“What am I doing wrong? I’m working so hard and doing everything how I’m supposed to be doing it! Why doesn’t my body reflect my efforts?! WHY?!”
We’d be willing to bet a lot of you out there have felt like this at some point with regards to your diet. With an overabundance of information out there about what and how to eat, it’s pretty easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated. The Instagram influencer you follow is preaching one thing while your lifting buddy preaches the exact opposite. Both of them look great… sooo, who’s right?!
You just want results, damn it!
Before you lose it and go on a frustration induced junk food binge, let’s talk about some ways to troubleshoot your diet to help you break through some plateaus.
Are you eating enough protein?
It’s been proven time and time again through various studies that higher protein diets are the way to go when trying to manage weight and burn some fat. Not only does a high protein diet help keep you fuller for longer, which prevents overeating, but it also helps build lean muscle. More lean muscle on your frame essentially turns you into a fat burning machine at rest because muscle is a metabolically active tissue, meaning it burns calories just to exist. So it goes to reason, the more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn at rest.
Plus, compared to the other macronutrients, protein has the highest thermic effect. This means your body actually needs to burn calories in order to digest it. So when you eat 100 calories worth of protein, you may only digest 75-80 of those. Talk about a win win!
The recommended daily allowance for protein is set at 0.8 grams for every kilogram of bodyweight you have.
All us Americans trying to calculate grams per kilogram. via GIPHY
For all us non metric folks, this is roughly .36 grams per pound. Now keep in mind, this is the minimum amount you need to prevent you from getting sick or just falling apart. If you’ve got aesthetic goals, you may and probably need to bump this amount up to around 0.8 grams per pound, or 1 gram per pound to just to keep things at a nice even number.
So for a 175lb male, this increases your protein intake from around 63g to 175g per day. This might sound like a lot, but consider that 1 cup of diced chicken breast contains about 45g protein. Doubling down on protein at each meal while easing up on starchy sides is an easy way to ensure you reach your daily recommended amount without letting your calories pile up.
Take a look at your daily diet. It might be time to swap your avocado toast for some scrambled eggs if your protein intake isn’t where it should be.
Does your fat:carb ratio match your lifestyle?
In general, fat and carbohydrate consumption should usually have an inverse relationship. The more fat you consume, the less carbs you should eat and vice versa. Carb intake should also have a direct correlation with the type of lifestyle you live as well.
More active lifestyles (regular strength training, strenuous cardiovascular work, lots of non-exercise activity) usually require a but more carb intake than sedentary lifestyles (desk job, little to no exercise). The reason for this is that carbs will generally be used to direct fuel for more active individuals, whereas the sedentary population tends to store carbs as fat because of their decreased activity.
Carbs are like gasoline for your car. If you drive a lot, you fill the tank more often. If you don’t drive, you don’t need much gasoline.
Where a lot of folks can trip up is ingesting far too many carbs in relation to their lifestyle. If you work at a desk and rarely exercise, your body can flourish on mostly fats and protein alone, as there’s no need for an immediate fuel source, aka carbs. When you fill your ‘gas tank’ when it’s already full, that’s when carbohydrates can spill over into your fat stores.
This is a huge reason why low carb diets work so well for a majority of people. It’s no secret Americans have become steadily more sedentary over the last decade, so this simple tweak is often enough for most people to make progress without even addressing exercise. Remember, abs are made in the kitchen 🙂
To keep it simple, it’s ok to eat more carbs on days where you’re strength training and participating in more strenuous physical activities. On the flip side, it’s probably best to keep your carb intake lower on days where you’re not moving around too much.
Are you consuming ‘hidden’ calories?
First off, what the hell is a hidden calorie?
While there’s no official definition, we like to think of hidden calories as calories that you might overlook when taking into account your daily caloric intake. Things like tiny snacks, bites of this treat, nibbles of that sweet something in the break room, excess liquid calories, or calories that come in the form of toppings, dressings, or sauces.
It’s incredibly easy for these minuscule things to add up very quickly over time. What you think is ‘just a taste’ of your favorite candy to help curb cravings can easily snowball into hundreds of excess calories on any given day. And tons of people won’t even take these calories into account when trying to recount their food for the day because it was ‘only a bite’.
You probably do this with money too. If a cup of coffee costs $1.79, how many of you just say it costs $2? Almost everyone! Who cares about that 21 cents! It’s 21 cents for crying out loud! That’s enough money to buy precisely, oh, I don’t know, NOTHING.
Yet if you bought one cup of coffee every single day and threw away your 21 cents change for one year, you’ll have thrown away $75 dollars. That’s enough money to pay for 2 months of coffee! Bet you wish you had that 21 cents now!
So if you’re a habitual snacker or taste tester, take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself if those innocent bites of junk food are really that innocent.
Are your portion sizes correct?
This is an incredibly easy one to mess up for a lot of people mainly because tons of people truly don’t know what a serving size looks like. And, come on, how many of us know how to measure something in ounces without a dedicated scale? (Insert joke about recreational drugs HERE)
Because meticulously measuring your food for most people is just a hassle and a half, we just wing it and hope for the best. Unfortunately, more often than not, most of us guess incorrectly. Take a look at this picture.
via FitBit Blog
In the middle is an appropriate serving of mixed nuts for most folks, with a golf ball for a size comparison. On the left is what a lot of folks will take as a serving size, more similar in size to a small handful. The difference is hardly noticeable, but the caloric impact definitely is. The ‘recommended’ serving size is about 180 calories. The ‘handful’ serving size is about 500 calories.
And this can happen with lots of foods. Salad dressings, servings of meat, peanut butter, olive oil, cheeses… literally anything you put in your mouth. But no worries, because by comparing your serving sizes to more well known items, you can keep calories in check.
Keep in mind this is just a reference and it will vary from person to person, but at least this will put you in the ball park when it comes to proper portion sizes.
Another and perhaps more effective way to measure portion sizes is to use your hand as a guide. Everyones hand is proportioned to their body and therefore nutritional needs, so it tends to be a more accurate way to keep things on track.
Plain and simple… are you overeating?
There’s one thing and one thing above all else that matters most for fat loss: total calories consumed.
It doesn’t matter how many carbs you eat, if you’re consuming enough veggies, if your meat isn’t grass fed… if you’re consuming too many calories, you’ll gain weight. This is an undeniably, set in stone, can’t change or argue against FACT.
It’s very common for lots of folks to think they’re eating 1800 calories (or however many they need), when they’re really consuming 2200. They ‘forget’ to count that fun size Milky Way they ate at lunch, used three tablespoons of dressing instead one on their salad, or simply have no idea how many actual calories are in the foods they’re eating. Food and calories are so overly abundant (and hyperpalatable… aka super delicious) today that, quite frankly, it’s hard not to overeat for many people.
Here are some guidelines to follow when it comes to total calorie intake.
Lose weight: 10-12 calories per pound for your ideal bodyweight, NOT your current weight.
Maintain weight: 11-13 calories per bodyweight
Gain weight: 14-16 calories per pound for bodyweight
Remember, these are GUIDELINES so take these with a grain of salt as everyone is different. Your body might not tolerate what someone else’s can. Genetics, lifestyle, age, and activity level will all dictate what you can handle.
Once you’ve done some simple math, now you’ll have a better idea of what you need. From here, do some tracking and find out if you really are consuming what you think you are. You’d be shocked at how easy it is to overeat and how mindless snacking can really add up.