Mindful Living – One Day Challenge

challenge

Since our mindful living plan is about simplicity, I wanted to introduce a simple one day challenge. This exercise should take you no more than 15 to 20 minutes over the course of a day, and you’ll be amazed at what you find out. Here are the rules:
1) Know your daily calorie needs. If you don’t already know them, you can calculate them here. Reminder, this should represent a 500 calorie deficit, so if you only know your maintenance level, subtract 500. If you follow the link it will default to a deficit (Lose will be highlighted on the second page)

2) Divide your total calories as follows:
a. 20% breakfast
b. 30% lunch
c. 30% dinner
d. 20% snacks (snacks can be divided into 2 or 3 snacks, but they must total 20%)

3) You don’t have to change what you eat, just make sure you portion control to fit the calorie allotment

4) By reading your nutrition labels or using a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal or Loseit! Take note of your sugars, sodium, carbs, and saturated/Trans fats. You don’t have to do anything other than take notice. And be aware that for a healthy diet:
a. Added sugars should be under 37 grams (do not count natural sugars, like those found in fruit)
b. Saturated fat. Should be less than 10 grams
c. Trans fat. Should be avoided
d. Sodium should be less than 3,000 (if not 2,500)
e. Carbs should be under 150

5) Also be aware of how many of your carbs are from refined grains, like white flour based products (bread, cereal, pasta, rice). Since they should be avoided, it’s good to know how big of a role they play in your diet.

6) Be aware of how many empty calories (junk food)
What’s the point? Well, doing this work will make you more aware of what you’re eating. When you see how many calories are in poor quality foods, along with the detriments they have to your sugar, sodium, and fat allowances, you’ll likely swap them for better foods on principle. This will encourage you to eat better quality food and help you lose weight and feel better.

Want the advanced challenge, include this workout:

AMRAP (As many rounds as possible) Workout – Time Limit: 30 minutes (Pressed for time? Do it for 20 minutes)

Dumbbell Chest Press (use exercise ball as bench) – 12
Reverse crunches – 20
Burpees – 10
Chest – Dumbbell Flye- 12
Scissor Kicks – 20
Jumping Jacks – 40
Bronze – 4 rounds

Silver – 5 rounds

Gold – 6 rounds

For the dumbbell exercise, be slow and controlled, at least 2 seconds on the concentric movement, 2-4 seconds on the eccentric movement.

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5 Weight Loss Strategies That Don’t Work

diets

Let me know if this sounds familiar:  You come across a recent picture of yourself and think “oh my god, am I really that heavy?” and immediately panic and resolve to lose a few pounds.  I think by the time we’re past our 20’s we all go through this, and while some of us may even eek out a few pounds in the loss column, only a handful of us actually keep the weight off in the long run.

The reason this is so common, is that most of us choose to create our own weight-loss plan, which really isn’t a plan at all, but rather a culmination of strategies that we think work best for us, with only hearsay or pure mythology as a basis.

If you’re one to not consult professional advice, here are 5 common strategies that not only mislead you, but can actually be detrimental.

