The Fat Loss Template
A simple, effective template to set yourself up for fat loss success and beyond…
By Lucas Serwinski PN Certified, CSCS
What is Fat Loss?
Fat loss is simple in theory. Your body has a certain amount of calories it uses each day for functions like:
-Recovery and repair
The assumption is that if you eat fewer calories than your body expends, you will lose weight. And that is true!
Remember though, we want fat loss, not just weight loss so it’s important your training and nutrition reflects that.
If we starve ourselves or leave out key foods and nutrients while leaning out, we risk impacting all of the processes above, even if we lose body fat or weight. We have to remain healthy and still go to work, take care of our families, train hard and enjoy life while losing fat. So it’s vital we understand that there is more at play than just calories in and calories out.
“Cardio is necessary for fat loss”
“I want to lean out, so I can’t ever eat carbs” “High protein is only for bodybuilders”
“I should feel hungry all the time to lose fat”
While some of these ideas may hold partial truths, or might be appropriate at certain times, they are typically based in meathead lore, bad science, misunderstood concepts or outdated methods.
Fat Loss Truth
It’s easy to get tied up in gimmicks, supplements, trends and misinformation on your road to getting lean, so I want to make some truths known to you. These hold true across the board for just about any client and I stand by them.
-Strength training should be the foundation of fat loss
-Walking and low-level aerobic exercise are excellent for fat loss and recovery
-There are no “bad” foods, just appropriate food selections
-The majority of calories burned are from digestion and brain function, NOT exercise
-If optimal protein and fiber/vegetables are eaten, total calories are the next most important factor
-This is the exact reason The Strong Kitchen focuses on a few key tenets like protein, fiber, whole foods and balancing calories. Most people never need to go beyond these basics!
Ideal Fat Loss Standards
If losing fat while maintaining or even gaining muscle is your goal (and It should be!), I prefer most people can check off most if not all of these standards:
1. The ability and commitment to either prep the necessary food (protein, veggies and healthy carbs) or have the funds to purchase prepared meals and snacks like The Strong Kitchen offers
2. The ability to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night in a cool, dark room. No lights or electronics
3. Structured strength training 3x per week – this includes weightlifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding, group strength classes, kettlebell training and free weight intervals
4. 20-40 minutes of brisk daily walking – flat, inclined, on a trail or sidewalk, treadmill etc.
These are absolutely listed in order of importance. Being able to commit to prepping and/or buying the necessary foods for success is crucial. Remember you need to shop, prep, cook and pack the right foods for success. More goes into this than most people think! Remember to keep it simple, stick to the basics in terms of food preparation and don’t add too much variety too soon as it can easily overwhelm you.
One of the major reasons we started The Strong Kitchen was to help with the above. Food prep doesn’t need to be difficult or sexy but it DOES need to be consistent. From training athletes to the weekend warrior, a common theme I saw was people failing to be consistent in their nutrition. It’s not just Monday through Friday that counts! Shopping and prepping to eat well at least 90% of the time can get boring, time consuming or for some, confusing. Our goal is to simplify that so you have one less thing on your proverbial plate!
Sleep is essential for many reasons. It is the one time your body has uninterrupted hours to restore hormone balance, imprint memories and motor skills, repair muscle, burn fat for fuel, restore joints and much more. Poor sleep impacts your ability to lose fat and build muscle in the most crucial ways.
Strength training should be the crux of your fat loss exercise. Why? Because strength training not only helps keep you healthy by strengthening muscles but also joints, ligaments and tendons. It improves stability and mobility when done correctly. Strength training also kick starts a HUGE recovery process which is where the majority of calories from exercise are burned.
Too many people focus on calories burned during exercise, which is usually not that much; somewhere around 300-500 calories depending on body size and activity. But you burn even MORE calories recovering from strength training; so even the hours and days following strength training you are burning more calories at rest. This does not happen with aerobic exercise to nearly the same degree. Pretty cool, huh?
What? Walking, seriously? This is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood methods for leaning out! While walking does not burn nearly the amount of calories that strength training or even jogging, bike riding or other aerobic exercise does, it has some nifty tricks up its sleeve.
-Walking burns almost 100% body fat
-Walking is restorative – it improves recovery, blood flow and joint health without stressing the body
-It provides a quiet and relaxed time to gather thoughts, center you and “unplug” from the world. A more calm and restored body and mind will lose fat easier; excess stress will hold back your results
Whenever possible, get out and walk - it will pay off in a number of ways.
If you can meet these standards, you are well on your way to being successful with fat loss. And if can’t check all the boxes off yet, no worries; start at the top and work your way down.
Setting Up Your Fat Loss Nutrition
How to use this guide:
Go through these steps and calculate the suggested amounts. It can be helpful to look up protein grams on My Fitness Pal or Nutritondata.self.com to educate yourself on what the portion sizes actually look like. If you aren’t 100% certain you know what “X” amount of grams are, spend a week or two plugging them in so you know you are being accurate.
