Still hungry? Consider your macros

shutterstock_230626228-2Meals containing EXACTLY the same amount calories but different macro splits (protein, carbohydrate and fat), can have contrasting effects on perceived hunger and your subsequent food intake.

In a study on the effect of carbohydrate on overeating, Ludwig et al. (1999) found that the rapid absorption of glucose (sugar) following high-GI meals containing refined grain products or potatoes, induced a cascade of hormonal changes that promoted excessive hunger, leading to an 81% increase in calorie intake.

Conventional diets are doomed from the start according to these results, as very low calorie diets containing refined, starchy carbohydrate intensify hunger, eventually leading to overeating.


Ludwig, D.S., Majzoub, J.A., Al-Zahrani, A., Dallal, G.E., Blanco, I. and Roberts, S.B., 1999. High glycemic index foods, overeating, and obesity. Pediatrics103(3), pp.e26-e26.

Why you should increase your protein intake

 Before even getting bespoke, I always suggest to my guys that they start by increasing protein intake at the expense of carbohydrate to moderate their calorie consumption. Rather than regurgitating bro-science, I’m going to refer directly to Halton’s 2004 protein study to explain why:

The two main benefits of a higher protein diet are satiety and thermogenesis (the production of heat in the body).

Thermogenesis increases energy expenditure as your body digests, absorbs and disposes of the ingested macronutrients. Protein exerts a far greater thermic effect than either fat or carbohydrate, averaging 20-35% of energy consumed, whereas carbohydrate can be as low as 5% (Westerterp 1999). It might not make much difference initially, but over months it could become significant.

A higher protein diet greatly improves the chances of adhering to a calorie deficit long-term because of the satiety effect. However, your state of fullness is also influenced by a wide variety of additional factors such as taste, food volume, nutrient density, fiber content and glycemic index. A high-carbohydrate diet (especially refined carbohydrates) has the reverse effect and actually decreases satiety, and as a result, increases subsequent calorie consumption (Ludwig 1999). Higher protein diets also have the added benefit of lowering blood pressure.

The International Society of Sport Nutrition (ISSN) recommends 1-1.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight, dependant on training goal. And when partitioning macros, I normally suggest 20-30% of total calories come from protein sources.


Halton, T.L. and Hu, F.B., 2004. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition23(5), pp.373-385.

Westerterp, K.R., Wilson, S.A.J. and Rolland, V., 1999. Diet induced thermogenesis measured over 24 h in a respiration chamber: effect of diet composition. International journal of obesity23(3), pp.287-292.

Ludwig, D.S., Majzoub, J.A., Al-Zahrani, A., Dallal, G.E., Blanco, I. and Roberts, S.B., 1999. High glycemic index foods, overeating, and obesity. Pediatrics103(3), pp.e26-e26.

Liquid calories


If a (female) client has been prescribed circa 1,600 calories to achieve a calorie deficit and they’re trending close to that number they will lose weight (as per previous post). HOWEVER, if they decide to treat themselves to a latte every morning the results could be very different.

Lets look at the numbers. According to Starbucks, a venti, whole-milk latte has 299 calories (the skinny version of the same stature has 174 calories). So if the client in question has just one latte each day, by the end of the week they would have consumed an extra 2,093 calories – well over an extra day’s worth of food in liquid calories. So forget any fat loss.

And according to Drink Aware, a small (175ml) glass of wine is 159 calories. Multiply that by a big night out and you can see where this is going… I’ve stopped short of telling clients they can’t have a drink, but if you’re asking yourself “why am I not losing weight?” then you need to consider all the variables. Once again, it comes down to calorie balance.

Fat loss number 1


At the end of last year I delivered a workshop to the personal training teams at Virgin Active Angel and Essex Road on how to put together a nutrition strategy for their clients. At the end of the session I was bombarded with questions on novelty supplements and complex dietary protocols. I explained to the trainers, that before focusing on supplementing vitamin and mineral deficiencies, concerning themselves about the frequency or timing of meals, or deciding “low-carb” is the solution, the priority should be creating an energy deficit.

Its a simple, two-part equation: move more and eat less.

First you need to establish your Total Energy Expenditure (TEE), in other words, your Daily Calorie Requirements (DCR). Any trainer with a rudimentary grasp of nutrition should be able to calculate that for you using the most relevant formula. Then you need to shave a few calories off that figure to create your energy deficit.

