Martin MacDonald’s ’10 Rules to Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance’

This is translated straight from Martin’s website with his kind permission (I hate to reinvent the wheel and this is not my area of specialism – YET)

As an aside, Martin is not an exponent of the Atkins Diet, nor indeed any other specific diet, he designs his nutrition plans to suit the individual based on their specific needs using the most up to date science around.  Certainly with me, we tried many different macronutrient ratios to come up the optimal for my physiology. Hopefully, the current plan is my plan for life, but it is early days for this plan….. although he is optimistic…

Martin’s background is sports nutrition that means everything ‘they’ do is based on science and the physiology of the body.  Literally, as a sports nutritionist you do not learn the ‘5 fruit and veg a day, eat low-fat etc’ type eating rules that are common place in other nutrition/dietetic courses.  Everything is science, science, science.  Based on research. Interventions not Observations.  It is about getting the best out of the human body.  So, what every decent nutritionist that looks at this research knows is that the old hat way of thinking about nutrition and ‘healthy eating’ is all wrong.  In fact, it is really more that what is publicised is wrong rather than some of the information that’s out there.  The guidelines actually state that to be ‘healthy’ you should consume less than 30% of your energy from fat.  So eating a 29% fat diet is deemed ‘healthy’ and in fact… is far more fat and is much ‘healthier’ than many of the meal options and menu plans that are publicized…  which, by the way, often have people eating less than 15% fat which IS NOT HEALTHY by any stretch of the imagination.

Protein and fats are essential for life.  Not eating enough is detrimental to your health.  If you never ate protein or fat (very hard to do) you would eventually die… simple as that.  However, if you never EVER ate carbohydrate again, you would be fine.  There is ZERO physiological need; a need being something that is necessary to sustain life, for carbohydrate.

Should you disagree with that statement, Martin challenges you to find a single text that has the words ‘essential amino acids’  (which you get from protein) in reference to carbohydrates.  So, with this in mind, does it make sense to eat a diet that is predominantly made up of the only thing your body DOESN’T need? 

Martin has a goal to reach out and educate as many people as possible about the science of nutrition.  The REAL science, not the junk that you see on TV, read in the magazines (unless he wrote it of course 🙂 ) and have forced upon you by ‘healthy eating’ bodies.  He is on a mission to eradicate all the misinformation out there in the public domain.  He starts with Basic Nutrition 101:

So, on to the rules

Rule 1 –

  • Never EVER eat low-fat!  No matter what! 
  • High cholesterol? Don’t eat low-fat.
  • High body fat? Don’t eat low-fat.
  • High blood pressure? Don’t eat low-fat

Get it? Don’t eat low-fat.  To put it another way – DO – NOT – EAT – LOW – FAT.

Rule 2

  • Don’t eat low protein –

However that isn’t a message that he’s heard too often, although you often hear ‘don’t eat (red) meat it’s high in fat and will make you fat’, but if you follow Rule 1, you’ll probably have Rule 2 covered.

Rule 3a

  • You need to make a decision to simply eat the way you need to, to maintain your ideal weight. 

Doing a ‘diet’ that does not resemble how you will eat once you have attained your goal is not conducive to weight maintenance.  It may indeed occur, but as with anything there are exceptions to the rule.  However, this is the rule, and you should stick to it.  So, the plan you follow must contain elements that are sustainable forever. What he means is, don’t do a stupid diet that has you on only shakes if you can’t do that forever.  As soon as you go back to food, the weight will go back on.  There is no reason for it not to.  You have not learnt how to eat food to be that weight.  Not to mention that many dieting strategies leave a lot to be desired and will generally leave with you with some sort of screwed up bodily function and worst of all a messed up metabolism.  (That’s currently where I am)

Rule 3b

  • Don’t deprive yourself! 

Be honest, can you completely give up on your fav things, if not, don’t.  Remember though, if you feel you must, or deserve to eat some junk every day maybe you’re not psychologically cut out to be lean, fit and healthy?  Maybe you should see a psychologist before you consult your diet!  That’s something that Martin hasn’t written anywhere but in the original blog before.  Can you limit your consumption of your fav things to once or twice a week forever?  If yes, great, that’s what you do with your nutrition plan.  He uses nutrition plan when he means something good and diet plan when he means something idiotic like the Tony Ferguson, Cambridge Diet, Maple Syrup Diet (there’s one I never tried…), Lighter Life, Weight Watchers, Diet Chef and any other crooks out there robbing people of their health and loved ones.  That may sound dramatic, but in his line of work, these are the stories he sees and hears every week.

Rule 4

  • Don’t lose weight too quickly? 

It didn’t go on quickly, so don’t try to get it off too quickly.  If you want to lose fat and for it stay off, it needs to be slow, horribly, demotivatingly (made up word?) slowly in fact.  Have you ever been guilty of saying ‘great, this week I lost 4 lbs?’  Sounds boring and repetitive, but  1 – 2 lbs per week is a great speed to lose weight.  The more naturally active you are, the closer to 2 lbs you can be.  These figures relate to being in an energy deficit per of 500 – 1000 kcals.  However, remember the body is not an engine and it isn’t simply a case of kcals in and kcals out, otherwise we’d have hungry people everywhere with great abs!  A slowed metabolism is a very real thing but is only one consequence of improper dieting methods.  So, as an example, a person who sits at a desk most of the day for work and is only able to commit to 2-3 hours per week to exercise may only be able to lose 1 lb per week to allow them to eat enough to keep the body functioning properly, to avoid plateaus and to prevent weight regain.  So…. either eat more or exercise less.  quick is BAD!  Quick causes weight regain.  Tell yourself that, 10 times every time you find yourself falling into this mentality!  (And he says he doesn’t do psychology ??)

