Diet can be an extremely difficult hurdle you encounter on your path to fat loss. If your diet is bad and you’re not involved in strength training, it can be next to impossible to lose weight and be healthy. That being said, it’s unfortunate that a person can dedicate so much time and effort to exercise, only to negate it with a poor diet. The truth is that despite what infomercials on 5-minute abs and the 10-minute hard body might tell you, there are no shortcuts to a healthy, lean, and strong body. This will demand a change in lifestyle and anything less will only have you end up where you started. Remember, if you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.
What I am about to share with you can change your life. Whether you’re obese, overweight, just average or already in fairly good shape, this information can take your physique to the next level and beyond. The best part is, you will be healthier, stronger, live longer and enjoy a better quality of life. All you have to do is find your internal motivation to use this information to your life-long advantage. If you want to succeed at something big, like permanently improving your diet and physique, then the desire for it must come from within and not from the pressure of an outside source or an external reward. External rewards aren’t enough to make us change ourselves for the long haul. Scale weight and people-pleasing aren’t strong enough motivators to make people stay the course with dietary improvements.
The eating patterns you’ve spent years rehearsing have become etched into your mind. Permanently rewriting them will require you to be driven from within. To change your diet (and your body as a result) you’ll need to figure out how eating differently would help you as a person, and why that’s important. Would you become a better role model for your spouse or kids? Would it make you live longer? Would it make you appreciate nutritious food more? Would it give you more self-respect? Would you become more comfortable with the way you look? Would you have more confidence to do the things you want to do? If you want a dietary transformation, then you’ll need to know for sure that you’ll become a better person as a result of the time and energy you’d invest into it.
*There is no such thing as a bad food, only a bad diet.
Ready for the good news? Eating well and working out are habits. Once you remain consistent with a good diet and training program, the hard part is to stop. We are always in a constant state of change. At this very moment your body is creating new cells and in essence, a brand new you. Along with this, every thought you have is playing its own small or large role in creating the entirety that is you. If you wish to change something about yourself you must change something in the way you think. For example, if food is working against you in your effort to lose unwanted body fat, you must change the way you think about food.
In our most primitive state, eating was not merely a pleasure, comfort, or something to do when bored, but an essential means for survival, growth and maintenance. Before I go any further, allow me to state that I am not eliciting to the idea that food should not be pleasurable. I love to indulge in comfort foods just as much as the next person. However, there is a time and place for such indulgences. Furthermore, when I say time and place, I’m not referring to one day out of the month or even the week. Depending on what you like you may find that you can indulge in the one food/drink you love most once or twice a day, depending on your exercise habits. It’s all about moderation and timing.
*If you are looking to add lean muscle mass, a doughnut or Snickers bar can actually be beneficial to you when eaten after a highly intense, early or mid-day workout. Insulin levels will spike, shuttling amino acids into damaged muscles to aid in recovery.
The biggest misconception I find in those who wish to lose weight and tone up is they feel they are unable to do so because they love _____ (fill in the blank; Pizza, sweetbreads, hamburgers, cookies, cupcakes, potato chips, etc.) Get ready for this; you don’t have to give up anything you love to eat in order to lose weight! Again, there is no such thing as a bad food, only a bad diet. So let’s say you’re overweight, maybe not really overweight but not as lean as you’d like to be. Rather than restricting yourself to the point of insanity with some fad diet, what you really need is an understanding of what you’re putting into your body and how it affects you. When you understand how something works you can change the way you think about it.
*Your sweet tooth is not psychological. It’s real, and without appeasing it you may be driven to eat excess.
Let’s start with the basics. If you want to lose weight you must burn more calories throughout the day than you consume. There is no way around this fact. Your total energy expenditure (TEE) is the total amount of calories you burn throughout the day. Your basal metabolic rate determines your TEE. Your activity level throughout the day along with the frequency and intensity of which you exercise determines your basal metabolic rate. Obviously, the person who exercises four times per week at a high intensity is going to have a higher metabolic rate and require more calories than the person who exercises twice per week, and drastically higher than the person who doesn’t exercise at all. Let it also be taken into account that the more lean body mass (muscle) you have, the higher your metabolic rate, and thus, the higher potential to burn fat throughout the day. Even sitting on the couch, muscle burns fat. One extra pound of lean muscle mass can burn up to an extra 100 calories a day.
*Strength training when done methodically and intelligently, increases bone density and alleviates joint pain.
Since were on the topic of metabolism, let it be known that eating just once or twice a day will completely wreck your metabolism. Your body is like a camp fire and to keep a camp fire burning well, you have to continue to feed it periodically rather than all at once. The best thing you can do is eat 4-6 smaller meals per day without snacking in between. And eat slowly! Eating slowly has a higher thermic effect on food, meaning it causes you to burn more calories.
So, if you’re trying to lose weight the first thing to remember is this:
TEE > calories consumed = weight loss
Now let’s talk about what food is. Everything you eat can be broken down into 3 basic macronutrients: Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Protein: Proteins are comprised of building blocks called amino acids. Basically, amino acids build tissue. They are also deeply involved in regulatory, metabolic and physiological actions the body performs on a daily basis. Yes, protein gives your metabolism a boost. Protein has the highest thermic effect and therefore burns more calories during process than carbs or fats. In fact, 30% of the calories consumed in protein are burned in the digestive process. Protein contains 4 calories per gram.
