Avoid the fad diets and find what works for you.
We are well into the new year - 2019. At this point many who set out on a resolution to be healthier have fallen off whatever diet wagon they jumped onto. But it doesn't have to be like this. Approaches should be as individual as you are. Ask yourself, what works for me? And then begin your journey with a few simple steps.
Let's use an example. Our example is a female:
25 years old
works out 1-2 times per week
has a sedentary job
wants to lose 15 pounds.
If I were working with this individual, this is what I would do.
First, establish a caloric budget. It's important to know how much energy you need as you go through your day/week. More energy consumed than expended results in fat storage; less energy consumed than expended results in fat loss., and this varies by individual. So find your average number of calories on a daily basis using tools like MyFitnessPal, or TDEE calculators. Once you have a number, weigh yourself and then stick with that number of daily calories for a week. Weigh again after one week (same time and under the same conditions). Depending on the goal (lose, maintain, gain), you'll be able to make adjustments. Our 150 pound female, for example, needs 2065 calories per day according to a TDEE calculator. We would start here and then test this number by weighing weekly.
Second, establish a protein goal. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. I find this to be a bit low. And I like to look at protein in terms of a percentage of your overall diet, as well as a number in grams. So, if our example is eating a 2000 calorie diet, I recommend at least 20 percent of the calories come from protein. That would be 100 grams of protein per day. That could certainly be higher if our example so desired, especially if the individual is very active and engages in regular resistance training. I personally get 30% of my calories daily from protein and I am a very active person. My protein works out to about 1 gram per pound of body weight. A good rule of thumb would be to consume .8-1 gram of protein per pound of desired body weight and you're sure to be getting enough protein.
Meat and dairy are great sources of protein. Protein will also be added to your diet through vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts. It's the total at the end of the day we're after. And as a side note, if gaining muscle is your goal, it's important to take in a serving of protein, based on your needs, about every 3-5 hours. But maximizing hypertrophy is an entirely different topic.
Calories matter for sure! So fill in the rest of your diet with lots of good carbs and fats. I recommend that you get in as many good foods as possible everyday. Meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, good fats - get a big variety! Keto and a host of other fad diets are all the rage today, but I'm not a fan of any approach that eliminates or greatly restricts major food groups. If you have an issue with a certain food group (e.g. lactose in dairy), you may have to avoid it, or certain forms of it. But, for example, many lactose intolerant individuals do fine with Greek yogurt. Just be careful to avoid writing off food groups because a promise of weight loss is made. Carbs are great! So is protein and fat. Variety is key to ensure you're getting in all the unique nutrients various food groups have to offer.
Low carb? It can be helpful to look at each macronutrient (protein, carbs, fat) as a percentage of your daily caloric intake. And I have found that people will gravitate toward a lower or higher carb/fat diet when walking through this process. I tell my clients to find their caloric budget, establish a protein goal, and then we'll figure out the proper carbs and fats as we move through the process. Much of this will depend on preferences. And sticking to a plan consistently allows for educated adjustments along the way. It's a journey.
Once our example puts all of this in place, she'll be moving steadily toward her desired weight in a healthy fashion. And of course rest and exercise are part of the equation.
If it seems complicated, it's really like anything else. You get better with knowledge and practice. I would be honored to help you with any of your nutritional challenges.