Thursday, July 19, 2018

7 Best Macro-Friendly Vegan Protein Sources

So you’re rummaging your cabinets, flipping through recipe books, googling all the words and calling up your grandma wondering what you can do to get more protein in your diet.

We get it and we’re here to help.

Protein is important for optimal health, it is vital for muscle growth, muscle strength, weight loss, and it is critical in many of your body’s biochemical functions. When people think protein they tend to think meat, but there’s a whole universe of other vegetarian and vegan protein sources out there that can be excellent to help keep you full, build muscle and help with weight loss.

Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, proud meat eater, or anywhere in the middle, these seven healthy and delicious vegan protein sources can help spice up your kitchen and keep your protein macros on point.

​Seitan / Wheat Meat (pictured above)

Vegetarians and vegans cherish this plant-based meat substitute. Seitan comes from gluten, a protein found in abundance in wheat, rye, and others crops of that family. Cooked seitan is often referred to as “wheat meat” due to how striking the resemblance in texture and appearance is to animal meat.

You can get up to 24.8 grams of protein in every 100 grams of seitan, making it one of the richest sources of plant-based protein. It’s also rich in selenium as well as small amounts of phosphorus, calcium, and iron. Seitan can be bought at most health food stores or homemade using wheat gluten.

If you’re looking for the look and feel of meat, seitan is for you. However, seitan is not suitable for people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

Macros per 100 grams: 24.8 g protein, 4.4 g carbs, 1.8 g fat

Quinoa

This plant is gluten-free and is a complete protein providing all nine essential amino acids, unlike some nut and bean protein sources. Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal of the amaranth family which flowers… unlike grasses that bear other cereal grains.

A cooked cup of quinoa delivers 8.1 grams of protein. In addition to protein, it also provides complex carbs, fiber, magnesium, manganese, iron, and phosphorus. In fact, scientists are trying to grow quinoa in space because of the high amount of protein and other nutrients it delivers.

Macros per cup: 8.1 g protein, 39.4 g carbs, 3.6 g fat

Soy

Soy is protein made from the soybean that has been adapted into many common foods like soy milk and tofu.

Soy milk is a popular substitute for cow's milk and provides 7 grams of protein per cup. It can also deliver adequate amounts of vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium if you buy the fortified brand. Soy milk can also be used to cook and bake a wide range of recipes.

Tofu is often used to provide texture and nutrients, and is best marinated, seasoned, or cooked into the flavor of the dish. Tofu can provide 10.1 grams of protein for every 100 grams and contains calcium, potassium, and iron.

Keep an eye out for other soy protein sources at the grocery store. Other common ​uses of soy protein include: soy protein powder in smoothies, mixing soy nuts into a trail mix, and soy-based cheese alternatives.

Macros per cup (243g) of soy milk: 7 g protein, 4 g carbs, 4 g fat

Macros per 100 grams tofu: 10.1 g protein, 2.5 g carbs, 5.1 g fat


Green Peas

Green peas deliver much more than protein. A cooked cup provides about eight grams of protein as well as vitamins A, C, K, folate, manganese, and thiamine… plus over 25 percent of the recommended daily fiber requirement.

Green peas are also rich in copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. They are delicious added to salads, soups, stir fry, or as a simple side with a variety of meals.

Macros per cup (150g): 7.9 g protein, 21 g carbs, .6 g fat

Lentils

Lentils are also an excellent source of protein as a cooked cup provides 17.9 grams of protein and about 50 percent of your daily requirement of fiber.

Lentils are packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals that enhance overall health and are also high in folate, iron, and manganese. They are often used in soups and stews, but consider adding them to a salad or puree into lentil hummus. If that still didn’t sell you, research suggests that lentils may help protect against some types of cancer and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Macros per cooked cup (75g): 17.9 g protein, 39.9 g carbs, .8 g fat

Beans

Did you know that each cup of kidney beans contains about 14 grams of protein?

All varieties of beans are rich in protein, including white, black, kidney and pinto beans. They are also rich in complex carbs, fiber, folate, iron, potassium, manganese, and several health-benefitting plant compounds.

Can you think of a savory meal that wouldn’t benefit from having beans? We love them in and on all sorts of tacos, stews, soups, salads, dips, and whatever else we’re making. Research has linked diets high in beans and other legumes with lower blood pressure, reduced belly fat, and decreased cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Macros per cup of kidney beans (177g): 14 g protein, 42 g carbs, 1 g fat

Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)

Also coming in at 14 grams of protein per cup, chickpeas are deliciously found in a variety of foods including hummus, falafel, curries, and even popped like popcorn. This Mediterranean legume can come in a variety of colors allowing you to brighten up your meal’s color palette while offering calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, and iron.

They’re also excellent at helping you feel full… the 22 grams of fiber per cup in chickpeas will keep you satisfied until your next mealtime comes around.

Macros per cup (165g): 14 g protein, 40 g carbs, 2 g fat

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What is Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)… and why is it important?

What is TDEE?

TDEE is an acronym for Total Daily Energy Expenditure. It represents an estimated total of the calories your body burns for energy each day. TDEE is an essential factor if you are trying to lose weight or gain weight because the two are basically about the deficit between your calorie intake and calorie expenditure.

Because every individual has a unique set of genes, in addition to gender, age, and weight, we all have distinct TDEEs. If you are trying to gain muscle mass, lose weight, or maintain your current body weight, it's important that you understand the effect of TDEE on your goal and how to calculate it.

For somebody aiming to lose some pounds, your target is to make your calorie intake less than calorie burn, i.e., eat below your TDEE. And if you are training to be the next Mr. Olympia, you need to eat above your TDEE so your body can get the nutrients it needs to make you bigger and stronger. But if you are okay with your current body, all you have to do is calculate your TDEE and keep your calorie intake close to that figure.

