Summer is here but maybe your "Summer Body" isn't. It's not too late to get started, lean out, and turns some heads at the beach and this article will show you how.
A proper nutritional plan is essential to your physique development success. In order to burn body fat to give you those coveted beach abs and muscle striations you need to provide your body with the proper fuel to maximize your metabolism.
Many people will try to convince you that a calorie is a calorie and that is all that matters—but this is not the case and thinking this way will prevent you from optimizing your body composition.
So let's delve a little deeper into why a calorie is not a calorie and what nutritional strategies you can use to burn fat and maintain all your hard earned muscle.
Eat Your Protein
You eat how much protein? That's the response I usually get when people ask me how much protein I eat. I had a lecturer try to convince me that I only need .8g/kg of body weight (that's .36g/lb) and that's true I only need .8g/kg but is that the optimal amount?
If we only ate what we needed then we would never eat carbs because technically our body doesn't need carbohydrates. So that line of thinking is out the window. Let's look a little deeper...
Extra protein is especially great when you are trying to lose body fat and preserve lean body mass. When compared to carbohydrates, protein causes a lower insulin response from the body. High levels of insulin will block your body's ability to liberate stored body fat for energy. This is a key advantage and a very good reason to replace some of your daily carbohydrates with protein when dieting.
Studies has shown that if you increase your daily protein intake while in a hypo caloric state (reduced calorie diet) it will help prevent the loss of lean body mass. In other words extra protein in your diet while trying to drop some body fat will help you keep your hard earned muscle.
You should eat lots of protein. It is true that as a weight lifter your body may actually need less protein to support your muscles but protein has a lot of other benefits that will help you optimize your body composition.
Pasta, Spinach, and Cake: All Carbs But Not All Good Choices
I'm not anti-carbs but I am anti-eating the wrong carbs at the wrong times. Each of the carbs that I listed in the heading falls under different categories of carbohydrates.
Pasta is a starch and I don't care how many people tell you that it is a "complex carbohydrate" and therefore you can eat it all you want—it's just not true. Starches and other simple carbohydrates (rice, sports drinks, breads, etc) should be saved for the 5-6 hour period after your workout.
Cake is a bad carb. I know I said that I wasn't anti-carbohydrate but there is not much room for cake in the world of a person trying to get lean. Cakes, pies, pizza, and other such foods should be saved for special occasions. You should avoid them as much as possible but eating it once a week won't kill you (and it will probably be a nice physiological treat too).
Finally...spinach. Spinach represents the fruit and vegetable group. These are the "all the time" carbohydrates. Your top carbohydrate choices should be foods like spinach, berries, and apples.
These carbohydrates should be consumed at every meal everyday not only for their antioxidant and vitamin profile but because of their positive effects on blood sugar. One of the added benefits of green leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach, broccoli, etc) is that they are low calories and high volume.
This means that you can eat tons of them without a high caloric kickback. Did you know that 6 cups of Romaine lettuce has about 9 grams of carbohydrates? Compare that to 1/5 cup of white rice, which has approximately the same amount of carbohydrates.
Physiologically this makes a lot of sense for someone dieting to consume these high volume/low caloric foods because your stomach senses volume changes. When your stomach begins to stretch there is a series of events that occur to tell you brain that you don't need anymore food and you'll stop feeling hungry.
The beauty of this system is that it doesn't matter what is stretching your stomach; it could be spinach (lower calorie) or a huge plate of pasta (higher calorie). Taking advantage of this system in your body will allow you to eat volumes, not be hungry, and not consume tons of calories. It's the dieter's dream.
So, what is our carbohydrate strategy in a couple sentences?
Eat fruits and vegetables at every meal. Save starches and other higher glycemic carbs for the couple hours following your workouts. Finally, sweets and treats are okay once or twice a week (in moderation).
Fats come in 3 main types—Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, and Saturated—and each one has a place in your diet. Your dietary fat intake should make at least 30% of your daily caloric intake.