  • Severe Calorie Restriction. I once over-heard a co-worker relay a new ‘diet’ that he created to a colleague.  The diet was based on the fact that his cousin, who had just been in a horrific car-crash and could only consume liquids, had lost “a whole bunch of weight”.  This new diet, proudly named “the once a day chew diet” was simply to only eat real food 1x a day (the chew), while only consuming beverages the rest of the day.  Mind you, these beverages were not specifically considered to provide nutrients and the requisite calories necessary to sustain bodily functions, but arbitrary drinks that he’d enjoy enough to mask the obvious lack of food.  Also, the 1 real meal was based on food preferences, not nutritional value.  That day he had only consumed a bialy.  As far as choices go, that was pretty poor.  This ends up just being a diet based on severe calorie restriction which creates havoc within the body.  It slows metabolism, it causes the body to break down lean muscle mass for calories, and, of course, robs the body of the nutrients it needs.  All of which is the exact opposite of what you want when trying to lose weight.  The correction to over-eating poor quality food isn’t eating less.  It’s eating better.
  • Low-Fat Diets. A few decades ago, low-fat diets were in fashion.  There are two reasons why I believe fat has a bad name, similar to today’s carbohydrate.  First, fat has more calories per gram than either protein or carbs (compare 9 to 4 of both the latter), which means fatty foods naturally carry more calories.  Secondly, there are bad quality fats that are detrimental to health, just like there are poor quality carbs with negative health benefits (including weight-gain).  For both of these reasons, fats get lumped into one category and labeled ‘bad’.  However, good quality fat is necessary for optimal health, and can provide satiety and curtail cravings.  Lastly, low-fat foods as marketed on our grocery shelves are often overly processed foods with added sugar to make them more palatable (this is not true for whole foods naturally low in fat).  A healthful diet contains 20-30% of calories from good quality, health promoting fats (monounsaturated oils, seeds, nuts, avocados, to name a few)
  • Not Eating after 6. While there are benefits to having fewer carbs after 6 (or even earlier), especially the refined variety, there isn’t proof that any such strategy in and of itself will promote weight loss.  This is especially true if your whole diet is predicated on this one rule alone.  You can’t undo an unhealthy diet, I don’t care what time you stop eating.
  • Only Exercising. More often than not, this actually works against us.  It becomes an excuse to eat more, and/or eat poor quality food as a reward.  It also causes us to grossly over estimate calories burned.  True weight management pairs the two together to create a calorie deficit and, if you’re smart and learned it’s necessary to strength train, promote muscle hypertrophy. Lean muscle mass burns more calories at rest. Of these two levers, diet is weighted more heavily.  Most put the ratio split at 80/20 in favor of diet.  Lastly, for emphasis on this last point, even a relatively good workout will only burn 300 calories or less.  Strategic changes in diet can easily remove more than that with little effort.
  • Food Group/Macronutrient elimination – Fad diets often remove entire food groups like dairy, or entire macronutrients like Fat (as noted in number 2 above) or Carbohydrate. These groups or macros aren’t the problem, it’s their existence in overly processed and refined foods that give them a bad name.  And, to completely contradict this trend, having a wide variety foods is the best way to reach optimal health as it will supply your body with the wide array of vitamins and minerals it needs.  To make the argument even better, it means more variety for you to eat, removing those nasty feelings of deprivation.  Forget removing dairy, or removing carbs for the sake of removing them. Instead remove the poor quality foods (processed prepackaged foods and junk foods) that are causing poor health and weight gain.  It’s time to start putting blame where it really belongs.

 
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Man To Survive On Potatoes For A Year!

potato

This real life Mark Watney is trying to survive for a year on nothing but potatoes, says an article by Jennie Jackson from “Quartz”. Read the full article here.

From Jackson:

“In an attempt to lose weight and improve his relationship with food, Andrew Taylor has decided to eat nothing but potatoes for a year. But is this approach likely to work, or will he run out of nutrients? And could he have chosen a better single food On which to live?”

The skinny: The article walks through the how and why and discusses the pros and cons of selecting the potato as the single food of choice.

What’s good: While the potato does offer a wide array of nutrients, the article eventually came to the same conclusion I had when I started reading; that your diet should consist of a wide variety of foods because of vast number of nutrients it needs to serve all of its functions. Obviously, then, no single food would cover everything, and only eating a variety of foods from all of the groups will help you achieve optimal health.

Conclusion: The idea behind the rather bizarre plan is novel. Removing processed foods, especially those riddled with saturated fat, sugar, and sodium can do wonders for improving health and removing unhealthy cravings, but rather than stick to one single food, load up on vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and lean proteins.

