Athletes walk a fine line when it comes to losing weight without negatively affecting performance or training gains. Cut calories too low and performance will suffer, muscle mass may be lost, and you might be setting yourself up for poor recovery and greater susceptibility to illness. Don’t cut calories enough, and you won’t get lean.
To lose the most body fat possible without compromising performance and recovery or sacrificing muscle and strength, athletes need to be meticulous about implementing the right nutritional strategy (1-3).
Isagenix Shake Days can be used to help athletes cut weight, but they need to be specifically tailored to the athlete. The intensity and duration of training required for each sport is different, and every athlete has a unique metabolism and calorie need (2, 3).
So how can athletes customize their shake days to maximize fat loss without compromising performance and training gains? Easy. The best Shake Day strategy involves tracking of calories and macronutrients (macros), and then lowering calories in a stepwise manner based on the body’s response and the athlete’s energy requirements.
Why You Should Track Macros During Your Shake Days
Too often people try to lose weight by cutting out certain foods or food groups, or by just trying to eat “healthier” and avoid “junk.” But ultimately, eating fewer calories than you burn is the key to weight loss, and even nutrient-dense “healthy foods” have calories. Yes, it is possible to gain weight on acai berries, almonds, broccoli, and tilapia if you are overeating.
The only way to ensure fat loss is to monitor exactly what you put into your body. This means tracking calorie intake on Shake Days from specific macros—protein, carbohydrates, and fat. All food have macros, and each has a specific caloric value:
1 gram protein = 4 Kcals
1 gram carb = 4 Kcals
1 gram fat = 9 Kcals
Athletes shold have a target of grams of protein, carbs, and fat to eat during each Shake Day, as well as a target amount of fiber to ensure optimal health. Since weight loss comes down to caloric intake, it doesn’t matter which foods supply the macros, it only matters that the target macros are met. (Still, it should be said, that it’s best to include healthy portions of fruits and vegetables in the diet for health benefits beyond weight loss.)
Tracking carbs, fat, and protein during Shake Days rather than just calories alone offers very specific advantages to athletes. By hitting protein goals (which is made easy through Isagenix high-protein meal replacements), athletes can help to prevent muscle loss while dieting (4). By consuming the allotted amount of carbohydrates and fat, athletes can also ensure that they have enough energy to train hard and still be satisfied (2).
How to Determine Target Shake Day Macros
So how do you determine exactly what your macros should be to lose weight on a Shake Day? These days, applications such as MyFitPal or MyNetDiary make it easy to find a starting point. As an example, let’s discuss instructions using MyFitnessPal.
Download the MyFitnessPal app onto your smart phone and it will prompt you to answer a series of questions about yourself, your weight-loss goals, and your activity level. Based on your answers, the app will tell you approximately how many calories you should be eating to meet your goals, and also will set your target grams of protein, carbs, and fat for you.
It would be nice if this was all you needed to do, but you will want to take this one step further. The protein automatically set by the app will be too low, so you should manually go in and manipulate the protein percentage so that your target is set at approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (as long as you have healthy kidney function). This will help minimize muscle loss.
1. Enter your information and get initial macro targets:
Let’s say you are a 185-pound male athlete trying to lose 15 pounds of body fat. When you enter your information into the app, it automatically sets your calories at approximately 2,500, your protein at 125 grams, your carbs at 313 grams, your fat at 83 grams, and fiber at 38 grams.
2. Modify your protein goal based on body weight:
You need your protein goal to be around 185 grams to match your body weight. Unfortunately the MyFitnessPal app does not let you enter macros in grams, but instead distributes fat, carbs, and protein calories as percentages in five percent increments. So you will choose the percentage that comes closest to 185 grams. In this case, it is 30% protein, which corresponds to 188 grams.
3. Modify the carb and fat macros based on activity level:
Distribute the remaining 70 percent of your carb and fat calories based on your activity level. If you are extremely active (for example, a triathlete), you may want to set carbs at 45 percent and fat at 25 percent. If you are less active you might want to set carbs at 40% and fat at 30%. Let’s say in our case you choose 45 percent carbs and 25 percent fat, you will see that this equates to 281 grams of carbs and 69 grams of fat.
Example daily target macro goals: 2500 kcal, 188 grams protein, 281 grams carbs, 69 grams fat, 38 grams fiber.
Tracking Target Shake Day Macros
At first, the idea of accounting for all of your protein, carbs, and fats, and attempting to combine foods so that each of your target macros are met, may seem a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, the MyFitnessPal app can track your numbers for you. MyFitnessPal and MyNetDiary have enormous food databases and even include some Isagenix products. All you have to do is enter each food you eat along with the serving size and the macros will be automatically logged for you.
Example of a Shake Day with Target Macros:
For the athlete with target macro goals above, the table below shows how Isagenix products and whole foods might be combined to meet those numbers. Keep in mind that it is nearly impossible to meet each target macro exactly, and it is okay to be a few grams off:
If Macros Matter Most, Then Why Use Isagenix?
If meeting your target macros is essential for fat loss, and it doesn’t matter what foods supplies those macros, why would an athlete need to use Isagenix products? There are several reasons:
- Using Isagenix products ensures that athletes will meet vitamin and mineral recommendations to support performance. As an example we have recently discussed the importance of obtaining a sufficient intake of vitamin D for athletes for optimal muscle function (reference).
- Isagenix meal replacements are high in whey protein, which is superior to other types of protein for maximizing muscle building and preventing muscle breakdown. Getting the right type and amount of protein is especially important when athletes are cutting calories, as this is the period where they are most susceptible to muscle loss (1, 3, 4).
- IsaLean and IsaLean Pro shakes are low glycemic, meaning that they are high in fiber and protein to prevent spikes and drops in blood sugar that can cause hunger. Just because you are cutting calories doesn’t mean you have to be hungry.
- IsaLean and IsaLean Pro contain high-quality fats from olive oil, flaxseed, and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil from coconut, which have been shown to have health benefits over other types of fat.
The bottom line is that you can lose body fat without sacrificing strength, muscle mass, performance, and recovery when you track macros on your Shake Days. In addition to being a powerful weapon in your weight loss arsenal, Isagenix products also deliver health benefits that extend beyond fat loss. Reach your body composition, performance, and health goals in 2015 by tracking exactly what you put in your body, and by incorporating Isagenix into that plan.
- Helms ER, Aragon AA, Fitschen PJ. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014 May 12;11:20. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-11-20. eCollection 2014.
- Stellingwerff T, Maughan RJ, Burke LM. Nutrition for power sports: middle-distance running, track cycling, rowing, canoeing/kayaking, and swimming. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S79-89. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2011.589469. Epub 2011 Jul 28.
- American Dietetic Association; Dietitians of Canada; American College of Sports Medicine, Rodriguez NR, Di Marco NM, Langley S. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Mar;41(3):709-31. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31890eb86.
- Phillips SM, Van Loon LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2011.619204.