6-Week Workout Plan for Weight Loss

Are you looking to lose weight the easy way without fad diets or excessive exercise? In this article, I’ll guide you through a six-week workout plan to kick-start your weight loss journey. No prerequisite knowledge is required: you’ll get easy step-by-step instructions on how to lose fat while maintaining or gaining muscle.

Exercise is only half the equation for a successful body recomposition. Even the best fat-loss workout program can fail without a diet plan to support it. With StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss, you also get realistic, healthy tips on what and how much to eat to reach your weight-loss goal while keeping or adding to your lean muscle mass.

Best of all, StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss is easy and sustainable. It is no quick fix promising fast results you can’t maintain for more than a few weeks. It’s a long-term solution that doesn’t require spending hours in the gym every day or counting calories.

This premium workout split is available in the StrengthLog app, which you can download for free using the buttons below.

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StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss: Six Weeks to Build Muscle and Lose Fat

This weight loss workout plan guides you through six weeks of training to lose fat and improve your body composition. Unlike many workout routines that are insanely challenging and impossible for most people to maintain long-term, StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss is sustainable. The program might be six weeks long, but you can keep at it for as long as you want without getting worn out or risking overtraining injuries and nutritional deficiencies.

With a combination of weight training, cardio workouts, and general guidelines for healthy eating for weight loss, you’ll experience faster results without spending excessive time in the gym or counting calories. You’ll do some physical activity most days, but never more than 30–60 minutes.

This guide is split into two main parts: training and diet.

Let’s start with the training. It’s a workout plan for weight loss, after all. You can lose weight without exercise, but the best fat-loss program includes strength training exercises to build or maintain muscle and a mix of cardio to boost your calorie burn.

StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss: The Training

When most people think of exercising for weight loss, they think of cardio. Walking, running, cycling, that sort of thing. Hours of aerobic exercise to “burn fat.”

Cardio does play a part in a fat loss program, but not the most important role.

The single most crucial factor for losing weight is a calorie deficit: you have to eat fewer calories than your body requires. That forces it to dip into its energy reserves, your body fat, for fuel.

Cardio can help boost the number of calories you burn, but the essential types of exercises for a successful body recomposition are resistance training exercises.

Diet alone or cardio without weight lifting often means losing as much muscle as body fat. That’s no good. Strength training is the most effective way to ensure you lose fat, not muscle

Adding some form of strength training, be it free weights, machine training, or working with your body weight and resistance bands, to your weight-loss workout plan allows you to maintain your muscle tissue while boosting the fat-burning process. You might even experience muscle gain while losing fat when you include weights in your weekly routine. That never happens when you lose weight through diet alone or doing only cardio.

That’s why strength training, in combination with a healthy diet, is the best way to lose weight and reach your fitness goals.

You shouldn’t just look at the scale.

What you lose is more important than how much you lose. A successful weight-loss program promotes weight loss in the form of body fat, not muscle mass.

That’s also why StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss focuses on strength exercises: compound exercises that involve your entire body and all your major muscle groups. Maximum bang for the buck and the best results for the time and effort you put in.

Your Weekly Workout Plan

You’ll be doing five weekly workout sessions from the start: three strength-training sessions and two cardio workouts. 

The weight sessions consist of full body workouts focusing on compound movements using relatively heavy weights. You work all your muscle fibers and boost the calories you burn even after working out. Strength training elevates your metabolic rate following the training session more than a cardio workout that burns the same number of calories during exercise.1

On the cardio days, you do 20–30 minutes of your favorite low to medium-intensity cardio, be it walking, jogging, riding a stationary bike, or whatever you prefer. Walking at a brisk pace is a great way to get your cardio in that almost everyone can do.

The goal of your cardio sessions is not to become an endurance athlete but to boost the number of calories you burn and teach your body to use fat as an energy source. You want to get your heart rate up, but not more than you’re able to keep a conversation going. If you can’t complete a sentence because you’re panting too much, slow down a little.

Following your cardio sessions, you’ll also do some abdominal work. You can do those exercises anywhere. In other words, you don’t need to go to the gym on your cardio days if you don’t want to. The ab training is done in the form of supersets, meaning you alternate between two exercises, and rest once you’ve completed a set of each exercise.

