Beginners Guide To Burning Fat: Nutrition 101

The very first thing we need to address is nutrition. When it comes to burning fat, nutrition is about 80% of the game. While don't get me wrong – exercise is definitely important and highly recommended, what you eat on a day to day basis will make or break your results.

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It's simply too hard to out-exercise a bad diet (and I would not suggest trying!).

So what does good nutrition mean? Let's walk you through the basics.

Step 1: Your Calorie Intake

As discussed, your energy intake versus your energy output is the top thing that will determine whether you move forward with your fat loss goals or not. Eat more than you burn and fat gain will result. Eat less than you burn and fat loss will result. It's simple mathematics and nothing is going to outsmart this equation.

One mistake some people make is thinking that if they eat all healthy foods, weight loss will automatically take place. This isn't the case. While eating healthy foods is definitely important and is going to make it easier to see fat loss occurring, it's no guarantee.

You can still gain fat if you eat enough chicken, brown rice, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and so on.

Calories count first and foremost.

So how many calories do you need to eat? While there is no way for us to assess the exact number of calories you burn daily as this number is highly variable from individual to individual and even within the same person it can vary depending on how active you are on any given day, we can use very good estimates.

By estimating your calorie burn, you can get a pretty good idea of how many calories you should eat daily and then as the weeks go by, you can adjust based on your results to make sure that your progress moves forward.

There are a number of fancy equations that you can use to assess your calorie intake, but let's keep things simple and easy.

For the average individual who works a desk job, maintains average activity levels, and exercises a few times a week, a range of 11-13 calories per pound of body weight will put you in the weight loss sweet spot.

If you happen to be a little more active – you're on your feet more often than not during the day, use the 13 figure. If you are quite sedentary and aren't all that active apart from your workouts, use the 11 figure.

So take some time right now to figure this out.

Body weight X 11-13 = ________________

This is now your target calorie intake.

For reference sake, note that most people will maintain their body weight at an average of 14-16 calories per pound of body weight, so using this figure will garner you a weight loss within our safe range of around ½ - 1 pound per week.

If you eat at this level and find you still aren't losing weight (and you are tracking your calories properly), then you may just be someone who has a slow and sluggish metabolism. Some people do have to go down to 10 X body weight (in pounds) to see fat loss occurring, so that may be you.

If you don't want to decrease calories further, alternatively you could focus on moving more throughout the day so that you burn more off and can eat a bit more to still lose weight.

Likewise, if you find that on this intake you are always hungry, low on energy, and weight loss is faster than ½-1 pound per week, then you may want to consider increasing your calories a bit more. Some people are just blessed with an ultra-rapid metabolism and can eat more food.

That might just be you.

So make sure that you have this figured out before continuing. It is the most important thing to do to assure you succeed with your fat loss goals. Please see our calorie calculator to automate this process.

Step 2: Proteins, Carbs, Fats – Figuring Out The Macronutrients

Now that you know your calorie intake, we need to talk about the foods that you are going to be eating. Each and every food that you consume is made up of three main nutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fats.

Each of these is going to play a different role in the body, so it's important to get mixture of them daily. Let's look at these individually so you know what they do.


First you have protein. Protein is basically the building blocks that make up your body tissues. As such, it is the most important nutrient and one that you can never reduce while dieting. In fact, your protein will go up while dieting because your body may start to use some protein as a fuel source, meaning less is left over for tissue repair and maintenance.

Protein also has added fat loss benefits. These include:

•  It helps to control your hunger and blood sugar levels better because it doesn't have much of an influence over insulin and breaks down slowly in the body

•  It takes more energy than any other nutrient to digest and break down – for every 100 calories consumed of protein foods, you will actually burn 20-25 of those calories through digestion

•  It helps make sure that you don't lose muscle mass, thus helps you maintain a higher resting metabolic rate

So as you can see, it's a must-have for any diet plan. Those who want to see successful weight loss should be aiming to consume 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

This will likely be higher than what you are used to, but remember that you only need this high of an intake while you are losing weight. Once you have reached your goal weight and move back down to a maintenance diet plan where your body has enough energy on a day to day basis, you can lower your intake to 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight.

When it comes to where to get your protein from, you want to focus on lean and natural sources. The fewer processed protein foods you can eat or protein foods that come from fatty cuts of animals, the better. Those foods will be filled with added unhealthy nutrients such as saturated fat, nitrates, and preservatives – which you don't want if health is your goal.

So some natural and healthy choices include:

•  Lean sirloin steak

•  Venison

•  Bison

•  Fish (all varieties – note however some do contain more fat than others, but it's a very healthy form of fat, so you should be eating these fish varieties)

•  Seafood

•  Lower fat cottage cheese

•  Lower fat Greek yogurt

•  Skim milk

•  Protein powder (don't rely on this too much, but from time to time it's fine)

•  Eggs and egg whites

•  Chicken breast

•  Turkey breast

If you can focus on these sources first and foremost, you'll be on track. Aim to get some protein with each meal (and snacks) as this will best help to control your hunger while dieting.


The next nutrient is one that's gotten a very bad rap in the diet industry. People everywhere are shunning carbohydrates like they are going to automatically get converted to body fat.

If you think that you must avoid all carbs to lose weight, you are thinking incorrectly.

While there are definitely some carbohydrates to stay away from, you do not need to avoid them entirely.

First, realize that carbohydrates serve a few purposes. First and foremost, they are the body's preferred source of energy. If you hope to maintain intense workout sessions (and you should), then you will need to eat carbohydrates at some point in the diet as this is the only fuel that the body can use during such exercise.

Second, carbohydrates provide nutrients. The right kinds are loaded with vitamins, minerals, as well as antioxidants, all of which support good health and keep you disease free.

