My fitness Journey part 3: The nitty gritty

Ok so I blabbered on in part 1 on how I got to start my journey... And then in part 2 I broke it down. What I did at each part of my journey. How I changed things up, when I plateua'd, when I saw the most changes, how I manage each phase and what phase was coming next.

Part 3 is more of a how to where I will cover a simple guide of what macros are, working out your macros, eating for your goals, calorie cycling, carb cycling, flexible eating, why you NEED to build muscle, why loosing 'weight' isn't important and how to get out of a funk with your progress. OK... so there may need to be a part 4 lol... but we shall start here as for me, this fundamentally changed how I saw eating, upping my calories and loosing the fear of giving up on 'diets'

Your BMR (calories are not evil)

Your metabolic rate determines how much energy your body uses daily. How much you need to function at a basic level (wake up and breathe) standard is your focus. For me, roughly, just to stay healthy and alive, and awake, I need about 1350 calories. That means my body will use up 1350 calories without me doing anything, just to survive. It gets this energy from food. If I werent to eat anything, it would use energy stored in my body. (Fat, glucose stores and MUSCLE)

My BMR (basic metabolic rate) being around 1350 is our starting point.

To calculate your BMR there are plenty of websites, but iifym.com is the one I like to use for this stuff.

You then have to take into consideration your activity level. As just getting up to poo, or walk the dog, or go on a crazy shopping spree, will need and take up energy. Dependent on the activity, you then would need to add this onto your BMR if you want to maintain your weight. 
If it fits your macros.com will help you figure this out, as well as other calculations that I explain below. My BMR plus activity brings me up to a good ol 2100 calories that I can eat, with activity, and maintain my weight.

But...  'I eat 1200 calories and I'm still holding fat or out of shape' or "I cant eat more than 1500 cals without gaining weight."  I hear you cry...There are a lot of factors why clients come to me and say this. I have been victim to it too. Its not lies or a misunderstanding, it was a fact. I couldn't eat more than 1200 cals without gaining weight at the time.

Your BRM is relevant to the amount of muscle you have. (as well as gender/age excess metabolic damage) If you have a lot of muscle your body needs to work hard to keep it, as it uses up a lot of energy. So you know those horrific boys who can eat a dozen donuts and pizza all just for breakfast (yup I hate them too) that will be because they have a lean body mass (your body weight/volume without fat) and the body is chugging away burning calories at super speed. As girls, as a general rule, we have less muscle so our BMR is usually less. We need to eat less to maintain and boys can eat more to maintain. This sucks!

A reason we may not have a good amount of muscle/BMR can be from factors like genetics, lack of activity or exercise/gender or messing about with faddy low calorie diets.

The body loves balance. It wants balance. So any time we want to lose weight or gain muscle, it will do its best to fight for a sustainable level and balance itself out. Hence a plateau. It will get used to your activity level or the amount you eat and it will find a way to keep you from putting extra stress on it. Too much activity, too little food, can mean it can go into a survival type mode and keep you stagnated, just so that it can... well, survive. Your body will adapt, so dieting, or bulking for long periods of time, in my opinion, are not good ideas if you want to see constant progression.

Low calorie/dieting

People think a strict diet is the way to go... where they cut out a lot of foods, often all foods. Out come the juice cleanses and the detox diets and whilst these aren't completely bad as an add on in to your diet rather than a substitute, if we reduce calories to do these faddy diets that is not going to help us in the long run. Some people (I have been this person) go down the route of eating the same fatty, sugary foods but less of them. 1000 calories of Mcoys steak crisps and Boost chocolate bars are OK right because that's low cal. The idea that if we eat less we lose weight...

And weight we do lose... but just fat... we do not! Eating less, but not the correct nutrients, will mean your body will not function at it's best.

Why eating is awesome

If you eat under what your body wants/needs in terms of calories to just go about your day to day business, let alone your sweaty workouts, your body can go into a sort of starvation mode.

Most of us need between 1500 to 2000 cals at least for the body to function at a normal healthy rate. If it has less than that it will likely not get the nutrients it needs.

As I said above, when your body is in this mode, it needs more energy, from somewhere and if its not food... the fastest way to get energy is from FAT. So those lil muffin tops or extra pounds that we don't like on our thighs or bums or waists or moobs... the body will keep, to use for energy.

The metabolism also will not want anything that uses a lot of energy... like MUSCLE, so it will rid of the muscle as much as possible because it needs the energy to just get out of bed in the morning, let alone build/maintain/synthesize muscle. See why muscle is important below.