The challenge is how to calculate that number.

​How to Calculate Your TDEE

You can calculate your TDEE using different formulas, but almost all of them are confusing and inaccurate. When calculating your TDEE, you first have to know your basal metabolic rate (BMR), level of activity, and daily food intake. The BMR is the number of calories you need to perform metabolic activities like respiration, digestion, and circulation. All you have to do to determine your TDEE is multiply your BMR by your level of activity.

You can use our TDEE calculator right here. We also have a BMR calculator right here.

But for those of you who want to know how the math works… read on!

​Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation

According to the American Dietetic Association, the most reliable formula for calculating TDEE is the Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation.

Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation for Male TDEE

Step 1

BMR = (Height in centimeters x 6.25) + (Weight in kg x 9.99) - (Age x 4.92) + 5.

Step 2

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) = BMR X Activity level

Levels of Activity

Sedentary (BMR x 1.2), Lightly Active (BMR x 1.375), Moderately Active (BMR x 1.55), Very Active (BMR x 1.725) and Extremely Active (BMR x 1.9)

Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation for Female TDEE

Step 1

BMR = (Height in centimeters x 6.25) + (Weight in kg x 9.99) - (Age x 4.92) -161

Step 2

TDEE = BMR x Activity level

Levels of Activity

Sedentary (BMR x 1.1), Lightly Active (BMR x 1.275), Moderately Active (BMR x 1.35), Very Active (BMR x 1.525)

​Calculating Your Lifestyle

After calculating your BMR, you have to calculate your Activity Level based on your lifestyle. Now, this is where many people get it wrong when calculating their TDEE. People tend to overestimate their activity levels, and this results in TDEE figures that are way off the mark, considering that the TDEE is an estimate in the first place.

To avoid this pitfall, it’s better to choose the lesser of the activity level which you think you belong to. That means if you believe you are Moderately Active, go for Lightly Active when calculating your TDEE to avoid overestimation errors.

Once you have your TDEE, you can use it to help maximize the effect of your diet and workout programs. If you want to lose weight, reduce your calorie intake by 15-20% less than your TDEE. If you want to bulk up, increase calorie intake by 10-15% to pack on more muscle mass.

And when you’re ready to take it to the next level, remember that TDEE is just one part of the formula used by the IIFYM Macro Calculator, which calculates the macronutrient ratios that will help you meet your goals as quickly as possible.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

7 High Protein Snacks for Those On The Go

 

We live in a world where we tend to rush around like a chicken with its head chopped off—minus the gore and awkward flailing.

At the sound of our alarm clock we hop out of bed, jump in the shower, dry off, throw our clothes on, brush our teeth and hair, wake up the kids, clothe them, make them breakfast, make yourself breakfast, rush everyone out the door to catch the school bus, and then off to work you go. Phew. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

There are days where you simply don’t have time to sit down and eat breakfast yourself, I get it. And for that reason, you need to ensure you have high protein snacks at your disposal. At IIFYM, we love protein and try to fit it into all of our meals and snack options.

As science tells us, protein is the building blocks for muscle growth and recovery. More specifically, it’s the amino acids found in protein that are the true champions at maintaining and building that hard-earned lean muscle mass we all strive for.

(A great place to find out your needed protein intake to help you achieve either goal is Macro Calculator.)

We understand how frustrating it is to lose your muscle mass, and for that reason, we want you to utilize not only what’s in this article, but also the programs we have on the IIFYM website.

The Requirements For These Snacks

When looking at high protein snacks, you want something that can be transported easily and without the worry of making a mess. If you’ve ever tried to eat breakfast in the car, you know spilling it all over your suit or work clothes is not a good look, nor a good start to your day.

When we talk about high protein snacks here at IIFYM, we are looking for something that is prepackaged if possible, obviously sealable and preferable re-sealable, and something that provides that lovely macronutrient that we call protein.

Below in this IIFYM article, you will find our picks for the most delicious high protein snacks out there.

These items can be purchased at a convenience store/gas station if on the go, at a grocery store if you’re planning for the week, or it could even be an item that you already have stocked at your house and can pack in your briefcase or bag prior to heading out the door.

1. Protein Bars

Let’s start off with one of the most convenient high protein snacks available today. There is no shortage of protein bars out on the market, and these little gems can be found just about anywhere.

If you are hitting a gas station but are in the mood for high protein snacks to hold you over until your next meal, you will probably find over 10 different flavors or varieties there.

Quest bars, MET-Rx bars, Pure Protein bars, Balance bars, Muscle Milk bars, Crunch bars, the list goes on and on. Here’s the thing, not all protein bars are created equal.

You will find some that are high in protein and high in carbohydrates. You will find some that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. The key is to figure out what bars fit your diet (for example if you’re following the IIFYM diet).

Some flavor options are Cookie Dough, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Strawberry Shortcake, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Chocolate Mint, Apple Pie, and pretty much any imaginable flavor you can think of.

Again, decide which flavor appeals to your taste buds and matches your IIFYM plan and you have yourself prepackaged high protein snacks that contain anywhere from 12g of protein to upwards of 32g.

You can also find protein bars at big box stores such as Walmart, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club, and even in grocery stores. If you want a little more variety, head to a supplement or nutrition store and they should have a better selection of flavors and brands.

 

high protein snacks

 

2. Protein Shakes

Another option that many people find convenient would be protein shakes. These can either be in an RTD (Ready-To-Drink) form or as a powder from a tub you can purchase.

The mixture is generally either water or milk-based (whichever you prefer to consume).