The first week of training in StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss looks like this:

Workout 1

  1. Squat
  2. Bench Press
  3. Barbell Row
  4. Romanian Deadlift
  5. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Workout 2

Workout 3

  1. Superset: Leg Extension + Leg Curl
  2. Superset: Push-Up + Lat Pulldown
  3. Superset: Dumbbell Lateral Raise + Reverse Dumbbell Flyes
  4. Superset: Dumbbell Curl + Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extension

Workout 4

Workout 5

  1. Deadlift
  2. Dumbbell Chest Press
  3. Dumbbell Row
  4. Overhead Press

Rest for 1–3 minutes between sets, and try to increase the weight when you can without sacrificing proper form.

As the weeks pass, the number of sets you perform per full-body workout increases slightly, as do your cardio sessions. Eventually, you’ll add one more day of cardio. No workout will ever last more than an hour, tops, though.

You can select which days of the week to work out to fit your schedule. On your rest days, try to keep physically active in your everyday life. For example, take the stairs at work instead of the elevator or walk to your destination instead of taking the car if it’s not too far away. Little things like that add up. You burn more calories over the week without much effort and promote healthy habits in general. In addition, active recovery, where you move about and stay active, gives you better results than being utterly sedentary on a rest day.

Your cardio days are when you actively try to get your heart rate up, but taking regular walks, even daily, is only beneficial. If you want to take a walk or engage in fun and physical outdoor activities on other days than your designated cardio days, go for it. You won’t get overtrained by walking, and it does help you burn more calories.

You can see all six weeks of the workout routine, the exact rep ranges, and set configurations in StrengthLog.

StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss: The Exercises

Let’s go through the workout days and look at what you’ll be doing in StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss.

Workout 1

This training session involves free weights and some of the best exercises for your lower and upper body.

Squat

The squat probably needs no introduction. It’s hands-down the best exercise for improving general physical performance and building muscle and strength in your lower body.

Squats are hard work because they involve many of your largest muscle groups. That’s why it’s a good idea to make squats the first thing in your workout when your energy levels are the highest.

Select a weight that challenges you, and don’t be afraid to use heavier weights as you get stronger, as long as you maintain proper form.

Muscles Worked in the Squat

Muscles worked in barbell squats

How to Squat with Proper Form

  1. Place the bar on your upper back. Inhale and brace your core slightly, and unrack the bar.
  2. Take two steps back, and adjust your foot position.
  3. Squat as deep as possible with good technique.
  4. With control, stop and reverse the movement, extending your hips and legs again.
  5. Exhale on the way up or exchange air in the top position.
  6. Inhale and repeat for reps.

Bench Press

If the squat is the king of lower body exercises, the bench press rules the upper body.

The barbell bench press is a fantastic exercise for building muscle and strength in your chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Muscles Worked in the Bench Press

Bench press muscles worked

How to Bench Press with Proper Form

  1. Lie on the bench, pull your shoulder blades together and down, and slightly arch your back.
  2. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Inhale, hold your breath, and unrack the bar.
  4. Lower the bar with control, until it touches your chest somewhere close to your sternum.
  5. Push the bar up to the starting position while exhaling.
  6. Take another breath while in the top position, and repeat for reps.

Barbell Row

If you’re looking for the best types of exercise to recruit the big muscles in your back as well as your biceps, rows are the way to go. The barbell row’s got your back, literally. It’s a great exercise for building muscle and hits your entire back in one compound movement.

Muscles Worked in Barbell Rows

Muscles worked in barbell row exercise

How to Do Barbell Rows

  1. Grip the bar with an overhand grip, and lean forward with the bar hanging from straight arms.
  2. Inhale and pull the bar towards you.
  3. Pull the bar as high as you can, so that it touches your abs or chest if possible.
  4. With control, lower the bar back to the starting position.

Romanian Deadlift

Targeting most, if not all, of your posterior chain, including your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, the Romanian deadlift is a staple in many strength and conditioning routines for a good reason.

Perform the movement with a full range of motion until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings, but don’t overdo it to the point of rounding your lower back.

