Let’s face it… We’re here because we like to eat. Am I right?
Food TASTES good! It’s that simple. So when we suddenly look down one day and see this gut hanging over our belts, we wonder how we got that way. But you know the answer, don’t you. It’s because food tastes so darn good!
Now that you’ve decided to do something about it, you probably hunted around all over the place for answers. I know I did. And I got more confused. Sound familiar?
Some people say “low carb.” Others will tell you to eat all the meat you want. Some say a plant based diet is the best way to lose weight and stay healthy. The tabloids have all sorts of crazy cures for your weight problems. My wife just told me about the new miracle watermelon diet. (I thought she was making fun of the watermelon I carry around my waist!)
So is there a simple answer? Or are you doomed to looking around, trying this and that and never being happy with the results you see.
It turns out there is a really simple answer. (The answer is simple–the implementation is not so easy!) It’s this:
Eat fewer calories than you expend.
Think of food as simply fuel. Forget the emotional reasons behind eating… Boredom, your childhood issues… escape… or any other reason you eat. Oh yeah and of course because food tastes so dang good. Forget all of that. And begin to think of food as fuel for your body. If you put the right kind of fuel in, you have better performance, less problems and an overall feeling of wellness.
Put the wrong kind of fuel in and… well you know what happens if you’ve ever put diesel fuel into a gas engine. Your body won’t perform. Do this for too long and you’ll ruin your engine. (That’s your heart, liver, pancreas and all those other organs you can’t see.) PLUS your belly gets fatter and fatter.
So you want to eat less, but more of the right things. Like I say, pretty simple. Even your beer guzzling, pig snout-eating cousin understands the principle.
Now it’s a matter of what to eat to burn the fat off your body. I’ve been studying this for a while and I can tell you one thing. The right amount of PROTEIN goes a long way to burning fat. Protein makes you feel fuller sooner. That means you can eat less. It also takes longer to digest (about 2 hours longer than carbs) so you don’t get hungry so soon. Protein also speeds muscle growth and helps rebuild stressed muscle fibers after exercise.
So add more protein to your diet (meat lovers rejoice!) and reduce the number of simple carbohydrates–especially sugars.
But we’ll talk about sugars and carbs another time. In the meantime, start thinking about your protein intake. Next time, I’ll share with you the best times to eat protein.
Protein is an important building block for muscle. You body is constantly rebuilding, replacing and replenishing 200 million cells every minute! The raw materials that you use to regenerate your cells are called amino acids. You can only get them from protein.
Over half of your body’s dry weight is protein. 22 amino acids are “biologically important.” 8 of them are considered essential because your body doesn’t make them itself and you can only get them from food.
Protein initiates the proper hormonal chain reaction needed to burn fat and build muscle. It also increases alertness and elevates your resting metabolic rate. Meals that include protein increase oxygen consumption at a rate 2 – 3 times higher than high carbohydrate meals. On top of all that, protein is the main stimulator of glucagon, a fat-burning hormone.
Expect greater gains in muscle from weight training when you consume the right amounts of protein. More muscle means more fat-burning capability. And the best part is protein tends to fill you up quicker and staves off hunger longer than high carb meals.
The proper amount of protein is about 30% of your regular daily food intake. You can get protein from egg whites, lean chicken, turkey breast, sea food, cold-water fish and lean meats. Non-meat sources include fermented soy products such as miso and tofu, organic cheese, organic yogurt or cottage cheese.
Another way to get adequate protein is with high quality isolated whey. Try to get a product that’s sweetened with stevia rather than sugar. There are several good brands on the market.
Follow a 5-meal-a-day plan and make 2 of those meals liquid whey protein meals. Make sure each of your meals is about 30% protein. (Some sources suggest you make breakfast 100% protein. It’s your call if you want to go that high.)
Here’s the thing you need to remember about carbohydrates. Your body breaks all carbs down into simple sugars such as glucose. And sugar is sugar – it triggers an insulin response. The more sugar, the more insulin your body creates. When your body is flooded with insulin, it can’t use the stored fat as fuel which means you won’t burn fat if you eat too many carbs.
With very few exceptions, carbs come from plant sources including vegetables, fruits and grains. When they’re highly processed they become white flour, white sugar, corn flour, etc. They’re classified by how quickly they break down into sugar. Those that turn into sugar quickly are considered “high glycemic,” while those that break down slower are low glycemic.
Low glycemic carbohydrates can play an important role in fat burning. But be careful with high glycemic foods.
When you eat high glycemic carbs, they turn into sugar quickly. In turn, the sugar triggers a rush of insulin. Excess insulin secretion leads to stimulation of LPL (lipoprotein lipase). LPL causes you to store fat.
Not only that, but high insulin damages the cardiovascular system by clogging the arteries and causing arterosclerosis. Over time, high insulin levels can lead to Type II diabetes.
Remember, you still require carbs in our diets. But you can control the type of carbohydrates you eat. If you keep carb intake to 40% of your daily food intake and focus on low-glycemic carbs such as unprocessed fruits and high fiber vegetables, you can shrink your belly.
Stop eating refined carbs such as breakfast cereals, mashed potatoes, white rice, breads and french fries. You’ll find more info about “good” carbs further into this article.
As I mentioned earlier, you need to balance your diet with 30% fat. But let me get this straight. There are both GOOD and BAD fats. Your goal is to make as much of your daily intake of fat the good kind.
What is “good” fat… compared to “bad” fat?
Let’s start with the good fats. Different types of fats are classified by their molecular structure. Good fats are considered unsaturated. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats fit into this category. You can get these fats from olive, canola and safflower oil as well as almonds and avocados.
Eating these fats is important for overall health. But all fats are high in calories (9 calories per gram or about 120 calories per tablespoon) and you need to be careful how much you eat in a day.
Bad fats are the saturated fats. While these fats can be considered fuel for the body, your body manufactures all that it needs. Anything it doesn’t use immediately becomes stored fat. Too much stored fat (remember, your belly is a store house for fat!) can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and even certain kinds of cancers.
You can improve your muscle-cell activity, your fat-burning rate and reduce the deposit of fatty acids in your cells by limiting your consumption of saturated fats. You can find them in high concentrations in dairy products and grain-fed beef. Choose lower fat or leaner versions of these foods when possible.
Trans fats are chemically altered through heat and hydrogenation to give foods a longer shelf life. Watch out for fried foods, margarines and bakery products. Trans fats are more easily incorporated into your fat cells. That means your body will absorb these fats. Because it doesn’t recognize trans fats easily, you could experience hormonal imbalances and have lower levels of testosterone, reduced metabolism, increased bad cholesterol and increased insulin among other reactions.
The best thing you can do is to avoid trans fats at all costs! Consumer and governmental pressure has forced companies to reduce or even eliminate trans fats from some products. It’s still up to you to read the labels.
Essential fatty acids are fats that the body can’t synthesize by itself and must get them from the diet. These are the Omega 3and Omega 6 fatty acids. You can find Omega 3’s in flax, evening primrose, borage, fish and pumpkin oils. Omega 6’s can be found in safflower oil, sunflower oil and corn oil among others.
The ideal ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is 3:1, that is 3 parts Omega 6 to 1 part Omega 3. Most North Americans get way too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3. Due to food manufacturing practices and our dietary habits, most of us are consuming between 15 and 20 to 1 Omega 6 over Omega 3.
Cold water fish oil is a great supplement to help restore a proper balance.