Likewise, with the powdered version, you have the ability to either pour milk or water in a shaker bottle or blender along with your powdered protein of choice and on with your day you go.

No matter the variety of making your own shake or opening a can/bottle, you will have high protein snacks at your disposal.

I will say this though, if you like to control your macros like we do with the IIFYM plan, utilizing a protein powder will be advantageous over an RTD. The powdered variety allows you to add different macros to fit your IIFYM lifestyle. Need more fats? Throw some natural peanut butter in your shake.

Need more carbs or maybe you want it for post-workout? Toss in a banana and you’re good to go. Like with protein bars, you can find a wide variety of flavors to choose from.

Many people will stick with a vanilla or chocolate since they are pretty standard and allows them to manipulate their macros fairly easy when compared to trying to adjust macros with a flavor such as chocolate mint or a buttermilk pancake flavor.

RTD protein shakes can be found at gas stations, convenience stores, and grocery stores. You can even find them in the coolers of gyms and supplement/nutrition stores. If protein powder sounds more like your preference, you can find them at grocery stores and big-box locations like Target, Walmart, Costco, etc.

The locations with the most variety, however, will always be a supplement or nutrition store. If the price is a concern, the powder will always be less expensive than an RTD simply because you are paying for convenience and individual packaging with an RTD.

When looking for super high protein snacks, protein shakes generally can give you the best bang for your buck in terms of cost per gram of protein in your IIFYM nutrition plan.

3. Jerky

Do you like meat? IIFYM users like meat! And jerky makes high protein snacks a breeze. I’m going to leave this pretty open-ended with the type of jerky you choose.

Some people like beef jerky, some like turkey, while others prefer deer, bison or ostrich. It totally comes down to personal preference.

While jerky is high in sodium, if you are in a pinch, jerky can be a lifesaver. For instance, if you find yourself at an airport and none of the places to eat there look like anything worth consuming, you can always find some type of jerky in one of the stores around your terminal.

You can also find jerky at every gas station and convenience store—it’s pretty much a staple there as one of the high protein snacks.

Another key to jerky is that most of the bags you purchase can be sealed back up if you don’t eat it all. This ensures your jerky doesn’t further dry out or go bad on you (or dump out) while you’re on the go.

 

high protein snacks

 

4. Nuts/Seeds

Looking for high protein snacks that will also help give you some good fats in your diet? You can’t go wrong here. Almonds, pistachio nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, I could keep going on with these amazing snack items.

Grab yourself a container of nuts/seeds and keep it at the office and another at home. You could even purchase a container that is a mix of nuts and seeds to keep your taste buds happy with some variety.

You can purchase nuts and seeds at all of the places we have already mentioned in the sections above. They are pretty standard and therefore are easily accessible at just about any location you hop into if you find yourself in a tight spot and in need of some quick protein. These high protein snacks will also help you feel satiated throughout the day.

breastfeeding calories

It should go without saying, but we at IIFYM like to err on the safe side, so if you are allergic to nuts or seeds it would be wise to skip over this option and find one that would not cause any health issues.

Here at IIFYM, we love the use of nuts in our diet. They are a quick and easy source of protein and healthy fats that can be added to any IIFYM diet. Yet, be aware of how high the fat content is within one portion, it’s easy to get carried away and end up consuming a lot of calories.

With that said, if you are unsure how to utilize the IIFYM lifestyle, be sure to check out the calculators, programs, articles, and FAQ sections of the IIFYM website.

5. Hummus/Chickpeas

Some people look at the word hummus and think it’s a funny sounding word—and they’re right.

However, hummus is one of the high protein snacks that I think many people forget about or overlook. Hummus can be spread on just about anything you can think of—crackers, vegetables, toast, whatever.

Hummus is simply mashed up chickpeas. And speaking of chickpeas, they can’t be forgotten on our list. Have you ever had roasted chickpeas?

Delicious! You can add your favorite seasonings to them or keep them in their natural state—either way, this is a home run when it comes to high protein snacks.

Hummus can be found just about anywhere. Grocery stores, convenience and gas stations, or you can make your own at home and take it with you.

Some places even have hummus in a prepackaged container with vegetables ready to consume. So, when in a pinch, don’t forget about hummus.

When it comes to chickpeas, you generally need to purchase those at a grocery store if you wanted to make your own roasted chickpeas and package them up for travel. The good news is, roasted chickpeas take no time at all to make and you can do a large batch all at once.

 

high protein snacks

 

6. Canned Tuna/Chicken

While not on everyone’s list of the most amazing tasting snack options, canned tuna or chicken can definitely fit the bill when you are in need of high protein snacks on the go.

If you are a fan of tuna, you can find it in a can or in premade pouches pretty much anywhere—grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores. Not a fan of tuna? They have a chicken variety as well.

These high protein snacks are a great way to consume some good quality protein in no time at all. Some of the packages available even come with crackers that you can spread the protein source out on.

Other varieties are flavored with different spices so it isn’t so bland to eat. Rather than skipping lunch while on the go or pulling up to a fast food restaurant, grab yourself some canned tuna/chicken and you have a convenient way to stay on your diet while staying busy and productive.

Our coaches here at IIFYM.com can help you with the variety of foods you consume and can provide you with more protein options to fulfill your intake should you need assistance.

7. Greek Yogurt

I saved the newest craze for last. Greek yogurt has some amazing properties other than being one of our most delicious high protein snacks on the list. This option not only allows you the convenience of a packaged protein source, but Greek yogurt also supplies you with calcium and probiotics.

There’s so much winning going on with Greek yogurt that you should have this in your refrigerator whether you are using it for on the go or not.

