Dealing with fat loss, after any basic initial phase, will be mostly an issue of metabolism or hormones. If you haven't read my previous posts on brain health and hormone optimization, start there, I will not repeat it again in this article. But in short, get your hormones, especially leptin, in check. Leptin is mediated by calorie intake, so if you are always dieting you will have low leptin levels and that leads to decreased fat burning and metabolism. Eating more calories can raise leptin levels which can lead to heightened fat burning and metabolism. However, chronic overeating will create insulin resistance and a caloric surplus that the bodies metabolism just can't match and will lead to weight gain. This is the magic of the "cheat day" in our diets. We eat clean and strict for a few days, then blow it out once or twice a week. In the long run you should be consuming far less calories than you burn, but after a few days of a low calorie diet your leptin levels get low, then you blow it out with a high calorie day and BAM! leptin is spiked and your metabolism is on fire, primed to melt more fat at a faster pace.
For the average person, there is no need to be very strict with their dieting, they just need to make a few changes that I will talk about shortly. But, if you are not average and are trying to get exceptionally lean, very low single digit bodyfat, then you are going to have to suck it up for a while and make some serious sacrifices. It comes down to priorities at this point.
The first thing you must do is eliminate certain foods from your diet:
✘ All Wheat Products
the list of ingredients
✘ Peanuts & Cashews
(eliminate completely – all other nuts must be either raw or dry roasted, no exceptions)
✘ Refined Sugar
These foods are some of the most common food allergens, and even if you do not have a serious allergic reaction, there may be something going on in your gut that you don't realize, like acute inflammation of the colon, for example. Any time your body has a serious issue to deal with, it will deal with that first, before other less important issues. So if you get bit by a poisonous snake, your body wants to get rid of the toxins and will cease all other functions, like burning belly fat. Even though alcohol is not as lethal as rattlesnake venom, it is still a toxin that sidetracks your bodies functions and will disrupt your fat burning efforts, it is so much more than just caloric intake. If you're serious about getting super lean, do not consume the above foods, with the occasional exception of cheat days.
The second thing you should do is switch to organic foods. If not possible to switch all of your varieties, here is a sort of hierarchy of foods to switch first. First and foremost, start switching out any beef, pork, and poultry you’re consuming over to the organic variety. Non-organic varieties, due to today’s common farming methods, are unfortunately loaded with hormones and antibiotics, which absolutely affect fat loss, again, especially when trying to get exceptionally lean. While it may not be in your budget to completely shift to organic everything all the time, going organic for your meat selections during the final phase should be high on your priority list.
Next up is produce, and there are several options here. One, anything in which you actually eat the skin should be switched to organic to avoid potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides. This includes fruits and veggies like grapes, tomatoes, apples, peaches, berries, etc. You get it. For other produce in which you discard the skin (avocados, oranges, grapefruit and other citrus varieties, bananas, etc), going organic is not necessary as there is a protective layer of skin (which you do not eat) between the outer layer and inner fruit (which you do eat).
General rules for getting really lean
Do not eat carbs 6-8 hours before going to bed.
Late day or night time protein should be white animal flesh or low carb casein based protein
Add lots of greens if you're hungry, so a grilled chicken breast on top of a bed of greens is ideal
Stay hydrated, I would shoot for 1 ounce of water per pound of bodyweight per day.
Limit how much you go out to eat to no more than once per week. You have less control over your diet when someone else prepares your food. Take control and avoid indulging at the wrong times.
You will probably have to start counting calories and macronutrients if you want to get super lean. It's not my bag, but if I wanted to get on stage in a banana hammock, I would count. For most people the eyeball portion control is sufficient, but it can be deceiving when you are really hungry and rationalize a slightly bigger cut. So you will be better off weighing and measuring your food at this point.
Tip #1 - The Cleanse
It is thought by many that beginning a serious fat loss program with a cleanse can be a great jump start. There are a lot of toxins being stored in our body from years of breathing polluted air, eating food with pesticides, drinking water with chemicals, etc. If you have been eating junk food for years, then your friends probably aren't wrong when they tell you, "you're full of shit!" This can not be reversed or eliminated in a few days of a vegetable cleanse, but there is validity in a jump start. If you eat only raw vegetables for a few days, especially rough greens like kale, those veggies act as a rake going through your body and scrape the crap off of your colon walls and stuff like that. If your inner tubes are covered with garbage, it can not absorb as many nutrients as possible from the food you consume. If you body is not being supplied with optimal nutrition, then it won't perform optimally. If it isn't performing optimally, then obviously the fat loss process won't be as effective as possible. So we want to clean up our system to boost this process. A little problem with this is, many people feel worse before they feel better because it is like stirring up the mucky waters. You scrape all that garbage off the wall of your pipes and now it is floating through your body. While drinking a lot of water can help flush it out, some will indefinitely be getting mixed around and reabsorbed in a sense, and making you feel weird for a day or so, but much better in the long run. Toxins are also more easily stored in fat tissue than the rest of the body, so the less fat tissue you have, the harder it is to store toxins.
For a basic cleanse, you would go for 3-5 days of raw fruits and vegetables only, consuming mostly green veggies.
- Brussels Sprouts
- Collard Greens
- Green Onion
- Lettuce – any type
- Pepper, Bell
In addition to the fruit and vegetable intake, you’ll also be consuming a cleansing beverage 6-12 times per day consisting of 8 oz of water, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (must be fresh squeezed and not refrigerated), and a pinch (about 1/10 teaspoon of cayenne pepper).
