Only read this if you’re serious about improving your body composition for performance!
This article is principally aimed those participating in sport. Although the same principles discussed here apply to the general population there are many other factors that need to be considered when addressing these issues in this more sedentary population. These are beyond the scope of this article.
In our increasingly obese society, the issue of weight (fat) loss is assuming greater importance as a major health issue. Obesity can lead to a number of major health concerns and is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many others.
Weight loss has become a multi-million dollar industry, but many diet products and plans have been shown time and again to only produce short-term results, not long term change. While many of these regimes can indeed lead to weight loss, often what you’re losing is water and/or muscle, which will hamper long-term results in both body composition and performance. However, I would argue that for those playing sport, losing fat and changing body composition in favour of lean tissue is far more important than losing weight.
Additionally, too many people become obsessed with the number on the scale rather than changes in body composition and health. Improvements in both body composition and health will ultimately contribute to improved performance.
Sport is about producing force, and fat doesn’t contribute to your ability to do this. So, if you’re body fat levels are too high, then start altering your body composition for improved performance by following these steps.
Have a Plan
As in many other areas of life, success is linked to having a long-term plan. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Consistency, patience and not looking for quick fixes are also important factors.
You need to set outcome and behavioural goals and have an action plan based around these. An outcome goal is your ultimate goal, what you are ultimately seeking to achieve. Behavioural goals are the small steps you will take on a daily basis to help achieve your outcome goal.
Follow These Rules
Your diet should revolve around all of the following rules and if followed rigorously will lead to fat loss.
- You must have a calorie deficit, without this you will not lose fat. While not all calories are created equal, a calorie deficit is a must. Aim for a 200-300 calories daily deficit.
- Build every meal around protein.
- Eat vegetables (especially fibrous) at every meal.
- Ensure you get sufficient omega-3’s and other healthy fats.
- Eat at least 2 fruits a day.
- Only eat natural starches and whole grains at strategic times. This will principally be following training or competing.
- Eat mostly foods that pass the ‘natural’ test, i.e. that are as close to their natural state.
- Eat 3 main meals a day spaced 3-4 hours apart, with maybe 2 extra small snacks.
- Limit or avoid liquid calories and drink mostly water or green tea, although whey protein shakes (or greens supplements) can be used sparingly around training provided they are within your daily calorie limit.
- Follow the 90/10 compliance rule. This means being strict 90% of the time allowing some flexibility, avoiding boredom and improving adherence to your diet the other 10% of the time.
To work out how many calories you would need to maintain your current weight it is important to work out your resting metabolic rate (RMR) using the following equations:-
Men (kcal/day) = 10(weight in kg) + 6.25 (height in cm) – 5(age in years) + 5
Women (kcal/day) = 10(weight in kg) + 6.25 (height in cm) – 5(age in years) – 161
Your activity levels also need to be factored in and added to your RMR, and the following link allows you to calculate a rough estimation of calorie expenditure for a wide range of activities. Once you have arrived at that figure then subtract the 200-300 calories to put you in a caloric deficit. It is important to remember that as you lose weight/fat that your RMR will change and this should be factored in as you progress.
Monitoring Your Progress
You also need to monitor your progress. You cannot manage what you don’t measure. Measurements taken should include weight, but can also include girth measurements, and body fat if you have someone to measure it. It is also advantageous to keep a food diary, an easy way to do that and monitor your calorie intake is to use the application below.
You should be aiming to lose around 1kg/0.5% body fat per week. Remember once you have reached your weight/body fat goal, you need to calculate your new maintenance level using the above formulae to maintain your new body composition.
Body Fat Levels
Body fat levels for sport will vary with body type and sport, but men should aim for under 14% and women under 20%.
I’m sure there are lots of question around this area, so please leave a comment below and we can continue the discussion.
Neil Elbourne BSc (Hons) Pg Dip
Certified Nutrition Coach and owner of Neil Elbourne Fitness and Nutrition Coaching. Details of his services can be found at www.edinburghfitnessandnutrition.co.uk