Muscles Worked in Romanian Deadlifts

Muscles worked in romanian deadlift

How to Do Romanian Deadlifts

  1. Get into the starting position by deadlifting a barbell off the floor, or by unracking it from a barbell rack.
  2. Inhale, brace your core slightly, and lean forward by hinging in your hips. Keep your knees almost completely extended.
  3. Lean forward as far as possible without rounding your back. You don’t have to touch the barbell to the floor, although it is OK if you do.
  4. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position. Exhale on the way up.
  5. Take another breath, and repeat for reps.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The overhead dumbbell press is a classic upper-body exercise for building your front and side deltoids. It also works your chest and triceps and is an excellent exercise for training stability under load.

Standing up and using dumbbells allows for a longer range of motion during the movement and increases muscle activity compared to sitting down or using a barbell.2

Muscles Worked in the Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Muscles worked in dumbbell shoulder press exercise

How to Dumbbell Shoulder Press

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells, and lift them up to the starting position at your shoulders.
  2. With your feet shoulder-width, inhale and lightly brace your core.
  3. Press the dumbbells up to straight arms, while exhaling.
  4. Inhale at the top, or while lowering the dumbbells with control back to your shoulders.
  5. Repeat for reps.

Workout 2

It’s cardio time! It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it is relatively challenging and increases your heart rate. Pick your favorite type of cardio and get going! Some examples include brisk walking, jogging, riding a bike (outdoors or stationary), and using a cross-trainer or rowing machine.

Get your heart rate up and keep going for 20 minutes. Afterward, hit those abs with some lying leg raises and crunches in superset fashion.

Lying Leg Raise

Muscles Worked in Lying Leg Raises

Muscles worked in lying leg raises
  1. Lie down with your back on the floor, and your arms at your sides.
  2. With straight legs, lift your legs until they are pointing straight up.
  3. Lower your legs again, with control.

Crunch

Muscles Worked in Crunches

Muscles worked by crunches
  1. Lie on your back, with your hands in front of your chest and your knees bent to about 90 degrees.
  2. Lift your upper body by contracting your abs and bending forward.
  3. Bend as far forward as possible while still keeping your low back in contact with the floor, and then return to the starting position.

Workout 3

This workout is based on supersets and is guaranteed to give you a great pump. It’s also the session of the week where you get to do isolation exercises in addition to the heavy compound movements.

Superset 1: Leg Extension + Leg Curl

Superset number one hits your quads and hamstrings.

The leg extension is an isolation exercise for the entire quadriceps. It complements the squat perfectly because it targets a part of the quads for which the squat does not do much.3

Legs curls are the way to isolate your hamstrings. You can do them either lying or seated, depending on your preferences and the training equipment you can access.

The instructions below show the seated leg curl, but feel free to do the lying leg curl instead.

How to Do Leg Extensions

  1. Adjust the machine so that you are correctly positioned. Your knees should be in line with the machine’s joint.
  2. Extend your knees with control, until they are completely straight.
  3. Slowly lower the weight again.

How to Do Seated Leg Curls

  1. Adjust the machine so that you are correctly positioned. Your knees should be in line with the machines joint.
  2. Push the weight down by bending your knees as far as possible.
  3. Slowly let the weight back again.
Muscles worked in leg extensions
Muscles worked by seated leg curl

Superset 2: Push-Up + Lat Pulldown

The second superset works your pecs and upper back.

Good old push-ups remain one of the best exercises for your chest, front delts, and triceps and equal the bench press in several ways.4 5 If you find regular push-ups too challenging, you can perform kneeling push-ups instead.

The lat pulldown is a mainstay exercise in your toolbox for building a wider back. As a bonus, it is also a great way to make your biceps grow.6

How to Do Push-Ups

  1. Assume the starting position, with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Try to form a straight line from head to feet, and brace your abdomen slightly.
  3. Lower yourself as deep as you can, while inhaling.
  4. Reverse the motion when you’ve touched the floor, and push yourself up to straight arms again while exhaling.
  5. Repeat for reps.
Muscles worked in push-ups

How to Do Lat Pulldowns

  1. Grip the bar with a pronated grip (palms facing away from you), slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2. Sit down with your thighs under the leg support, keep your chest up, and look up at the bar.
  3. Inhale and pull the bar towards you.
  4. Pull the bar down until it is below your chin or touches your upper chest.
  5. Exhale and slowly return the bar until your arms are fully extended.
Muscles worked in lat pulldown with pronated grip

Superset 3: Dumbbell Lateral Raise + Reverse Dumbbell Fly

Superset number three is all about your delts. Your front delts get plenty of attention from all the presses you’re doing, but this superset targets your side and rear delts. Hitting all three heads of the deltoid is vital for muscular balance.

