You may picture the battle to lose weight and lean down as a life consisting of green tea, unpleasant cardio and protein shakes, but it really doesn’t have to be. Here are just a few ways to make the process that little bit more pleasant without cutting corners.

When was the last time you added high fructose corn syrup, 12 types of preservatives and colourings to your home-cooked meal? – Rob Buckingham Photography

If you want to improve your physique without living the most boring existence imaginable, you need to learn to cook. Not just cook, cook with macronutrients and calories in mind, it’s a different skill altogether. Feel free to skip this one if you’re happy to eat the same few meals every day for months at a time, but being able to produce something that I’d be happy to have served to me in a restaurant which isn’t going to slow down my progress is very satisfying.

Healthy, satisfying meals

Preparing your own food puts you in a better mindset with regards to eating, it’s easier to turn down something that you know is bad for you if you know you’ll be having a nice cooked meal in a couple of hours. We no longer believe in the merits of keeping your body constantly fed and eating every 2-3 hours – we’re yet to see convincing evidence for the benefits of this and people see success doing the exact opposite, prolonging time between meals. Also, don’t stress about being unable to absorb more than a certain quantity of protein in one sitting. As long as you’re giving your body what it needs over a day, there’s no benefit to then splitting that amount of food up into tiny boring meals.

Begin with a lean protein source

The most basic way to get a grasp on cooking physique-friendly meals is to start with a good, lean protein source and base the meal around it. Chicken and turkey are staples because they’re easy, buy some pre-mixed seasoning and avoid cooking with oil (a little butter is fine, and dry with a non-stick pan is best) and you’re off to a start. Just by having a few seasonings in stock and varying the source of carbohydrate or fat you eat with the protein source you should be able to vary things plenty. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use other protein sources like eggs, less lean meats, oily fish and dairy, but you have to be careful and a little more precise if you want to control your macronutrient intake as well as your intake of calories.

 

Adjusting for fat loss

You have to be aware that you’re also getting large quantities of fat or carbohydrates (or both) with these foods. For example, eggs are often seen as an excellent protein source but in fact in a whole egg you get more calories from fat than protein. Basically, be aware of how much energy, protein, carbohydrate and fat there is in what you’re eating. If you aren’t following a diet plan, a simple enough strategy for fat loss that will work up to a point for anyone is to get roughly a third of your calories from each macronutrient (carbs, protein, fat) and eat less (in terms of calories) than you normally would. When doing this, note that a gram of protein has roughly 4 kcal, a gram of carbohydrate 4 kcal and a gram of fat 9 kcal.

Use spices

Stealthy calories add up very quickly through using olive oil, mayonnaise and ketchup. Instead, learn to use spices and vegetables to make a seemingly boring meal into a gourmet dish. Plain chicken breast and rice becomes biryani with cumin and cardamom. Add cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and berries to your porridge.

Rob Buckingham Photography

Substitutions

You can substitute ingredients to fine-tune the carb/protein/fat content of your dish as required. Almond flour (ground almond) is an excellent lower-carb, higher fat/protein substitute for regular flour for cakes, pancakes, puddings, bread, anything you can think of. Otherwise, regular flour is fine if you have the carbohydrate allowance. Avoid margarine or corn oils, use butter or olive oil (sparingly).

If you’re already in good shape and want to get into better shape, you may need to pay closer attention to portions, but for anyone new to this, this’ll work a treat. Plus, once you get a grasp of being aware of the calories and macronutrients you’re consuming you can really branch out in terms of the foods you eat and the meals you prepare.

The Next Step

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