You need to take note though, while Greek Yogurt is incredibly healthy, depending on the variety you purchase, it could be high in sugars and carbohydrates if it is full of fruit or other carbohydrates like a granola topping. If that fits in your IIFYM diet, you’re good to go.

Yet, we wanted to make sure you didn’t start scarfing down these high protein snacks without knowing the potential consequences if you aren’t looking at the nutrition label (which you should be doing).

Changing It Up

If you wanted to spice up your macros a little bit, you could add some granola (like mentioned above) to your Greek yogurt to play with the macros yourself rather than being forced to consume whatever the fruit variety of some yogurt gives you. This also allows you to get a plain vanilla flavor and add your own fruit if you wish.

Greek yogurt can be found everywhere and can easily fit into your IIFYM diet. The trend has been so hot that even gas stations and convenience stores are stocking Greek yogurt.

Another fun fact is, you don’t always need a spoon to eat your yogurt which is extremely convenient if you are indeed on the go and in your car. You can’t afford to use both hands to eat while driving, and you don’t want to risk spilling yogurt all over your clothing.

The solution? Some brands have “drinkable” Greek yogurt that comes in a bottle that has a screw top.

If you are having trouble finding a diet that works for your lifestyle, you’ve come to the right place. IIFYM.com is the best source of information not only to help educate you, but IIFYM also has a ton of amazing programs that you can choose from to help you reach your goals.

 

 

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dealing With Negative Family Members That Don’t Support Your Fat Loss Efforts

 

“If it was easy, everyone would do it.” One of the most overused, but quite accurate statements about virtually anything significant we pursue. Fat loss is right up there with some of the most personally rewarding but often-difficult tasks to achieve.

Especially when first starting out. Even with tools like the IIFYM Macro Calculator on hand, the journey of fat loss can be confusing and be challenging at times.

Fat loss becomes especially challenging if we feel negative pressure from our family members that may not support our fat loss efforts. Or just simply don’t understand what we’re doing. As encouraging as a positive support system can be, equally discouraging is the feeling that those closest to us believe what we’re doing is silly or unnecessary.

As an online physique coach, I’ve had experience with a myriad of athletes focused on fat loss that have shared various encounters with family members.

Experiences that, along with my own, have helped me gain a perspective on the topic that may help those reading this to better balance their fat loss goals with family time. Plus, more easily manage expectations and stress along the way.

Sacrifice vs. Sabotage

There’s no question that to achieve significant fat loss goals (or any significant goal for that matter), a certain level of sacrifice and commitment is absolutely necessary.

That said, one thing I’ve noticed in my years working with clients is when first starting out, it can be easy to let the industry make us believe we need to work a lot harder and “sacrifice to win” a lot more than we really need to.

This may sound blasphemous, but some long-standing myths in the fitness industry have caused physique conscious individuals much more of a burden than a benefit.

Meal Timing

Post-workout anabolic window, eating every 2-3 hours, pre-bed cottage cheese concoctions- we’ve all heard exaltations of the fat loss effects pain staking meal timing strategies can have. Ironically many popular meal-timing strategies have been well supported by modern research to be much less important than once acclaimed.

This is good news for those struggling with negative family interactions focused on their fat loss efforts. Post-workout anabolic windows have been shown to last much longer than the previously thought 30-minute window (1).

Without getting into the next subtopic too much, eating smaller, more frequent meals have been shown to be no less effective at fat loss than larger, fewer meals when total energy balance is equated.

Old gurus used to have athletes believe they needed 6-8 small meals throughout the day to “stoke the metabolism.”

This all culminates to highlight that stressing over specific meal times to the point that it hinders you from enjoying time with your family may be causing you more harm than help in terms of your fat loss. Knowing that specific meal timing may not contribute all that much benefit, we can more easily take the day as it comes when not following our typical schedule.

As well as realize that as long as we’re reasonably close to our daily intake goals, if we need to move things around during the day to accommodate for family time, that isn’t anything to get bent out of shape over.

Bottom Line: When family events throw off your normal schedule, don’t fret. Space your daily protein as evenly as you can throughout your meals.(2) Get some carbs in around 1-2 hours before training to support performance. Then as long as you’re close to your daily intake goal, the exact timing of those meals won’t derail or really even slow progress to any noticeable degree.

 

fat loss

 

Meal Frequency

Meal frequency discussions nearly parallel that of meal timing. We don’t want to only eat once or twice during the day if we’re serious about muscle growth and fat loss. But we also don’t need to obsess over a specific frequency in the name of fat loss either.

Old gurus used to have athletes believe they needed 6-8 small meals throughout the day to “stoke the metabolism.” In reality, recent years of research have done a lot to debunk this stressful and scientifically invalid myth. (3)

As with most aspects of life, there seems to be a solid middle ground in regard to meal frequency for both muscle growth and fat loss. Three meals or less most days could be leaving some progress on the table by not allowing maximal muscle protein synthesis with your protein consumption.

On the other hand, 6+ meals during the day could actually hinder muscle protein synthesis due to a refractory period that can occur by consuming protein meals too closely together (4). Thus potentially hindering not only muscle growth in the offseason but also muscle retention when dieting for fat loss.

breastfeeding calories

That leaves us with a sweet spot quite likely around 4-5 meals spread as evenly as our schedules allow on most days. A range that can be relatively easy to fit in during busy work days in general, but also family outings.

Especially considering 1-2 of those could easily be a simple protein shake when on the go while other macros are made up for in the remaining meals during situations where sitting down for a full meal may not be conducive to the family activities.

Bottom Line: Sometimes we catch flack from family members no matter how well we balance our fat loss goals with family plans. However, more often than I can count, athletes new to the game tend to make it harder than necessary on themselves by falling prey to outdated beliefs on meal timing & frequency.