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How Your Brain Is Controlling Your Eating Habits

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Imagine for a minute that food had no taste. No matter what you ate, it didn’t’ register on your taste buds, feed your brain signals, or make you react in any way, positively or negatively. How did reading that make you feel? Did it sound terrible knowing you wouldn’t ever be able to feel the elation of eating chocolate, or taste the decadence of your favorite cake? Or did you think how cool it would be to not have to wrestle with food addictions?
The latter is an interesting response, because it means you recognize that it would make it much easier to eat a more healthful diet. It inherently removes bad habits, cravings, and obsessions. I have little doubt that if you removed taste from the equation, most of you would be able to pull together a relatively healthy diet.
Consider then, that the issue with obesity we face in this country is not lack of knowledge, but lack of implementation (okay, there are more factors including an abundance of inexpensive poor quality foods and emotional eating to name two). And the biggest reason is our association with food. This is not will-power, as you will often blame for your weak moments, this is cultural, habitual, and yes, good old fashioned brain mechanics (you may have read that some studies show that sugar can be addictive as drugs).
It dawned on me while breaking some unhealthy habits developed over the holidays that it’s really just the brain at work. The reward system that tells us to go eat this food and I’ll deliver this response (usually in the form of dopamine, which makes us happy). I noticed that when the cue for my particular habit triggered my brain to send me signals, it was all just smoke and mirrors. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t stressed, I wasn’t even bored. My brain was now simply wired to tell me to eat based on this particular cue (in my case, it was based on the day of the week, which I had previously designated as a cheat day to get through the holidays without overwhelming feelings of deprivation). So while I ate very clean most days, when my former cheat day came, my brain knew it, and it went crazy trying to get me to eat the foods I had fed it from November to January. When I really thought about, the only real answer I could give myself is “what’s the point”. The only reason I had previously given into this habit after January 1st when it was supposed to stop, was to simply shut my brain up. Much like a nicotine addict will use for the sole reason of staving off the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. It has a calming effect to make the brain stop signaling you. Of course, the more you give into this signal, the stronger this becomes.
So how do we break this cycle? Simple, much like nicotine, the key isn’t “to use” to remove the withdrawal, or, even to cut down (which only means you’re dealing with withdrawal for a longer period of time, again, making the habit stronger). The only way to fix it is to stop completely.
And here’s the funny thing – sure, it will be tough the first few times because your brain will be screaming for you, but much like a child, once it learns that the little tantrum won’t make you give in, it just stops. Once this happens, and the habit is broken, you’ll begin to wonder how you get locked into it in the first place. It just completely loses its hold over you.
As a next step, be mindful of the cues that trigger a behavior that you’d like to change. First, ask yourself what the point is. What did I really get of repeating this behavior other than quieting my brain? More importantly, how did you feel after? Often there are negative feelings associated with giving into a habit you know is deconstructive. Pay attention over the next few days and try to be aware of this happening in your own routine.
Having trouble losing weight? We can help! Check out our online coaching page. For what you’d pay for a single session with a trainer we’ll create a tailored program and help you course correct as needed.

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5 Weight Loss Hacks For Non-Dieters

weight

Let’s face it, committing to a new diet and exercise program is not only daunting, it can downright unappealing.  This is especially true for those that have followed a poorly designed program with weak principles that ultimately led to inevitable failure.  Those old feelings of deprivation and weak will power are all too familiar to fade so easily.  However, even those who don’t currently have the courage to get back on the proverbial horse (PS, if that’s how it truly feels then that program is wrong for you) still care about their weight and overall health.   There is hope, though!  Making these few strategic changes can pay big dividends.

Do your workouts first thing in the morning:  While there is a raging debate about what time of day is optimal for exercise, nobody will dispute that exercising at the wrong time is pointless.  The reason this makes sense is simple:  You can find 101 excuses to NOT workout when you get home from school or work.  Doing it first thing in the morning gets it over with AND can positively impact your mood and energy levels.  Once you train yourself to be an early bird you’ll see a huge difference in how you feel and you’ll be less likely to skip it. If finding time in the morning an issue, remember that HIIT training (Tabata, AMRAP, EMOM) workouts can give you a GREAT workout in only 20 minutes.  Excuse – GONE

Eat Breakfast: How often are you advised to eat MORE?  Research has shown that eating breakfast (include complex carb, protein, and healthy fat) will not only jump-start your metabolism, but can help curb binge snacking later in the day.

Learn to Exercise Portion Control: Let’s be honest, mindless eating (what would be the opposite of portion control) leads to overeating.  Rather than put entire dishes on the table and continually serve yourself and your family, make a plate ahead of time and resign yourself to only eating 1.  The fact is, and you’ll learn quickly if you try, we can eat far less than we think, we just eat so fast that our brains never get the message in time.

