How to Fit Burgers, Pizza and Ice Cream in a Calorie Deficit

delicious foods in a calorie deficit

According to this infographic the top 5 favorite foods of Americans are: Burger and Fries, Cookies, Pizza, Ice Cream, and Donuts. 

I’d say that’s pretty accurate. These are probably some of your favorites as well. I know they are definitely in my top 15 and I eat them often.

Radu Antoniu Burger and Fries

But these darn delicious foods have a problem: they contain a lot of calories and very little protein. They also have poor micronutrient value which makes them “unhealthy” if they dominate your diet.

This makes them difficult to fit in your diet while cutting for three reasons:

  1. They’re not filling because you exhaust your calorie budget with a small quantity of food.
  2. They make it hard to hit your protein numbers while staying in a deficit.
  3. They can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies if you don’t save enough calories for nutritious foods.

However, if you’re smart about it, you can fit these foods in your macros and get lean WITHOUT affecting your results or your health.  Let’s see how.

The Strategies

Because a normal serving of these foods is 500-1200 calories, we must find a way to fit them in your diet without leaving you hungry and without compromising protein intake or neglecting nutritious foods.

Fat loss all comes down to calorie intake. To get lean you need to stay in a calorie deficit for as long as it takes to get the fat off. To learn how many calories you need for fat loss, use this calculator. That number is important because that is your daily budget. Just like money, you want to spend that budget as intelligently as possible.

Intermittent Fasting (skipping breakfast) is KEY for this. Fasting for 4-6 hours in the morning blunts appetite and allows you to easily go a few hours without food. As you result you can “save” calories for one large meal in the second part of the day and one or two smaller meals.

That large meal is where you can fit burgers, pizza, or other high calorie foods. If you do this, its important that you get your protein and veggies in the other smaller meals. This way you get everything: you hit your macros, you are not hungry, you get all the nutrients you need for health and you enjoy delicious foods.

In the ShredSmart Program I give two nutrition protocols, one for those waking up very early in the morning and one for those waking up around 10 AM. I believe saving most of your calories for night time is the most effective way to make your diet more enjoyable. If you can wake up later in the day, cutting is actually a little easier because you can have only two big meals a day.

But I know most people have to get up early, so the strategies below include 3 meals a day to make it easier to manage hunger until night time.

burger and fries 2

Burger and Fries

Most people have this meal in the evening. So our strategy is to save about 1000 calories for dinner time. Here’s how you do it:

  • Fast for 4-6 hours after waking up
  • Drink about 4 tall glasses of water during the fast to stay hydrated
  • Drink a cup of black coffee 1-2 hours after waking up to blunt hunger
  • Break your fast with a small nutritious meal. This meal should be about 25% of your daily calories – low carb, low fat, medium protein, high fiber.
    Examples: a chicken or tuna salad, 300g of cottage cheese with 1 piece of fruit
    Protein and Fiber are both very filling so even if this meal is only 400-500 calories it will satisfy you for 3-4 hours. Besides filling you up, the veggies and fruits will also provide your micronutrient needs.
  • 3-4 hours later have a high protein, low calorie snack: cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with berries, omelet from 2 whole eggs and 2 cups of egg whites, one low fat cheese quesadilla, a chicken breast sandwich. You should aim to get 40-60g of protein in this meal.
  • 2-4 hours after that, you go out and have the burger with fries. This should be about 1000-1200 calories which you made room for.

cookies

Cookies (or Chocolate)

Usually people want to eat cookies or chocolate late at night or in the late afternoon. You must eat meals that are lower in carbs and fat in order to make room for this snack. Here’s how you do that:

  • Fast for 4-6 hours after waking up
  • Drink about 4 tall glasses of water during the fast to stay hydrated
  • Drink a cup of black coffee 1-2 hours after waking up to blunt hunger
  • Break your fast with a small nutritious meal. This meal should be about 25% of your daily calories – low carb, low fat, medium protein, high fiber.
    Examples: a chicken or tuna salad, 300g of cottage cheese with 1 piece of fruit
    Protein and Fiber are both very filling so even if this meal is only 400-500 calories it will satisfy you for 3-4 hours. Besides filling you up, the veggies and fruits will also provide your micronutrient needs.
  • 3-4 hours later have a bar of chocolate or a small bag of cookies.
  • 3-4 hours later have the rest of your calories in a big meal – high protein, medium carb, low fat, medium fiber. Examples: Steak and baked potatoes, Chicken and rice.
  • You can have the big meal first if you prefer to have cookies or chocolate late at night.

pizza thinkeatlift

Pizza

This strategy is the same as the one for burger and fries. The only difference is that pizza has slightly less protein so you need to include 10-20g more in you other meals.

