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February 2020: Answering YOUR Nutrition Questions

Q&A TIME!

There’s a ton of resources out there to learn about nutrition, resistance training, and living a healthier lifestyle.

Like, TOO MANY.

It’s SO easy for us to get confused and overwhelmed in figuring out what’s “best” for us than to feel confident in the content we read online.

That’s what I’m here for.

I’m here to be your B.S. filter, and answer your questions in a non-biased, scientifically backed way. I’m not always going to tell you exactly what you want to hear, but I will always tell you what you NEED to hear.

You all ask me some really GREAT questions.

I love answering your questions – serving you guys is my passion. Today I’ve gathered up the TOP 3 most frequently asked questions I get from my clients, friends and family that I KNOW have crossed your mind.

QUESTION 1: Should I focus on FAT LOSS or MUSCLE GAIN first, when starting my fitness journey?

ANSWER:

Big shocker coming… It depends.

But let’s get into which focus might be better for YOU.

FAT LOSS FIRST:
You will thrive focusing on fat loss first IF…

You are an individual who has a large amount of weight to lose and fall in an overweight or obese BMI range (>30).
If you fall in this category, there’s a good chance you’ll end up preserving most of your muscle while you lose fat, EVEN in a very large deficit. People with more stored fat have the nutritional resources to fuel muscle building processes even when caloric intake is low. This is a huge advantage because you can be fairly aggressive with your diet (assuming a high-protein diet approach) and keep (and potentially add) lean tissue in the process!

Here’s some supporting evidence.
Article 1 Article 2 Article 3

MUSCLE BUILDING FIRST:
If you are in an athletic-to-normal BMI range (~18-25), you’re likely better off focusing on muscle building first. In the grand scheme of things, you don’t have a ton of weight to lose and getting off those “last 5-10 pounds” before starting a growth phase is just beating a dead horse into the ground. This is NOT what most people want to hear, but it’s what’s better long-term.

First off, even in a calorie surplus, if you’re new to lifting you’re likely going to get away with a bit of fat loss while trying to put on muscle mass. Body recomposition is a real phenomenon, and the intake required to achieve recomposition is a fairly large range depending on the individual.

Aside from “newbie gains”, there are tons of benefits from focusing on muscle gain first. You’re going to build up your metabolic rate by having more muscle mass, making it easier to lose fat and avoid metabolic adaptation when you DO decide to diet. You’ll be utilizing your newbie gain potential to build an OPTIMAL amount of muscle mass.

Plus, if you’re an athletic female, chances are you’re probably not eating ENOUGH, so getting your calorie intake as high as possible will give you tons of energy, you’ll sleep great, thrive in all other areas of your life, and the higher daily calories will make your next fat loss phase much less of a struggle.

Want more detailed science? Read this review on metabolic adaptation and its recommendations for reverse dieting.

I also have an EBook called “How to Eat More and Lose Weight” that walks you through the process of reverse dieting and dealing with metabolic adaptation here.

QUESTION 2: What should my calories be when I want to be in a deficit? How many calories should I decrease by to start losing weight?

ANSWER:

How many calories that you should be eating depend a lot on your total body composition (weight of muscle & fat), activity level, exercise regimen, genetics, and a lot of other factors. Putting out a blanket statement is REALLY hard, which is why I only offer 1-1 services for nutrition to personalize all targets for each client.

In GENERAL… a decent starting range to go by if you have NO clue what your intake is:

Fat Loss: Multiply Bodyweight x 10-12
Maintenance: Bodyweight x 13-15
Surplus: Bodyweight x 16-18

However, I always recommend getting on a tracking app like MyFitnessPal (and NOT NOT NOT NOT NOOOOT using their recommendations) and seeing what your true intake is. Like, every bite, sip, and taste you consume. It takes some time and ugh – EFFORT to gather the data, but if you can get a week or two of reliable totals, you will learn a LOT about your intake and eating habits just by this close observation.

QUESTION 3: How much ALCOHOL is acceptable within a healthy lifestyle? Can I reach my goals and still drink on the weekends?

ANSWER:

You CAN make progress while including alcohol in the context of a healthy diet.

HOW MUCH is okay before progress starts getting sacrificed is the question.

First, some background on what alcohol is and how it’s digested in the body. HINT: Empty calories have to be accounted for, too.
1. Here’s an awesome 10m podcast segment that talks all about the effects of alcohol on body composition.
2. Here’s a quicker read: My most recent post on how alcohol affects your gains.

Now, be honest with yourself. How often do you drink per week? How much do you consume per sitting? What’s your tolerance like?

The closer you are to a weekly (or more frequent) binge-drink, the more likely it is that YES, your alcohol consumption is hindering your progress.

If you have a couple of drinks per week, just make sure you account for the calories in your day and you likely won’t have any issues making progress.

1. Here’s my #OrderSmarter post for ordering drinks that are lighter on calories.
2. Here’s a drink calorie reference post that I like to share with my clients.