So first things first, I worked out my maintenance calories. Maintenance calories are the total amount of calories one would need in order to stay looking exactly the same. The formula used for woman is [9.99 x weight (kgs)] + [6.25 x height (cms)] - [4.92 x age] - 161. That's your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). Then you need to multiply it by your activity level. If you work out 3-5 times per week and are moderately active, which you SHOULD be if you are trying to lose fat, then multiply your BMR by 1.5. This is not 100% accurate but it will give you a starting point.
I took my maintenance calories and subtracted 200 calories. So for the first week, everyday I had a deficit of 200 calories. The following week I subtracted another 100 per day and the following week, I subtracted another 100 per day. That leaves me with 1800 calories per day, a deficit of 400 from my maintenance calories. Since I was losing around a pound a week, I decided to leave it at 1800 calories for a while. You don't want to lose more than 1.5 pounds per week because otherwise you risk losing muscle.
EVERYTHING I put in my mouth is calculated. I do NOT cheat early on in the fat loss stage. Once my body fat gets lower I may introduce one cheat meal a week to jump start my metabolism and restore glycogen stores. If I feel like I need to cheat, or need a treat for my own sanity, then I eat a Quest Protein Bar, NOT pizza or ice cream. I'm serious. NO pizza, no white pasta, no candy, no lick of an ice cream, no sushi, no alcohol... NOTHING. I drink 1 to 1 1/2 gallons of water per day too.
What exactly do I eat then? Plenty! Here's a look at where I get my macro-nutrients from...
CARBS: Oats, sweet potato, brown rice, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bananas, berries, granny smith apples, whole wheat couscous, Ezekiel bread, Ezekiel cereal, and occasionally Ezekiel pasta.
PROTEIN: Chicken breasts, egg whites, eggs, non-fat plain Greek yogurt, non-fat cottage cheese, protein powders, white fish, and salmon.
FATS: Coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts and nut butters, unsweetened nut milk, fish oil and flaxseed oil tablets, and salmon can contribute to healthy fats too.
That is literally all I eat with the exception of new healthy recipes I might create. I spruce things up by using salt-free, natural spice mixes and I will allow myself zero calorie artificial sweeteners. When I start prepping for my first competition I will eliminate the artificial sweeteners because they aren't natural and they leave you bloated. But for now, they help me stick to my plan.
CARB CYCLING. This is where you have higher carb days on your higher activity level days, and on your rest days you will eat a low carbohydrate diet. So for instance today I have morning interval training and then this afternoon I have weight training. Today for me is a higher carbohydrate day. Tomorrow I don't have morning interval training but I do have weight training in the afternoon therefore I'll eat a moderate amount of carbs. Sundays are my complete rest days and I will only eat carbohydrates in the morning with the exception of vegetables and a banana throughout the rest of the day. On this low carb day my fats will be higher.
MACRO-NUTRIENT RATIO. Macro-nutrients are your carbohydrates, fats and protein. They all play very important roles in the body. These are the three groups that are digested and used for generating energy, building muscle and being stored for later use. I won't go into the science of them. Everyone's ratio is going to be different. What works for me may not work for you. Right now I'm eating a higher protein diet to ensure I maintain as much muscle whilst I'm losing body fat. My ratio is 45% protein, 35% carbs, and 20% fats. This is in general because remember in the above paragraph I explained how I carb cycle so everyday isn't perfectly 45/35/20. I keep my protein the same everyday, the only things I change are the carb and fat ratios. I like to eat around one and a half grams of protein per pound of body weight. So if I weigh 140 pounds, I would eat 210g of protein. I am NOT suggesting you do this. This is just what I do. The recommended amount is actually .8g per pound depending on what you read, but I have very different goals and have a very high training volume compared to most. It also works for me.
CARDIO. I stay away from long bouts of steady-state cardio. I am not training for a marathon so steady-state cardio offers me no benefits. When you run for long bouts at a sustainable speed, your body is getting it's fuel primarily from carbohydrates. Once you have depleted yourself from available carbohydrates, your body starts to convert the amino acids in your muscle into energy. This is the WORST thing you can do. You want every little bit of muscle to stay put! Why on earth would you want to break it down and lose it. Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn and the better you look. Look at a marathoner's body compared to a fitness models body. If running is your sport, by all means train for it. Personally, it is not my goal and if running a marathon is not your goal either then stay away from hours of cardio a day. I have tried it all. Tried running a lot, didn't lose body fat, didn't gain muscle. Tried 5 days of 1 hour long HIIT, lost body fat but also lost a lot of muscle. Empty stomach low intensity walking, offered no benefit or negative effect so why waste that time. Right now I do only 3 days of high intensity interval training for 25 minutes each session. That's it! If I hit a plateau in fat loss then I will add one more day of HIIT. I like to change up the type of HIIT I do so I keep my body guessing. Today I'm doing sprints on the bike, the next session I may sprint on the treadmill and the third session I might sprint on the arc trainer or stepmill. I go all out for 30 seconds and recover for 45-60 seconds.
WEIGHT TRAINING. My favourite thing in the whole wide world! HAHA! I train 5 days a week. I will add a sixth training day depending on how my body is feeling. I split my muscle groups up so a typical week would look like this...
Monday = Shoulders and Abs
Tuesday = Quad dominant
Wednesday = Back and Chest
Thursday = Bis, Tris and Abs
Friday = Glutes and Hams
I do my HIIT on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings. You will notice I do not do HIIT on leg days because HIIT takes it out of my legs and I want to be fully recovered and strong for my leg days. I also keep 'back day' away from my Glutes and Hams day because a lot of glute and hamstring work calls upon your back muscles to perform the exercise, like Deadlifts for instance.
I vary my sessions to keep my muscles guessing. I change up the exercises, rep ranges, weight, order, add dropsets, supersets, focus on the eccentric (negative) phase of the movement, and do isolation work where you keep your muscle under tension and hold it.
I track my progress on a spreadsheet I designed where I record my weight, body fat %, muscle % and water % every morning. 'Every morning' you say. Yes, every morning. There was a study done that showed people who weighed themselves and were conscious of their weight lost more fat than those who didn't weigh themselves regularly. It makes total sense. If you are unaware of your weight, how do you know if what you're doing is working? Don't turn a blind eye. You can't hide from it. Don't worry about the actual number looking back at you, just worry about that number decreasing. But also remember that muscle weighs more than fat so as you gain muscle, the scales might not budge or even increase depending on how lean you are. That doesn't mean you aren't losing body fat. That's why I also measure my body parts every Monday. I record my calorie goal and actual calories every day and my carbohydrate intake. I also record my workouts everyday. I use My Fitness Pal to design each days meals so I'm never guessing and have a plan to follow. That stops aimless snacking and choosing higher calorie food options all in one day.
So that's how I do it. Hard, focused, and dedicated work. Don't sit their and complain that you aren't losing any weight when you eat out 3 times a week, drink alcohol once a week and only workout 3 days a week. That's just not going to cut it I'm sorry. I go through all of the above for a mere 1 pound loss per week. Patience is key people. There are no quick fixes. Rome wasn't built in a day.
Please ask me any questions you have about your current routine as I'll be glad to offer my advice.