Fats: Although fat is an essential part of your diet, it has been commonly and unfairly deemed the bad guy in nutrition. Understand that fat on the lips is not fat on the hips. Fat carries vitamins, provides the body with stored and potential energy, and gives the feeling of satiety or fullness. The only fat you need to be weary of is trans-fat and saturated fat, typically prominent in processed foods. These fats elevate blood cholesterol and are associated with cardiac risk factors. Note that saturated fats are hard at room temperature. On the other hand, unsaturated fats improve heart health and can be found in fish, nuts, seeds, plant sources and oils. Fats contain 9 calories per gram
*During light to moderate exercise, fat contributes to about 50% of energy requirements. As exercise continues and food timing is taken into consideration, the role of stored fat increases and may provide 80% of energy requirement allowing you to burn even more fat with each training session.
Carbohydrates: First, understand that carbs are our body’s primary source for energy, especially when it comes to sports or exercise. Low-carb diets have been made popular because they force the body to utilize more energy from stored fat rather than glucose. That being said, if you don’t feed your body carbs you will drain yourself of energy and wreak havoc on your hormones, placing your body in a catabolic state along with potentially inducing several other critical health issues. At least 30% of your caloric intake should consist of carbs, which is still much lower than that of the standard Western dietary pattern we’re all accustomed to that’s blowing everyone up like balloons. There are 2 types of carbs: Active and Free or Simple and Complex. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram.
Simple/Active carbs: This group is high on the Glycemic Index (GI) and quickly elevate blood sugar. Active carbs are glucose, fructose (fruit sugar), galactose(milk), maltose(beer, whiskey), sucrose (table sugar) and lactose(glucose+galactose/milk sugar)
Complex/Free carbs: Low on GI and hard to break down. Free carbs are Starch (rice, grains, beans) and Fiber.
Now that we have a basic understanding of our macronutrients, let’s talk a little more about carbohydrates and the hormonal effects of active carbs. Active carbs raise blood sugar and as blood sugar rises, insulin is released. Insulin is the hormone responsible for getting sugar out of the blood and into tissues, including muscles and fat. So imagine for a minute that your muscles are tanks. These tanks store glycogen (energy) and as these tanks fill to their capacity they can no longer store energy and the body utilizes glucose in the blood for energy. However, if the body is not performing strenuous tasks involved in exercise, the glycogen (energy) is converted directly into fat tissue. Most people are consuming active carbs from the time they get up to the time they go to bed, so their tanks are always full. To make matters worse they don’t often exercise and all that excess blood glycogen is undoubtedly stored as fat.
This is the problem for many people as they habitually consume active carbs toward the end of their day as their bodies are winding down and burning far less energy; even worse, right before bed when the body is utilizing a bare minimum of its energy stores in its state of rest. Using insulin’s response to food we can minimize fat gain, maximize fat loss and maximize muscle gain. The body will not utilize fat for energy when sugar is present to burn for energy.
*If we repeatedly feed our bodies’ active carbs throughout the day, we cause insulin to continually spike, setting up an environment for fat storage.
A typical overweight and out of shape person might occasionally eat breakfast but spend most of the day snacking on potato chips, candy and simple sugars. Although the person just “nibbled” all day, the hormonal response to those snack foods (which tend to add up in calories surprisingly fast) caused insulin to spike and drop repeatedly throughout the entire day, causing deposition of calories into fat. Then to make matters worse, this person may sit down to a very large, active carb dinner. This person wants to lose weight but they’re using food to their detriment. Insulin levels never fall low enough to incur fat loss because there is plenty of sugar to utilize for energy. We are survivalists and our bodies’ will not burn fat if they don’t have to. They will store as much as they can.
So what we want to do is manipulate our insulin levels and trick the body into thinking it has to burn fat for energy. Decrease the amount of sugar present thereby decreasing insulin and forcing the body to turn to its fat stores. Ideally, we want to utilize active carbs for breakfast and lunch and/or after a mid-day workout to replenish our muscles with energy, followed by a dense protein and fat diet to carry us through the afternoon and into the evening. As we begin our day we spike our blood sugar to energize our mind and body and repeat this at lunch to allow us to continue the rest of our day feeling clear headed and engaged. The rest of the day we slowly decrease our active carb intake, allowing a steady drop in insulin, causing the body to turn to fat stores for energy while we carry out our late day activities. Throughout the evening and into the night our bodies are forced into fat burning mode as insulin is no longer depositing sugar. Our bodies burn fat throughout the night.
Below is a glycemic Index you can evaluate to get an idea of what specific foods are either active (high GI) or free carbs (low GI). You can look up any food on www.glycemicindex.com
Now that you have an understanding of how food is working for or against you, I invite you to take a step further in your nutritional knowledge. Understand that some foods are denser in vitamins and nutrients than others. This is where it pays to eat the foods in which you get the most bang for your buck, rather than a whole lot of calories without a whole lot of nutrition. Many people with poor diets are overweight and consistently hungry because they are malnourished. Their body is craving essential nutrients that can’t be found in a Big Mac and fries from McDonald’s. These cravings cause the person to take in more and more calories, exceeding their Total Energy Expenditure, gaining more fat and still feeling hungry.
This is not to say you should never eat fast food or anything you like that may be deemed “unhealthy.” However, you must keep in mind that highly palatable food is self-reinforcing; the more of it you eat, the less appealing everything else becomes. I’ve found that the more a person learns about the merits and detriments of the foods they are consuming, the more they actually WANT to eat wholesome food. Also, you must understand that eating is a habit. You have cravings for the foods you habitually eat. If a food is working against you in your quest for a lean physique, you have to break the habit by replacing it with a new food. If you change your perspective and make an effort to eat healthier, something amazing is going to happen. You’re going to find healthy foods that actually taste good to you!