Using a relatively light weight in both the dumbbell lateral raise and the reverse fly is a good idea to isolate the muscles properly.

How to Do Dumbbell Lateral Raises

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells, in almost straight arms hanging by your sides.
  2. With control, lift the dumbbells outwards to your sides, until your upper arm is horizontal.
  3. Lower the dumbbells with control.
  4. Repeat for reps.
Muscles worked in dumbbell lateral raise

How to Do Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells, lean forward and let your arms hang towards the floor.
  2. With almost straight arms, lift the dumbbells out to the sides.
  3. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
Muscles Worked in the Reverse Dumbbell Fly

Superset 4: Dumbbell Curl + Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extension

The fourth and final round of supersets hits your biceps and triceps. The compound pressing and pulling movements in the other two weight sessions work your upper arms effectively, but everyone likes to train arms, so here’s your chance to get a good pump going.

The dumbbell curl is a great mass-builder for your biceps, and dumbell overhead triceps extension hits all three heads of the triceps, including the large long head.

How to Dumbbell Curl

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells with your arms hanging by your sides.
  2. Lift the dumbbells by flexing your elbows.
  3. Keep your arms at your sides during the curl.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
Muscles worked in dumbbell curl exercise

How to Do Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extensions

  1. Lift a dumbbell up to a straight arm over your head.
  2. Lower the dumbbell down behind your head while keeping your upper arm still and vertical.
  3. Reverse the motion and extend your arm again.
Muscles worked in Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extension

Workout 4

The second cardio session of the week is the same as the first. Twenty minutes of low- to moderate-intensity cardio, followed by two abdominal exercises, this time the oblique crunch and the plank. Again, perform the ab exercises in a superset fashion, and hold the plank for as long as you can.

How to Do Oblique Crunches

  1. Lie on your back, with your hands on the side of your head and your knees bent to about 90 degrees.
  2. Contract your abs and lift your upper body diagonally, so that the elbow and shoulder on one side of your body move towards the knee on your other side.
  3. Bend as far as possible and then return to the starting position.
Muscles worked in oblique crunches

How to Do the Plank

  1. Stand on your elbows and feet.
  2. Brace your abs and try to form and hold a straight line from your head to feet.
Muscles worked in the plank exercise

Workout 5

Like the first workout of this exercise routine, this session is centered around compound exercises that work your entire body and allow you to use heavy weights. 

Deadlift

The deadlift strengthens your body from top to toe and is the best overall exercise for stimulating both your upper and lower body in one movement. It also burns a surprising amount of calories.7

How to Deadlift with Proper Form

  1. Step up close to the bar so that it is about over the middle of your foot.
  2. Inhale, lean forward, and grip the bar.
  3. Hold your breath, brace your core slightly, and lift the bar.
  4. Pull the bar close to your body, with a straight back, until you are standing straight.
  5. Lower the bar back to the ground with control.
  6. Take another breath, and repeat for reps.
Deadlift muscles worked

Dumbbell Chest Press

Performing the bench press with dumbbells instead of a barbell allows for a greater range of motion, which might help stimulate muscle growth. As with all pressing movements, the dumbbell chest press works your front delts and triceps as well.

How to Dumbbell Chest Press

  1. Lie on a bench, and lift a pair of dumbbells up to the starting position.
  2. Press the dumbbells up to straight arms, while exhaling.
  3. Inhale at the top, or while lowering the dumbbells with control back to your shoulders.
  4. Repeat for reps.
Muscles worked in dumbbell chest press

Dumbbell Row

With unilateral exercises like the dumbbell row, you work one side of your body at a time, which means using a lighter weight and focusing on stabilization and mechanics. Feel the stretch in your lats at the bottom and get a good contraction at the top.