  • Fast for 4-6 hours after waking up
  • Drink about 4 tall glasses of water during the fast to stay hydrated
  • Drink a cup of black coffee 1-2 hours after waking up to blunt hunger
  • Break your fast with a small nutritious meal. This meal should be about 25% of your daily calories – low carb, low fat, medium protein, high fiber.
    Examples: a chicken or tuna salad, 400g of cottage cheese with 1 piece of fruit
    Protein and Fiber are both very filling so even if this meal is only 400-500 calories it will satisfy you for 3-4 hours. Besides filling you up, the veggies and fruits will also provide your micronutrient needs.
  • 3-4 hours later have a high protein, low calorie snack: cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with berries, omelet from 2 whole eggs and 2 cups of egg whites, one low fat cheese quesadilla, a chicken breast sandwich. You should aim to get 50-60g of protein in this meal.
  • 2-4 hours after that, you go out and have a 400g pizza. This should be about 1000-1200 calories which you made room for.

ice cream 2

Ice Cream

Most people want to have ice cream around noon when it’s hot outside or late at night watching a movie or TV. A serving of ice cream is usually 200-400 calories so that is easier to fit in the deficit.

  • Fast for 4-6 hours after waking up
  • Drink about 4 tall glasses of water during the fast to stay hydrated
  • Drink a cup of black coffee 1-2 hours after waking up to blunt hunger
  • Have a small meal with balanced macros, around 20% of your total calories. Examples: One cheese quesadilla, a chicken salad, a chicken or tuna sandwich. After that meal have your ice cream. Or if you prefer, have it after your last meal.
  • 3-4 hours later have a high protein, low calorie snack: cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with berries, omelet from 2 whole eggs and 2 cups of egg whites, one low fat cheese quesadilla, a chicken breast sandwich. You should aim to get 30-40g of protein in this meal.
  • 3-4 hours later have the rest of your calories in a big meal – high protein, medium carb, low fat, medium fiber. Examples: Steak and baked potatoes, Chicken and rice.

donuts

Donuts

Most people want to have donuts around noon, when they are on the go and want a quick tasty snack.

  • Fast for 4-6 hours after waking up
  • Drink about 4 tall glasses of water during the fast to stay hydrated
  • Drink a cup of black coffee 1-2 hours after waking up to blunt hunger
  • Break your fast with the donut.
  • 2-4 hours later have a medium sized nutritious meal. This meal should be about 30% of your daily calories – low carb, low fat, medium protein, high fiber.
    Examples: a chicken or tuna salad, 400g of cottage cheese with 1 piece of fruit
    Protein and Fiber are both very filling so even if this meal is only 400-500 calories it will satisfy you for 3-4 hours. Besides filling you up, the veggies and fruits will also provide your micronutrient needs.
  • 3-4 hours later have the rest of your calories in a big meal – high protein, medium carb, low fat, medium fiber. Examples: Steak and baked potatoes, Chicken and rice.

How Closely do you Need to Track Macros?

Now, some people will disapprove of these strategies. They will say you cannot track macros closely when eating out and therefore you can’t possibly get the same results as someone who eats clean.

But is tracking macros to the gram really that important?

No.

When first learning about nutrition and training, everything appears to be of equal importance at all times and a great deal of effort can be spent on minutiae that doesn’t improve results at all. This is the case with tracking macros.

Hitting protein, fats and carbs to the gram is completely unnecessary but initially, it seems of vital importance.

Precision in both nutrition and training needs to be matched with your needs. When a person is very lean and in a deficit, they have less leeway in their nutrition before it has the potential to negatively impact them. The risk of burning muscle tissue for energy and losing strength is greater for a bodybuilder at 6% body fat that needs to step on stage in 4 weeks compared to a normal guy at 13% that has all the time in the world to get lean. This should be obvious.

For these reasons different levels of precision are appropriate at different times:

BEST – Hit all your Macros within 5-15g of your Goal
This is appropriate for:
Bodybuilders less than 8 weeks out from their show.
Any athlete than needs to make weight while maintaining elite performance in their training – powerlifters, olympic weightlifters, fighters, etc.

VERY GOOD – Hit your Calorie and Protein Goals
This is appropriate for:
Anyone trying to reach low levels of body fat while staying strong and muscular or gaining muscle in the process. That means you, me and pretty much everyone reading this blog.

GOOD – Hit your Calorie Goal
This is appropriate for:
Anyone that wants to lose fat but is not concerned about optimizing muscle growth or muscle retention. You can do this pretty often as well without any negative effects.

I recommend you track only calories and protein and allowing your fats and carbs to fluctuate between days. This approach allows for social events, going out to eat, holidays, drinking alcohol and for times when you accidentally went over on one macronutrient target. Also, some days your body may crave more fats or more carbs.

