Need to lose fat?
Want to get lean?
Following my recent article Training for Fat Loss, we now need to look at the other side of the coin, diet. The problem with the word diet, is that it has come to represent nothing more than short term, unsustainable changes in the way we eat. You will hear lots of very complicated things about how we should be eating. But it in truth, these tricks should just be the final stages in your weight loss program. We need to think about how we eat as part of our lifestyle, for the long term. The biggest changes come from the simplest, sustainable changes which allow us to continue to treat ourselves with the things we enjoy. So what changes should we be making?
There are so many different diets out there, it’s difficult to know to which ones could work for you, and how can they all work if they are so different? Most of these diets simply rely on reducing the number of calories we consume to a level that is essentially starvation. This is obviously unsustainable, and simply puts the body in something called starvation mode, which means it holds on to its energy reserves (your body fat) at all costs. Any weight that is lost is just water weight in the early days, followed by the loss of lean muscle mass. The end result is that your body fat percentage actually goes up, and you are further away from your goal of a lean, defined look than when you started.
1. Avoid or reduce refined carbs. Things like pasta, bread, and pastry are digested so quickly that they cause a sharp rise in blood sugar levels not that different to eating pure sugar. The body cannot use all that energy at one time, so the excess is turned into body fat. Replace these kinds of foods with protein sources (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts & seeds, lentils & pulses) and vegetables, particularly brightly coloured or dark green vegetables.
2. Control your portion size. Portion size is often the biggest problem people face when trying to make changes in their diet to lose weight. Eat several (5-6) medium sized meals each day, and eat until you are only half full.
3. Limit sweet fruit and fruit juices. Although fruits contain lots of vitamins, minerals and fibre, they also contain lots of sugar, causing the same problems as carbs. So eat fruit after or as part of a regular meal with other types of food. Swapping fruit for vegetables in your meals is a good way of maintaining your nutrient intake while reducing the sugar content.
4. Limit your alcohol intake. It causes stress to the body and interferes with many of the important processes.
5. Limit your caffeine intake. Although a small amount of caffeine, especially before a training or exercise session, can help increase fat loss.
Replace both alcohol and caffiene with water, fizzy or with cordial is fine.
6. Avoid breakfast cereals (and breakfast cereal bars). All of them. It doesn’t matter what claims they make, they are just refined carbs (don’t forget what we talked about earlier), and the sugar and salt content is usually terrible. The only possible exception is oats such as porridge. Try eggs (poached or scrambled, with mushrooms, spinach, or whatever you fancy), or yogurt with nuts, berries, etc.
If you can implement these six simple changes to the way you eat, you should be able to maintain them and integrate them into your lifestyle, to ensure you not only get the results you want, but you can keep them for good. And don’t forget to read Training for Fat Loss to get the most out of your commitment to change the way you eat, and to change your life.