How to Do Dumbbell Rows

  1. Lean against a bench with one knee and hand, and hold a dumbbell in your other, straight hanging arm.
  2. Inhale pull the dumbbell as high as you can in a rowing movement.
  3. With control, lower the dumbbell back to the starting position while exhaling.
Muscles worked by dumbbell row

Overhead Press

The final exercise is the traditional overhead press using a barbell. It is a fantastic exercise for overall upper body development and stability, emphasizing your delts. Make sure you focus on your upper body pressing muscles and don’t turn the movement into a push press using leg drive.

How to Overhead Press

  1. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Inhale, lightly brace your core, and unrack the bar.
  3. Let the bar rest against your front delts while you take a step back from the rack.
  4. Press the bar up to straight arms, while exhaling.
  5. Inhale at the top, or while lowering the bar with control back to your shoulders.
  6. Repeat for reps.
Muscles worked in overhead press exercise

Now rest up with an active recovery day or two, and prepare for next week!

StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss: The Diet

Now we turn our attention to the other crucial part of your weight loss plan: the diet. Everyone likes to eat, but no one wants to diet. However, no workout routine can make you lose weight if your diet isn’t on point. You can’t outrun a bad diet.

eating for hardgainers

Weight Loss Essentials: Calories In vs. Calories Out

Calories are a way to measure how much energy the food you eat contains. You use that energy to fuel your body and brain and store any excess energy for future use. If you consistently eat more calories than your body needs, your fat cells store the energy as body fat. 

The key factor for weight loss is a calorie deficit. You need to eat fewer calories than you burn over time.

You will lose weight on a diet of junk food and candy without exercising as long as you’re in a calorie deficit. That’s not an encouragement to eat crap, just an illustration of how essential the “calories in vs. calories out” concept is for losing weight. Healthy eating offers many other benefits, including providing the nutrients your body needs and making sure you’re losing fat weight, not lean body mass.

If you want to lose weight, and unless you’re going from very sedentary to very active, you have to eat less to create a calorie deficit.

Counting calories by precisely weighing and measuring everything you put in your mouth is one way to ensure you’re eating fewer calories than your burn. It can be a highly effective method, but it requires time and know-how, and many find it a chore.

If you want to count calories, you’ll find a thorough guide to doing so here:

>> Macros for Cutting: Count Your Way to Fat Loss

However, if you don’t want to bother with tracking your exact calorie intake, StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss lets you use hand-size portions for an easy and practical way to adjust your food intake.

But first, let’s look at the three macronutrients your body needs for energy and building materials.

Protein

Protein provides amino acids: the building blocks your body uses to create new tissue and maintain and repair your cells. Strength training and protein from the foods you eat work together to build new muscle tissue.

During weight loss, protein becomes even more critical. A calorie deficit, essential for losing weight, increases muscle breakdown, but lifting weights and eating protein boosts your muscle-building process enough to offset muscle loss.

In other words: you won’t get the desired results if you don’t eat enough protein.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

To live a healthy life and maintain your muscle mass during energy balance, you don’t need more than 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (0.36 grams per pound) of body weight. Most people get more than that without thinking about it.

However, if you want to build muscle or when you’re on a weight-loss diet, you need more protein than the average person.

According to research, 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg (0.65–0.91 grams per pound) body weight/day is sufficient for building muscle mass for most people.8

During weight loss, when you’re cutting to lose body fat, it’s a good idea to aim for the higher end of that range, eating at least 1.8 grams per kg (0.8 grams per pound) to maintain or even gain lean body mass.

These are examples of excellent protein sources for building muscle:

  • Milk and dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, quark, casein- and whey protein powder)
  • Eggs (egg whites and whole eggs)
  • Red meat (beef, pork, lamb, game, ostrich)
  • White meat (chicken, turkey)
  • Fish and seafood
  • Soy-based foods (tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy protein powder)
  • Quinoa
  • Beans, lentils
  • Nuts, almonds, seeds
  • Grains

Read more:

>> Protein Intake: How Much Protein Should You Eat per Day?

Fat

Dietary fat gives you a highly concentrated source of energy. Fat keeps your brain, cell membranes, and nervous system healthy and allows your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. In addition, your body uses fat to produce hormones, including testosterone.

How Much Fat Do You Need?