These not only put unnecessary strain on personal lives but also are often outright less effective than other, more easily managed strategies.

Portion Distortion

Coaches like myself and the IIFYM coaches support a flexible dieting approach not just because it’s more enjoyable, but because it helps individuals understand that any specific food isn’t necessarily “good or bad” for fat loss.

One of the biggest challenges for those new to fat loss efforts are the misunderstanding that certain foods are “off limits” when fat loss is the goal. It’s an important realization when we understand that portions and total calorie intake make up a vast contribution to energy balance and subsequently, fat loss.

Then we can not only more easily enjoy unplanned foods when around family, but also better explain to them how easy it can be to manage intake without sacrificing all the foods we enjoy.

Rather than causing a ruckus by refusing to eat that all-time favorite family recipe because it’s not a “diet food,” we can instead estimate the macronutrient content of that food and practice moderation during family dinner.

…being able to estimate macros or calculate bulk recipes of family favorites can help us still achieve fat loss without family drama.

As a result, not only can we prevent a strain on a family night by refusing certain foods, but we can set a better example to family members of how relatively easy it can be to enjoy the food we eat while still keeping fat loss a priority.

It’s amazing how much we can reduce stress in a family setting by practicing moderation and explaining portion control/macros compared to outright refusing to eat family favorites for the sake of fat loss.

In more frank terms, sometimes we athletes can be more stubborn than necessary. Causing negative feelings among our families that could honestly be avoided in many circumstances.

Bottom Line: Sticking to nutrient dense, easily tracked foods can make fat loss more effective. However, also being able to estimate macros or calculate bulk recipes of family favorites can help us still achieve fat loss without family drama.

Bulk Recipe Article Link: https://www.iifym.com/tracking-macronutrients-bulk-complex-meals/

 

fat loss

 

Family Feud

Even if we practice moderation, estimate or track family recipes, and give ourselves wiggle room with meal timing and other nuanced dieting strategies, sometimes family members are going to give us a hard time about our fat loss goals, regardless.

Maybe ingest, or even stemming from insecurities of their body composition and health – sometimes, negativity is unavoidable.

When these situations arise, a few go-to strategies tend to be best for diffusing the situation. The overarching theme being, most people that make a point to be negative about your goals are not going to be open-minded to opposing views.

So, getting into a back and forth about your fat loss goals isn’t likely to get very far. Rather, it’s typically best to just redirect the conversation elsewhere.

Change Topics

When in doubt, change topics at all costs. Some snarky comment about you needing to “just enjoy life” can be the start of one terribly uncomfortable family outing. Instead of striking back, it’s almost always better to just change topics and move on.

A short, sweet reply about how you personally want to take steps to better your health and wellbeing, then quickly turning to another family member to strike up a different conversation can curtail the negativity pretty quickly, all while showing you’re above a petty back and forth. In short, your mom’s life-long advice to “kill them with kindness” can once again be very helpful.

Get Personal

If you really feel as though it’s getting a bit ridiculous between you and a family member, it may be worth considering getting them alone and having a heart to heart with them. Rather than having a blowout argument at your family gathering or out in public.

They may really appreciate you talking to them one-on-one and simply explaining your motivations behind what you’re pursuing in your fat loss goals.

To them, it may seem like a vain, silly call for attention. Once they realize you may very well be doing it for more personal reasons- making sure you’re healthy and around a long time for your family, improving your self-confidence around others, or for some- the competitive fulfillment that things like contest prep offers you.

They may very well have a change of opinion on how they view what you’re doing. Sure, some people are just jerks (every family’s got them). Yet, it’s amazing what giving people the benefit of the doubt and having a mature, personal conversation can do to help loved ones understand your reasoning.

Bottom Line: Sometimes even with our best efforts, some negativity is inevitable. However, taking steps to respond in a calm, mature manner can help us navigate the situation without letting ourselves get sucked into the negativity ourselves.

—–

Family, you might not always like them, but you love ‘em! Taking steps toward fat loss within a family not necessarily privy to what moderate diet and exercise programs entail can create challenges. However, a little can go along way in terms of flexibility with our own programming, and the patience we practice when discussing how those fat loss goals are important to you.

 

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Why An Exercise Routine Isn’t Necessary To Lose Fat

 

While many people attribute their weight loss to exercise, it turns out that using an exercise routine really isn’t necessary for losing body fat.

Although that may sound counterintuitive to everything you’ve heard in the past, total weight and fat loss is actually due to creating what is known as a negative energy balance.

Fortunately, a negative energy balance can be accomplished via manipulation of many different variables, which may or may not include an exercise routine.

In this article, I’ll be discussing why exercise isn’t required for fat loss and then what other variables you should manipulate if your goal is to drop body fat.

(Whether your goal is to lose fat, build muscle, or maintain weight our macro calculator is a great place to start.)

Factors Influencing Fat Loss

Before getting into further specifics, it’s important to point out key variables associated with weight and, of course, fat loss. Understanding these principles is imperative if you want to change your body composition without using a sound exercise routine.

With hundreds of different messages out there about what’s important and what isn’t, it’s important to understand what variables need to be manipulated above all else for a successful body transformation.

At the top of that list is, naturally enough, the idea of energy balance. Energy balance is simply the theory that, in order to change your body weight, you’ll need to adjust energy balance, or the amount of calories you consume, relative to the number of calories you expend (1).

Interestingly, manipulating your energy balance can be accomplished via a number of different routes such as reducing calorie intake or by increasing calorie expenditure through your exercise routine, or, indeed, by a combination of both.

While the latter of those two variables can lead to energy expenditure, using an exercise routine, as a means of weight loss certainly is not essential and in many cases, not advised.