When you are restricting calories, your mind catches up with your body. It gets tired of not eating much, of skipping meals. It will either binge daily (like an out of body experience where there is no way you will not be able to eat that whole pack of biscuits your mate left out) your too tired to fight the urge. Or you'll say 'eff it, diets are crap, I'm gonna eat cake all day everyday' and for a few months until you feel crappy again and decide to diet, again, we resume to pastries for breakfast and burgers for dinner...(for a lot of people that is the norm, It was for me for a long time)

But in doing this you are loosing muscle and storing fat in this process and we have slowed down our metabolism. If we have less muscle mass on our bodies now, we no longer need to work as hard to survive. The metabolic rate can chug away at a slower rate because it doesn't need to do much with less muscle. We need less calories than we did before...

What then happens is the body stores more fat as it suddenly has eaten more calories than it needs to use (unused calories turn into fat)

So if you do happen to lose weight by not eating much (which is possible) your slightly screwed. You will keep having to under eat to stay smaller. And when I say smaller I mean not toned, wobbly skinny fat, smaller. Where you might be teeny but you wont be tight. And you will go on holiday or go to a wedding or go to your nans house for the day where she will feed you up and you will gain weight so easy that you won't fit into your teeny jeans that fit you the day before.

The reason we talk about eating clean is because you get more bang for your buck as they say. Eating 1650 of whole nutritious clean food means that actually you can eat quite a lot. Eating 1650 of crap food means you cant even eat one pizza or one tub of hagen daaz without going over... I know, life is unfair. But, see how much food you can eat when eating healthier foods on my Instagram freefannifitness.

So the answer is to eat... whole clean nutritious food. Don't cut everything out. Don't reduce your intake. Binge on fruit and chicken and veg (whole foods). Treat yourself to a pizza express here and there. Just do not reduce your calories for long periods of time, skip meals and let your body hold onto fat that you don't want and eat away at muscle that you do want.

Building muscle/the myth about getting bulky

Please please please trust me when I say... diets (ie under eating) don't work. It will not get you the body you want (in the long term) low calories will make you either keep fat or gain fat at some point and at the same time lose muscle (toned tight firm plum pert perky) muscle.

Building muscle is more important than fat loss in my opinion. If you're in it for the long haul, the home run, a lifetime and lifestyle change. Building muscle will be your no 1 savior. Why? Because put simply your body needs to work harder to maintain muscle (more so than fat) and when your body is working harder it is using more energy. See above...

Its not all that easy to build it, especially when you are trying to drop fat/loose weight etc. Most of us girls are trying to be in a calorie deficit so that we can continuously loose weight. That's pants, but its true. A lot of us are scared of calories in fear of putting on weight. I also hear girls talk of how they want to be toned. Yet they say they don't want to build muscle. And the shock horror matter of it all is, to be toned you NEED to (have muscle)

But firstly to build muscle (size), you need a surplus of calories. That means more calories than you maintain at. If you want curves (hips/bum) and you have a low fat percentage, you gotta eat more. Men If you want guns and nice pecs, then u need to eat more. Muscles will NOT grow in size if you are eating too little. And on that subject. If you are worried about you calves/quads/biceps getting too big ladies... no need to panic. They will not get too big as you do not have as much testosterone in your body, enough calories that your eating, definitely not enough protein and I'm sure no steroids in you that would make this happen.

Yes, might start looking smoother/perkier/firmer, even, if you are on a diet (less than maintenance calories) and you are working out. And a lot of girls this is what you are after (so if you are telling me your calves or quads are getting bigger and you dont want them to, and you eating under your calorie maintenance (which most of you are), its just not happening. It cannot. They may lok more defined, but that is because you are dropping fat percentage. (All over fat)

You may look smoother/perkier/firmer (or perhaps 'seem' bigger in areas like my arm above) because you are dropping fat, therefore the muscles you have underneath the fat begin to show, and muscle looks firm, toned more solid. We can condition muscle. The density, how much water and blood is pumped into it and yes if you have a high fat percentage we do want to tackle the fat before 'building' muscle as such. But we also want to be building stregnth in the muscle. The condition of it. We want to be able to, when fat percentage is going down, make sure that you are strong enough to put enough resistence on the muscle in order to build it (tone it) we want the muscles you do have in the best condition with the most strength possible.

Now... to grow your muscles/and essentially be toned... you want a lot of resistence. (Weights) I suggest mixing up sets and rep ranges so your muscles are kept guessing. The main aim is that you really put ur muscles under tension. Tear those muscles so that they repair and as they get put under alot of force and fed alot of fuel, the muscle will grow and/or condition. I got asked the question the other day... but what about those girls that look toned but they are still skinny? Not bulky. That is because they have some muscle and very low fat percentage.

