Episode 81 Transcript – Nutrition For Fat Loss Part 3

Aidan Muir:

Hello and welcome to Episode 81 of the Ideal Nutrition Podcast where we’re going to be doing part three of that nutrition for fat loss [inaudible 00:00:19]. This will be the final one and we’re going to be going through some more of the practical stuff in this episode. And yeah, we’ll go from that.

Leah Higl:

So first things first, we’ll start off with hunger management strategies. So one of the things that can make consistently staying in a calorie deficit difficult is the hunger aspect of it. I know personally it’s something that I struggle with in a fat loss phase. So all of these things are things that I personally do but also do with my clients. So even though you might not identify this as a major barrier for you, I find that even the people that don’t notice it do end up being affected by it at a certain point just with extra grazing and snacking.

Or maybe you’re just less consistent on the weekends and that’s really coming from that hunger perspective. So a few things that you can do to stay on top of this or at least make it a little less noticeable in your day-to-day life. So one of the really obvious ways is to literally just not have too big of a calorie deficit. So the larger the calorie deficit is, likely the more hungry you are going to be regardless of anything else that you do. So if you’re taking a more mild to moderate approach, it’s probably going to be more comfortable from a hunger perspective during your fat loss phase and will just keep you a bit fuller.

So a second thing would be keeping your protein intake high. So we did briefly talk about protein intake in the last episode of this series in regards to body composition. So keeping protein high is great for body composition outcomes but it’s also great for satiety. So protein is known as the most satiating macronutrient. So if you do have a high protein intake in combination with a calorie deficit, you’re just probably going to feel fuller for longer.

Aidan Muir:

I’ll also just jump in and go with the protein thing with satiation. I say it’s the most satiating per calorie. Because you’ll see a lot of this, I just want to jump on. A lot of people will say that fat is the most satiating macronutrient, which is true per gram.

Per gram. Fat has nine calories, protein is four. If you add two and a little bit grams of protein, it actually works out to be a little bit more satiating per calorie, which is really the metric that I think matters. Because if we are going to be in a deficit and eating a certain amount of calories, regardless, we’re looking at how satiating something is per calorie.

Leah Higl:

Yeah, we’re not going to have a super high budget for a really high fat diet, regardless. So it makes sense to focus a little bit more on protein intake. And then obviously for muscle retention it also has the pros there, as well. A third one would be to keep fiber intake relatively high. So fiber does not contain a lot of calories but it does keep us full. It slows digestion, fills out the stomach. So that is something that you could aim to do whilst in a calorie deficit. And the fourth one is the concept of volume eating.

So this pretty much involves eating a larger volume of lower calorie foods. As an example, nobody thinks of vegetables as super filling but per calorie, again, they are really filling. So say you take two meals, one has very, very minimal vegetable content but same say chicken and rice ratio and then the other is exactly the same but with an extra 200 grams of vegetables, you’re not adding a whole lot of calories to that meal. But the satiety factor to that meal is going to be huge.

Aidan Muir:

Yeah, I think it’s massive. It just makes it so much easier. It’s not the most appealing thing but it makes it all easier.

Leah Higl:

And you can dress it up with some low calorie sauces and kind of take different approaches to it. But going for, yeah, there’s an example that I love seeing is the banana bread versus doing yogurt fruit and something else. It’s going to be a completely different volume of food but maybe same calories.

Aidan Muir:

Yeah. And it really feeds into this concept of a lot of people when they start working with a coach or a dietician or anyone like that, they’re like, “I’m eating more food than before but I’m losing weight.”

And a lot of people assume that they’re saying, “Oh, I’m eating more calories than before.” But in almost every case it is just more food volume.

Yeah. So it’s theoretical but I also do think it’s practical aspect to consider is sugar intake. We’ve talked about calories, we’ve talked about protein, we’ve talked about fats and carbs but we haven’t really talked about sugar. And one of the reasons why I’ve left it kind of until now is because there is not really any difference between sugar and other forms of carbohydrates on body composition, so muscle gain or fat loss, assuming the total amount of carbohydrates is the same and the calories and protein are kept the same.

