Dieting for fat loss has been (and continues to be) overly complicated.
But the truth is, it shouldn’t be.
All you have to do if follow some basic rules, and you too can experience the results you’ve always wanted.
We’ve arranged these “rules” into a pyramid of fat loss, beginning with the most important principles to adhere to when dieting at the bottom (foundation) of the pyramid and working our way up to the top.
Let’s get started!
Create a Calorie Deficit
While many things factor into a successful transformation challenge, one rule reigns above all for shedding unwanted body fat -- energy balance.
In order to lose weight, you MUST be in an energy deficit, which means you must expend more energy each day than you consume. In other words, “calories in” must be less than “calories out”.
Follow this one rule consistently, and you will lose weight.
Now, in order to create a calorie deficit, you need to have a rough idea of how many calories you need to eat to maintain your bodyweight, which you can determine using our TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) calculator.
Once you have that number, you then need to decide on how many calories to remove from your daily intake to facilitate weight loss.
Generally speaking, you need a deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound of fat.
Therefore, in order to lose about one pound of fat per week, you would have to remove 500 calories per day from your diet.
For example, if the TDEE calculator estimates your TDEE to be 2500 calories, you would eat 2000 calories per day to lose one pound of fat per week.
While there may be a tendency to drastically cut calories, current evidence-based recommendations indicate that a weight loss rate of 0.5 to 1% of bodyweight per week is optimal to retain lean muscle mass amidst an energy deficit.
Basically, you don’t want to cut calories too low when dieting, as it severely increases the likelihood of losing muscle while dieting.
Once you have your estimated calorie intake for weight loss figured out, you need to start tracking your bodyweight. After two weeks of eating the estimated number of calories to lose weight, you should start to notice a downward trend in your bodyweight.
If you do not see the number on the scale going down, you may need to reduce your calorie intake by another 100-200 calories (or increase the amount of cardio you perform each week) to kick start fat loss.
The next level of the pyramid of fat loss are your macronutrient ratios.
Macronutrients are the major energy-containing molecules we consume to fuel the needs of our bodies. There are four macronutrients:
Seeing as you are here to optimize your health and wellness, we’ll assume that alcohol is not contributing a significant amount to your daily calorie intake.
That leaves us with the three “heavy hitters” -- protein, carbs, and fat.
How you organize will have a significant impact on the type of weight you lose during your transformation challenge.
You see, not all weight loss is the same.
All low-calorie diets can make you lose weight, but not all low-calorie diets lead to the same reductions in fat mass.
Calories are the primary driver of weight loss, but to optimize fat loss we need to be a bit more specific with the amount of each macronutrient we consume.
When it comes to optimizing body composition, protein is far and away the most important macronutrient.
As me mentioned above, reducing calories too much on a diet can lead to muscle loss. To prevent muscle loss (catabolism) while dieting, you need to consume a high-protein diet.
Current evidence-based recommendations for protein intake while dieting are 2.3-3.1 g/kg of lean body mass per day of protein.
This equates to roughly 1-1.4 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, you would want to consume between 130-182 grams of protein per day.
The remainder of your calories will be comprised of a mix of carbohydrates and fat.
Harkening back to the same evidence-based recommendations we reference, 15-30% of calories each day will come from fat, and the reminder of calories from carbohydrate.
As for which carb sources you consume, the “best” options are whole, minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are rich in micronutrients, fiber, and water (which help increase feelings of fullness), while being low in calories.
“Bad” foods (hyper-processed foods) are not completely off limits while dieting, but they tend to be very low in fiber and micronutrients. And, they also tend to not be very filling, which makes it all the more likely that you will overeat and stunt your weight loss progress.
Do I Need to Worry About Meal Timing or Nutrient Timing?
For the average individual looking to drop a few pounds and build a bit of muscle, nutrient timing is largely irrelevant and these individuals would be best served by focusing on their total daily calorie intake and hitting the proper macronutrient quotas.
For more advanced trainees or those seeking to compete in a physique competition, eating three to six meals per day with each meal containing 0.4-0.5 g/kg bodyweight of protein will likely maximize fat loss benefits and lean mass retentions.
Organize Your Training
Continuing our way up the pyramid of fat loss is training.
For years, individuals have been told that the best way to lose weight is to perform lots of cardiovascular exercise in their “fat burning zone.”
Truth be told, using exercise as the primary driver of weight loss is an exercise in futility.
The reasons for this are multifactorial.
For starters, in the grand scheme of your total daily energy expenditure, exercise contributes relatively little.
For example, a 30-minute walk on the treadmill at a 5mph pace will burn between 240-350 calories. That amounts is easily wiped out from being a bit too heavy handed with a serving of peanut butter.
Now, this doesn’t mean that exercise is completely useless when trying to lose weight, but it does serve to show that it isn’t suited to be the main driver for creating a negative energy balance. The main catalyst for your deficit should be your diet.
