How to stick to your calories and macros

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By Amy Needham

When it comes to dieting, I’m no stranger – I’ve competed in every single bodybuilding federation, in all categories from bikini to fitness to figure, each requiring a lower and lower body fat percentage. Every time I stepped on stage, I produced a leaner, stronger and more conditioned physique, as that’s what the requirements were.

Now that my competing days are over, my only physique goals are to live lean & strong year-round whilst enjoying a healthy lifestyle. There are a few times during the year that I ‘peak’ my body composition for special events or photoshoots.

As I am no stranger to fat loss or diets, I thought I would take this opportunity to teach you the best tips and tricks to help your transformation journey – whether you are stepping on stage or simply into your summer bathing suit.

Let’s address the elephant in the room first up: to drop significant amounts of body fat or change our body composition, we need to create a CALORIC DEFICIT. How we do so however is individualised.

Pain may be inevitable, but suffering is optional.

I’m here to give you a few tips and tricks to assist the process of fat loss to ensure it is as pain-free as possible. In saying that, if you’re expecting to create weight/fat loss without being hungry at some point – you’re dreaming.

Tip 1) Backload your calories to allow for social events either weekly or daily

Half of the mental deprivation we feel when dieting is due to the constraint we are exposed to when in a social setting. Whilst you may need to select lighter options when out with friends or potentially take your food scales, this doesn’t mean you need to avoid socialising altogether. Catching up with family & friends should allow us to satiate on conversation & togetherness, not copious calories. Provided you keep a steady drip-feed on protein every 3-4hours for adequate muscle protein synthesis, how you choose to structure or time your remaining carbs and fats for the day is up to you.

Tip 2) Keep your NEAT/Steps up

Go for a walk to alleviate discomfort or to distract you. The longer we diet and the harder we diet, the more likely we are to experience metabolic adaptation. As non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) makes up a large percentage of our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), we must ensure we stay accountable to our step target and other daily NEAT normalities (i.e.: rate of speech, standing and not leaning on objects when we talk etc).

Components of total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). BMR = basal metabolic rate; NEAT = non-exercise activity thermogenesis; TEF = thermic effect of food; EAT = exercise activity thermogenesis; REE = resting energy expenditure; NREE = non-resting energy expenditure. Adapted from Maclean et al., 2011.

Tip 3) Create a Happiness list

What brings you joy that doesn’t involve food? Can you listen to your favourite song/playlist, call a friend for a chat, go for a dip in the sea or go for a coastal walk? What will boost your serotonin (your happiness hormone)?

Tip 4) Learn to delay gratification

Wait until you are hungry to eat. Don’t waste calories on a snacking mood. Eat in a seated and relaxed state only when you are physically hungry.

Tip 5) Incorporate volume-based foods (if your gut allows)

Can you try bulking up your oats with zucchini or cauliflower? It’s not as bad as it sounds, and the fibre will also help you feel fuller. Perhaps try adding more low carb vegetables to your stir-fry or pasta dish.

Tip 6) Go for massages

This will consume time, distract you and make you feel relaxed.

Tip 7) Preoccupy your thoughts of hunger or food by doing things with your hands

Our hands feed us, so we need to keep those bad boys busy! Hang the washing out, clean your room, take up knitting – whatever floats your boat, just do something.

Tip 8) Follow the ‘Hangry Snack’ ideas when you are desperate for some food

(Listed in order of priority from 0 to less than 40 calories to prevent you from derailing your diet completely):

  1. A) Herbal Tea
  2. B) Mineral or Sparkling Water
  3. C) Celery or Watery Veg such as Cucumber
  4. D) Frozen Berries

Tip 9) Do more of the things you enjoy that make you lose track of time

What do you value most? What activity do you do that brings you great joy and consumes your mind in a way that nothing else, like food, can?

Tip 10) Go to bed early & obtain 8 hours of sleep

When we are over-tired, we tend to crave quick or calorically dense energy sources such as sweet foods. Consuming these can see us chew through our calories well before the end of the day. Our hunger hormone also increases with a decrease in sleep[1].

Tip 11) Eat before you go shopping & place shopping bags in the backseat to avoid mindless snacking on the drive home

The confectionary aisle isn’t worth sabotaging your goals!

Tip 12) Change or adjust your food habits

Always eating in front of the TV? Stop that! Chew slowly and mindfully so you are more aware of your satiety signals. Always getting a cheeky snack on your drive home from the shops? Can you pick sparkling water or similar to consume on your drive back? Snack on popcorn whilst watching a movie? Can you instead create a low-calorie veggie stick platter or have herbal tea?

I hope this blog will assist you on your fat loss journey and teaches you that dieting, in all forms, should be cyclical. Get in and get out – go back to baseline once you have achieved your goal. We can’t live in a diet forever and it is not where we want to live long term!

Yours in health,

Amy Needham

Master Coach & ‘Performance Nutrition Coach’ Presenter

Clean Health Fitness Institute



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