Getting 20–35% of your daily calories from fat is an excellent way to ensure athletic performance and health.9 If you prefer a lower-carb diet, you can increase your fat intake, but you probably shouldn’t go lower.

Because dietary fat is a concentrated source of calories, cutting your fat intake might sound tempting if you’re trying to lose weight. However, going too low is a mistake and might compromise your anabolic hormones, make you hungrier, and limit your body’s ability to absorb vitamins.

These are examples of potential fat sources in your diet:

Animal-Based

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Cream
  • Egg yolks and whole eggs
  • Fatty cuts of meat and poultry
  • Fatty fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel
  • High-fat dairy products

Plant-Based

  • Avocadoes
  • Coconut oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut and seed butter and oils
  • Olives and olive oil

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s are the essential polyunsaturated fats your body can’t produce on its own. They are naturally anti-inflammatory and helpful for keeping your cell membranes fluid and maintaining a healthy immune system. 

The most beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are mainly found in marine sources like fatty cold-water fish and algae. If you are a vegan or rarely eat fish for some other reason, consider a quality omega-3 supplement.

In general, you get a balanced mix of fat types if you base your diet on a wide selection of diverse and mainly unprocessed foods.

Read more:

>> Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Effects, Benefits, and Safety

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the other primary source of energy from food. Unlike fats, carbohydrates are not essential. You can live your entire life and stay healthy without ever eating carbs. That being said, carbs are not bad and do not prevent weight loss.

How Many Carbs Do You Need?

While you do not “need” carbs, they are a good energy source, and many carbohydrate-rich foods provide plenty of valuable fiber and other nutrients.

How much carbohydrate you need depends on several things, including your body size, how physically active you are in general, the type of training you engage in, and the intensity and duration of that training.

  • For example, a young, male elite CrossFit athlete who works out rigorously for several hours every day and wants to add body weight will likely thrive on a relatively high carbohydrate intake.
  • On the other hand, a sedentary and overweight person who wants to lose weight without exercising a lot will need fewer carbohydrates.

Most important, though, is what you like, prefer, and want to do.

Some people feel and perform better eating fewer carbohydrates than average. Others prefer high-carb diets. Neither is right nor wrong but a matter of personal preference.

In StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss, we’ll go with a balanced approach, but if you like more or fewer carbs, feel free to adjust things to your preferences. 

Because protein and fat are essential nutrients, those take precedence, and carbohydrates make up the rest of your calorie intake.

These are examples of quality carbohydrate sources you might want to include in your diet plan:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Grains
  • Rice
  • Potatoes, both regular and sweet potatoes
  • Bulgur
  • Quinoa
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Fruits
  • Berries
  • Vegetables

It’s not wrong to include a small to moderate amount of added sugars in your diet, but most of your carbs should come from unrefined sources like the ones in the list above.

How Much Food Should You Eat for Weight Loss?

As you know by now, how much you eat determines your calorie intake, and controlling your calorie intake is crucial to reach a calorie deficit and losing weight.

If you don’t want to spend much time weighing your food and counting calories, you can use hand portions to customize your meal sizes and plan your macros (how much protein, fat, and carbs to eat.)

  • One portion of protein = one palm
  • One portion of fats = one thumb
  • One portion of carbohydrates = one cupped hand
  • And for meals that include vegetables, one portion = one fist. For example, you might want a serving of vegetables with lunch or dinner but not breakfast.
portion sizes for workout plan for weight loss

StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss assumes you eat three meals per day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are many different ways to structure your meal plan, including various types of intermittent fasting, but this is a general plan and a good starting point for most people to reach their weight loss goals.

How Much Protein Should You Eat?

Because protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass during weight loss, add two palm-sized portions of a cooked protein source (use the list of high-protein foods above for inspiration) to your plate each meal.

A large person needs more protein than a small person, and a large person also has larger palms. That means that you automatically adjust your portion sizes to suit your body size.

Depending on how big your hands are, two palm-sized portions provide you with 40–60 grams of protein.

Three meals like that over the day, with an optional protein shake after workouts, ensure your muscles get the protein they need.

How Much Fat Should You Eat?

Fat is very calorie-dense. That means you get many calories from a relatively small amount of fatty foods.

Use one thumb-sized portion of foods high in fat per meal. Doing so provides you with enough dietary fat for health and hormones without consuming too many calories.