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Plan your snacks:  Same principle, avoid mindless eating.  Rather than hunting for a snack at 3pm and ending up with whatever sugary and processed package you find, pre-plan your snacks.  It’s great to eat at 3pm, but you’ll get the same joy of eating something healthy as you would with a bag of chips once you create a positive habit. You’ll feel much better too (no sugar crash)

Invest in a wearable:  This may not resonate if you haven’t tried it before, but having something attached to your body that holds you accountable to a goal can have a bigger impact than you may think. Most trackers can alert you to stand if you sit too long, track your steps and help manage your goals.  You’ll have no problem taking a longer route to the bathroom or parking farther from the door if you know your tracker is watching.

Having trouble losing weight?  We can help! Check out our online coaching page.  For what you’d pay for a single session with a trainer we’ll create a tailored program and help you course correct as needed.

Don’t want to make major changes? Check out our Mindful Living Program.  The easiest weight-loss program you’ll ever need.

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Victoria Secret Models Diet And Exercise Just Like We Do. Oh, OK!

va

A few comments on a recent article that was written by Jordi Lippe from Hollywood Take, you can read it here.  I’m not sure what I expected to read, but I figured  the main idea would be simply that they don’t do anything outside what I consider sensible weight management.  Clean diet, a strong exercise program, and clear and measureable goals.  Afterall, we only make this more complicated than it is because we’re bombarded with Marketing pitches and misinformation with the intention of selling empty promises.  By the time I finished this relatively short article, however, I was a little confused on the point.  Here’s why:

Victoria’s Secret models Elsa Hosk and Jasmine Tookes have the kinds of bodies that send countless women running to the gym. But the VS hotties aren´t exactly limiting their diets to carrots and celery!

Hollywood Take caught up with the two beauties at a Valentine´s Day Gift Picks event at Victoria’s Secret Herald Square, and they told us they love to indulge in high-calorie meals like the rest of us do.

“I don’t avoid carbs,” Jasmine Tookes, 25, told HT. “Give me carbs! I love pizza.” 

Fellow Angel Elsa Hosk, 27, couldn’t agree more. “I don’t avoid carbs,” she told us. “I have a crazy indulgence that I do a little bit too often. I get a grilled cheese sandwich at Chelsea Market at a place called Lucy’s Whey almost every day. It’s so good! But if I have an important shoot, I’ll cut down on my grilled cheese sandwiches.”

Okay, so they know how to work in cheat meals (so do I) while keeping a really strong and principled program.  Hoorah!  But wait, after reading this, did you get the wrong message? Did this justify indulgences?  I came out of this thinking wow, they only workout three days a week and eat pizza and grilled cheese.

That’s obviously not what’s going on.  While they do have the benefit of being young, you really need to keep on point to keep body fat percentages that low.  So while the message is great that you don’t have to give up everything to keep thin, I would be careful in over estimating how clean people in this shape have to be.  If you are anything like me, this article made you want to hit the local pizzeria for a fresh slice!

Having trouble losing weight?  We can help! Check out our online coaching page.  For what you’d pay for a single session with a trainer we’ll create a tailored program and help you course correct as needed.

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Should You Give Up Dairy To Lose Weight?

dairy

This was the title of a recent article by Julie Stewart from fitness magazine.  She writes “Here’s a surprising statistic: One in 10 millennials are vegan, according to a report in Nutrition Business Journal. Call it a lifestyle or call it an elimination diet—either way, it’s picking up steam due in part to like backers like Beyoncé. (Who doesn’t want to be a little more like Queen Bey?!) And even Khloé Kardashian recently claimed that she lost 11 pounds just by cutting cheese and milk from her diet.”

Having backers like Beyonce, Khloe, and social media tends to send things viral:

“Social media has also spread the word about blogs and other media touting veganism. Many restaurants have added vegan options, and stores are stocking more plant-based substitutes for meat, dairy, and egg products, eliminating some of the roadblocks that used to make vegan diets hard to stick to, she says.