Saturated fats should be restricted the most of the three type—note I said restricted and not eliminated. I like to get my saturated fats mostly from cheese and eggs.
Polyunsaturated fats are probably the most important type of fats in your diet especially EPA/DHA.
Chances are that unless you eat massive amounts of salmon you could benefit from supplementing your diet with fish oil. EPA/DHA (the essential fatty acids in fish oil) has been scientifically proven to decrease inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, kidney function, brain function, joint integrity, and cardiovascular function.
You should aim to supplement your diet with 2-3 grams of EPA/DHA a day plus salmon a couple times a week. Flaxseed meal is another great source of polyunsaturated fats (and fiber!). A common mistake that people make is adding flax to their diet but not fish oil. They are both polyunsaturated fats but they each contain different polyunsaturated fats.
Flaxseed contains linoleic acid (LNA) and fish oil contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). LNA can be considered a precursor to EPA/DHA but the conversion from LNA ' EPA in both is very poor (especially men). So don't skip out on your fish oil!
Monounsaturated fats should make up the rest of your dietary fat intake. Recommended sources of these fats are walnuts, almonds, avocados, macadamia nuts, and olive oil (or just olives). Monounsaturated fats will help prevent atherosclerosis, improve your cholesterol profile, and quality olive oil also have antioxidant benefits.
What Is The Take Home Message With Dietary Fats?
Make sure to eat all types of fats with the bulk of your intake begin from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Supplementing your diet with 2-3 grams of EPA/DHA each day is a very good idea with a myriad of benefits backed by solid scientific research.
Putting It All Together
Now that we've talked all about the proper food choices and when to eat them we need to put it all together in a sample meal plan. The following meal plan yields approximately 2300 calories (300 grams of protein, 70 grams of carbohydrates, and 80 grams of fat). I used this exact meal plan when dieting at a weight of 210 lbs.
- 9 Eggs (1 Whole)
- 2 tbsp Salsa
- 1 oz Cheddar Cheese
- 1 cup cooked Spinach
- 12 oz Pork
- 1 can Salmon
- Salad (Lettuce, Tomato, Cucumber)
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 10 oz Chicken
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 cups Green Beans
- 1 scoop Whey
- 1/4 cup Cottage Cheese
- 2 tbsp Flaxmeal
On a day that you will lift weights your daily carbohydrate intake should be increased to allow for proper recovery. Your daily fat intake should be decreased on weight training days to compensate for the extra calories from carbohydrates. This meal plan is also approximately 2300 (300 grams of protein, 140 grams of carbohydrates, and 50 grams of fat).
- 9 Eggs (1 Whole)
- 1 oz Cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped Tomatoes
- 3 scoops of Whey
- 2 tbsp Flaxmeal
- 8 oz Chicken
- 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil
- Spinach Salad (w/ Tomatoes)
- Recovery Shake*
- 2 scoops Whey
- 8 oz Chicken
- 1/2 cup Brown Rice
- 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil
* The contents of the recovery shake are discussed below in the Supplement strategy section.
The Ultimate Weight Loss Supplement Stack
Warning: No matter how good the weight loss stack if you don't have your nutrition and exercise in order you will be wasting your time and money.
Now that we've set up a solid nutritional plan you need to take advantage of various supplements to give you an extra edge and speed up your progress. When putting together your supplement stack for optimal weight loss and muscular definition (a.k.a. Ripped To Shreds) you need to consider two main areas increasing caloric expenditure (i.e. increasing metabolism) and optimizing recovery on reduced calories.
Increase Caloric Expenditure
Increasing caloric expenditure and revving up your metabolic rate is the goal of most fat burners, but different products can go about it in different ways. When choosing fat loss supplements I like to take a 3 pronged attack;
- Increase Thyroid function: After you have been dieting for a while your body "down regulates" in order to be more efficient with the calories that you are providing it (this is an evolutionary mechanism developed to survive periods of starvation). The main factor responsible to the "down regulation" is a decrease of circulating active thyroid hormone (T3). The thyroid hormone is responsible for setting Basal Metabolic Rate.
