This post is written by my good friend and FFP coach, Nick Smoot. Make sure to check out his bio at the bottom of the page. Take it away, Nick....
A couple of weeks ago, we released the first part of the Fitness FAQ that went over common training questions (check it out HERE if you haven’t done so already).
This week, we’re going to cover nutrition and fat loss.
Question 1: Can you build muscle and lose fat at the same time?
Not unless you’re on drugs, are new to exercise, or are coming back from a long layoff.
Building muscle requires you to be in a caloric surplus (consuming more energy than you’re burning on a daily basis), and losing fat requires you to be in a caloric deficit (burning more energy than you’re consuming on a daily basis).
Both adaptions are on opposite ends of the physiological spectrum, so you should focus on one goal at a time instead of focusing on both goals simultaneously.
Question 2: What should you focus on first, muscle gain or fat loss?
In most cases, fat loss.
That’s because the leaner you are, the easier it is to build muscle because more of the nutrients you eat go toward muscle tissue instead of fat tissue (this starts to switch the more fat you gain).
However, if you’re a teenager, I wouldn’t even think about the word “cutting” (I would just eat a lot and train hard).
And if you’re someone who’s “skinny fat” – or in other words, someone who’s lean but still looks fat because they don’t have enough muscle to fill out their physique – I would focus on building muscle.
Question 3: How much food should you eat to build muscle?
Honestly, this varies from person to person.
In most cases, 200-500 calories above your maintenance caloric intake – the amount of calories needed for you to maintain your current body weight – is enough to support muscle growth (without resulting in a ton of fat storage).
However, everyone’s maintenance caloric intake is different (so there’s no definitive answer to the amount of food YOU need to eat to build muscle…you’ll have to experiment).
Start by eating slightly more food than you are now, and make adjustments based on your results.
Question 4: How much food should you eat to lose body fat?
Again, this is highly individual.
Some people lose fat eating 3000 calories.
Other people can’t even think about losing fat unless they’re below 2000 calories.
My recommendation would be to cut your food intake by 15-20%, and don’t change anything until you hit a plateau.
Then, once you do, keep making small adjustments (100-200 calories) until you reach your goal.
Question 5: How much protein should you eat?
For most people, I’d recommend around .8g of protein per pound of body weight (maybe a little more if you’re dieting).
Protein is important.
But, if you eat too much (i.e. anything over 2x your body weight), you’ll start taking away from other nutrients (i.e. carbs and fats).
Question 6: How many carbs should you eat?
This depends entirely on you, your goals, your training, your preferences, and your activity level.
A good starting point is 1-3x your body weight in carbohydrates.
Make adjustments from there based on your results.
Question 7: How much fat should you eat?
In most cases, I’d say about .3-.5g of fat per pound of body weight.
Some people may need – or want – more, some less.
Fat isn’t something most people have a hard time getting in their diet, however, so I wouldn’t go out of my way to try to fit more in (you’re probably getting enough as it is).
Question 8: Do you need to do cardio?
Not unless you’re an endurance athlete.
Cardio is beneficial (for your health), and it allows you to diet on a higher number of calories (because you’re doing more activity).
But, it’s not a necessity, and you can make amazing changes to your physique just through proper diet and resistance training.
Question 9: Is cardio better than strength training for fat loss?
Strength training builds muscle tissue.
More muscle tissue leads to a faster metabolism (as well as fills out your physique).
And a faster metabolism leads to more fat loss in the long run.
However, that doesn’t mean cardio isn’t useful when it comes to fat loss (it is).
When combined with strength training and a proper diet, it’s a great asset in your pursuit of a leaner physique.
Question 10: Which foods should you eat?
Whichever foods you enjoy.
I know that’s a crappy answer.
But there are no “good” foods or “bad” foods…there’s just “food.”
And as long as the majority of your diet comes from nutrient dense, minimally processed sources (for health and performance reasons), the actual food choices you make should come down almost entirely to personal preference.
Question 11: Which foods should you avoid?
The foods that you don’t enjoy.
For my explanation of that answer, see above.
Question 12: How large should the deficit be when dieting?
For most people, I’d say about 300-500 calories below your maintenance caloric intake.
You could go higher than this if you want.
But, it’s not necessary.
And the slower you lose body fat, the higher the likelihood that you’ll keep that fat off in the long run.
Question 13: How do you make adjustments when you hit a fat loss plateau?
1.) Decreasing your food intake
2.) Increasing cardio.
Both are great ways to re-stimulate progress.
Try to change one variable at a time, not both variables simultaneously.
(This assumes that a properly designed resistance training program is already in place)
Question 14: What’s the biggest struggle people face when dieting?
Oh man…that’s a tough one.
For most people, I would say staying consistent when the excitement of starting a new fitness journey wears off.
Anyone can follow a diet and train plan for a few weeks.
It’s the people that can stay strong with their diet and training for a few months (and maybe even YEARS) that are actually successful.
Question 15: How do you deal with hunger while dieting?
I actually wrote an article on the topic that you can read HERE.
But, just to hit on the main points:
1. Stay busy.
2. Eat plenty of protein.
3. Aim for volume (i.e. eat a bunch of nutrient dense foods).
4. Eat a few large meals instead of grazing on a bunch of small meals.
5. Drink plenty of water.
6. Diet slowly (don’t crash diet).
Question 16: How fast should you lose weight?
In most cases, you should aim to lose a pound or two per week.
If you’re obese, you’re probably ok to lose weight a little faster (at least in the beginning).
But, for most people, 1-2 pounds per week is a good target.
Question 17: How should you measure fat loss?
First and foremost, by what you see in the mirror (all that matters is how YOU see yourself).
Second, by measurements taken around your hips, thighs, waist, arms, etc.
And third, by what you weigh on the scale.
Question 18: Why do women have a harder time losing body fat than men do?
In most cases, it’s because women tend to have less muscle mass than men do.
Less muscle mass equates to a slower metabolism.
And a slower metabolism equates to more difficult fat loss.
Question 19: What supplements should you take for optimal fat loss?
Honestly, you don’t need any supplements.
Get plenty of sleep.
And stay consistent.
That’s over 95% of the battle.
Supplements are MAYBE the other 5%.
Question 20: What’s the biggest mistake people make when dieting?
Oh man…there are a ton.
It’s a tie between eight things:
1. Making too many changes, too quickly.
2. Making too big of changes.
3. Trying to crash diet.
4. Not paying attention to macronutrients (i.e. getting all of their calories from carbs and fats while barely eating any protein).
5. Focusing solely on training (i.e. trying to out-train a bad diet).
6. Focusing solely on diet (i.e. not training or finding ways to increase their activity level).
7. Being inconsistent.
8. Dieting before it’s something they actually value.
Nick Smoot is a strength coach and nutrition consultant out of Newport News, VA. He got his start in the fitness industry back in 2012, and since then he’s spent countless hours helping clients become the best versions of themselves possible. In his free time, he enjoys lifting heavy things, eating, writing, traveling, nerding out on movies and video games, and eating.