Lose fat fast by combining a strength training program with a diet that helps you burn fat and build muscle. You will lose the most fat by eating a diet that supports muscle building, prevents nutrient deficiencies, and helps you achieve the best hormone response for body composition. This article will give you my top five tips for incorporating those three goals into a dietary program for fat loss.
For some of you, these tips will be a radical approach to diet and fat loss, whereas for other readers, they will be old news. If you find these tips to be extreme, consider these points:
1) You have complete control over what you put in your mouth. No one ever ate anything by accident.
2) If you are looking for fat loss tips, a radical approach to diet is probably necessary because what you are doing must not be working.
These are tips—not the universal answer. I suggest them because they are based on research and have worked for many clients. If something else works for you, that’s great.
Be aware that these tips are based on the assumption that you are strength training and getting as much as physical activity as possible. Just as it is nearly impossible to out-train a bad diet, it’s very difficult to achieve significant fat loss without exercise. The right training program will get you where you want to be faster. This is the second article in a series on tips for body composition. Last week, I posted Top Five Training Tips for Optimal Body Composition
The Run Down on Eating for Fat Loss
An essential part of a diet that helps you lose fat, while supporting optimal health and energy, is to eliminate foods that your body has a difficult time processing. Your body may be intolerant of certain foods due to insufficient levels of a specific enzyme.
Common food intolerances include gluten, lactose, nuts, fructose, and soy. Many people also find that a food intolerance is complex and better results may come if they eliminate lactose and dairy—meaning even dairy with the lactose removed. The solution is to identify the foods that trip you up and eliminate them.
That said, these tips may not be the best for you because everyone has unique food intolerances, or foods that just don’t do them much good. Not everyone will have best results by eating a low-carb diet. Your needs will be dictated by your genotype, lifestyle, training status, and goals. These tips are general research-based guidelines for fat loss.
Tip #1: Eliminate All Processed Foods
Eliminate all processed foods from your diet. Processed foods are all-around bad news. They lack nutrition, generally contain chemicals, dyes, and artificial additives, and the macronutrients have been modified or are denatured, which means they aren’t metabolized in the same way as if they were in the unprocessed state. The chemicals and additives in processed foods increase your toxic load. All of these chemicals must be metabolized and removed from the body, which can overload the body’s natural detoxification system. For the same reason you need to eat organic as much as possible, which I’ll get into below, but eating organic processed foods is no solution.
Best fat loss results will come from removing processed foods completely from the diet. Many people don’t realize that even foods such as cereal, bread, and energy bars that say “made with whole-grains” or “great source of protein and fiber” on the package are still highly processed and should be avoided. Once a grain has been ground up into flour, it’s no longer whole and you shouldn’t be eating it. Similarly, processed protein has been denatured, which means that if your goal is body composition, you need to eat high-quality protein in its most natural form.
Tip #2: Eat Smart Fats
A healthy fat intake is essential for body composition because dietary fat is used to make up the lipid layer of cells, and it is involved in the production of muscle building hormones such as testosterone. Diets that contain 30 to 50 percent fat are associated with much higher testosterone levels in men than low fat diets, which is significant because higher testosterone is associated with a better body composition. Additionally, research shows that in both men and women, eating a diet higher in certain dietary fats is associated with a leaner body composition and less body fat than a diet lower in fat and higher in carbs.
The key is to eat the correct fats in the ideal ratio and to eliminate all trans and hydrogenated fats from the diet. There are no safe levels of trans or hydrogenated fats because they impair insulin receptors on cells, decreasing energy use in the body and slowing metabolism. They also lead to elevated levels of the bad LDL cholesterol and put you at risk for heart disease. Trans fats are commonly found in processed foods, which is another great reason to completely avoid processed foods.
The omega-3 fats (EPA, DHA, and ALA)are the healthiest fats for you to eat, because they are more permeable than other fats, which is better for the health of your cell lipid layers. The best omega-3s are DHA and EPA, which are found in fish oil, wild meats, and organic grass-fed beef. Having adequate meat intake will help you avoid nutrient deficiencies such as calcium, vitamin B12, zinc, taurine, carnosine, among others.
Omega-6 fats, which are found in abundance in the Western diet, are in high quantities in corn, safflower, peanut, soy, sesame, and canola oil (all the vegetable oils). Diets that are higher in omega-6 fats than omega-3s have been shown to cause more inflammation and put you at greater risk for disease such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disease.
Shoot for a diet with a near equal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. This may require taking a large dose of fish oil because unless you eat wild fish, grass-fed beef, and wild meats such as elk, buffalo, ostrich, moose, and boar on a regular basis, you won’t get enough omega-3s. Optimal fat loss results have been seen with 1 to 1.5 grams of omega-3s per percent of body fat, meaning that if you have 20 percent body fat, you would get at least 20 grams of omega-3s in your diet.
Tip #3: Eat a High-Protein Diet: The Quality is Most Important
Eat a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet for optimal body composition and muscle building. For best results, organic meats will provide the largest “bang for your buck” protein. The quality of the protein you eat is essential when it comes to fat loss because you want to get the greatest amino acid intake per unit of energy (calories) you eat.