I don't want to bulk. I want my muscles to be defined and shaped long and lean

Here's the thing. You cant 'shape/tone/define your muscles. Not by doing different exercises, eating certain foods, getting special treatments. The shape of your muscles are the shape of your muscles. They are either covered with 30% fat (a bulkier look) or covered in 10% fat (a leaner look) or you either have 40 kilos of muscle or you have 45kilos of muscle. The tone of muscle is just that. Muscle. If you want to be toned girls, you want muscle. If you want to look lean, firm, smooth, you want low body fat and to have built up muscle. Be it 2 kilo or 7 kilo of muscle. For your muscle to looked defined, you just need a lower body fat percentage and maintain your muscle condition. Girls you cannot get bulky (just to reiterate) unless you are taking steroids/testosterone or eating a lot more than you maintain weight at.

If you feel that you have enough muscle and want to just lose fat... you still don't want to just do cardio or hiit. You still want to do weight resistance. Why? Because you need to maintain muscle (tone) and if you just do cardio and do not eat enough, your body will eat away at your muscle and you will be left with skinny fat vibes. see above.

What are macros?

Macros are macro nutrients. These are known as big nutrient food groups we need to survive. Fats, carbs and proteins. The body uses all of these sources pf nutrients to be healthy, fit and functional. With too much of one and or too little of another, the body will not function to its full potential. This might mean that your teeth arent too strong, or your hair is brittle, your joints are not as flexible or, that you are holding too much fat or not sustaining enough muscle.

Foods high in proteins-Chicken, turkey, pork, beef, salmon, prawns, scallops,  mackerel, cod, seabass, greek yogurt, quorn, tofu, soy beas, peas, brocoli, lentils, beans, quinoa, buckwheat. 

Foods high in good fats-Nuts, coconut, coconut oil, nut butters, salmon, avocado.

Foods high in carbs-Grains such as quinoa, rice, buckwheat, spelt, pearl barley, wholemeal pasta, sweet potatoes, lentils, veg, fruit. Bread and pasta and white potatoes too but they are not good quality low GI carbs that we ideally want to eat.

Flexible eating

I started flexible eating about two years ago. Id been advised to check out iifym.com and decided this was the best way for me to not feel like I was on a diet but still watch what foods I was eating enough of etc. Flexible eating means that you don't have to cut out any foods. You can even decide to eat a pack of crisps and if it fits in your macros, your sorted. (BUT DON'T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS) The only thing is that when I first started I would often not have enough protein through out my days and just watch my calories rather than my macros. I never realised back then that you need to have a constant in protein and work around that. Back then my aim for protein was 120g but I would always end up having an average of 80g. Flexible eating is a really good option if you are not good at being strict, but also know you have some will power not to just eat a MacDonalds a day and fit it into your macros. No amount of Mac Ds or macros filled with crisps and cake will give you the right macro ratio for a healthy diet.

Which brings me to percentages. I have tried a few as seen in my previous post. 
The idea is that your protein never exceeds 35% your fats never go below 15% or above 40% and your carbs are whatever is left over. I would stick to never going above 50% if you are trying to lose weight and I wouldn't go below 25% for sanity. A lot of people do high fat low carbs diets. Where there ratio maybe 35% protein 40% fats and 25% carbs. Often people who find it hard to lose weight in general, work better with a ratio like this rather than someone who maybe more carb tolerant and do a ratio of 35% protein 15% fat and 50% carbs. I will be honest. I've never hit either of those.Your body needs a certain amount of fat to function and be healthy hence why 15% is the lowest it should go. Protein also needs to actually be utilised. Generally the amount of protein you need is 1g per 1 pound that you weigh. But anyhing between 0.8g to 1.5 dependent on how much you train or your goals is what works best for building and maintaining muscle. Keep your protein number constant and anywhere between 25% and 35% is a good starting block. My fav ratio is 30% protein 30% fat and 40% carb but it is a little middle ground and for my comp prep I am gonna play around with the lowering my fats and keeping my carbs high and vicer verser. Ratios are a good starting point and something to consider, but in all fairness I think you are a lot better off working in grams. There are many macro calculators on the internet and they may all have different versions of how to get your numbers. I like going in iifym.com but if you want to calculate your macros as a ball park figure please see below. And remember, as I always say, figure out what works for your body. There are so many variables, what works for me may not work for you and what works for Beyonce may not work for J Lo... these numbers and way to do things are all over the internet with people and there own opinions. My way is not going to be 'the' way but there is so much conflicting info that I suggest feeling out what works for you.

Calorie cycling/carb cycling.

Macro ratio and body composition is always about building muscle and/or maintaining it. And the most important function in this is your protien in take. This is always going to be your constant. But often we are trying to build muscle and lose fat at the same time and this is really difficult. Because to build muscle you need a surplus of calories and to lose fat you need a deficit of calories. I find if you are trying to loose fat as a main goal, try calorie cycling by choosing two high calorie days, four moderate calorie days and one low calorie day. During the higher calorie days you will mainly focus on upping your carbs but you can up your fats to raise your calories too. But what is more sufficient is upping the carbs as the body utilises carbs far better than it does extra fat.

