How to Lose Those Last 20 Pounds

September 14th, 2009 Posted in Diet 21 Comments »

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Your Questions
Your Questions

I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.

Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.

The category, Your Health Questions is a more proactive approach to answering your questions so that everyone can benefit from the Q & A.

EKansas wrote:

“I am at 168lbs, down from 232. I’m female and 5’6. I work out with a trainer twice a week and do weights and cardio kickboxing and other cardio on off days. I work out 5-6 days per week.

I’ve been trying to get below 160 for months. My trainer says to bump my protein from 80grams to 160. I’m afraid of the extra calories. I try to stick to 1500. Is this correct?”


Response:

I am very sorry EKansas, but your trainer is a complete asshat.

Before I get into my response, remember that if you take all my diet advice and increase your exercise intensity, you should actually replace some fat mass with muscle mass (not much, you will NOT get bulky), so you might end up staying at the same bodyweight for a couple weeks.

Taking a bodyfat measurement will be much more beneficial than the scale in observing your last 20 lbs of fat loss. Your personal trainer should at least be able to help with that.

Calculating Maintenance Calories

If you are looking to get down to 140 lbs from 160 lbs then start by adjusting your calories for 140 lbs of bodyweight. First we have to calculate the number of calories your body needs each day to sustain your target bodyweight, also called maintenance calories.

140 lbs * 12 = 1680 calories = daily maintenance calorie intake

There is a much lengthier calculation to get maintenance calories, but a coefficient of 12 is usually pretty accurate.

1680 is the number of calories your body would need each day to maintain 140 lbs of bodyweight.

Calculating Dieting Calories

In order to lose weight you need to be under 1680 calories each day.

First, I would suggest subtracting 200 calories. That puts you in a caloric deficit and will start the fat loss process.

1680 calories – 200 = 1480 calories = daily dieting calorie intake

Considering you are female and probably have a slow metabolism (seeing that you got up to 232 at one point), you can probably knock off the extra 80 calories and use 1400 as your daily dietary calorie intake.

1480 calories – 80 = 1400 calories = final daily dieting calorie intake

On average you want to get about 234 calories at each of your 6 meal/snacks throughout the day. A more realistic distribution would be 3 meals of above 300 calories and 3 snacks of about 160 calories each day.

Calculating Protein Intake

You should be eating .8 grams of protein per pound of target bodyweight.

140 lbs * .8 grams = 112 grams = daily protein intake

Calories from protein = 112 grams * 4 calories per gram = 448 calories from protein

That means you will get 32% of your calories from protein.

On average you want to get about 20 grams of protein per meal/snack at each of your 6 meal/snacks throughout the day.

See also: how much protein to eat

Calculating Carbohydrate Intake

You should remember that most of your carbs should come from complex sources like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

You should be eating no more than 70 grams of carbohydrates on days when you don’t workout, and no more than 100 grams of carbohydrates on days when you do workout.

70 grams = daily carbohydrate intake on non-workout days

On non-workout days, the majority of your carbs should come before the afternoon so your body can burn those calories up for energy throughout the day.

Calories from carbs = 70 grams * 4 calories per gram = 280 calories from carbs on non-workout days.

That means you will get about 20% of your calories from carbs on non-workout days.

On average you want to get about 12 grams of complex carbs per meal/snack at each of your 6 meal/snacks throughout the day, although a better balance might be:

Eat Fruit
  • meal 1: 20g
  • snack 1: 10g
  • meal 2: 20g
  • snack 2: 10g
  • meal 3: 10g
  • snack 3: 0g

100 grams = daily carbohydrate intake on workout days

On workout days, the majority of your carbs should come after the workout so your body can replenish its depleted glycogen stores and start the recovery process.

Calories from carbs = 100 grams * 4 calories per gram = 400 calories from carbs on workout days.

That means you will get about 28.5% of your calories from carbs on non-workout days.

On average you want to get about 16.5 grams of complex carbs per meal/snack at each of your 6 meal/snacks throughout the day, although a better balance might be:

Eat Veggies
  • meal 1: 20g
  • snack 1: 10g
  • meal 2: 20g
  • snack 2: 10g
  • post-workout meal 3: 35g
  • snack 3: 5g

See also: how much fat to eat

Calculating Fat Intake

You should eat the remainder of your calories from fat, but remember that most of your fats should come from healthy sources like olive oil, fish, eggs, and nuts. Avoid saturated and trans fats.

Part of the problem with the Atkins diet was that people were sitting around eating sausage, bacon, beef, and butter all day long because those foods have no carbs. Well, that strategy is a straight and narrow path towards clogged arteries and heart disease.

On non-workout days you will ingest slightly more fat to make up for 30 grams less of carbs.

1400 total calories – (448 calories from protein + 280 calories from carbs) = 672 calories from fat on non-workout days

672 calories / 9 calories per gram of fat = 74 grams of fat on non-workout days

That means you will get about 48% of your calories from fat on non-workout days.

On average you want to get about 12 grams of fat per meal/snack at each of your 6 meal/snacks throughout the day, on workout days. Choose to eat more fat during meals with fewer carbs and no fat during meals with higher carbs.

Zero grams of fat should be consumed with the high carb post-workout meal.

On workout days you will ingest slightly less fat because you will be eating additional carbs to help with exercise recovery.

1400 total calories – (448 calories from protein + 400 calories from carbs) = 552 calories from fat on non-workout days

552 calories / 9 calories per gram of fat = 61 grams of fat on workout days

That means you will get about 39% of your calories from fat on non-workout days.