Rule 5

  • Cycle your carbs. 

What this means is, on days you exercise or are more active you are ‘entitled’ to more carbohydrate.  If you do a very hard training session, you could literally add in enough carbs to account for the calories that you burnt during that session.  Doesn’t this go against the point of doing the exercise?  No, of course not, otherwise he wouldn’t have said it.  If you’re already eating at a level to lose weight, you will still lose weight despite ‘cancelling out’ the energy used during exercise.  However, you might choose to only add in half the energy and increase your weight loss slightly that day.  Make sure you have a lot of these carbs straight after the exercise session too, don’t save them for a bag of jelly babies before bed or something silly like that…!

And now for some ‘science’ – your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is essentially the number of kcals (energy) you would burn in a 24 hour period if you simply lay down and did nothing.  Most of Martin’s clients fall somewhere between 1400 – 2000 kcals for their BMR (mine is 1764 kcals).  So, to just ‘BE’ your body burns say 1500 kcals… how on earth do you think you’re not able to lose weight eating 1500 kcals considering it’s doubtful that you just lay in bed for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  If you do, your potential for ‘healthy’ fat loss is zero.  So, why mention BMR? Because it’s part of Rule 6….

Rule 6

  • Never eat less than your BMR. 

Eating less than your BMR leads to metabolic disruption.  For instance, your hair, skin and nails are all ‘alive’ and need energy to be sustained.  If you eat less than your BMR, less important bodily functions like this become down regulated… hence the dry skin and hair and brittle nails of many low-calorie, low-fat dieters.  You also lower production of important hormones which are key to a healthy metabolism including testosterone (in both males and females) and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which, as you can imagine is involved directly with your metabolism.  So, in general, if you stick to Rule 6….. you should be safe for Rule 4 even if it creeps over 2 lbs per week…

Rule 7

  • Your nutrition plan must progress. 

As you get lighter, BMR goes down, Yes, that’s right…. stick thin people don’t have ‘fast metabolisms’ they actually have much slower basal metabolisms than heavier people!  So, as the weight comes off, you will need to create a further deficit.  How can you do this?  Not by going below your BMR, that’s for sure!   So, if you’re not there yet, you can lower energy intake, if you are, you will need to look at your exercise or non-exercise energy expenditure (NEEE) basically anything activity that is not structured exercise.  So, taking the stairs instead of the lift type of stuff.

Rule 8

  • Have an exit plan. 

Who has EVER had an exit plan to their weight loss?  Bodybuilders, that’s who!  Many bodybuilders plan their off-season nutrition plans like they do their competition plans.  As Martin says, they are a quite a good bunch to try to emulate… in that respect anyway.  Once your weight goal has been reached, what are you going to do?  Well, you have a few options.  Eat more and keep exercise the same, eat the same and exercise less or – a bit of both.  It may be that you keep to the same plan you had but include a few more ‘treats’ here and there and allow yourself to miss a training session when you are really busy.  It’s up to you….

Rule 9

  • Be tenacious about your nutrition plan. 

Do count calories (at least once), how else are you going to know if you are abiding by the rules above??  Do create an eating structure that fits your lifestyle and don’t be embarrassed about eating in meetings or at work.  Especially during the weight loss phase of your new way of eating.  You need to keep structure as hunger is your worst enemy.  Skipping meals is far more damaging than you might think.  Take a leaf out of many bodybuilders book, eat the same meals every day for a long period of time as long as they are covering all of your needs.  Get used to portion sizes, food types and cooking methods and then expand your menu with more variety in food choices etc.

To conclude – this is not a rule, it’s just to give you something really specific to work off, but he calls it

Rule 10

  • You are an individual with your individual needs, but he gives you this otherwise the above rules may be just pointless. 

If your goal is fat loss and you have no other performance targets you can use the following breakdown of micronutrients – it is something that has been born out of 8+ years of helping people with the goal of fat loss and is not based on any other ‘diet plans’ out there, it is just what the ratios have ‘tended’ towards over the years with increasing levels of success.  So, there are hundreds of BMR calculators out there on the internet, remember, these are estimations but generally they are pretty good.  Once you have this figure and have chosen the number of kcals you are going eat in a day, you can split your calories so that fat is approximately 30 -40% of your energy.  Protein is 2.0 – 2.5g per kilogram of your bodyweight (it can go lower if you have a particularly high percentage body fat) and carbohydrate will make up the rest….

So, there you have it, Martin MacDonald’s 10 Rules to a ‘Healthy Nutrition Plan’.

About Lian Munday

My journey from having a gastric band to actually losing weight in a healthy controlled way with the help and support of Martin MacDonald, Mac-Nutrition, my Nutritionist and Andy Angell, my Personal Trainer. Please join us on our journey.
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5 Responses to Martin MacDonald’s ’10 Rules to Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance’

  1. Pingback: Fat Trap | From Gastric Band to Fitness

  2. Pingback: How Am I Doing, Week 3 | From Gastric Band to Fitness

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  4. Very good written post. It will be helpful to everyone who utilizes it, as well as yours truly :). Keep doing what you are doing – looking forward to more posts.

    • Lian Munday says:

      Hi Granville

      Thank you for your kind words. I am very happy that you find the information of use. If there are any specific topics you are interested in or would me to write about, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

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