Exercise can be used to increase your total energy expenditure, thereby reducing the amount of calories you have to cut from your diet.
But, that’s a secondary reason to exercise while dieting for fat loss.
The primary reason to train hard while dieting is for building and sparing lean muscle tissue.
As we mentioned above, being in an energy deficit increases the likelihood of muscle loss.
Consuming a high protein diet can help guard against muscle breakdown, but so too can exercise, specifically resistance-training.
Lifting heavy weights provides the stimulus (“signal”) your body needs to hold onto your muscles.
Previously it was touted that lifted “heavy” for low reps was great for building muscle and doing high reps was great for “toning.” But, to be honest, the style of training that is effective for building muscle is just as effective for retaining muscle during a diet.
As such, you don’t need to drastically overhaul your training program when dieting.
You should still focus on performing compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, overhead press, pull ups, etc.) for a reasonable amount of sets (10-20 per muscle group per week) for a reasonable amount of reps (6-15 reps per set).
What About Cardio?
Truth be told, you can lose weight and burn fat without ever stepping on a treadmill or hopping on a bike.
That’s because you do not “need” to perform cardio to lose weight.
However, as we just mentioned, performing some cardio during the week increases your total daily energy expenditure and can help to offset some of the calories that you have to cut from your diet.
Harkening back to the example diet we gave above where you have to eliminate 3500 calories from your diet to lose one pound per week. This averages out to 500 calories per day.
Now, you could choose to take all 500 of the calories out from your nutrition plan, or you could remove 300 calories from your diet and perform 200 calories worth of cardio during the day.
However you create your energy deficit is up to you. Some people prefer to do less cardio and eat less food. Others prefer to consume a higher amount of calories and understand that in order to do that they will have to do more cardio during the week.
One thing we will mention is that performing too much cardio can impair recovery, which limits your ability to train hard in your resistance-training workouts -- which should be the primary focus of your training plan when dieting (or building muscle for that matter).
Performing excessive cardio can also lead to muscle breakdown and increase hunger levels.
That’s why we recommend prioritizing resistance training and only resorting to cardio when you don’t want to cut calories any more.
Sleep even affects our appetite, more specifically the hormones that govern our hunger in ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin is the “hunger” hormone that increases appetite and tells our brain that it’s time to eat. Leptin is the hormone that tells the body it has had enough to eat.
Not getting enough quality sleep results in higher ghrelin levels the following day along with decreased leptin levels.
Basically, this means you are much more likely to feel hungrier than usual during the day while also feeling less satiated from the foods you eat. This is the perfect combination for overeating and blowing your nutrition plan, which can stall fat loss.
Dieting is notorious for leaving people low on energy, mood, and motivation. It’s also notorious for leaving people feeling hungry and unsatisfied from their meals.
Fortunately, using the right supplements can help rectify these issues and help you have an easier time dieting for fat loss.
1UP has created a comprehensive arsenal of supplements to help you lose fat faster and easier than ever.
We’ve already mentioned that protein intake is paramount when dieting as it helps protect muscle tissue from catabolism. Yet, many people struggle to consume enough protein each day. 1UP has created a versatile line of protein powders that are high in protein, low in carbs, fat, and total calories, and taste delicious.
As an added bonus, protein is highly satiating and takes a higher amount of energy to digest than either carbs or fats, which means your body has to burn more calories to break it down -- which is a win for dieters looking to increase their energy expenditure.
Fat Burners contain nutrients that support dieting efforts through a number of different mechanisms.
Ingredients like caffeine and theobromine can boost energy and motivation, helping you to get in the gym and push harder in your workouts.
They also contain ingredients such as Tyrosine and Eria Jarensis, which increase focus and help alleviate the annoying “brain fog” that’s commonly experienced with dieting.
You can also find nutrients like Paradoxine (Grains of Paradise Extract) that ramp up the body’s calorie burning mechanisms, helping to enhance energy expenditure during the day.
And, to top it off, fat burners actually include ingredients (such as Yohimbine, L-Carnitine, and GBB) that improve the body’s ability to burn fat for energy.
For added weight loss support, you can also check out our stimulant-free fat burners L-Carnitine 3000 and CLA which work with our stimulant-based fat burners to further enhance energy expenditure and fat burning.
As you know all too well, dieting leaves you feeling hungry, and the longer you diet, the worse the hunger pangs get.
Fortunately, there are several all-natural, non-stimulant supplements you can use to help keep hunger at bay.
We’ve combed through the research, found the best hunger-suppressing ingredients and combined them in 1UP Appetite Suppressant.
Take one serving (4 capsules) 1 hour before a meal in the AM or PM whenever you’re trying to curb appetite cravings.
- Helms ER, Aragon AA, Fitschen PJ. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11:20. Published 2014 May 12. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-20