Ditching dairy for environmental or animal welfare reasons is totally a personal choice, but going vegan as a way to lose weight is a little more complicated. Just because it worked for Khloé doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll have the same effect on you.”

Aside from the obvious rebuttal that dairy does have its benefits by being good sources of Vitamin D (something too many of us are showing deficiency) and calcium, if your diet is already a mess, simply removing dairy isn’t going to do much good.  This is true for any one type of food you may read to eliminate (or add, as is the case with the recent study showing protein consumption will aide in fat-loss).  PS, this is certainly not a knock against veganism, this is more of a warning to those with a traditional diet to be careful about removing categories of food without understand the role it plays in your diet and, more importantly, to be more aware of what else you’re eating.

The best approach for weight-loss is to be sensible.  Eat a wide variety of food to ensure you’re getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals.  Cut back on processed foods and added sugars, get your exercise, and watch your calories.

This is what it’s meant to live mindfully, and you can check out our full Mindful Living program here.

Also check out our 30 day fat shred program and our online coaching page.

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3 Easy Ways To Cut Calories

calories

If you’re a believer in the pure mathematical approach to weight-loss: “burn more calories than you consume”, then your daily calorie count is of utmost importance.  By now, it’s common knowledge that to lose 1lb per week, you need to create a daily deficit of 500 calories.  Too many people think exercise alone will help, but even a good 30 minutes will only yield you about 300 calories.  If that’s not enough, add the fact that we tend to eat more after exercise, both due to physiological reasons and our own belief in ‘rewards’.   As such, the best way to help offset calorie surplus is to leverage proper diet.  Since many of us are averse to adopting major changes to our daily habits, here are three quick ways to help create the necessary deficit:

  1. Do not drink your calories – If you’re not a food label lover or being mindful of what you eat and drink, you might be surprised how many calories are in your beverages. If you’re drinking sugary drinks with your meals (fruit juice, soda), energy drinks after workouts, or high calorie dessert beverages (think large coffee bar drinks or smoothies) you’re almost assuredly drinking more than 500 calories a day.  Eliminating these and sticking to regular coffee, tea, water and seltzer (diet soda is bad, stop soda altogether) will not only help cut calories but will help improve your overall health and sense of well-being.
  2. Switch to non-fat dairy – 1 gram of fat carries 9 calories (compare that to 4 calories per gram for both protein and carbs), so if your diet is rich in milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. using low fat or fat free versions can save you a bunch. choose-myplate-selected-consumer-messages-51-728
  3. PrePlan your Snacks and exercise portion control – Although some of us do fine with simply eating 2 to 3 meals a day, most of us snack up to 3 times per day. If handled properly, this is a great way to keep blood sugar and energy levels stable.  The problem is that too few of us actually plan snacks and simply wing it by pulling something off the checkout counter or vending machine.  These types of items are typically empty calories, and offer way too many for their serving size.  Preplanning your snacks and making healthy choices will fulfill your need to eat, as well as provide nutrients that will help you feel full. Making better choices can easily shave 100 calorie off of each snack time.

These tricks are part of what it means to live mindfully, and you can check out our full Mindful Living program here.

Also check out our 30 day fat shred program and our online coaching page.

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3 Little Things You Can Do To Immediately Benefit Your Health

change

If the idea of becoming healthier has been nagging you, but you just can’t bring yourself to adopt a full program, here are three little ways to make effective changes immediately:

