Recognise how food makes you feel
If a food makes you feel bad, there’s something in it that your body doesn’t agree with. For example, not having the correct enzymes to process grains or dairy. Your liver might not be functioning optimally, leading to an inability to metabolise fat efficiently. You could be carb intolerant because of insulin resistance. If food makes you feel sick, tired or hurt, avoid it and follow up with a healthcare professional.
Eat more protein
Protein offers benefits that will help you maximise your physique changes as you go through a fat-loss phase. It also plays a major role in muscle growth and repair. As long as you consume enough protein, you can optimise muscle maintenance even when restricting calories.
Protein will effectively reduce your appetite, since it takes longer to digest. It also triggers the release of several satiety hormones to further suppress your hunger. The more you eat, the more hormones get released and the less hungry you will feel.
It is widely debated how much protein your body needs, but it’s safe to say that the figure is between 1 - 1.6 grams per pound of body weight. To be safe, aim for the upper end of the scale, and don’t leave room for potential missed gains.
It’s also important to distribute your protein intake evenly throughout the day to maximise muscle growth and maintenance. This is because you need a minimum threshold of leucine, an amino acid found in protein per meal, to get the recommended dose of 2-3 grams of leucine per meal.
Make sure your protein comes from high-quality, complete proteins, including dairy, beef, poultry, pork, and soy. These complete proteins are rich in leucine and contain all nine amino acids essential for maximising muscle growth and repair.
Every meal you eat should contain proteins, fibrous vegetables and fat
Across the board, all meals shouldn’t be too different from one to the other. For breakfast, lunch and dinner, try to ensure that the composition of macros across all meals is basically in the same range throughout.
A common myth is that a high carb option like cereal or a bagel for breakfast is a good idea. This norm is part of the reason we have a high obesity rate and high chronic disease rates. Instead, plan every meal around proteins, fibrous vegetables and fat. Fat provides bioavailable vitamins and improves satiety. Veggies provide fibre and phytonutrients, while protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks for tissue and bone repair. Eating this way will also help you avoid hunger by improving gut hormone levels involved in keeping blood sugar levels steady.
A balanced diet is one that provides all the macronutrients and the greatest nourishment for the least amount of calories, while minimising hunger.
Take care of your gut
Your GI tract is the control centre of the entire body. The bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts affect brain function, thinking patterns, and how many calories our bodies absorb. Functioning correctly, your gut can keep you looking lean, staying healthy and help you avoid getting sick. In fact, one of the leading areas in helping fight obesity and curing chronic disease is by improving bacteria in the gut. Incorporate probiotics and eat fermented foods to assist in this.
Reduce fat first
The amount of protein you consume will be the same throughout a fat-loss phase. Your challenge now is to adjust your other macronutrients to create a calorie deficit. When it’s time to cut calories, cut fat first.
You don’t want to start by reducing carbohydrates because they are the primary fuel source for your brain and muscles. During exercise, your body relies on both carbohydrates and fat as fuel. The higher the volume and intensity of your workout, the more your body relies on carbohydrates.
If you need to create a calorie deficit, it will require many more grams of carbs as opposed to fat to create the same deficit. For example, two tablespoons of olive oil are equivalent to two cups of cooked rice. Cutting the carbs would likely have a much bigger impact on your satiety.
This step is important because if you are constantly hungry when dieting, the chances of sticking to it are slim, which means those abs won’t be popping up anytime soon.
Avoid processed foods
Unfortunately, no matter how many nourishing or healthful marketing slogans are used, processed foods contain chemical preservatives, artificial sweeteners, food dyes, man made fats and sweeteners that the human body is not designed to metabolise in large quantities.
Prioritise carbohydrates around your workout
Consuming carbs before your workout delivers a quickly digested fuel supply that spares muscle glycogen, enhances focus, and reduces the extent of muscle breakdown.
Your post-workout meal, which you should try to eat within an hour of finishing your workout, should be full of carbohydrates to replenish your muscle glycogen stores and properly prepare your body for its next workout. Eating carbs post-workout also minimises the rate of muscle breakdown and enhances the recovery process.
To maximise energy before and during your workout, and to fuel recovery afterward, distribute your carbohydrate mostly before and after your workouts. This will allow you to continue training hard and progressing well, while doing everything necessary to maximise muscle maintenance as you diet.
Get a proper night’s sleep
A lack of sleep has a profoundly negative effect on eating behaviour, leading us to eat high-fat, high-sugar foods. Lack of sleep also leads us to eat significantly above our average norms and reduces our overall average caloric expenditure by moving less. Those who sleep less are shown to have a higher risk of obesity. It can also cause poor blood sugar levels and reduced insulin sensitivity, leading your body to favour fat storage.
To counter this, you need to make ideal food choices and try to stay active. When you’re sleep deprived, you’ll have to make the extra effort to get a lot of protein, water, and fibrous vegetables. Track your food intake, and put in the extra effort to find means to manage your sleep and stress accordingly.
Have a set meal frequency
Recent studies show that time restricted eating in which you only eat within a 10-12 eating window is better for body composition and health than eating all hours of the day and night, which many people often do. This also improves our circadian rhythms and enhances our sensitivity to the satiety hormone, leptin.
Frequent meals every 4 hours with a couple of healthy snacks during the eating window appear to yield the greatest satiety and the least hunger for the majority of people.
Have an eating ritual: chewing, thinking and being aware of what you’re eating
Mindful eating may seem new age, but the truth and reality is that it pays off. Studies have shown that people who take the time to be actively aware of the process of enjoying their food have more satisfaction from their meals and eat less.
Along with the body taking a significant time to tell you that you’ve had enough to eat after swallowing your food, mindfulness practices have been shown to improve the release of gut hormones that reduce hunger. Another practice that has been shown to have a similar effect is to chew each bite thoroughly instead of swallowing your food in huge chunks. Proper chewing also has the added benefit of improving digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
Drink more fluids
Getting hungry when you diet (which will definitely happen) will have you cheating one way or another. A big secret to keep your appetite in check without knocking yourself out of a calorie deficit is to drink more fluids before, during, after and in-between meals.
When you drink lots of fluids at once, your stomach expands, which triggers the “stretch receptors” located in your stomach lining to send satiety signals to your brain. By staying hydrated throughout the day, and drinking a cup of water any time hunger hits, you’re more able to skip that high-calorie snack you might have been fantasising about and stick to your plan.