Of course, people who prefer low-carb, high-fat diets would use several thumbs of fat per meal while reducing the carb portions. For this general guideline for weight loss, however, we’re using a balanced nutrition plan that suits most people.

How Many Carbs Should You Eat?

You want to use one cupped handful per meal to measure your carb portion. That’s a cupped handful of the cooked carb source, not the uncooked. For example, you’d put one cupped handful of cooked rice on your plate. Don’t boil one cupped handful of uncooked rice and count it as one portion. The rice will absorb water, and that cupped handful of uncooked rice will fill more than one handful afterward.

Not all carbohydrate sources are equal. You want to base most of your meals on unrefined or low-processed carbohydrates, like potatoes, rice, fruits, beans and other legumes, and whole grains, to mention a few examples.

Like with protein, a larger person needs more carbs than a smaller person. And because a large person has larger hands, they automatically get more carbs and energy when using the cupped handful method.

How Much Vegetables Should You Eat?

You use your fist to measure portion size for meals that include vegetables. Vegetables don’t provide many calories per serving, meaning you can load up your plate with them without your calorie intake going through the roof.

You can use two fists of vegetables for each meal. Broccoli, spinach, green beans, kale, eggplant, and carrots are just a few examples. You can use frozen or fresh vegetables. Unless you have access to freshly harvested local produce, frozen vegetables often retain more nutrients. 

Because vegetables contain few calories and often plenty of fiber, they fill you up and can stave off hunger, which is excellent during a weight-loss diet.

What About Treats (Ice Cream, Cookies, Chips)?

Yes, you can have them!

Just not all the time.Try to limit your intake of highly processed foods like that to one or two meals per week. They sure taste great but are often high in fat and refined carbs, very calorie-dense, and provide little nutritional value.

One serving of treats like this counts as one cupped handful of carbs and one thumb of fat. You’d have to eat less of something else to stay on the plan. And because “something else” is likely better for you and your weight loss, don’t do it too often. Also, don’t replace protein with high-fat, high-carb treats, even on “cheat days.”

A Sample Day of Eating for Weight Loss

Following the portion size suggestions above and the list of protein, fat, and carbohydrate sources earlier in the article, here is a sample day of eating with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal with berries (one cupped handful total)
  • One cup of Greek yogurt
  • Two whole eggs

Lunch

  • 6-8 oz (170–230 grams) of turkey breast (two palms)
  • One medium sweet potato with a tablespoon of butter
  • One to two cups of mixed veggies

Dinner

  • 6-8 oz (170–230 grams) of cooked steak (two palms)
  • ½–⅔ cup (100–130 grams) of cooked rice (one cupped handful)
  • One tablespoon of olive oil
  • Two cups of non-starchy veggies like spinach, carrots, cauliflower, or peppers

If you work out in the gym that day, you can add a protein shake (two scoops of protein powder) after your training session. It’s not required, but it’s a convenient way to boost your protein intake and give your muscles what they need.

On a plant-based diet, you’d switch the eggs, dairy, and the turkey breast and steak to a vegan meat substitute or use beans or any other protein-rich legume.

It’s as simple as that! Add two palms of protein, a cupped handful of carbs, a thumb of fat, and a fist or two of veggies to your plate, and you have a complete and healthy meal. 

Should You Take Any Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss?

You often hear and read claims that this or that supplement will do wonders for your weight loss, but it’s almost always unsubstantiated hyperbole.

You don’t need any supplements for StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss to work. We’re not selling you any pills or powders.

That being said, a select few supplements are backed by scientific evidence and can benefit your efforts. You don’t need them, but they can be helpful.

Read more:

>> The 5 Best Supplements to Get Shredded in 2022

Creatine 

Creatine is the number one supplement for improving performance, strength, and gaining muscle, backed by more than 500 studies. 

It does not have any fat-burning properties, although people using creatine generally lose a little more body fat compared to placebo.10 Instead, creatine helps you maintain strength and lean muscle mass during weight loss.

Creatine does cause water retention, but it’s good water retention. Contrary to what some claim, creatine does not make you bloated, as you store the added water inside your muscles, not under your skin. That makes you look better, not worse.