On average you want to get about 10 grams of fat per meal/snack at each of your 6 meal/snacks throughout the day, on workout days. Choose to eat more fat during meals with fewer carbs and no fat during meals with higher carbs.

See also: how many carbs to eat

Training

I highly suggest you investigate the benefits of high intensity training. This can be either high intensity interval training (HIIT) or high intensity resistance training (HIRT).

HIIT and HIRT can and should be used in place of boring, less effective endurance cardio.

Read my article on how to schedule cardio training along with my article on what is HIIT.

I need to write an article on HIRT, but the basic theory is this:

  • pick 3 exercises that target different muscle groups to create a superset
  • create 4 distinct supersets
  • for harder compound exercises try to get 5-7 reps
  • for easier bodyweight exercises or calisthenics, try to get 20 reps
  • no rest between sets in a superset
  • no more than 120 seconds rest between supersets
  • complete each superset only once before moving onto the next superset
  • HIRT sessions should last for 45 minutes, no more, no less
  • if you don’t complete all supersets in 45 minutes, stop
  • if you complete all supersets before 45 minutes, start over from the beginning

Make sure when you are weight training, that you keep the intensity high and always try to make progress from workout to workout. If your trainer isn’t pushing you to be more than you think you can be, then my suspicions are confirmed that your trainer is lame.

Conclusion

80% of your progress is defined by your diet. Randomly adding 80 grams of protein and 320 calories to your diet, as your ‘trainer’ suggests, is a purely bonehead move. He’s probably trying to fatten you up so you will buy his services for $100 an hour for the next 3 months… or whatever it is person trainers are charging these days. Don’t do it.

You are going to have to figure out exactly which foods you should be eating on your own. Since you lost 64 lbs already, you must have some idea about what to eat.

Always choose fruits, vegetables, legumes, leans meats, seafood, eggs, and low fat dairy products. Avoid red meat and sugar whenever possible.

Good luck.

See also: 10 tips to get shredded

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21 Responses to “How to Lose Those Last 20 Pounds”

  1. Craig says:

    In the “Calculating Maintenance Calories” section, you used 12 as maintenance calories number. Is it true that this number will vary based on whether I am an endomorph, mesomorph or ectomorph? If that is true and I know how many calories I consume to maintain weight (without exercise), could I not calculate my own maintenance calorie number?

    • Steve says:

      Craig: you could use 12 to get a slightly accurate number that can be used to set up a diet plan. Bodytype, age, weight, height, experience, lifestyle, and so much more could be used to get maintenance calories. There is a huge equation with 20 or so variables in a spreadsheet that I have used on occasion to figure diet, maintenance, and weight gain calorie recommendations. Obviously the closer I work with the individual, the more accurate my suggestions will be.

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  6. Ashley says:

    THANKS! This was so helpful. I had a meeting with a personal trainer, and he said he would only help me figure out all these numbers when I bought a package. You saved me lots of $$$! Thanks again!!!

  7. Héctor says:

    How can to be 70 grams = daily carbohydrate intake on non-workout days?

    If we are talking about a man who is 140 lbs, his intake of calories should be 1680 (140*12=1680) therefore, his intake of carbs should be of 84 grams, because 20% of 1680 is 336/4 = 84..

    Am I right? What am I doing wrong? it’s just that I want to calculate my intake of carbs for loss fat, but I don’t know if I’m wrong or what.

    Regards.

    • Steve says:

      There isn’t a whole lot of difference between 70 and 84 grams of carbs. You are right in your calculations. The bigger the man, the more carbs he can eat on a fat loss diet, even on a day off.

  8. Ginger says:

    Okay, I am 5 ft. exact and weigh about 150 155 I really want to get down to about 120 Because I know that the weight I should be at is 115 I really want to get down to either 120 or 115 but I kinda want it done as soon as possible between now (January 6th, 2011) and either this simmer or this April.

  9. montana says:

    i dident read all of this but i want to know how to loose 10 pounds in 2 months i need to fit in my grade 7 grad dress.

  10. ab says:

    hey,
    i weigh 184lbs and would like to get to 150lbs.
    I’ve been using your Fat loss for women programme but I’m slightly confused by these equations

    Is this right?
    Target calories = 150 * 12 = 1800 calories
    protein = .8 * 150 = 120grams (480 calories)
    carbs (workout days) = 70 * 4 = 280g (1120 calories)
    carbs (off days) = 100 * 4 = 400g (1600 calories)
    fat = (workout days) [1800 - ( 480 + 400 ) ]/9 = 115g
    fat = (off days) [1800 - ( 480 + 280)]/9 = 102g

    Seems like a lot of fat, is this right?
    Many thanks

  11. Dom says:

    Eat less, exercise more. – That is what Spartacus said :D Nice!

  12. Shane Hogan says:

    its the cutting info i was on about sam !!!

  13. CrossfitMom says:

    This article rocks because I’m a complete numbers person. I’ve lost 30 lbs in 6 months but the truth is I’ve put on so much muscle that number is deceiving. I’ve been going on bf% (currently 23%) instead even though I know that method has its own flaws. I’m short, female and in my 30′s so basically I have everything against me except that I’m pretty solid. I’d like to drop 10-20 lbs… I don’t really know how much this last persistent fat really weighs, and if the numbers don’t move well that’s cool too. I’m good with say 18-19% bf. The thing is, that with my workouts I’m just too damn hungry to eat as little as your equations suggest. I’m staying around 1400-1600 but have dropped grains entirely, getting my carbs from veggies. I’ve dropped most fruits, I guess I could lose the apples. No more squash either. Do you think losing these starches would be enough? I can lose the PB too if I need to but I will be sad.

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