You can use an app like myfitnesspal to count calories, but to minimise the margin of error you could do what some of my clients and I do and just pay a food prep company to prepare and measure your food according to your calorie (and macronutrient) requirements. Bonus points if you also track your movement through something like Fitbit.

Eating as little as possible for as long as possible would be counter-productive in numerous ways I’m not going to get into here. It’s about finding the sweet spot. But unless you’ve calculated exactly how many calories you are supposed to be consuming vs how many you actually are, it’s pure speculation. And multiple food diary studies have shown participants to be guilty of underreporting what they are actually consuming. But if you truly are in an energy deficit, you cannot fail to lose fat. It really is that simple.

Coming next: Liquid calories

How do you get stronger?


Before I answer that, I’d first like to tell you WHY you should get stronger. As a strength coach I’d tell you that “all else being equal (skill, fitness, etc.), the strongest athlete will always win”. But beyond being able to bully the opposition in the athletic arena, strength training is also essential for the following game-changers:

Improve your body composition

It is vital that you prioritise your goals before starting a training plan. If your objectives are aesthetics and conditioning then your focus should be nutrition and resistance training (in that order). Not spending hours on the treadmill.

Strength training is the best strategy to get you both strong and lean because it causes a significant afterburn effect, also referred to as excess post oxygen consumption (EPOC) – the body consumes >24% more calories for over 24 hours post-workout, replenishing fuel stores, restoring hormonal equilibrium and stimulating muscle and bone growth, breaking down fat stores in the process [High Intensity Interval Resistance Training influences REE and RER by Paoli et al.]

Build bone

Bone mineral density declines after the age of 30. For women, menopause accelerates bone loss when their estrogen drops sharply. In turn, men suffer from more insidious bone loss as testosterone levels graduly decline. The best strategy to increase bone density is strength training with exercises that load the spine and hips with heavy loads – squats and deadlifts. A Minimum Essential Strain is needed to promote bone growth, anything less than 80% 1RM isn’t going to cut it (more on that later). This may not seem like a pressing concern now, but you’ll thank me when you’re older.

Improve your hormonal milieu

Whilst strength training increases testosterone levels in men, long-distance running actually lowers their testosterone. A study published in the August 2000 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that running for longer than two hours or a cumulative distance of more than 40 miles a week suppresses testosterone levels. Combine that with a caloric restriction and low-fat diet and your heading for hormonal mess.


The first 30% of strength gains come from improved inter-muscular coordination. You must learn to lift. Not only are you looking for a physiological adaptation to the training stimulus – getting stronger and leaner – you are also trying to teach your body to become more efficient: increasing the activation, synchronisation and firing rate of your muscle’s motor units. A beautiful thing.

Reps and rest

The two key variables to consider when strength training are reps and rest. The reps are inversely proportionate to the rest period – the lower the reps, the longer the rest period.


Some lifts require coaching and spotting at higher intensities, but working off your 1 Rep Max (the weight, with sufficient motivation, you could lift only once), the intensity of your lifts should between 85-100% of this number. Caveat: technique and (in the majority of cases) range-of-motion should take precedence over the weight on bar – remember, you’re training for strength and not ego gains.


One thing I often have to teach new clients, especially those with a predisposition to endurance events, is to respect the rest intervals. They seem to be in a rush to repeat the exercise, only to perform below-par subsequent sets because they haven’t sufficiently recovered. You need to adhere to the “Law of Repeated Effort”.

As sets last less than 20 seconds, ATP-PCr is the dominant energy system to fuel your workout. Rest long enough to regenerate sufficient ATP energy to repeat the reps at the same (or greater) weight. ATP-PCr is almost completely restored following a 4 minute rest interval.

Aside from time-under-tension (duration of set), this is the main difference between training for strength or body composition: complete vs. incomplete recovery.

Exercise selection

Apart from assistance exercises and exercises prescribed to address any structural balances you may have, the focus of your workouts should be dedicated to the big, multi-joint exercises – any derivatives of the obvious: squats, presses and deadlifts.


A cocktail of novelty supplements isn’t necessary, but one I would strongly recommend is Creatine Monohydrate. The most widely researched supplement, studies have consistently demonstrated improved training adaptations at a cellular level. Here’s how it works: supplementation increases creatine storage, promoting faster ATP regeneration between sets, leading to strength and hypertrophy gains.