Read more:

>> Creatine: Effects, Benefits and Safety

Caffeine

If you’re feeling sluggish and tired when it’s time to work out, which can happen during a calorie deficit, caffeine can help you perform your best. An energy drink, a caffeine pill, or regular coffee all works equally well.

coffee mug

I suggest you save the pre-workout caffeine for when you really need it. Some research suggests that you don’t get the energy boost you want if you take caffeine before every workout.

Read more:

>> Caffeine: Effects, Benefits, and Safety

Protein Supplements

Protein supplements don’t build any more muscle than the same amount of protein from “real food” but are convenient after a workout or when you’re on the go and don’t have time to whip up a meal.

Popular options include whey, casein, beef, soy, and pea protein powders. They all work fine, and you can choose based on taste, price, and whether you want a plant or animal-based powder. You don’t have to use one at all if you prefer to get all your protein from regular meals.

Read more:

>> Whey or Soy Protein for Building Muscle?

Omega-3 and Vitamin D Supplements

These two supplements likely won’t impact your weight loss directly but can be helpful because they are important for your health, and many of us don’t get enough of them.

If you don’t eat a lot of fatty fish, an omega-3 supplement might be a good idea.

There aren’t many good dietary sources of vitamin D, and almost half the population of the US is vitamin D deficient.11 You can get vitamin D from the sun, but many of us aren’t out and about much or live in a place where the sun doesn’t provide enough, at least not during the winter months.

Read more:

>> Vitamin D: Effects, Benefits, and Safety

Want to learn more about dietary supplements? Which ones are worth your money, and which are questionable or useless? Check our StrengthLog’s Supplement Guide, our free guide where I review 26 of the most popular supplements.

Final Words

There you go! Give this workout plan and diet suggestions a go, and I’m sure you’ll see the results you want on the scale and in the mirror. Not to mention that you’ll be taking the first steps to a healthier future you.

Follow StrengthLog’s Workout Plan for Weight Loss in StrengthLog

This program is available in our app StrengthLog. The app is free to download and use as a workout tracker where all the basic functionality is free – forever.

The app also has a bunch of free programs and workouts. Our more advanced programs (such as this one), however, are for premium users only.

Want to give premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.

Download StrengthLog for free with the links below:

Download StrengthLog Workout Log on App Store
Download StrengthLog Workout Log on Google Play Store

100% free download, workout tracking, basic statistics, and 20+ free training programs and workouts.

Good luck with your training and weight loss!

>> Click here to return to our list of training programs.

References

  1. Int J Sport Nutr. 1994 Dec;4(4):347-60. Postexercise energy expenditure in response to acute aerobic or resistive exercise.
  2. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: July 2013 – Volume 27 – Issue 7 – p 1824-1831. Effects of Body Position and Loading Modality on Muscle Activity and Strength in Shoulder Presses.
  3. J Sports Sci. 2021 Oct;39(20):2298-2304. The role of exercise selection in regional Muscle Hypertrophy: A randomized controlled trial.
  4. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: January 2015 – Volume 29 – Issue 1 – p 246-253. Bench Press and Push-up at Comparable Levels of Muscle Activity Results in Similar Strength Gains.
  5. Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness. Volume 15, Issue 1, June 2017, Pages 37-42. Low-load bench press and push-up induce similar muscle hypertrophy and strength gain.
  6. Asian J Sports Med. 2015 Jun; 6(2): e24057. Single vs. Multi-Joint Resistance Exercises: Effects on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy.
  7. Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(15), 6687. Energy Expenditure during Acute Weight Training Exercises in Healthy Participants: A Preliminary Study.
  8. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Volume 14, Article number: 20 (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise.
  9. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: March 2009 – Volume 41 – Issue 3 – p 709-731. Nutrition and Athletic Performance.
  10. J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2019 Sep; 4(3): 62. Changes in Fat Mass Following Creatine Supplementation and Resistance Training in Adults ≥50 Years of Age: A Meta-Analysis.
  11. Nutrition Research, Volume 31, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 48-54. Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults.
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Andreas Abelsson

Andreas has over 30 years of training experience and is a highly appreciated writer and educator on exercise, fitness, and nutrition. Few people stay more up to date and have a better grasp of the field of exercise science than Andreas.