Taking that one step further, in one of the previous podcasts I also mentioned that there’s no difference really between low fat diets and low carb diets. So now you can look at this and be like, “Well, if the total calories in protein are the same, it doesn’t matter if you’re replacing other forms of carbohydrate or fats with sugar, if the same total amount of calories or fats are coming out the same.” I think that is incredible to know from a flexibility perspective.

And also, it makes it easier to be in a calorie deficit in some ways because you can have something that contains a bit of sugar and still remain in a calorie deficit and have just way more freedom of food. I think it makes it easier. But from a practical perspective, you still can’t really have a lot of sugar in most cases because from a satiety perspective, it’s not very filling per calorie in comparison to other options because added sugar doesn’t really fill us up that much.

Two examples that immediately jump to my mind, one of them is imagine drinking 600 mil of water and 600 mil of POWERADE. They both probably fill you up pretty similar amounts, but the POWERADE comes alongside with some calories because it has sugar in it. Another example is like yogurt, no added sugar yogurt versus added sugar yogurt. You eat the same amount, they both feel you up pretty much similar amounts but the added sugar one comes with more calories. So that’s one thing. Another thing is that sugar makes things taste nicer.

It’s not rocket science but makes things taste nicer. And if our food tastes nicer, it often makes it easier to eat more calories, too. And another final thought that is a big part of why people kind of separate added sugar and intrinsic sugar, even though theoretically they have the same impact on body composition is that added sugar doesn’t come alongside any additional micronutrients.

So that if you have a high intake of added sugar, you likely have a lower intake of vitamins and minerals, as well. So it makes sense in most cases to be limiting added sugar. But I think it’s helpful information to know that you can fit this in flexibly without really hurting your fat loss results.

Leah Higl:

Yeah, it’s like that teaspoon of sugar, if you like it in your coffee, it’s probably not going to make a huge difference to your overall fat loss results. And just little things like that, that I feel people pay too much attention to and there’s bigger fish to fry.

Next topic we’ll touch on is what to do if weight loss or fat loss plateaus occur. So the first thing to understand here is why plateaus actually occur. So by definition, if you have been in a plateau where your weight is staying pretty stable for multiple weeks, you are consuming maintenance calories. I kind of like to add a caveat there in terms of, there’s going to be general weight, like weight fluctuations and that’s very normal, so your weight’s going to bounce around.

So we’re not talking about weight plateaus in regards to you woke up one day and it wasn’t lower than the day before or even over the space of the month. There’s the menstrual cycle and water retention and so much going on. But if your weight’s pretty much been stable for quite some time, then you have been at maintenance calories. And that could be, too, a combination of things that have happened during that fat loss phase.

So it could be that your energy expenditure might have dropped due to the fact you’ve lost weight, now you’re smaller and therefore burning less energy through that. It could be partly due to metabolic adaptation. So the amount you’re burning through your metabolism reducing or even just changes in activity, which we often see with people in a calorie deficit, just even your incidental activity might decrease. Things like fidgeting and stuff we know tends to decrease in a deficit but also just changes in things like exercise and training or daily steps, those things.

And then on the flip side, your energy intake may have increased and that could have been due to increased hunger throughout the fat loss phase or through the deficit, therefore making you want to eat more. Again, a desire for food, so very similar, but wanting to just eat more of maybe specific kinds of foods that add calories to your intake. And then just changes in general habits. So something that I see quite often is just a lack of consistency starting to occur while someone’s in a fat loss phase.

You might start really strong and then all of a sudden say you’re tracking calories, then tracking kind of falls off or weekends become a little bit more less structured than they were at the start. So your energy intake may have increased, as well. So based on why the plateau has occurred is going to dictate how you manage that and overcome it. So generally though, given that it always comes down to calories in versus calories out, if you’re wanting to continue to lose fat or lose weight, you’re going to have to either reduce your calorie intake or increase your energy expenditure or you might do a mix of both.

Whatever is going to fit within what you’re currently doing, whatever’s reasonable. So reduced intake could come in the form of either reducing the planned calorie intake that you have. So maybe you’re consuming 1800 calories and you go, “Okay, now I’m going to start consuming 1600 calories,” and then see how that goes. It might also be just being more consistent with your plan. So if you think that it’s a consistency thing and maybe, again, weekends and stuff have fallen off the bandwagon, it’s like you can just tighten up around the edges and see how you go.