Manipulating your energy balance through diet and proper nutrition is definitely capable of providing the necessary stimulus for loss of weight and overall body fat.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Energy Balance is the most important consideration for weight and fat loss.
  2. Using an exercise routine to change your energy balance isn’t necessary.
  3. If you’re just looking to lose body fat, adjusting your calorie intake through restriction will suffice.

 

exercise routine

 

How Exercise Can Help or Hinder Your Weight Loss

Exercise is, of course, a great way to improve body composition and strength. Additionally, if used correctly, an effective exercise routine can provide a meaningful amount of calorie burn, aiding in weight loss attempts. However, that’s not always the best move.

One major issue with using exercise as a tool for weight loss is that many people tend to use exercise as an excuse to eat.

For example, many times I’ve seen friends, clients and even family “reward” themselves for their exercise session by consuming high-calorie foods like pizza and cheeseburgers because “they earned it.”

While there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with doing so, rewarding yourself for exercising with food can lead to terrible habits and, of course, accidental weight gain.

Many people actually overestimate the number of calories they burn through exercise. Additionally, many people also underestimate just how many calories they are consuming. Together, this combination of exercise and reward can result in accidental weight gain.

Key Point: Exercising can give you a false perception of calorie burn. In doing so, you may accidentally overestimate just how many calories you need or deserve.

Further, by rewarding yourself for training by eating, you could potentially be reinforcing the bad habit of consuming high-calorie foods, essentially reducing the benefits of exercising.

Lastly, there’s even evidence to suggest that your rigorous exercise routine may reduce your resting metabolic rate or the amount of calories you burn at rest. Essentially, you may burn extra calories through weight loss, but you may have a reduction of energy expenditure later on in the day, essentially equaling out (2, 3).

When this occurs, all of those “reward” calories can really begin to add up, resulting in weight gain, rather than a loss.

Rather than using exercise as a way to expend calories, followed by high-calorie rewards, focus on reducing your calorie intake through diet first, and then consider using exercise as a fallback, once weight loss stalls.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Exercising in addition to a diet can create bad habits of exercising and then rewarding one’s self.
  2. It’s likely you’ll overestimate just how many calories you’re burning through exercise, leading to accidental over-consumption of food.
  3. Chronic exercise when dieting can actually reduce your metabolic rate, putting you in a bad position to continue losing weight.
  4. Focus on reducing calories first before you start exercising for fat loss.

How Adjusting Nutrition Affects Your Fat Loss

When you adjust your energy balance by manipulating calorie intake alone, you’re essentially just taking calories away, while your body continues to burn a normal amount, despite the reduction.

In this case, your body is running on a higher amount of calories than you’re actually consuming. When this occurs, the body looks towards stored energy (glycogen, body fat and eventually muscle) to make up for the reduction of intake.

breastfeeding calories

When this occurs and calories are expended, you begin to see a reduction in body weight. Additionally, if you’re reducing calories yet keeping protein high, it’s possible this weight loss will come from body fat stores.

Unfortunately, since many people commonly associate their exercise routine with calorie expenditure, these same people often believe that exercise is required for this to occur. But as you can tell, creating this reduction in calories can easily come from manipulating the amount and types of food you’re consuming.

Key Takeaway: If you’re trying to burn calories, the best option is to just reduce the amount of food your eating, rather than guessing how many you burn through exercise.

 

exercise routine

 

Food Quality Matters

Fortunately, adjusting your calorie intake through nutrition alone doesn’t need to mean starving yourself, as it once did in the past. Further, the days of thinking that you’ll have to consume only chicken and broccoli 5 times per day, fortunately, seem to be on their way out.

Focusing on calories and macronutrients, rather than the specific types of foods you’re eating has made waves in the fitness community as a way to lose weight, but also enjoy food again.

While doing so is certainly acceptable, sometimes people underestimate the power of consuming foods which are of high quality, yet are of a low-calorie density.

Focusing on low-calorie dense foods such as lean proteins and vegetables is a great way to inadvertently reduce calories, with little effort. Doing so is one of the main reasons many people find success using a “clean eating approach.”

When individuals use “clean eating”, they’re able to lose weight because of the low-density of calories, yet get a high volume of food. This creates an environment of eating more food, but reducing the actual amounts of calories being consumed, leading to weight loss.

Key Point: While calories are the most important factor, increasing the quality of your food is an easy and effective technique to reduce calories both during meals and during the rest of the day.

Additionally, focusing on lean proteins and vegetables for much of the diet is beneficial due to these ingredients being highly satiating, meaning you feel fuller for longer, reducing the chance of consuming extra calories due to hunger.

While protein’s 3-dimensional structure makes digestion slower, vegetables are often high in dietary fiber, which, in addition to helping digestion, also absorbs water, forming a gel in the stomach which slows food movement through the gut (4, 5, 6, 7).

Thus the digestion processes of these two foods combine to make you feel full after only consuming a reduced amount of calories. This also means you’ll be less likely to want to eat anything further after eating these ingredients.

Essentially, while the amount of calories you expend is most important, adjusting your nutrition to reduce both hunger and overall calorie intake can provide meaningful weight loss, even if you aren’t exercising at the same time.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Calories are most important but food quality can help you manipulate calories with ease.
  2. Focusing on ingredients like lean protein and increasing fiber intake through vegetables is a sure-fire way to lose weight without much effort.

 

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

If you’re not incorporating exercise into your routine due to lack of resources, time or just simply because it’s not your thing, one important factor of energy expenditure is what is known as NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

As mentioned, your body burns calories, even at rest. Additionally, the body will burn calories through exercise as well, but what most seem to overlook are the calories that are burned the remainder of the time.

