MIND YOUR MACROS
It’s true that working out doesn’t burn enough calories to influence fat loss by itself, but it does support muscle mass, which allows for a healthier, better-looking, leaner body. To maximize results from your weight training, you need to eat the right combination of macronutrients. As protein is the main component of muscle tissue, it must be high—aim for one gram per pound of your body weight (or target weight, as explained above).
Fat, although calorically dense, plays a crucial role in supporting the production of hormones such as testosterone, so while it must be kept fairly low to help create the caloric deficit we’re aiming for, you can’t cut it out completely. Get 0.4 grams of fat per pound of your body weight—so a 200-pound man would consume 80 grams daily. Most of your fat intake should come as a by-product of the protein-rich foods you eat (see “Eat Clean” for a sample list).
Now we’re left with carbs, and while there’s been much controversy over their role in a fat-loss diet in recent years, there shouldn’t be. “You need a moderate amount of carbs to support the fueling and recovery demands of high-intensity, anaerobic-based training,” says Nate Miyaki, C.S.S.N., an amateur bodybuilder, nutrition coach, and author in San Francisco. Extreme low-carb diets, especially those that substitute bacon, cheese, and other fatty foods in place of carbs, don’t work long-term and (surprise!) don’t support optimal health. “Training suffers when you’re on low carbs,” says Bryan Krahn, C.S.C.S., a New York City personal trainer. “If your carbs are really low, you can lower your metabolic rate. It’s a sledgehammer approach to weight loss and it’s unnecessary; you can just lower your calories.”
As with protein, aim to eat one gram of carbs for every pound you weigh.
Understand that these numbers are just a starting point. They should allow you to lose one or two pounds per week initially (more if you’re heavier), but if your weight loss stops dead for more than one week, cut your calories and readjust your numbers. Drop to 11 calories per pound first and, later, 10. Note that losing more than two pounds per week does not equate to greater fat loss. Losses that are extreme are more likely to come from water or, worse, muscle mass, so a steady but gradual diet is ideal. Reports of people who’ve lost weight any faster can’t be trusted.