Even with a properly structured exercise regimen, no fat loss program can be successful without an approach to nutrition. The common saying is that you can't out-exercise a bad diet. The simple facts support this. Even the most aggressive exercise programs will be limited in their ability to increase muscle mass and fat metabolism. The logic is actually fairly simple, you can only exercise a few times a week for maybe an hour at a time, whereas you can eat everyday, and you can eat all day. If your consuming foods in a manner that makes your body act as a fat storage machine, you will end up losing the fat loss battle no matter how hard you try.
The conventional approach to diet and nutrition is to focus on reducing calories and avoiding fatty foods. In implementation, this tends to lead to behavior like consuming a 100 calorie packs of low-fat cookies and believing that you are making progress towards your goals. The unconventional approach is to focus on a diet that brings our food consumption back closer to what our ancestors ate: green plants and meat. This kind of eating has been called the Paleolithic diet, and it has become very popular in recent years within the fitness community. I simply call it eating "plants and meat". In this article you will get eating suggestions for each normal meal of the day along with suggestions on how to handle snacking and social events.
Breakfast has been called the most important meal of the day. Breakfast sets the tone for your day in terms of satiation and energy burning. If you start off the day with a flood of sugars and carbohydrates from bagels, donuts, pastries, and fruit, then your body will be working to burn all of this fast-digesting energy that has immediately flooded into your bloodstream. Whatever it can't burn immediately it will shuttle away to fat cells for later. Once the morning sugar rush is over you'll be hungery again within a couple of hours.
The alternative is to start your day with foods that are slow-digesting and highly satiating. Such a meal would be rich with fats, proteins, and high-fiber carbs. A great example is the American staple: bacon and eggs. A couple of eggs and strips of bacon coupled with a few roasted or braised veggies will keep you satisfied for hours, and will keep your body primed for burning fat as the primary fuel source.
To wash this meal down, coffee, unsweetened tea or water is perfect. Caffeine has the added benefit of being a fat burning stimulant, so coffee can be the perfect drink to start your day. Stay away from fruit juice as it's not much better than drinking liquid sugar, and will have the same effect on your body.
An additional unconventional thought on breakfast: Breakfast is literally the meal that "breaks the fast" from your dinner at 5-8pm to when you consume it between 5-10am. The time between these two meals is the longest sustained period that you go without food in a 24 hour cycle and it can be the most important to fat loss. During sleep our bodies utilizes fat for the majority of the energy needs in the body, this process continues when you wake up as your body slowly moves towards a bias to sugar burning processes as the day progresses into the afternoon. In theory, if you can delay your breakfast until 2-3 hours after you wake up, you will be able to take advantage of your bodies natural fat-burning processes.
Lunch should be simple and continue to follow the plants and protein rule. Mixed green salads are great. You can fill them with any other vegetable like tomatoes and peppers, hard-boiled egg, and even some cheese. To dress the salad, olive oil with balsamic, or a creamy low carb dressing is ideal. You can also add a portion of meat like shredded chicken or beef. To drink, the best option is water, but unsweetened teas can work as well.
Dinner should be your largest meal of the day, and should continue to follow the theme of the previous meals with a few exceptions. If you have had an intense workout earlier, it's desirable to add some whole carbs in the form of potatoes, beans and roots to the meal so that your body can more quickly replenish its energy stores from the workout. Eat until satiated and don't worry about counting calories. Some great examples of dinner meals:
- Steak (fish, beef, chicken) with salad, green beans, roasted potatoes
You will want to control your carbohydrate consumption depending on how aggressively you are trying to reduce body fat, and how much activity you have during the day. Self-experimentation is best here. If your feeling low on energy during the day and not recovered for your workouts and some more carbs. If your energy is good, but you're not making progress, dial back the carb portions.
Social Events and Snacking
Usually the most difficult time to adhere to good nutritional guidelines is during social events like parties and happy hours. These events tend to have alcohol as well, which has little to no positive value in a fat loss program. However, the most important part of your plan has to be the sustainability of your lifestyle over the long-term. If you're doing everything right during the normal meals of the week, along with working out with good intensity at least 4 times per week, then you can probably handle relaxing on nutrition for an outing each week, as long as you're not going to excess. If you don't act like you've never eaten a french fry or had a drink in your life then you should be OK. Just remember that your results will be dependent upon your ability to be disciplined with your daily habits until they are second nature. If you've earned it, go for it.
As far as snacks go, here are some good recommendations that can work between meals:
- Mixed nuts
- Beef jerky
There probably is not enough nutrients in any of these foods to be good as a meal substitute, but they'll work for keeping you satisfied between meals.
Give It a Try
Taking an unconventional approach to fat loss can be daunting, as it goes against much of the established common knowledge. However, many of these approaches are used in the fitness community today to great effect. A quick high level review of the conventional approach:
- Exercise with short high intensity workouts a handful of days a week, instead of low intensity workouts done every day
- Eat lots of whole foods, including fat, and follow the plants and protein rule, instead of cutting out fat, eating "diet" foods and constantly counting calories
If your willing to experiment with these principles for 30 days you can evaluate for yourself if the unconventional approach is the effective one for you.
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