Sustaining weight loss and understanding food


WEIGHT or fat loss is impossible without a calorie surplus—eating too much and not burning it off—over time. Yes, it is that simple! This simply means you eat and drink more calories than you use everyday.

Why is this? Here are some of the reasons: choice—the food we eat; lack of knowledge on nutrition; false information; disorder eating; available food products; a sedentary lifestyle—lack of movement or exercise

It can be a combination of any of these and many other factors.

Some popular beliefs related to weight or fat gain are that carbs are to blame, sugar is to blame, or fat is to blame.
None of these are to blame. Eating more calories than you burn is to blame.

Calories (kcals) are simply a unit of energy that the body will store then burn to give us energy to survive—simple. So we need a certain amount every day just to stay alive.

100 calories of carrots or broccoli, say, has a higher nutritional value than 100 calories of chocolate, but they still contain the same 100 calories. It’s how we fit both into our daily diet that matters. Making small changes to your existing diet is the key to achieving your goals over time. It is a lot more sustainable and you can easily make it part of your everyday life.

What is a macronutrient? It’s a substance required in relatively large amounts for the normal growth and development of an organism. Macronutrients for animals include fat, carbohydrate, and protein, while for most plants they include chemical elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus.

Here’s your guide to macronutrients.

Protein is a key tool in the fat loss process as it supports the repair of the body’s tissues and organs and as it digests slower making the body work harder it will burn more calories. This is due to the thermic effect of food (TEF). This is just energy burned during the metabolisation food. (how the body breaks it down for use)

The human body as it digests protein burns 20-30 per cent of it, so that means if you have 300 calories of pure protein consumed, the body burns between 60-105 calories just by digesting it. By having protein as a major part of your diet it increases energy expenditure and therefore helps with your calorie deficit. This is the reason why I have been banging on about protein levels!

Also, to maintain muscle mass we need an intake of 1-2kg of protein per kilo of body weight. For example, for a male weighing 105kg, he needs 105-210g of protein. A female weighing 75kg needs 75-150g of protein. The higher your protein levels the more muscle you are able to build while losing fat.

The ‘carbs are so bad for you’ attitude fired at you by every slimming group in the world is not true. Carbohydrates give us energy and are needed for a balanced diet.

Digesting carbs burns 5-15 per cent of it, meaning for every 300 kcals of pure carbs consumed the body uses 15-45 calories just digesting it.

The important thing to keep in mind about carbs is that we should try and get them from high fibre foods to keep us fuller for longer. Foods like fruit, vegetables and pulses contain carbs, but also micronutrients which support body function such as healthy skin and bones.

Carbs have been blamed on weight and fat gain for years but in reality, they can be enjoyed in a balanced calorie deficit or maintenance.

In whole food, fats such as nuts, avocadoes and oily fish there are plenty of important nutrients present. Other fats such as butter, coconut oil and animal fat contain fewer nutrients, but are delicious and can still be in your diet in a calorie deficit.

Fats, like carbs, burn between 5-15 per cent for 300 kcals of pure fat. So, in turn, the body burns 15-45 kcals through the digestion of that fat.

You should note that fats are the most calorie dense macronutrient so for fat loss they come at a high calorie cost. They can still be used in a calorie deficit, but less of them need to be consumed.

Macronutrients contain not only protein, carbs and fat, in fact they have a lot more to them. They contain amino acids, sugars, starches, fibre and fatty acids. These are vital for the body’s function.

We often label food as a 1 macronutrient instead of maybe 2 or 3. Getting to know calories in food at first and not macros is crucial when losing weight.

For example 200g of ribeye steak has 508 kcals in it, but only 148 are from protein the other 360 are from fat. So leaner cuts of meat have less fat and are less calorie dense. Again it’s how we fit these into out weekly diet that counts.

Get to know your food and what works for you and the journey you are on will become a lot smoother and a lot more enjoyable. Food is there to nourish the body and to keep us alive. It’s not a ‘syn,’ something we have to earn, nor is it a cheat meal.

Don’t get fooled into gimmicks or fat zapping foods, eat with your own purpose in mind. If you are trying to lose weight or body fat then eat a bit less and have better quality of foods when picking fruit, vegetables and meats.

These simple changes will go a long way to help you not only lose weight or body fat, but it will be more sustainable in the long run.

Ciarán McMullan is a former St Enda’s Gaelic footballer and League Cup winning midfielder with Cliftonville FC. He currently works as a personal trainer in Belfast. Visit his Facebook page: Follow him on Instagram: cmcfitness