  1. Learn to read food labels – A lot of information can be gained by glancing at food labels, in the matter of 5 seconds you can become more mindful of what you’re eating
    1. Calorie Count – Be aware of serving size, too often it doesn’t fall inline with how much of the food you’ll actually eat in a sitting
    2. Carb and Protein grams – Just by having daily targets for Protein and Carbs can make an impact on your food choices. I generally keep carbs at about 40-50% of total calories
    3. Ingredients – 2 big things to notice are the number of ingredients (be especially mindful of the ones you can’t pronounce) and the first few ingredients. If sugar or white flour are high on the list it’s likely a poor quality food
    4. Sugar count – I keep ‘added’ sugar to 37 grams per day or less. Fruit is not counted toward this total
    5. Fat content – aside from fat having more than double the calories per gram than either protein or carbohydrate, you want to limit saturated fat and remove trans-fats
  2. Slow Down! – Even if you choose to indulge in your favorite comfort food, be more mindful of how fast you’re eating and slow down!  Not only will you enjoy it more, but the longer it takes you to eat the more likely it will be that your brain will get the signal from your stomach that you’re full.  You’ll naturally eat less
  3. Exercise, but start small – This one is obvious, but a huge objection for must of us.  The good news is that you don’t have to go crazy to reap the benefits.  Start off really small until it becomes a habit.  20 minute workouts just 3 times a week is enough to get started.  YouTube has an insane number of free workouts that will  keep boredom at bay, and working along with a video will push you further than working out on your own.  Look for Tabata, AMRAP, and EMOM workouts which get the most out of the short duration workouts.  Once you start seeing benefits you’ll likely want to ratchet up the duration and frequency.  They key is to start small until it takes root so that you burn out.

These easy steps can make you more mindful of your weight management habits and can help promote change. Being Mindful is a great way to make decisions automatic without deprivation.  So much so that we wrote a program called Mindful Living, check it out.

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Building Your Own Meal Plan: The Right Macro-nutrient Ratio For Fat-loss

ratio

If you haven’t heard of macro-nutrient ratios, or even macro-nutrients, this may sound like a super advanced principle, but you’ll quickly realize it’s not only simple, but understanding it can help you build your own meal plan more effectively.

Macro-nutrients, as most commonly used in nutrition-speak, refer to the components of our diets that we need in large quantities.  Specifically Carbohydrate, Protein, and fat. Macro-nutrient ratios, then, are the percentages of each that we consume in a given time frame, usually per day.

Just as it’s true that no person reacts the same to a predefined diet, I will caution that not every person will respond according to generally accepted macro-nutrient rules, but, as much as we can provide a ‘one-size-fits-all’ the following should work for most of us.

The most common goal for folks new to Meal Planning is fat-loss, which is why it landed in the title of this post.  And, you won’t be surprised to learn that of the 3 common ratios, this is the one with the lowest carbohydrate percentage, and the highest protein intake. The ratio is:

Carbohydrate: 10-30% (I’d be careful about going under 15-20% myself, but these are generally accepted amounts)

Protein: 40-50%

Fat: 30-40% (Please understand that the bulk of these fats should be of the healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats and omega 3’s.  Saturated fat should be kept under 15 grams per day, and trans-fats should be avoided altogether)

So, what does this mean for your meal plan, how can you tell what the ratios are based on what you eat?

Well, it requires math, but it’s very simple.  You start by knowing how many grams of each macro nutrient you’ve eaten in a day. Then, multiple the grams of Protein and Carbohydrate by 4, and Fat by 9.  This will give you the total calories for the day.  Then simply divide the calories of each macro-nutrient by the total.

So, for example, if you had 1,800 total calories yesterday from 90 grams of Carbs, 225 grams of Protein,

and 60 grams of fat, your total calories per macro would be:

Carbs 90 x 4 = 360

Protein 225 X 4 = 900

Fat 60 x 9 = 540

And your ratios would be:

Carbs = 20% (360/1,800)

Protein = 50% (900/1,800)

Fat = 30% (540/1,800)

This would be a very typical ratio for Fat-loss.  If this is your goal, design your meals to mirror these same ratios, but start first with your total calorie target and work backwards.  And remember, you calorie target should be set 500 calories below your maintenance needs as to create a calorie deficit.

Creating these types of meal plans is something we can help you with, both with our online coaching and our 30 day reset, which focus on the fat-loss ratio.

To recap, here are the suggested ratios by the three primary goals (C/P/F):

Fat-loss: 10-30%/40-50%/30-40%

Maintenance: 30-50%/25-35%/25-35%

Bodybuilding/muscle gain: 40-60%/25-35%/15-25%

Want to make this super easy? Download an app like Lose it! and it will do the work for you. You can see your ratios at a glance each day and adjust as appropriate.

 
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