Simple Rules, Dramatic Results
Have you read the Propane Protocol? If you have, you know that it’s possible to build muscle and lose fat by following simple rules. But what if you could make it even simpler? Here’s how you can forget about calories and still get shredded. If you’ve ever desperately searched through your bin to find the nutritional information on the back of a packet, this article is definitely for you! (If you’ve ever desperately searched through your bin to find that last bit of cake that you threw out, we can’t help you.)
Why Calories are Important!
If you want to lose fat, you have to eat fewer calories than you require to maintain your weight. That’s simple, isn’t it? If you’re convinced that low-carb diets are magic, and that calories are a hopelessly outdated concept, you should read this fantastic article by Matt Perryman. Here’s what you need to know:
In ideal models, calorie balance — the balance of energy after energy expended is subtracted from energy ingested — is always the globally permissive variable: if the balance is a net positive, you’re gaining weight. If it’s not, you aren’t. All other factors aside, there must be energy to put in the adipose tissue. If there’s no calories to store, then you aren’t getting fatter. Your insulin can be spiked every hour of every day and you will still never store air as fat.
Calories are calories. A unit of energy can’t be anything but a unit of energy. How accurate we are at estimating the calorie content of any given food, and what our body does with those calories, is up for debate. Both the energy-in and energy-out variables are dependent on the interplay between our biological tendencies, how the food’s nutrient content affects the energy available to our bodies, and our psychological and behavioral relationship with food.
I’m about to suggest you don’t count calories directly, how does that work then? You’re just going to perform a simple calculation and then forget about them. You will be counting your macros instead. The caloric defecit will be implicit, but it will still dictate whether or not you lose fat.
How Do I Count Macros?
There are three main classes of macros (macronutrients): protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Your body uses them for different things, and your requirements will depend on your many factors, including body composition and activity levels. This guide will give you a set of macro targets to hit every day.
Calculate Your Calorie Requirements
Use a BMR calculator, or the simple estimate of 33kcal/kg, to establish your maintenance calories. You will be following the Propane Protocol guidelines, of course, and eating 20% below that amount. For example, if you weighed 90kg your maintenance calories would be roughly 2970kcals, and you would fix your calorie intake each day at 80% of that, which is 2376kcals.
Aim for a minimum of 2g/kg while you diet. A higher intake of 2.5-3g/kg is probably better for retention of lean mass.
Fat will be consumed before training, and kept low after training. Aim for 0.5g/kg fat on training days. On rest days, you will only be eating protein and fat. That means that with your protein intake fixed, the rest of your calories will be entirely fat. On rest days your calories from fat will be:
Fat (kcals) = 0.8 * Maintenance calories – Protein (g) * 4kcals
Divide that by 9kcals/g to get the amount of fat in grams.
On rest days you don’t eat carbs. After training you will eat carbs, consuming the rest of your calories that aren’t accounted for by protein and fat.
Carbs (kcals) = 0.8 * Maintenance calories – Protein (g) *4kcals – Fat (g) * 9kcals
Divide the result by 4kcals/g to get the amount of carbs in grams. Typically this will be about 2-3g/kg.
Example Training Day
Continuing with the example of a 90kg person, let’s set protein intake at 2.5g/kg. That’s 225g of protein. Fat intake is fixed at 0.5g/kg, which is 45g. The remaining calories from carbs are:
2376kcals - 225 *4kcals – 45 * 9kcals = 1071kcals.
That gives 267g of carbs.
Example Rest Day
Again, for a 90kg person, setting protein intake at 2.5g/kg, that gives 225g of protein. The remaining calories from fat are:
2376kcals - 225 *4kcals = 1476kcals.
That gives 164g of fat.
(More) Simple Rules
How to Construct a Meal
What type of meal is this? Protein and fat?
Choose a fatty cut of meat to hit your protein target, and then add a source of fat as necessary to hit your fat target. Or you can choose a lean cut of meat and add more additional fat, but typically the fatty cuts are cheaper and tastier!
Or protein and carbs?
Choose a lean cut of meat, protein powder, or low-fat cheese, and add low-fat sources of carbs to hit your macro targets.
A serving of 30g protein is:
- 150g beef, venison, or bison.
- 150g white fish, like pollock or basa.
- 150g chicken or turkey.
- 130g canned tuna, or a single can.
- 40g whey protein, usually 2-2.5 scoops.
- 300g cottage cheese, or 225g Quark cheese. This is typically a single pot.
A serving of 50g carbs is:
- 70-80g uncooked white rice, roughly half a cup.
- 80-90g uncooked rolled oats, about a cup.
- 250-300g potatoes or sweet potatoes, approximately a large potato or a couple of small/medium potatoes.
- 2 small bananas, or one medium and one small banana.
- 60-70g of kids cereal, without milk. This is roughly 1.5 cups.
A serving of 10g fat is:
- A tablespoon of olive oil, coconut oil, hemp oil, macademia nut oil.
- Two tablespoons of double cream.
- 20g of cashew nuts, peanuts, walnuts, macademia nuts, pistachios, or almonds. Approximately a handful.
- Two tablespoons of nut butter (any of the nuts mentioned above).
- 12.5g of butter, about a tablespoon.
Go and find a set of scales, or measuring cups, and forget about calories!