High-quality complete protein is only available from animal sources because they have an amino acid pattern similar to that needed by the body. Plant-based proteins are deficient in one or more of the essential amino acids, making them low-quality, incomplete proteins. In order to provide the body with adequate amino acids to make a complete protein, you would need to eat more total protein, which would likely raise your overall energy intake.
A number of studies have shown that a high-protein diet is more effective than a low-fat diet for fat loss. For example, a recent study in the journal Nutrition showed that a high-protein diet produced greater body composition improvements than either a low-fat diet or a Mediterranean diet.
All three diets improved biomarkers of health, but the high-protein diet resulted in less loss of muscle mass, and slightly more fat loss than the others. Researchers suggest the high-protein diet also helped participants develop better dietary habits that they could continue after the study ended because the high-protein, low-carb diet produces less insulin secretion and better energy use.
A second study that received a lot of media attention provides insight into the value of a large dose of protein in the diet. This study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, compared the effect of overeating on body composition and fat gain from diets with three different protein contents. Participants ate either 5, 15, or 25 percent of their diet from protein with an extra 954 calories a day for eight weeks. A “low” protein diet contained 5 percent protein, 52 percent fat, and 42 percent carbs; a “normal” protein diet had 15 percent protein, 44 percent fat, and 42 percent carbs; and a “high” protein diet had 25 percent protein, 33 percent fat, and 41 percent carbs.
All three groups gained the same amount of fat from the overeating—about 3.5 kg. What was most interesting was that the low-protein diet group gained the least total body weight because along with the 3.5 kg of fat gain, they lost 0.7 kg of lean mass. In comparison, the normal-protein diet group gained 2.9 kg of lean mass and the high-protein diet group gained 3.4 kg of lean mass. From a body composition viewpoint, the high-protein diet was best even though participants gained more total weight than the low-protein group.
Resting metabolic rate dropped significantly in the low-protein group, and more than 90 percent of the extra calories eaten were stored as fat—all the extra carbs and fat were turned into fat. In contrast, in the other two diets about 50 percent of the extra energy consumed was turned into fat, and the resting metabolic rate increased by 53 percent in response to the higher protein intake.
For best fat loss and muscle building results ensure you eat a high-quality of protein—I suggest the Meat and Nuts Breakfast to start your day. Supplement with whey protein and branched-chain amino acids to pad your protein intake.
Tip #4: Eat Low-Glycemic Carbs: Limit Carbs to Vegetables and Berries
Eliminate all high-glycemic carbs and eat only low-glycemic vegetables and berries. Vegetables, especially green leafy ones, are highly nutritious, contain lots of fiber, and produce a very moderate insulin response. They are antioxidant rich, and the cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and bok choy contain compounds that help the body detoxify and eliminate excess estrogen—this is one reason these vegetables are considered “cancer-fighting” foods.
Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, and bilberries are all low-glycemic and high in antioxidants, or compounds such as polyphenols that enhance the production of enzymes in the body that help detoxify free radicals that cause cancer. Compounds in berries and green vegetables are digested more slowly and cause the pancreas to secrete a minimal amount of insulin—the hormone that binds to cell receptors to facilitate the entry of glucose into the cell to be used for energy.
Carbs that have a low-glycemic index will result in a small amount of glucose in the blood that can be processed effectively so that is used for fuel rather than turned into fat. Carbs that have a high-glycemic index result in a large amount of glucose in the blood. The pancreas will secrete too much insulin in order to help the body process the high blood glucose. The high insulin levels trigger more of the stress hormone cortisol to be released. Over time, high insulin and cortisol this will result in the cells becoming resistant to insulin, which leads to fat gain.
For best fat loss results, eat carbs only from vegetable and berry sources. By eliminating higher glycemic carbs, many people can make their bodies more carb tolerant because they have improved their insulin sensitivity and have better body composition (more muscle less, faster metabolic rate, less fat).
Tip #5: Stay Hydrated: Limit Beverages to Water, Tea & Coffee
Drink adequate water and limit beverages to water, tea, and coffee. Completely eliminate juice, all soda, alcohol (the one exception may be red wine), and any “sports” drinks. Juice tends to be high-glycemic, and soda is filled with chemicals and high fructose corn syrup or toxic artificial sweeteners. Sports drinks are just different version of soda and must be avoided if you’re trying to lose fat.
Alcohol does you no good because it causes an insulin spike, slows metabolism, halts recovery from training, and provides excess calories. Certain red wines such as Sardinian and Spanish wines have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, so they could be an exception to the no alcohol rule. For BEST results, all alcohol should be completely avoided.
For water intake, shoot for 0.6 to 0.7 ounces per pound of body weight, which calculates to 120 to 140 ounces for a 200 lb man, or 72 to 84 ounces for a 120 lb woman. Naturally, this suggestion may vary based on the amount you sweat, the amount you train, and your personal circumstances. If you are not even close to your water intake goal, start by increasing intake by 4 to 8 ounces a day until you reach your goal.
Green tea and coffee have both been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, and they provide a slight boost to resting metabolic rate. They are rich in antioxidants and green tea supports detoxification. Drink only organic tea and coffee for best results.
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