The idea is that on heavy weight training days (days where you exert a lot more energy with resistence) you will have more calories from carbs. And on days where you are resting or only doing cardio or interval training you will have lower carb days. 

During cycling phases (and there are so many variations) you will always keep the protein the same. And I suggest roughly keeping the fats the same too. 

If I total all these days up and then divide by 7 I want an average of my fat loss calories per day. My main focus is the total amount over the week. All I want to do is create a deficit in calories weekly, but at the same time I want and need to fuel my muscles so that they can sustain cardio, keep in good condition and do not get eaten away whilst I am in a deficit. My body will do its best to try and get rid of something that uses up too much energy, if it lacks it (which it will being in a deficit) so my ultimate focus is fuelling my muscles as much as possible.

Carb cycling firstly means that your body is never getting used to a particular calorie intake and has to work hard (use energy) to always keep up with you and not adapt. And also, you are eating more calories on your training days so that you have more fuel/energy and nutrients to be used to build/maintain muscle. I also find carb cycling good when my calories get lower because some days I get to indulge a little more and the other days (the lower cal days) are easier to get through knowing that I have higher cal days around the corner.

If you google carb cycling A LOT of info and formulas will come up. There is a lot of research to do. For me, I currently do what is above. 

If my main focus was to build muscle I would make sure the majority of my days were above my maintenance and my moderate cal days at my maintenance with one low calorie day. 

Maintenance calories

 1200 calories and binging Vs 1800 calories and treats most days

1200 calories and binging Vs 1800 calories and treats most days

Getting to maintenance calories is important for a few reasons. If you feel that you are not seeing progress ie losing fat, yet you are eating low calories or you are a low fat percentage and don't want to loose too much weight, but you want to be a bit leaner. In general, maintenance calories for people tend to be in the (14-17) x (body weight in lbs) range. This number can be influenced by genetics, age, dieting history, and lifestyle factors, but most people will be able to hang out here comfortably. The formula isn't perfect, of course, but it’s a good ballpark estimate. 

If your calories you are eating are lower than what your maintenance number comes out as, and you feel that you are the two examples above, you need to up your calories and get to maintenance and try to stay there for as long as possible. At least 2 months in my opinion. In general, the longer you've been dieting, the longer you should be out of a caloric deficit and stay at maintenance.

Again, that doesn't mean that you have to bulk or pile on tons of fat. The ideal way to do this carefully is to reverse diet. Maybe another post soon as I may have bored you senseless with all this text...

As an example of calculating maintenance calories...Because I am very active I will do my body weight of 118 lb x 17 and I total 2006 calories. Which is roughly right from where I was sitting in my pre prep for my competition. 

Fat loss calories

Most of the time creating a 20% deficit in calories is more than enough to lose fat. 20% off of 2006 would mean to lose fat I could eat 1600 calories. Or you can use the math of your body weight in lbs x 12-14. Because I am very active I will use 118lb x 14 and I get 1650. So I know that anywhere between 1600 and 2000 are the amount of calories I will go from and to, to lose fat. Whilst I do this though I want to maintain my muscles. This is where a good balance of macros come in. 

Calculating Macros

Protein... Usually is anywhere between 0.8-1.5g per lb of weight. Stick with 1g to start with. At 118lb that would mean I would need 118g of protein. 

Then work out your fats... Usually anywhere between 0.3-0.5 per lb of weight. Again start in the middle giving me 118 x 0.4 equaling 47g. 

To work out your carbs you need to see how many calories you have used up with protein and fats. To do this take you protein in grams (118) and x by 4 (because there are 4 calories per gram of protein) 118 x 4 equals 472 calories from protein. 

Then multiply 47g by 9 (as there are 9 grams of calories per gram of fat) 47 x 9 equals 479cals. 

You then want to decide what stage you are at with your calories. I am in fat loss stage at 1800 calories. So I take my fat cals 479 and my protein cals 472 away from my total calorie intake. 1800 - 479 - 472 equals 849 calories left to have via carbs. To work out the grams divide your carb calories (849) divide by 4 (because there are 4 calories per gram of carb) and I get 212g carbs... 

Protein 118g

Fats 47g

Carbs 212g

Because I am in comp prep stage my protein is a lot higher in reality at 1.35 and therefore my carbs are lower than this. You need to figure out your carb tolerances/your activity level/and how much you love fat. If you love fats go with the higher end of 0.5. if you NEED more carbs, go with the lower fat end at 0.3. If you are doing a lot of heavy weight days then try upping your protein in take to 1.1 or 1.2 and upwards. 

I shall end this post here with some good old maths and just say this. If I have one piece of advise to take from all of the above. Stop eating really low calories and depriving yourself. It literally saved me from insanity. I hope some of this info is useful and if you have any questions post a comment or DM me of Instagram. 

Lots of love and protein.

xxx