Low carbs/high carbs, low fat/high fats, low protein/high protein; the combinations at times seem infinite and everybody seems to have at least one research study to back their claims.
While I don't intend in this article to approve or disapprove any theories out there I do intend to provide a simple yet effective plan that I have used successfully for losing fat weight while retaining muscle, which is the matter that give us the shape to our bodies as well as keeping the metabolism in high gear.
Calories In, Calories Out
When you come right down to it, weight loss is really a numbers game. If you burn a certain amount of calories and take in less than what you require each day you will lose weight. If you do the opposite then you will gain weight. Simple enough, right?
Now, lets keep in mind that we are greedy so we also want to keep muscle and only lose fat weight as such strategy allow us to keep a high metabolism while at the same time providing us with unbelievable shape.
So what determines which sort of weight we lose? The types of foods that we eat along with how big of a caloric deficit you create will be the main factors in determining if we are going to lose fat only or both fat and muscle.
The types of foods that need to be eaten are unprocessed natural foods from the following food groups:
Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. They are divided into complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. The complex carbohydrates give you sustained energy ("timed release") while the simple carbohydrates gives you immediate energy.
It is recommended that you eat mainly complex carbohydrates throughout the day except after the workout where your body needs simple carbohydrates in order to replenish its glycogen levels immediately, something that will aid in faster recuperation and rebuilding of the muscle.
Below is a list of the different types of carbohydrate foods, their serving size and the amount of carbohydrate grams that they contain. This list is by no means a complete list of all the foods that exist but it is a list of the foods that I tend to eat on a daily basis. Keep in mind that with so much food processing if you see a discrepancy between the nutrition label of a food and my list you are better off following what the label says instead:
Baked Potato (3.5 oz broiled) 21 grams
Rice (white) 2/3 cup cooked 31 grams
Plain Oatmeal ½ cup dry 27 grams
Grits ¼ cup dry 31 grams
Plain Pasta (semolina) 1 cup cooked 44 grams
Corn (fresh or frozen) ½ cup cooked 31 grams
Cream of Rice ¼ cup dry 38 grams
Sweet Potato (4 oz) 28 grams
Peas (fresh or frozen) ½ cup cooked 12 grams
Rice (brown) 2/3 cup cooked 30 grams
Asparagus 5 grams
Yellow Squash 12 grams
Broccoli 17 grams
Green Beans 23 grams
Cabbage 6 grams
Cauliflower 12 grams
Celery 6 grams
Cucumber 7 grams
Mushrooms 6 grams
Lettuce 7 grams
Red or Green Peppers 15 grams
Tomato 5 grams
Pinach 3 grams
Zucchini 13 grams
Apple 15 grams
Banana (6 oz) 27 grams
Cantaloupe ½ 25 grams
Grapes (1 cup) 14 grams
Strawberries 1 cup 9 grams
Grapefruit (1/2) 12 grams
Orange (1) 15 grams
Tangerine (1) 9 grams
Proteins, which are the building blocks of the human body as they provide the amino acids that make up the tissues in the body, are found in meats and dairy. Below is a list of my favorite protein sources:
These weights are uncooked.
Chicken Breast (3.5 oz broiled) 33 grams
White Fish (3.5 oz broiled) 31 grams
Tuna Fish (Spring water) 3.5 oz 35 grams
Halibut (3.5 oz broiled) 31 grams
Turkey Breast (3.5 oz broiled) 28 grams
Cod (3.5 oz broiled) 31 grams
Whey Protein Powder (2 scoops) 22 grams
Round Steak (3.5oz Broiled) 33 grams
10 Egg Whites 35 grams
Top Sirloin (4 oz) 35 grams
Fat, which is the most misunderstood nutrient, is indeed necessary in the daily diet as the body needs fats for the manufacture of hormones, for proper brain function and for healthy joint lubrication. In addition, all cells in the body require a certain amount of fats in them. Eliminate fats completely from your diet and watch your energy/strength levels go down as well as your sex drive. Also your skin will get dry and your hair will lose its shine.
Muscle goes down dramatically as well. The fats that we will talk about here are called Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) and they play an instrumental role in protecting muscle in situations where there is a caloric deficit (like in a dieting situation).
The body cannot produce these fats so they need to be ingested (that is why they are called essential) and they also play an instrumental role in increasing the body's sensitivity (ability of the body to accept the hormone in the cells) to insulin.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas responsible for carrying the carbohydrates and amino acids into the liver and muscle cells (this is largely oversimplified but I don't want to bore you with the technical biochemistry details). If the body's sensitivity to insulin is low the body overcompensates by secreting more insulin.
Too much insulin in the system then causes low blood sugar in addition to increased fat storage as since the body is not efficient at accepting the hormone, insulin needs to take the carbs that is carrying and store them as triglycerides (body fat). Also, muscle growth will be slowed down as the cells will not be able to get as many amino acids as it should. Now you can see how important it is for our goals to have an efficient insulin metabolism.
EFA's are crucial in ensuring that this system is optimized. In addition research indicates that EFA's (particularly the Omega 3 fatty acids) have an effect in directing carbohydrates into glycogen storage (inside the muscle cell and liver) and also direct fatty acids away from being turned into fats and instead direct them toward energy production.
So in other words, it helps carbs get into the muscle and the liver something that keeps the muscle cells looking full and pumped and something that supports energy production as your liver glycogen (stored carbs) is going to be full.
In addition EFA's help you lose fat by preventing fats from being synthesized into body fat and instead turning them into energy (something that again helps you get leaner while increasing your energy production). Finally, they also help against inflammation something that would speed up your recovery.
So now that we have discussed the wonders of EFA's, how do we get them? The best way to get them is through the use of Flaxseed Oil. Flaxseed Oil is a polyunsaturated oil that is rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which has around 10 grams of Omega-3s per tablespoon. It has to be kept refrigerated as it goes rancid if it is exposed to heat and for the aforementioned reason it cannot be used for cooking purposes.
It is best taken with a protein shake or a salad. The bottle says to take a tablespoon for every 100 lbs of body weight but I like to go with fitness and bodybuilding expert/author Will Brink's recommendation, which is 1 TBSP per every 75 lbs of bodyweight. (By the way, Will Brink is the one responsible for introducing the virtues of Flax Oil to the bodybuilding community so thanks Will!). Use the calculator in part two to figure out how much you need!
One thing that needs to be mentioned is that Flaxseed Oil is deficient in another class of Essential Fats called Omega-6. These EFAs are not as instrumental in helping lose body fat/gain muscle but are required by the body nonetheless. According to some experts, exclusive use of Flax Oil leads to an Omega-6 deficiency.
Therefore the solution is to use Flax Oil when the immediate goal is fat loss and to use "Udo's Choice Ultimate Oil Blend" as this oil has an Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio of 2:1 as opposed to the 4:1 that flax has.
Click here for part two!