Cut them all out and you lose these benefits.

Third, carbohydrates keep your metabolism going strong. When you start cutting out all carbohydrates, a certain hormone in your body called Leptin will start to decrease and this will then cause your metabolism to slow, your hunger to increase, fatigue to set in – basically, you will become miserable .

Low carbohydrate diets are not fun – for the vast majority of people, a more moderate carbohydrate plan will produce better adherence since you will enjoy the diet more.

Finally, carbohydrates that are high in fiber help to control blood sugar and provide satiety, so you won't be as hungry between meals.

So as you can see, there is plenty of good things to come if you eat the right types of carbohydrates.

But, if you eat processed, refined carbohydrates, you will get an insulin spike which puts your body in fat storage mode, you'll lose the nutritional benefits the carbohydrates provide, and you'll be hungry all day long.

So your choices matters.

There are two main types of good carbohydrates to focus on, complex, and fibrous.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are the energy dense, slower burning carbohydrates that will fuel your physical activity. As they are more energy dense, you need to be more careful with how much you eat to ensure your calorie intake stays in check.

One serving with the meals around the time of day you are most active will help to give you the energy that you need.

You will eat fewer of these carbohydrates while dieting than if you weren't since obviously you are trying to decrease your incoming calories, but you must not eliminate them entirely.

2-5 servings per day depending on your calorie and activity needs is perfect.

Smart carbohydrate choices include:

•  Sweet potatoes

•  Brown rice

•  Barley

•  Quinoa

•  Buckwheat

•  Oatmeal (non-sweetened)

These are the healthiest forms of complex carbohydrates and the ones that you should be sticking to.

Fibrous Carbohydrates

Then in addition to those, you have your fibrous carbohydrates. These are the types of vegetables that you really want to load up on.

They are incredibly low in calories, high in fiber, and nutrient rich, so basically a dieter's dream come true. As long as you are cooking them healthy and not adding high calorie sauces or condiments, you can virtually eat as many as you want without worry.

Just note that peas, corn, and carrots do contain a bit more sugar, so go easy on those ones.

Then in addition to that, you also have fruits. Fruits often cause confusion for some people since they do have sugar and you know you should avoid sugar.

But, fruits are also lower in calories, contain fiber, and are antioxidant rich, so for all those reasons, they should be added to a healthy diet plan.

You do need to count them in your total daily calorie intake and you don't want to go overboard because they do contain the natural fruit sugar, but 2-3 servings per day as long as your calorie level allows it is perfectly fine.

Carbs To Avoid

Which brings us to the carbohydrates to avoid. Basically, anything that contains more than one ingredient and is highly processed shouldn't be eating. All your snack foods, high sugar cereals, white bread, white pasta, and so on are the main foods to keep out of your diet.

With carbohydrates, if you think of eating sources that come straight from the ground and are in the most natural state possible, you should be fine with your choices.

Dietary Fats

Which now brings us to our last nutrient, dietary fats. Dietary fats are not going to get directly converted to dietary fat, so don't fall for this notion.

Dietary fats are essential because they provide the fat soluble vitamins that you need, they help to calm hunger pains because they are incredibly slow to digest, and they help to give your food taste and texture.

They are calorie dense though, so you do really have to watch your serving size as you eat them or you will consume too many calories and fat loss won't occur.

You also want to make sure that you choose your fats properly. Select the unsaturated or monounsaturated sources along with omega fats. These are the ones that will enhance your health, not take away from it.

Saturated fats (to a large extent – some saturated fat in the diet is fine, up to 15% of your total fat intake) and Trans fats are the ones to avoid.

So focus on foods such as:

•  Nuts and natural nut butter

•  Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil

•  Coconut oil, coconut milk and dried unsweetened coconut

•  Avocado

•  Fatty varieties of fish

•  Olive oil

•  Seeds

Avoid foods such as:

•  High fat dairy products

•  High fat beef

•  High fat processed meats (sausage, hot dogs, etc.)

•  Anything deep fried

•  High fat snack foods

If you can keep your choices to these, you can rest assured you're eating healthy.

There's no specific requirement for either fats or carbohydrates, but rather, you need to balance them with your total calorie intake and your protein.

The more carbohydrates you eat, the less fats you'll eat and vice versa. Some people find they feel better eating a few more carbs and a few less fats, while others find the opposite.

Learn what works for you and use that. There is no one best solution here.

For reference sake though, you should aim to eat at least 80-100 grams of carbohydrates per day and 0.3 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day minimum.

Once this has been met, you can shuffle your intake around however you please.

So there you have the need-to-know information about good fat loss nutrition. To help you see these concepts at work, let's show you a sample diet plan.

Your Sample Menu


•  ¼ cup (raw measure) oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon

•  1 whole egg + 4 egg whites, scrambled in ½ tbsp. olive oil with diced vegetables of choice

•  1 orange


•  ½ cup low fat Greek yogurt, 1 cup sliced strawberries, 2 tbsp. slivered almonds


•  3 oz. grilled chicken breast

•  ½ cup brown rice

•  10 spears asparagus, drizzled in ½ tbsp. olive oil and lemon juice

Mid-Afternoon (before workout)

•  ½ whole wheat bagel with 3 oz. turkey breast served with mustard and tomato slices

Post-Workout (omit if not doing a workout)

•  1 scoop whey protein powder mixed with water

•  1 banana


•  3 oz. grilled salmon

•  2 cups spinach salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, 1 tbsp. dried cranberries, and 1 tbsp. slivered almonds, drizzled with ½ tbsp. olive oil mixed with 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Before Bed

•  ½ cup low fat cottage cheese

•  1 tbsp. natural peanut butter

*Note that serving sizes in the above plan may change depending on calorie needs.

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As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.

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