This is the follow up from my latest blog post – How To Calculate Your Target Calories!
For those who read the last blog post, well done! You have now taken the first step by calculation your maintenance calories, and your target calories to reach your goals.
Now that you have these numbers, you may be wondering how do you actually achieve these numbers. If you’re trying to drop body fat in an effort to tone up you, you will need to reduce your daily calorie consumption, but that is easier said than done. So here are my tops tips to make reaching your target calories so you can reach your goals.
Trying to hit a set number of calories can be more difficult than expected. Just because the Instagram fit people yell at you through their stories telling you to just F**KING eat in a calorie deficit doesn’t mean you’re instantaneously going to understand how to actually make this happen. Below are the three main methods I recommend to my clients. Some people love counting calories while others hate it which is why I have outlined three strategies below. Everyone is now covered, no matter what your stance on calorie counting.
This first strategy is for those that love to track. You love the data, you want to know exactly what’s going in. Of all the strategies to successfully reach a calorie deficit, this is more than likely going to be the most successful. With this method, all the guesswork is taken out. You know exactly what you should be aiming for to reach your goals and you know exactly what you’re putting it to get there.
MyFitnessPal is one of the easiest and most popular apps out there to use for calorie counting. For those who haven’t used it before, it is simply an app you download to your phone that allowed you to enter food and drink you have consumed, or are planning to consume so you can easily keep track of your calories. If it’s a packaged food you simply scan barcodes. If you’ve made it yourself you can save the meals and recipes. If the item you’re looking for isn’t already in the massive database, you can quickly add it in so you can find it again next time.
As always, there is a trade-off. Of the three methods I mention in this article, tracking your calories each day via the MyFitnessPal app will require a larger time commitment than the following two strategies. This is where we start to distinguish each individual preferences for time and convenience. As humans, we make trade-offs every single day. In our minds, we run a simple cost-benefit analysis. Selecting the correct strategy for your preference is no difference. For some, the benefit of almost guaranteed results by analysing your daily calorie consumption will easily outweigh the cost of a few hours each week entering data into your app. For others, their preference may be flipped, they may value the timeliness and convenience higher than the person in my previous example.
There is no one strategy is best for everyone approach. Yes, Strategy one may yield the greatest results, but only if you stick to it. What if you find it too hard and fall of the band-wagon after 3 weeks? You may have been better off going for one of the other strategies. A bit of a tortoise vs hare situation. Assess your circumstances, evaluate the costs & benefits to you and stick to whatever you choose.
Assuming you used the TDEE calculator that was in the previous blog post. You now have a rough idea about how many calories you should be aiming for each day to be in a calorie deficit.
This second strategy requires you to use the MyFitnessPal app, but far less often than the strategy above. The first step is to track a standard day of your eating and drinking habits using the app. If you are a Monday-Friday worker pick a work day that closely represents what you would consume on an average day. Each time you eat or drink something other than water you enter it in. We are attempting to get an idea of how many calories you consume on an average day to assess whether you consuming more than your maintenance calories, and by how much.
Now we know what an average day looks like for you we determined how many calories we need to cut out in order to get you into a calorie deficit each day. We will make a few small adjustments to your day-to-day eating habits by either take some items out or switching them for lower calorie options.
Once we have made the adjustments to your average daily consumption routine, we will try to replicate this as many days throughout the week as possible. This is your NEW average day. From the calculations we did when making the adjustments to your average day, we know this new daily plan we see you consume a calorie deficit each day, as long as we strictly stick to it.
This strategy works well for those who are able to eat the same things on a daily basis very consistently. The benefit of this strategy is you only need to track your calories on the app a few times. Once to calculate what you’re currently consuming, and once with our adjustments to ensure we are reaching our target calories. From here you only need to repeat the same eating patterns each day. You will only need to use the tracking app when you would like to make changes to your daily consumption patterns.
The time restricted consumption window. This is probably the easiest strategy as it can be done without any calorie tracking. It does however leave the biggest margin for error. If you would like to reduce this margin for error you can incorporate the technique from strategy 2 and merge it with the time restricted consumption window. You would decide on a time window that you believe will allow you to reach a calorie deficit then track your average daily consumption within this window. If you are still consuming more than your maintenance calories you may wish to shorten your window and re-track your calories until you find the window that allows you to consume a calorie deficit on an average day.
The idea of time restricted consumption window is very simple. We are attempting to block out a set number of hours that you are strictly not to consume anything other than water. This strategy is perfect for those who hate counting calories and are in the habit of constantly nibbling, even when they’re not hungry.
An example of this strategy would be a consumption window from 9am – 5pm each day. This gives you 8 hours to consume foods and drinks as you please, but outside of these hours, from 5pm to 9am you are not to consume anything other than water. Most people don’t realise how many extra calories they consume just through snacking after dinner or eating from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep. By restricting this window we are capping the number of calories that you can consume without having to count calories.
9am-5pm was just an example, not by any means my recommendation or prescribed hours, the key take away from the example is the concept. The consumption window can be 8 hours of calorie consumption, or 9.5 or 11.25, it really doesn’t matter, just find the window that helps you reduce calories so you are in a deficit each day. This will take some trial and error but sooner or later you will find you struggle to eat in a calorie surplus within your restricted time period, and that time period depends on your personal eating habits.
The consumption window does not have to be in the middle of the day as my example was, it could be from 3am – 12pm if you really wanted it to be, the same principles apply. Make the window suit your circumstances and work commitments.
This 3rd strategy certainly has its limits and won’t always work. It is still possible to eat a surplus of calories each day within your window, even as you reduce it day by day. This can be from eating large amounts of calorie dense foods, usually, foods high in fats like fast foods. As fats contain over double the number of calories per gram when compared to carbs and protein (9 calories, 4 calories & 4 calories respectively).
The key to success when using this strategy is eating as clean as possible. Try to eliminate calorie dense deep-fried foods, limit alcohol and use your common knowledge of whats “healthy” and whats not.
These are by no means the only options to achieve fat loss and reach your calorie targets. There are many ways to go about it. Other common dieting strategies include;
– keto diets, vegan diets (assuming the only reason for going vegan is calorie consumption factors only, not other personal reasons), no or low carb diets, juice diets and many more.
What the 3 strategies I mentioned above and the examples I just mentioned all have in common are that they all aim to get you into a calorie deficit. They will all work when done right consistently. They all work because of that one determining factor, you are in a calorie deficit. Achieving a calories deficit in the healthiest manner possible should be your number one priority, not cutting out a whole food group, villainising carbs or fats, or starving yourself for days on end.
Decide which methods suits you best, and give it a red hot crack. To have long term success and reach your goals, your program and diet must work with your life and commitments. If it is too hard or an absolute burden on your life the chances are it won’t last very long and you will soon fall back into old habits.
Here is a list of the MOST COMMON DIETING MISTAKES I see from current and past clients.
Hope this info helps you reach your goals.