Just yesterday at the gym, I was speaking to someone who asked me for advice on reducing fat around their stomach and increasing mass in their abs.. yup folks, the number 1 question of how to get cut abs.
When I questioned this person on their diet, I was shocked to hear that they only ate once a day and at 10pm no less. To make it worse, this person said they eat pasta and chicken. The fallacy that pasta is good for you is another issue in itself but let’s debunk the number one mistake people make when trying to burn fat or lose weight and that is EATING LESS AND STARVING YOURSELF IS NOT HOW TO LOSE FAT!
If anything, starving yourself triggers your body’s fat storage mode because it goes into survival mode. Chances are, with one meal a day, you’re way below your calorie consumption is way below your requirements are to maintain your basal metabolic rate. What this means is that not only does your metabolic rate slow down but you’re store fat and burn muscle instead! Hardly what you want when you’re trying to gain muscle and burn fat right?
The trick to boost your metabolic rate and to put your body in a fat burning mode is to actually eat more meals. Whilst sticking within your daily caloric intake (we will discuss how to work your caloric requirements in another article) but spreading your meals across 6-8 smaller meals is the key to accelerating your metabolic rate. A good analogy is to that of a fire, by constantly topping up a fire with with wood, you keep it burning, much like your metabolism.
Eating Protein at every meal is also quite important. Not only does protein help with cell reproduction, it also increases the metabolic rate slightly since it contains thermogenic properties.
Eating Carbohydrates is important to be energised as well as maintaining sanity but choosing both the sources of your carbohydrates and the timings of when you eat them is key to keeping the fat off. Starchy carbohydrates are all well and good but cut out refined carbohydrates, sugars and crap out of your diet (Chips, crisps, sweets, white breads, white pastas etc). Carbohydrates affect your insulin levels and there is something called the glycemic index which scales how quickly and highly a carbohydrate spikes your insulin. Foods higher on the glycemic index should be avoided except after training in your post workout meal/shake (however, the glycemic index is a simplistic way to look at this as combining foods effects the overall glycemic load but you’ll still find the best sources of carbs in the lower end of the glycemic index)
Eating Fats is also essential to fat loss… that’s right, I said eat fat! Like carbs though, all fats are not created equal. It’s saturated fats you’ll want to minimise along with trans fatty acids and hydrogenated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature like butter). Fried foods are also a nono. Good fats are mono unsaturated fats, omega 3s and omega 6s. Good sources of these include avocados, fish, seeds and nuts. Just be careful to remember that fats are calorie dense so it’s a good idea to not over do your fat consumption. I’m also a fan of not combining fats and carbs in meals. So make your last few meals later on in the day protein and fat meals unless you workout later at night.
So in summary here are a few pointers on how to eat.
1. Eat smaller more frequent meals (6-8 smaller meals per day)
2. Consume protein with every meal
3. When eating carbohydrates, consume them during the day and make them come from sources such as vegetables and low glycemic whole foods. Starchy carbs should be eaten around training and high glycemic carbs straight after a workout.
4. Choose healthy fats. Avocados, nuts and natural nut butters, seeds, fish, fish oil supplements and flax seed oils are good.
5. Eat nutrient dense vegetables every day (greens etc)
6. Try not to consume too much fats and carbs in the same meal
7. drink lots and lots of water!
8. Avoid sugars, refined carbohydrates and convenience foods where you can.
Yeah, 6-8 meals can take some planning particularly if you have a busy schedule but getting into a habit of preparing your meals the night before and packing convenient snack foods (fruit, vegetables, protein bars, hard boiled eggs, food in tupperware containers) will help. Remember, it’s all about developing healthy habits so don’t make being busy an excuse to not getting your meals in (when I had busy days at university, I remember eating a meal in the toilets haha)
Remember, you can make excuses or you can make progress but you can’t do both!