I'm 25, 5'6 and ~145 lbs. I've lost about 60 lbs in 4 years, and my goal weight has always been ~130 lbs. Now that it's summertime I'm gearing up to take my fitness more seriously. I'm lightly active, alternating between cardio and strength training and I'm starting to increase that. My main problem is eating - I often don't take the time to make myself healthy meals so go for things that are quick and convenient. While they're not necessarily unhealthy, I'm sure I'm not getting enough nutrients and fuel.
My question is - if my main focus is fat loss, but I'm hoping to do it while building muscle and saying strong, what ratio of carbs/fats/proteins should I be aiming for, and when's the best time to eat them (in the morning/evening, before/after a workout, etc.)?
60 pounds in four years, that is fantastic! That was just under one and a half pounds per week which is a very healthy and realistic way to shed pounds. You will be happy to know that unlike yoyo dieting, those pounds will not come back on.
It is those last 10 or 15 pounds that you will struggle with for the rest of your life. We always want to be 10 pounds slimmer, don’t we? And when we get there, after living on salads and chicken for four or so weeks, we grab that bottle of wine and chocolate bar and reward ourselves. When we step on the scale the morning after our celebration we are back up 10 pounds. Right!? In a day!
Here is my advice, cut out the simple carbs altogether. Our bodies do need carbohydrates so rely on foods like complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables while getting rid of potatoes, rice, bread and pasta. It may be tough at first and you are not going to get away with grabbing something convenient. If you want to reach your results you are going to have to sacrifice and get used to preparing healthy foods. If you do not, you will be like a hamster on a wheel and never get to where you are trying to go.
I would recommend 20-30% of your diet come from fats, but healthy fats such as omegas, fish oils, olive oils, avocado oils and nuts. If you are doing large volumes of cardio (such as if you are an endurance athlete) then 50-60% of your diet should be carbohydrates. If you are focusing more on strength training and shorter cardio sessions then 40 - 50% of your daily food intake should consist of carbohydrates. The rest of your diet should be protein, 20-40%.
Here are some numbers for you. Your body will get 4 calories from every gram of protein you eat, 4 calories from every carbohydrate you eat and 9 calories from every gram of fat that you eat. If you are eating 1500 calories in a day then 300 - 450 of those calories should come from fat, or 33-50 grams of fat. Roughly 600-900 calories should be from your carbohydrate intake, or 150 to 225 grams of carbohydrates and the remainder should come from protein, about 300 to 600 calories or 75 to 150 grams. It is recommended that we need 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein for every kilogram of bodyweight so you weighing 145 pounds this works perfectly. You do not really need more than 80 grams of protein a day.
Start your day out with a healthy greens smoothie. My favourite is mixing blueberries, half a banana, a few bunches of kale, some celery, cucumber and half a scoop of protein powder. It is extremely important to get protein into your body as soon as you wake up as that is when your glycemic levels are at their lowest and if you eat sugary foods you will spike your blood sugar and then you are toast for the day.
Snack on things through the day like nuts and chopped vegetables but keep your fruit servings to a minimum. I recommend 3 servings of fruit and 7 or more servings of vegetables in a day and try and eat most of your fruit earlier in the day. Prepare healthy salads for lunch -- garbanzo beans and legumes topped with lean proteins like fish, eggs and chicken and fill your plate with vegetables and lean proteins. Vegetable broth soups are great for dinner as are stir fries and roasted vegetables. And make extra! That way you can throw your leftovers in a container for the next day. You MUST prepare or you are not going to get anywhere.
Also, remember that as you build muscle your body becomes denser so try not and pay too much attention to the scale. Good luck!