- Increase cAMP production: Cyclic AMP (cAMP) is known as a second messenger molecule whose production is essential for the breakdown of body fat (lipolysis).
- Stimulate CNS: CNS stimulants (caffeine, epinephrine, etc) not only have the ability to make you more awake and energetic (which is important when you calories are low) but they also have been shown to help liberate stored body fat.
Is there a supplement that does all these things? You bet! My favorite is Hot-Rox from Biotest. Let's look at how the ingredients in Hot-Rox go about accomplishing my 3 pronged fat attack.
- 3,17-dihydroxy-delta-5-etiocholane-7-one diethyl carbonate (also known a A7-E) works to increase your thyroid function and increase you BMR. As far as I know Biotest is the only company that sell A7-E.
- Scalremax (Biotest's blend of sclareolide) increases cAMP production. Xenadrine NRG (by Cytodyne Technology) contains Norambrolide which is sclareolide.
- Caffeine is the old veteran of fat burners. Caffeine is found in almost all fat burners except for the supplements sold as "Stimulant Free" (they won't contain caffeine).
I like to add one more component to this fat loss stack to truly make it the ultimate fat burning stack. Green Tea extract is to thermogenics as ephedra use to be. Unfortunately Hot-Rox doesn't contain green tea extract.
Fortunately you can buy green tea extract as a stand alone product. Now's EGCg is good green tea extract product because it doesn't contain very much caffeine (you'll get enough green tea from the Hot-Rox).
The combination of Hot-Rox and Green Tea Extract is (in my opinion) the best legal fat loss supplement stack you can get. So pick some up and watch the fat melt off.
Proper recovery from weight training workouts is essential for the success of any athlete. What most people don't know is that proper recovery begins before your workout and not after. Taking in carbohydrate and protein before your workout will help blunt your body's release of cortisol (the ultimate catabolic hormone) in response to weight training.
The key is to have a pre/post workout shake that will allow you to recover from intense workouts and avoid overtraining (even on reduced calories). The perfect drink to complement an intense workout would contain ~60grams of simple carbs (dextrose, maltodextrose, etc) and ~25-30grams of hydrolyzed whey protein (The macronutrient amounts would be for a 200lb athlete).
You need the amino acids in your blood stream during your workout and not sitting in your stomach or small intestine.
Once you have this perfect shake you should split it up drinking half 30 minutes before your workout and the other half immediately upon finishing your workout.
Taking half the shake before your workout is important because the simple sugars will increase your blood glucose levels (blunting cortisol release) and keeps them sustained throughout your workout.
The blunting of cortisol will help you protect your muscles from being broken down as energy while you train. The best part of this nutritional plan is that research shows the sugars will not hinder your fat loss goals at all.
With the second half of your recovery shake you should take 500mg of Vitamin C and 200 I.U. Vitamin E to help suck up the free radicals brought on by your workout. Thirty minutes after you have your post workout shake eat again, this time taking in another 20-40 grams of protein and 20-30 grams of simple carbohydrates (the gram amounts will vary depending on your bodyweight).
One question I often get from people is regarding the relatively low caloric intakes. People ask "With calories so low won't I lose muscle?" No way. You don't have to worry about muscle loss because you body is going to get all the fuel it needs from body fat.
By controlling your insulin levels during the day you will be allowing your body access to an almost unlimited source of energy (stored body fat). It is like hooking your body up to an I.V. of fuel (using Hot-Rox should improve this effect even more).
Remember you will increase our carbohydrates slightly before, during, and directly after the workouts. This increase will protect your muscle during the intense workouts, allow you to recover faster, and maybe allow you to make some gains. I've recently been working with a client (who weighs about 220lbs) and he was seeing increases in his strength only eating 2400 calories!
This method works. It works for me and it works for people that I advise. Summer is almost around the corner. Go out there achieve your best body and turn some heads in the process!