On the flip side, again, increased energy expenditure could come in the form of increased exercise. So whether that’s you going out for more walks, extra training sessions, adding some more cardio or even just informal movements. So incidental stuff like, I’m going to start parking my car away from the shopping center and walking in, stuff that people talk about and getting your daily steps up and stuff. So it could just be generally expending more energy through that.

But if you feel like you’re in a place where you really can’t decrease your calorie intake any further and you can’t increase your energy expenditure, it might be that fat loss is just not viable for you right now and maybe you need to wait for a time where one of those things is plausible.

Aidan Muir:

Yeah. I like to keep it simple. One thing that’s really important to think about is we have those two options. We’ve got either decreased calorie intake or increased energy expenditure. That’s simple. A lot of people are looking for a complex way to overcome plateaus and it’s like, well, it is going to be one of those two options.” But it’s not a popular message because you could have people who are like, “Well I can’t do either of those things.”

And that’s where it does come into being like, well, maybe now’s not the time. If you can’t do either of those things, maybe now’s not the time. Maybe that time will come down the line or maybe you are at a body weight where it’s like, maybe it doesn’t make sense in your circumstances to keep trying to get leaner. Yeah, so those are my thoughts, as well.

The next thing we’ll talk about is other tools that are proposed and or can help increase metabolic rates. So there’s only really two tools that I’m going to focus on there, on here, even though there’s obviously other options. But two tools I’m going to talk about are diet breaks and reverse dieting. So to clarify what these two things are, a diet break is a period of time longer than a week or at least a week where you spend time at maintenance calories or at least striving for maintenance calories.

Reverse dieting is slowly increasing your calorie intake over time. Say you are finishing your deficit and you’re in a 500 calorie deficit, maybe you add a hundred calories per week until you end your reverse diet, which could be 10 weeks later or however long you want to go for. They’ve both been proposed to increase total daily energy expenditure and to a certain degree, that is true. One thing to factor in is that if we are talking about metabolic adaptation, which as we’ve kind of spoken about is typically as much as a 100 or 200 calorie decrease in energy expenditure, it’s nothing like a super large thing.

But if the goal is to try and reverse that to increase energy expenditure, it takes a little bit of time. Some people have talked about how doing a cheat meal could theoretically increase your metabolism but the research on that topic is shown as a pretty acute effect. It causes a little bit of a spike in energy expenditure but not really enough to matter over the course of a week and particularly not enough to outweigh the increase in calorie intake that you had during that meal or that day or anything like that. So it takes a little bit of time.

But we also have seen research that shows that even as little as one month in maintenance calories is enough to make it so that metabolic adaptation is no longer really measurable. So it’s like somewhere between those two, you’re offsetting metabolic adaptation. Is it two weeks? Is it three weeks? Is it four weeks? We know it’s somewhere in that kind of range. So theoretically, if the goal is just to get rid of metabolic adaptation, bring yourself back to a baseline, you could do an extended diet break at maintenance calories.

But another option that some people propose is reverse dieting to theoretically build up your calorie expenditure to set yourself up for another dieting phase. And I understand the logic there and I’ve seen people use it successfully and everything like that but I have a lot of thoughts about it being the success is more to do with changes in adherence than it is to do with changes in energy expenditure. And while there’s not a ton of research on this topic, the research that we have on the topic doesn’t show it to be massively promising for the premise that people are talking about it for because we could see it reverse that metabolic adaptation.

So say you are in a position where your energy expenditure is 200 calories lower than it theoretically should be due to metabolic adaptation. You reverse start and bring it back to the baseline but then you go into a calorie surplus and you’re adding 100 calories per week until you’re in a calorie surplus and you start getting metabolically adapted in the other direction where it’s like now you might have a 200 calorie increase in your energy expenditure on top of your normal maintenance calories, that’s a 400 calorie swing.

Some people look at that and be like, “Okay, now your next starting phase should be easier because you have a larger calorie budget to go below.” The reason why that falls apart is because although it sort of takes a bit of time for metabolic adaptation to happen, it doesn’t take that long. And it’s like you would enter that next starting phase and end up being metabolically adapted again.

