physical job)
This will give you your calorie maintenance level, which is the total number of calories you?d need to consume daily to maintain your current weight.
Now, take that number and multiply it by 0.8 and 0.85.
This will give you a daily calorie target for fat loss that is 15-20% below your maintenance level.
Finding Your Daily Protein Needs
Protein intake will be based on your body weight at 1 gram per pound daily. So, if you weigh 190 pounds, you?ll shoot for 190 grams of protein. Keep in mind that 1 kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds.
This figure is obviously not perfect, and it can vary depending on your lean body mass and a variety of other factors. However, it's a very reliable starting number for those on a cut, and obsessing about a few grams of protein here and there really isn't worth your time anyway.
Finding Your Daily Fat Needs
Fats contain 9 calories per gram, so you?ll simply multiply your total calorie intake by 0.2 and then divide by 9 to get the total daily grams of fat.
Finding Your Daily Carbohydrate Needs
Add together the total protein calories (protein contains 4 calories per gram) and the total fat calories(you already have this from the previous step) and then subtract it from your total daily calorie intake. This will give you the total number of calories that will be derived from carbohydrates.
Then, divide that number by 4 (since carbohydrate contain 4 calories per gram) to get the total daily grams of carbs you?ll need.
The Best Macros For Cutting - Wrap Up
You now have a very reliable starting point in place for your total daily calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates for fat loss.
Follow this breakdown consistently in combination with a properly structured weight training and cardio plan, and you can expect to lose between 1-2 pounds of fat every week.
It may not sound like a lot, but adds up very quickly and represents a total fat loss of between 12-24 pounds over just a 3 month period.
Remember, you always want to go about your cutting phase in a controlled, gradual pace, otherwise you?ll be putting your hard-earned lean muscle at risk.
As you lose more fat and get leaner, you can either re-adjust your calories/macros, or increase your activity level.
When your weight loss has stalled for more than a 1-2 week period, decrease your calories by about 150 and then re-calculate your macros, or throw in an additional cardio session or two during your week.
(You can also do a combination of both, for example, shave off 100 calories and perform one extra cardio workout)