It’s important to remember that any action you take, whether it’s through explicit exercise or not, burns calories. Things like walking, washing the dishes, mowing the lawn and even just chewing gum all expend calories, which, over the course of days or months, can really begin to add up, leading to meaningful weight loss (8).

Fortunately, once you recognize that all other activities during your day expend calories, you can begin to manipulate these activities to be more effective.

One of the most common ways to increase NEAT is to opt for more difficult ways to complete everyday tasks. For example, opting for stairs over an elevator is a great way to expend more calories than you would normally burn.

Other tasks where this applies could include things like parking far from your office building, manually moving your grass, cleaning your house an extra time or even manually washing your car.

Once you begin implementing this technique, you can start to observe different tasks of your daily life and adjust them to be a bit more difficult, leading to increased calories burned.

While explicitly exercising isn’t a requirement for fat loss, improving NEAT can contribute to meaningful reductions in body weight and fat.

 

exercise routine

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. NEAT, otherwise known, as non-exercise activity thermogenesis is an often-overlooked method of burning calories.
  2. Increasing NEAT in your day is a perfect way to increase calorie burn without having to spend hours in the gym.

Why An Exercise Routine Isn’t Necessary To Lose Fat

While many attribute weight loss to their exercise routine, the truth is that exercise isn’t even necessary to lose fat. In fact, weight and fat loss can occur without ever stepping on a treadmill.

Weight and fat loss result from many different variables, all of which contribute to expending calories and creating what is known as a negative energy balance, a requirement for fat loss.

Fortunately, this negative energy balance can come as a result of calorie restriction, adjusting the types of food you’re eating or simply making everyday tasks like walking, just a little more difficult.

Overall, fat loss is entirely possible without even the simplest of exercise routines, you just need to know what variables should be manipulated and, of course, how to manipulate them.

 

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

5 Real World Truths of Weight Loss

 

Let’s face it, there are so many reasons for cutting weight, such as:

  • Aiming to improve your health
  • Improve your appearance
  • Making a lower weight-class or getting on a bodybuilding stage
  • Getting to a healthy weight
  • Maybe even a vacation or photo shoot to look your best

Losing body fat and cutting weight is a common goal shared by many.

A 2014 article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reviewed the literature pertaining to metabolic consequences of dieting, with an emphasis on athletic populations.

This was a strong paper because it helps identify and acknowledge the difficulties and hurdles faced by dieters.

This evidence also can help practitioners and fitness enthusiasts identify solutions to these common metabolic consequences from cutting weight.

But to avoid these obstacles, we must acknowledge 5 real-world truths of weight loss.

(Side Note: Looking to get your individual macros? See the IIFYM flexible dieting calculator)

1. Your Metabolism Will Adapt During Calorie Restriction

When cutting weight, you lose body mass from muscle tissue, bone, water, etc. Naturally, you would expect that less overall tissue equals less demand for energy, and therefore a reduction in metabolic rate.

This is absolutely true, but with weight loss, the issue goes a bit deeper— metabolic rate often slows down beyond the amount we would expect from decreased body mass.

In the 2014 article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, a number of metabolic adaptations contribute to this reduction in energy expenditure (metabolic rate), such as:

  • You see reductions in hormones related to metabolic rate, including thyroid hormone, insulin, and leptin
  • The reduction in anabolic hormones and increase in catabolic hormones threaten the retention of lean mass
  • You also see increased efficiency of energy production—When efficiency increases, we lose less of this energy in the conversion process. This means we can meet our demand for ATP by burning fewer calories, which serves to reduce metabolic rate and oppose our weight loss goals

The numerous metabolic adaptations to calorie restriction and cutting weight result in a clear response, a reduced metabolic rate.

This affects total daily energy expenditure which pertains to 4 compartments:

  1. Basal metabolic rate (calories burned during rest)
  2. Exercise activity thermogenesis (calories burned during formal exercise)
  3. NEAT- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (calories burned outside of formal exercise)
  4. TEF- Thermic effect of feeding (calories burned during digestion)

As you can see, the human body appears to fight perceived starvation by increasing its efficiency.

Unfortunately, many of the underlying adaptations persist after active weight loss is achieved and weight maintenance is underway.

When you impose an “energy crisis” by dieting, cutting weight, and losing body fat, these adaptations serve to reduce energy expenditure.

It’s the metabolic equivalent of tightening up your budget during tough financial times.

Take Home Point:

Understand that your metabolism will adapt during a long dieting phase, especially if you lose both muscle mass and fat mass. To mitigate this, take more frequent diet breaks, have 24-72 hour refeeds, lose weight slowly, have proper macronutrient ratios, and keep resistance training in.

 

cutting weight

 

2. Muscle Mass Will Be Lost

To be 100% honest and fair, this one doesn’t necessarily apply to everybody.

The reason being If you’re dieting from 30% body fat to 25%, you can probably do so with minimal loss of lean mass (muscle tissue) because a 5-pound difference won’t really sacrifice muscle mass.

Now, if you have been under-eating protein or had not been resistance training, you could even gain lean mass while losing fat (body recomposition) by increasing protein consumption and starting a properly-designed resistance training program.

But if you’re shooting for a stage-ready, competition-level body fat, the loss of lean mass is pretty much inevitable.

The data shows two different case studies have documented contest preparation in male natural bodybuilders.

breastfeeding calories

Although both competitors were on well-designed diet and training programs, they lost 6.2 and 14.0 pounds of lean mass (pure muscle mass).

Realistically, a natural athlete will not likely approach 5-6% body fat without a loss of lean mass.

But in all honesty, the case studies previously mentioned could be considered quite encouraging.

One athlete lost 14.0 lbs of lean mass, but 36.9 lbs overall, meaning they lost 22.9 lbs of fat.