I could talk about that for a long period of time but the logic is that it doesn’t really matter so much for building your calories up. I don’t think you should spend heaps of time in a calorie deficit. I don’t think you should spend week after week, after week, after week for 20 plus weeks trying to be in your calorie deficit. In most cases some people can but for most people I don’t think you should do that. I think you should spend time at maintenance calories.

And part of that is due to the metabolic adaptation kind of thing but more of it is to do with just the hunger, the desire to eat, the fatigue associated with being in a deficit. And also the lifestyle thing being, I think, most people should be aiming for longer periods of time on higher calories, whether that’s maintenance or a surplus and living life under those circumstances for a variety of reasons.

One thing I’ll touch on though is if people did want to read more about that kind of reverse starting concept, Eric Drexler did a really good article on that for MacroFactor where he just basically went through all of the research on the topic and put together this massive document on it. And instead of me going through and referencing certain studies, I think, just go to that thing and you can see that because there are a lot of people who talk about this concept of building up your calories and everything like that. And he puts together a pretty good case as to why it just doesn’t really matter.

Leah Higl:

Yeah. That was a great summary. So that brings us to the conclusion about Three Part Series on Nutrition for Fat Loss. So we’re just going to finish up with some key takeaways from this three episode series. Firstly, calories in versus calories out is the basis of nutrition for fat loss, for weight loss, generally. However, this is often thought of as a very simple concept, although it is very complex and a lot of things play into it.

So things that we’ve already talked about like hormones, for example. By definition if you are losing weight then you are in a calorie deficit. On the flip side of that, if you are not losing weight, if you’re maintaining your weight, then you are not in a calorie deficit. And I think that is something that is kind of a key takeaway from this, as well. And as part of that, a lot of confusion does come from calorie calculators and calorie tracking. So I think they are absolutely great tools.

I think we can both agree on that, for sure. But it is not uncommon to overestimate your energy expenditure and underestimate your calorie intakes. So that can add a little bit of confusion to the above points. Other quick kind of tips and points to take away as a summary would be, if you’re going through a fat loss phase, definitely utilize those hunger management tools that we went over. Those strategies can really be used to your advantage and make the whole process a lot easier.

Think about utilizing those diet breaks. So not only from the perspective of metabolic adaptation but also just reducing your desire to eat and your hunger. They can be great for that. If you hit a plateau in your fat loss phase, then you do need to look at, if you’re wanting to continue it, you do need to look at either increasing your activity or energy expenditure in some way or decreasing your calorie intake. There is no way of getting around that if you’re wanting to continue.

Other thing would be, don’t overthink your carb to fat ratio. I think a lot of people overthink that. It’s just not something that really matters in the grand scheme of things. But do focus on adequate protein intake because that is going to make a difference to your body composition but also hunger management and satiety, so something to think about. And if you’re generally still feeling pretty lost after listening to these three episodes, there’s always people out there that can help.

So whether it’s seeking out a dietician or someone that is educated in this space or if it’s just you needing a little bit of guidance, I think that’s always a great option. I think it’s great to have a nutrition coach during a fat loss phase, regardless. But if you’re feeling lost, even better. So yeah, let’s wrap up for the day.

Aidan Muir:

Yeah. So my goal with all of this was just to put out basically a decent summary of fat loss in a long form content, like long form kind of context. And I think we’ve done that. There’s always more to add. There’s always more to add.

Leah Higl:

It’s so much. We could go over so much.

Aidan Muir:

But I think, yeah. I don’t know, I spent a lot of time putting out Instagram posts and those are little bits and pieces that I hope over time add up to being a good summary of what I know that I think can help people. But this is an attempt to try to put it all in one place so that you can do something. And the kind of thing is, if you don’t get enough out of this, that is where the professional comes into play. Being like you’ve got the accountability, somebody who does put it all into practice.

We can talk about volume meeting but what does that exactly look like for you in the context of your lifestyle and everything like that. All those kind of things. I don’t know. So I hope this was a good summary. If it was, maybe message us on Instagram. Mine is @Aidan_the_dietitian, a podcast friendly name. I’ve seen people say, “Don’t put underscores in your name for that reason.” And yours is @plantstrong_dietitian.

Awesome. Well this has been Episode 81. Thank you to everybody who’s listened. And as we said, if you want to message us or anything like that, we’ll take it from there.