Eating For Fat Loss, Part 2: Nutritional Habits

Yesterday,  I posted Part 1 of Eating For Fast Loss, which focused on the “junk food” that most people know tends to cause fat gain.  Removing those foods from your diet is a great first step and will result in fat loss for many.  For most people though, removing junk food from their diet alone is not enough to achieve the level of leanness they crave.  For those people, I offer six habits, adapted from the 7 Rules by Dr. John Berardi.

If you’ve watched the news, picked up a popular magazine, or surfed the internet in the past 5 years, you may have gotten the impression than eating right is a complicated task.  Popular diet books and TV “experts” tout low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie, and even stranger diets.  It’s no surprise then, that a lot of people are utterly confused about what constitutes healthy eating.  With so much information floating around, much of it conflicting, it can be hard to figure out what to believe.  Fortunately, there are some nutritional principles that are common to most healthy dietary strategies, and most people can make serious changes to their bodies by following these principles alone.

  1. Eat about every 3 hours.  Most importantly, this limits the fluctuation of insulin (the “storage” hormone – as in fat storage – which is triggered by increases in blood sugar) in the body.  Dramatic spikes of insulin, caused when you eat large amounts infrequently (and when you eat starchy carbohydrates) promote fat storage.  Eating frequently helps you keep insulin levels more stable.  Eating frequently also helps keep hunger in check.  If you’re not famished when you eat, you’re less likely to over-stuff yourself.
  2. Eat protein with every meal.  There are lots of reasons for this rule.  First, proteins are the building blocks of muscle, and a person who exercises regularly, particularly with strength training, needs a constant supply of proteins to rebuild and grow damaged muscles.  Second, protein is low glycemic – it doesn’t cause a large spike in insulin the way carbohydrates do.  Basing meals around protein, like #1 above, helps keep your insulin levels more stable.  Finally, protein (as well as fat) is more filling than carbohydrates.  Having protein frequently will keep you full longer.
  3. Eat vegetables and/or fruits with every meal.  Vegetables and fruits are chock full of healthy nutrients with disease preventing and performance enhancing properties.  They’re also a relatively low glycemic source of carbohydrates.  If you can’t manage a serving with every meal, double up during other meals.
  4. Eat other carbs only first thing in the morning or after exercise.  Simpler carb sources, such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, oatmeal, etc, have a more significant affect on blood sugar and insulin production.  Your body is best able to handle these spikes immediately following exercise, which increases your cells’ insulin sensitivity.  When you consume simpler carbs post-workout, the subsequent insulin spike helps replenish the nutrients you depleted during exercise.  Similarly, cells which have been nutrient starved over night are better able to handle the carb rush.  Note that this does not override rules 2 and 3.  “Other” carb sources should be seen as a supplement to proteins and veggies/fruits during these times.
  5. Drink only zero calorie beverages.  Caloric beverages have grown tremendously in popularity in the past 30 years or so, to the point where it’s estimated that American’s get as much as 20% of their daily calories in liquid form.  Liquid calories don’t fill you up like solid ones, and most of them are 100% sugar (or high fructose corn syrup), making them essentially insulin bombs. Drink water, coffee, and tea (no sugar or milk) to cut out this sneaky source of calories.
  6. Eat whole foods.  If it comes in a box, has more than a handful of ingredients, or contains ingredients you cannot pronounce, it’s probably not great for your health or your physique.  Processed foods tend to be full of sugar or unhealthy fats, low glycemic due to their processing, and devoid of healthy nutrients.  Stick to food that are as close to their original form as possible.  Most of these items can be found around the edges of the grocery store rather than the middle: fresh fruits and veggies, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, etc.

Learn these principles.  Internalize them.  Make them habitual.  You’ll see results.  In fact, depending on your goals, you may never need any nutritional guidance more specific than this.

Part 3… coming soon