Don’t stress your carbohydrate and fat intake. If you consumed 20% of your calories from fat on one day and 40% on another day, it doesn’t matter at all because the weekly average would still be the same. There’s nothing magical about the 24h period of a day. Our metabolism doesn’t “reset” at midnight – it takes several days for our body to sense a change in fat or carb intake so as long as the weekly average is good, daily intake can vary.


ShredSmart cover version 1The ShredSmart Program   

The strategies I shared in this post are based on my new fat loss program called ShredSmart.

I know exactly how frustrating it is to be a complete beginner and to have no idea how to actually hit your macros or to set up a meal plan. I remember I struggled for months to learn how to eat in a deficit without being obsessive about it.

Just like in this post, ShredSmart lays out exactly how to set up your macros and meals to get lean and enjoy it. Click here to learn more about it.

28 Comments

  1. AJ Robertson on June 15, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Radu, I am starting your program, just finished reading Master of Macros, and my wife wants to count with me? What resources to you recommend for women? It gets overwhelming fast with a Google search.

    • Radu Antoniu on June 16, 2016 at 6:33 am

      Hey! Awesome!

      For women I recommend the Goddess Toning Program or Thinner Leaner Stronger – both are great programs.

      • Sonny on July 19, 2016 at 12:29 pm

        Gosh, I wish I would have had that infotmarion earlier!

  2. Adrian on June 15, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Love this post sooooo much! #bigsmile

  3. Su Ee on June 16, 2016 at 1:28 am

    “Our metabolism doesn’t “reset” at midnight”
    Love this! Very good read, I believe tracking calories and grams to the T is just not practical to those who are not preparing for photoshoot / body building contest. I believe our body is a very smart and intelligent machine. Keep up the good work in writing good articles, Radu.

  4. Igor on June 16, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Radu, how´s it going?

    I started your program two days ago, and I have a question:

    I go to the gym 3 times a week at 07:00am and play tennis about 5 days a week at night, I fell weak if a fast in the morning on these gym days, can I eat lot´s of bananas and apples before and after my trainning and get the same result´s? Or even fill up with fruits every time i´m hungry? On tennis days, I fast normally…

    Thanks dude!!!!

  5. Michael vd Linden on June 16, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Hey Radu, Ive been following you for a while now, very interesting stuff and easily explained!

    I’m on a 1700-1800kcal deficit right now (3-4x a week gym, following your beginner 5×5 program) I weigh around 70 and I’m 179cm tall, higher fat %, don’t know precisely how many %.

    I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, my weight stays the same, dropping more feels unhealthy, should I eat more? My calculated daily intake is around 2300kcal.

  6. Catalin on June 17, 2016 at 6:54 am

    Salut Radu.
    Incerc de ceva vreme sa dau jos some fat, dar am probleme cu forta… Sunt mai bine dezvoltat in partea inferioara a corpului si am decis sa fac A/B split pentru începători (recomandat de tine),doar ca ma gândesc daca e ok sa fac de 2 ori pe saptamana workout A in fiecare săptămână? Am nevoie de gains in partea superioara si muschi si forta. Sper sa reusesc sa iau si eu programul tau. Super ceea ce faci si la fix te-am gasit sa mă ajuti, sa mă scoti din întuneric 😀 .

  7. Mark on June 17, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    This article is amazing! Your rock Radu! 😀

    I’m curious to know what the low/medium/high ranges are for proteins, fats, and carbs?

    • Alex on June 18, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      What do you mean by macro ranges?

  8. Ghita98 on June 26, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Daca atunci cand faci impins la piept si ridici capul de pe banca si te uiti la executie risti sa iti afectezi coloana? (nu pot scapa de acest lucru)

  9. Alexandru on June 28, 2016 at 5:10 am

    Salut Radu. Ma poti ajuta sa-mi stabilesc “numerele” potrivite pentru mine. Precizez ca am 18 ani 1,68 m 62 kg si undeva la 14% grasime corporala si duc un stil de viata usor activ momentan. Deocamdata vreau necesarul pt mentinere ca de deficit si restul ma ocup eu. Multumesc !

  10. Kevin L. on June 28, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Caio Radu!

    Thank you for your hard work in writing these articles. My question is, do I have to skip breakfast in the morning after working an 8-10 hour shift? I work in a warehouse from 11pm to usually around 8-9:30am the next day. I’m on my feet almost the entire time, walking, running, lifting up crates and other items. Does your suggestion of interment fasting apply to me?

    Best,

    Kevin

  11. Marius on July 8, 2016 at 8:29 am

    Salut Radu,

    Care sunt nutrientii pt 100g quesadilla si cate calorii are?

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