Set your protein amounts
1 gram protein per pound of bodyweight
Ex: If you weigh 180lbs, you would consume 180 grams of protein per day
.75 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight
Ex: If you weigh 140lbs you would consume between 105 grams and 140 grams of protein per day
>Why the range for women? Women generally have less muscle mass by percent of bodyweight than men and thus might not need as much protein. If you find .75 grams per lb. leaves you feeling very hungry, feel free to work up towards 1 gram per pound!
Each Strong Kitchen meal contains on average, 35-45g protein. For most people, three meals per day and a couple of protein-based snacks easily meet this goal.
Set your Calories
Pay attention, close attention….
Once you are eating optimal protein (as shown above) the main driver of whether you lose weight, maintain or gain weight is calories.
If you heard that you “have to go low carb” or “can’t eat foods that our ancestors didn’t eat” or “need to eat fat to burn fat”, sorry that is not backed up by science.
This is the exact reason even our Fat Loss portion size at The Strong Kitchen contains carbohydrates. Eating enough protein, managing your calories and focusing mostly on whole foods will get you pretty much all the way to your goals. Plus when you consider the average person requires 80-120g carbs per day JUST to fuel their brain, going super low-carb usually means a lack of focus and energy and your brain will be competing with your muscles for carbohydrates. Plus, most people simply can’t sustain a carb-free diet.
So honestly, why even bother?
Master Tip: Use a calorie range
Using a calorie range allows you some daily freedom in calories going up and down (as they will in life) and also gives you room to adjust based on your results. A strict number often leads people to feel like they failed if they don’t hit it exactly.
Calorie Ranges for Your Goals
10-12 calories per pound
Performance (focusing on maintaining weight while improving fitness)
12-14 calories per pound
15+ calories per pound
For Fat Loss and Performance, simply start at the higher end of the range. Give yourself time to make it a daily routine and make sure you feel comfortable at the number before adjusting.
For Muscle Gain, start at 15 calories per pound and adjust UP based on your results.
When to Adjust
Every two weeks. Give your body time to adapt and show true changes rather than day to day fluctuations.
How to Adjust
We’re looking for ½ to 1% change in bodyweight every two weeks, whether you are looking to gain or lose. If you are still making progress, don’t change anything! Only adjust when progress stops.
Move the calories up or down by ONE calorie per pound if progress has stalled, then give it another 2 weeks.
Putting It All Together
Now that we know our protein grams and calorie ranges, let’s look at how that comes together in a simple plan!
Lisa wants to lean out (awesome!). Lisa weighs 160lbs and would prefer to be about 20lbs lighter. Reading through our Success Guide, she can check off that she is strength training three times or more per week and sleeping well. But she knows her meal prep is behind and is interested in adding walking daily.
Since meal prep is more crucial, it’s important to focus on that FIRST and then add other variables like walking once she feels comfortable and confident.
Lisa uses the .75 to 1 grams protein per pound and finds that brings her to 120g-160g per day. Since 160g seems like a lot to her, she starts with 120g and decides she’ll add more if she finds she is still hungry after most meals
Lisa wants to lean out so at 160lbs her Fat Loss calories come out to 1600 to 1920. Since we would rather start higher and work our way down, she chooses 1920 calories and rounds to 1900 for the sake of convenience. Remember, starting too low almost always leads to burn out, diet fatigue and ultimately, giving up. Let’s nip that in the bud!
At 4 meals per day, Lisa does some simple math and realizes to hit 120g protein daily between four meals she’d need to eat 30g protein per meal with a protein snack thrown in if she falls short.
At 1900 calories she can eat four 400 calorie meals or so with enough room left over for a snack. Not too shabby!
Lisa’s Example in Practice
Protein: .75 to 1 gram/lb. = 120-160g
Calories: 10 to 12 calories/lb. = 1600-1920 calories
*Lets shoot for 4 meals per day and a snack
Weight = 160lbs with 120g protein and 1900 calories
Weight = 157lbs
Three pounds down is WELL over 1% bodyweight lost, so no change
Weight = 155 lbs.
Another two pounds down is STILL over 1% bodyweight lost, so no change
Weight = 154lbs
We’re finally at only one pound lost in two weeks which is barely higher than ½ % so we adjust her calories down to 11 calories per pound.
120g protein and roughly 1700 calories
Then we just repeat the process every two weeks! Check your percent change in weight and adjust accordingly! No extreme restrictions, good vs bad foods or trying to balance high carb days, low carb days and so on. Just consistently practicing a few basic principles and making sound (not emotional) adjustments based on your results.
If you've read even a handful of my blog posts, you've seen me drive this home again and again. Our meals are purposefully simple to make hitting your goals easy. Science backs up our approach which means eating enough protein, balancing calories and encouraging you to strength train and sleep enough is essentially all you need to do.
Then why do so many people struggle?
The struggle comes from being able to carve out the time, maintain interest or gain the skills to consistently shop, prep, cook and pack. Of course, we take out all that leg work to let you focus on other things. Remember, thinking far ahead or focusing too much on details that don’t matter will only drain your energy and focus. Instead our mission is: A stronger you, one meal at a time