Fat Loss Sans Macros
Written by Fritz Nugent
We started with a basic premise: that a happy body is a healthy one. When we get enough nutrition to support our activity level, our bodies function well. A body that functions well tends to be leaner and stronger, and more resilient to stress.
The first article in this series portrayed a case study for a “recomper”, an athlete who wished to stay at or near their same body weight while adding muscle and losing body fat. For this week, my focus is on the athlete who desires to lose body weight.
For those of you who fall into this category, think about this: what if you were 10 lbs lighter BUT all the weight you lost was muscle? Yes, your scale would read “lighter” but you lose something very valuable to health: muscle mass. Muscle mass has a higher daily energy requirement than fat mass does, so if you lose muscle mass, you also decrease your metabolism! Increased muscle mass is associated with a myriad of health benefits, one of the most interesting being reduced mortality. So when someone says “I want to lose weight”, what they really mean is, “I want to lose body fat”.
Now that we’re all on the body fat loss train, let’s chug along and see what shakes out. Remember the four pillars of health? I will use them now, one by one, to show you how easy it can be to make positive lifestyle adjustments to induce fat loss. The four pillars of health are sleep, stress, movement, and nutrition.
Sleep. Spend 8 hours in bed. You don’t have to sleep all 8 hours. Devote this time to yourself every night. If you can’t fit eight with your current schedule, change your schedule. Sleep is so important that I could literally focus on just sleep alone with many people and help them drastically improve the quality of their lives. Take this into consideration: just ONE sleep-deprived night (that means sleeping 6 hours instead of 8) can reduce your immune response by 40%. So one night of inadequate sleep can knock your immune system into the toilet. Now extrapolate that out to 1 year, 5, years, 10 years of under-sleeping…the effects are not benign. They negatively compound. So do yourself a favor and spend more time in bed. Doing so will reduce your stress and allow adequate time for physical and neural regeneration. This translates to a brain and body that work more efficiently, which directly helps support optimal functioning and fat loss.
Stress. The most elegant definition of stress that I have encountered: “stress is your brain and/or body’s judgement that a situation exceeds your resources: time constraints, energy, emotional capacity, or coping ability”. Exercise can be stress if it’s too much for your body to recover from. Too much work, too much drama – all stressful. With things in your life that you can control, eliminate those stressors. If you can’t eliminate them (a mentally draining co-worker), then find a way to mitigate them. If you can’t mitigate them, then work on reframing how you perceive that stressor. On the positive side of stress reduction, how many days a week do you perform self-care activities? Self-care activities include reading a book, hiking, meditation, writing, playing an instrument, creating artwork, prayer, and playing/spending time with friends. Exercise can fall into this category as long as it’s enough and not too much.
Movement. Walk daily. No, stressful steps taken at a hurried pace during work don’t count. Stress-free steps only. Walk with your animals. Walk with your wife and kids. Walk in nature on the weekends. Walking is not just for burning calories. It’s to help you de-stress and reconnect with your body, your mind, this moment, this world. Exercise is important, too. Not too much though! For fat loss athletes, sometimes people think more is better. Not necessarily. Quality training trumps quantity training, so make sure you have an intention each day. And no, burning calories doesn’t count as an intention. Some days you can push yourself hard. Other days, take it easier. It’s not a wasted day or a wasted workout to go lighter. In fact, it’s necessary and beneficial. Putting these two things together – daily walking and enough exercise – produces lovely results. Less can be more!
Nutrition. For fat loss without counting macros, the first thing you can do: ask yourself what you think you need to do better with your nutrition. Chances are you’re absolutely right. Can you hold yourself accountable to your answer? If no, then ask me to help you with accountability. If yes, then great. Get on it. Some simple solutions that have worked for many people are:
- reduce the amount of meals each week that you eat out (no more restaurants if you can help it! You might need to learn how to meal prep…HINT: it’s way easier than you think, seriously.)
- reduce processed foods (dressings, pre-cooked meals, foods with loads of preservatives, snack foods, treats and other sugary snacks)
- increase the amount of whole foods that you consume (vegetables, fruits, potatoes, lean meats, eggs, and lots of water)
Putting it All Together
If you’re not sleeping enough, then fix that first before you play with your nutrition. Work on reducing your life stressors and add in a daily self-care task. Go for daily walks no matter your fitness level, and train enough and not too much. Be intentional with your training. Once you have sleep, stress, and movement under control, THEN focus on nutrition with greater detail. Your efforts to clean up those other areas of your life will drastically increase your nutritional efforts.
There you have it. How to lose body fat without macro counting. Not what you thought? Too simple? Sure, simple yes. Once again, simple is rarely easy. So get on it! Got nutrition questions? Fire away! I could turn your questions into my next article! Learn more about Invictus Nutrition coaching and how to work with Coach Fritz!