The other athlete lost only 6.2 lbs of lean mass while losing 30.8 lbs overall— nearly 80% of the total weight lost was fat!

So, while we must accept that natural athletes tend to lose some lean mass while dieting and cutting weight, we can certainly strive to push the proportion of fat loss up.

Take Home Point:

Understand that you will lose some muscle mass during a long dieting phase. To mitigate this, take more frequent diet breaks, have 24-72 hour refeeds, lose weight slowly about .5-2 pounds per week, have a high protein diet, keep cardio as minimal as possible, and keep resistance training in.

3. Your Hunger Levels Will Go Through the Roof

Insulin and leptin are both considered “anorexigenic” hormones. Put simply, these hormones relay the message that there is plenty of energy available, leading to increased satiety and decreased hunger.

On the contrary, ghrelin is considered an “orexigenic” hormone; ghrelin rises just prior to meals, and it functions to stimulate hunger and food intake.

Leptin is released from fat cells, and smaller fat cells are more sensitive to insulin.

In the context of cutting weight, fat cells shrink in size. Accordingly, studies have shown that weight loss diets result in decreased leptin and insulin, along with increased ghrelin.

When the diet is “over,” the individual is left with a repressed metabolic rate, and an overwhelming desire to eat.

On top of these endocrine effects, there are a number of adaptations within the brain, along with psychological factors of dieting, that increase the desire to eat.

Truth is, there are some hard gainers out there that are so sick of force-feeding that they welcome the idea of decreased food intake. But for the overwhelming majority of dieters, hunger is an unavoidable real-world truth, especially as body fat gets significantly low, overall total daily calories reduce, and total daily energy expenditure decreases.

This is where proper macronutrient ratios, having a higher protein intake, and a sound resistance training program comes into play.

Take Home Point:

Understand that you will get hungry during a long dieting phase. To mitigate this, take more frequent diet breaks, have more frequent refeeds, experiment with mini carb ups when hunger is extremely high, eat satiating foods, and try having a glass of water and a salad prior to your main meals, at least 2 of your daily meals.

 

cutting weight

 

4. Maintaining Lost Weight Isn’t the Easiest Thing to Do

Let’s say you weigh 190 lbs. If you can drop to 171 lbs and maintain that weight for one year, you are fairly exceptional— less than 20% of individuals are able to lose 10% of their body weight and maintain that weight loss for one year.

In a real-world setting, cutting weight is not the hard part. Countless studies have successfully induced weight loss with all kinds of diet and exercise programs. But when you shift your focus from the 10-week studies to those lasting 6 months, 12 months, or beyond, you start to see that maintaining weight loss is a much more difficult task.

We previously discussed that metabolic rate is generally reduced in response to weight loss and reduced caloric intake.

Unfortunately, many of the underlying adaptations persist after active weight loss is achieved and weight maintenance is underway.

This means that even though you think you’re “done” cutting weight, we still see the following issues:

  • a repressed metabolic rate
  • altered hormone concentrations
  • increased hunger and desire to eat

While some of these adaptations may subside after prolonged, successful weight maintenance, evidence has suggested that some may persist for over a year after weight loss.

The presence of these adaptations set the dieter up for a phenomenon known as “post-starvation obesity,” “body fat overshooting,” or in laymen terms “rebounding.”

When the diet is “over,” the individual is left with a repressed metabolic rate, and an overwhelming desire to eat.

This combination can result in huge caloric intakes that lead to rapid fat gain.

There is also evidence that weight is preferentially gained as fat mass (body fat) in this post-diet period, and we are particularly susceptible to adipocyte hyperplasia (the addition of entirely new fat cells).

These factors may lead to body fat overshooting, where the dieter actually ends up with more fat mass (body fat) than they had before the diet.

Take Home Point:

Understand that maintaining lost weight isn’t the easiest thing to achieve. To help keep the weight off, have proper macronutrient ratios, keep resistance training in, don’t fall into the rigid black and white mindset, and take a long break from dieting.

5. Your Mind Will Play Games with You

Out of the 5 real-world truths to dieting, this one has to be one of the hardest ones to overcome.

The reason being if you were cutting weight and losing body fat, let’s say you lost 20-40 pounds, and you retained some decent muscle mass, and completely changed your physical appearance.

Chances are you are going to want to stay with this look year around or perhaps push the needle and get leaner.

The problem is, after cutting weight, dieting, losing body fat, and metabolic adaptations occur, your body needs a break, or it may even need to put on some body fat to reverse some of the metabolic adaptations such as a suppressed metabolism, increased hunger, and shot hormonal profiles.

Your mind will play games and want you to stay at that level of leanness or push it to be leaner.

Your mind will play games when you look at your old progress pictures or when you go down the Instagram feed.

Your mind will play games with you when you hear your friends are hitting the stage or dieting and cutting weight for a vacation.

First, you need to be educated on that your body needs a break after dieting.

Two, it’s okay to put on some body fat and not be shredded year around.

And three, a strong support system and environment to help mitigate these games your mind will play.

Take Home Point:

Understand that your mind will play games with you. To mitigate this, understand your social and environmental surroundings, enjoy other activities in life, and acquire the mindset that fitness is a long-term journey.

Conclusion

Cutting weight and weight maintenance are no walk in the park, but you probably figured that out by the alarming prevalence of obesity, and the small number of bodybuilders achieving truly exceptional conditioning.

When losing weight, you’ll run into some obstacles that make the process a bit challenging.

But, by understanding these 5 real-world truths of weight loss, employing some effective training and nutrition strategies, and surrounding yourself with a strong support system and environment, you can attenuate these challenges and set yourself up for success for a long-term, joyful, and results driven fitness journey.

 

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