Friday, December 27, 2013

The 10 New Rules Of A Fat Loss Diet, Part I

We've been discussing how fat loss eating is different from a weight loss approach to food.   Weight loss places a sole focus on calories.  Fat loss focuses on calories too, but puts more focus on hormones.  Fat loss is about eating in a way that controls the natural compensatory nature of your metabolism.  Metabolic sensations such as hunger, cravings, and energy are dramatically influenced by hormones.  Balance hormones and these sensations too will stabilize, resulting in less food intake without much conscious effort.

There are two criteria required to turn indiscriminate weight loss into focused fat loss. They are a caloric deficit and balanced hormones.

On a fat loss diet you eat fat loss foods. No, these foods don't have any magical fat burning properties, but they do balance hunger, energy, and cravings (HEC) and at the same time increase fat loss. These foods tend to be rich in protein, fiber, and water. They are nutritionally dense, and calorically sparse.  As an example, after running on Saturday, I had the following shake, which epitomizes fat loss foods:  2 cups of water, 4 cups of spinach, 1 cup of blackberries, 1 cup of raspberries, 1.5 scoops of Beverly vanilla UMP (protein powder).  Total calories: 328. Packed with water, fiber and protein … and even after a long run, and subsequent big calorie deficit, this kept my hunger in check for almost 4 hours.  And that's the key to losing unwanted body fat.

Rule 1: Keep Your HEC in Check

The idea is to eat in a way that controls hunger, energy, and cravings (HEC).  These sensations are both biochemical and behavioral and therefore are impacted by more than just food. However, food has a powerful influence over HEC. It is the quality of the food rather than quantity that determines control of HEC. A doughnut and a chicken breast have the same number of calories – 250 each. Which one is going to fill you up quicker, keep you satiated longer, reduce cravings, and give you more stable energy? Which one is more likely to result in cravings for more sweet or fatty stuff in the hours after you consume it?  Foods that have high water, fiber, and protein content are the best foods to control HEC.

Rule 2: Spend equal time eating as not eating (New!)

Your hormonal biochemistry works best in rhythms. It requires time to build and time to burn. It needs times of increased energy and times of rest and recovery.  When you eat, your hormones are optimized to build and store. When you don't eat, those same hormones are optimized to burn. In order to burn fat, we have to honor this natural rhythm. The easiest way to do this is simply break the day into two time frames:  12 hours of eating and 12 hours of fasting.  This is easily accomplished with little impact on hunger, energy, and cravings (HEC) because most of the 12 hours without food come while you are sleeping. 

Rule 3: Find your carbohydrate tipping point (New!)

Insulin is a fat storing and fat locking hormone which means when it is around, excess calories will be stored as fat, and fat can't be used as a source of energy. What many will not tell you is insulin is also a muscle building hormone and a hunger suppressing hormone. If it is too low you can't build a lean physique and will stay hungry all the time. The major trigger for insulin release is starchy foods and sugar like bread, pasta, potatoes, cookies, crackers, rice, etc. The trick is to use starchy foods to your advantage by finding the amount your body needs to keep your energy high, make sure you maintain your muscle and balance HEC, but not so high you slow down fat loss.  This is called your carbohydrate tipping point, and you can find it by adjusting the type, timing, and amount of starchy carbohydrate to fit your unique metabolism.  More info and clarity on this in the very near future. 

Rule 4: Eat fat, but not unlimited amounts

The idea that fatty foods are not stored as fat is untrue, but it is also a ridiculous notion that eating fat automatically makes someone fat.  Like starchy foods, we each have our unique tolerance to fatty foods.  Fat has several unique hormonal effects, like it helps control hunger through the release of hunger hormones.  Yet, of course fat carries a hefty dose of calories.  At the same time, very low fat diets decrease other important hormones and may therefore slow fat loss and delay lean muscle gain. The best approach is to eat your fat, but don't overdo it especially when it comes along with starch (see rule 5). 

The key is the TYPE of fat. It's not just the umbrella term "fat" but it needs to be broken down further than that.

  • Trans fat
  • Monounsaturated fat (MUFA)
  • Polyunsaturated fat (PUFA)
  • Saturated fat (SFA)

First, manmade trans fat is horrible for you -- that's the type found in many baked goods, margarine, shortening, etc. It's in products that have "partially hydrogenated" or "fully hydrogenated" oils in them. Leave those foods on the shelf; they're similar to drinking cement.  Just like cement, over time it will harden -- well ultimately too much trans fat will cause plaque buildup. It may increase belly fat and raises bad cholesterol in your body. All around bad stuff.

MUFA is like that found in olive and canola oils, nuts, avocados, and egg yolks. These are great for us in small quantities. When you get the oil changed in your car, you can imagine the old oil being thick and sludgy...well MUFAs are like the fresh, clean oil that goes in your car (or body). The key is not to ADD these to your diet, but rather REPLACE saturated and trans fats fats in your current diet with MUFA.

PUFA are great for you too -- well, some of them. These are the omega 3 fats (fish oil) you hear so much about.  Eat more fish.  At least 2x/week. Some nuts, like almonds and walnuts, are also high in omega-3 fats so eat those too ... ~ 1 handful each day (unless you're allergic). Aside from the "general" health benefits, those who eat 1 oz per day (a small handful) weigh less according to some very good research. Like the MUFAs, replace unhealthy saturated and trans fats with these.

Saturated fat -- eating some of this is fine, but just keep it to a minimum. If a fat is solid at room temperature, like butter and animal fat, it's primarily made up of saturated fats. These increase your risk for heart disease if you eat too much over time.

Rule 5: Eat the combination of fat and sugar sparingly (New!)

Starch and sugar provide the major impact on insulin production. Fat alone has little influence on insulin. But fat and sugar/starch combined together? Watch out! When combined, they create a fat storing atomic bomb of hormonal activity.

First, this combination seems to disrupt the ability of the metabolism to self-regulate its metabolic thermostat. This combination also is the most likely to generate the perfect recipe for fat gain: caloric excess in the context of hormonal fat storing signals. This combination both increases fat storing hormones and the release of insulin.  With this rule, there is no need to take it to the extreme. This combination is most detrimental when refined starchy foods are also combined with high fat and you are in a caloric excess.  So, we're not talking about the combinations of an apple and peanut butter, oats and nuts, or other high fiber foods with fat.  What we are talking about are bread and butter, pastries, ice cream, and the like.  These foods (fat and sugar in combination) have little negative influence in the context of a low calorie diet.

Granted, these first five of 10 New Fat Loss rules are a lot to digest.  No worries, we will continue to break them down, and they will become very clear conceptually, and easy for you to follow.  In fact, the new ABC recipe guide will follow all 10 rules.   For simplicity sake, all you have to do is pick and choose your favorite meals from the guide!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins
NSCA-CPT, ACE

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