Herbal teas are also allowed and beneficial. I recommend drinking senna tea at night, and be prepared in the morning for some movement. Trust me when I say you won't need an alarm clock, your "gut instincts" will wake you, and you better get to a safe place quick. The addition of aloe vera juice can also be beneficial for regularity. It should be noted that this is the beginning of the process, and no one can literally cleanse themselves of years of toxicity in a few days.
Tip #2 - Low Carb Diet
The main point of doing a low carb diet is to limit insulin and the amount of blood sugar in the body. But your body converts several foods into different things post consumption. So, if some foods create a sugar-like stimulus within the body, you might as well be eating sugar, for example. This holds true for super high protein intake. Too much protein in the body can turn into glucose, which means blood sugars stay elevated. So here you are, eating more protein, less carbs, and thinking you're doing the right thing, but then your body just turns around and creates exactly what you've been trying to eliminate and sabotages your efforts.
So, if you really want to go low carb and enjoy the benefits of decreased insulin and heightened fat burning, keep your protein intake moderate.
I recommend consuming mostly fats, about 60% of your total macronutrient intake, then about 30-35% protein, and finally 5-10% carbohydrates.
Acceptable fat choices during the low-carb diet are:
- Naturally occurring fats in lean meats
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
- Unrefined, Organic Coconut Oil
- Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
- Raw or naturally dry roasted nuts
- Avocado/Guacamole (fresh)
- Organic Butter (eliminate as you get closer to the final phase)
- Organic Cheeses (eliminate as you get closer to the final phase)
- Organic Eggs
- Almond Butter (all natural)
- Fish Oil
The best time to use a really low carb diet would be at the beginning of a fat loss phase. This is particularly of extreme value when used to increase hormone sensitivity. Remember, if your hormones are not optimized, or are insensitive and not responding, then all of your hard work and strategic efforts will be worthless. Strategies like cheat days, carb cycling, macronutrient cycling, carb loading, depletion, nutrient timing, etc—none of them will work to your advantage until you take the time to get sensitive to the hormones that are the “magic” behind their efficacy.
Tip #3 - Strategic Cheating
It's not a secret that many people use a cheat day in the diets, for more than one reason. If anything, it may help you maintain your sanity and help with sustainability. Most people can not be so strict for too long. And even if they are that disciplined, it may not be to their advantage anyway. If If nutrient intake is low for too long, then your metabolism will drop. When that happens you have a slow running motor and will burn less fat throughout the day. A cheat day 3 days in a row is not good. But a cheat day every 5-7 days can be magical. You will still have an overall caloric deficit, but greatly spike your metabolism and prevent yourself from getting a "weak motor" with every cheat. This strategy is very effective, and here are some helpful tips:
- Eat the foods you crave without feeling guilty (they’re helping you lose fat faster)
- Don't get technical and start your cheat day at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning; start when you normally wake up on Sunday
- Don't stuff yourself; eat until you're satisfied, not to the point of discomfort. It’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable—not painful.
- Don't skip meals holding out for a single feast; eat throughout the day
- Don't consume alcohol; one beer is fine, but alcohol consumption works against what we are trying to accomplish hormonally with the cheat day
There are several different sites that provide a ton of info on this subject. A quick google search can lead to some great finds from people who are far more knowledgeable on IF than myself. One thing I highly recommend is fasting the day after a cheat day. At this time your body is primed for major fat burning due to the metabolic spike you provided it with. So, while your body is fueled to the max and working at high speed, you do not fuel it with more energy to burn, you simply allow it to burn the stored fat already found in the body.
In addition to fasting on this day, you should take advantage of the most effective fat burning exercise during this window of fat burning opportunity. If you perform the type of exercise that I recommend later in the article, you will start dominating your fat burning efforts. Short term fasting can have massive fat burning results without the negative side effects of long term fasting.
An example of a day of training during a fast day would be an early morning bodyweight session, which could be a half hour of yoga if you so desire, a series of gymnastic static holds for time, like L-sits, pull up holds, frog stands, planks, levers, etc. A high intensity afternoon session of metabolic resistance training, possibly consisting of a 20 minute circuit of mountain climbers, inverted rows, jump squats, pushups, and kettlebell swings. And finally an evening session of a steady state extended cardio session, like going for a 40 minute hike (preferably with a back pack, weighted vest, etc).
You might think that three sessions is not possible with your schedule, but remember, this is what is optimal. If you can not figure out a way to get this done, you may not be sacrificing enough, or just do what you can. If I had to choose one session to drop, it would be the final extended cardio session. In reality, get serious and make the necessary changes to maximize the fat burning effects. Just get it done, and cut the excuses.
If you are new to this sort of stuff, it might be overwhelming for you and you will benefit from making more minor changes, not quite as drastic. This is really next level shit. But if you're up for it, this can be extremely effective.
Tip #5 - Find the Correct Caloric Formula for Every Body
Depending on your current weight, bodyfat, and lean body mass, you will have different caloric needs. You could 2 different people, each weighing 200 pounds, and feed them the same fat burning diet, and they could have drastically different results. It depends largely on lean body mass. If one guy is 30% body fat, he will be 140 pounds lean body mass. The other guy is 10% body fat, he has 180 pounds of lean body mass, Both having separate needs. The leaner you are, the more calories you'll need to support your harder working engine. The leaner you get, the harder it becomes to lose fat without sacrificing lean body mass, and as such, calorie intake should be higher. On the contrast, a person with a lot of fat to lose, such as 60 lbs, can get away with a lower calorie intake at first, allowing them to lose fat more rapidly without significant muscle loss.
A simple formula for caloric maintenance is dependent on your current body fat %.
6-12% = 17 x LBM
12-15% = 16 x LBM
15-`19% = 15 x LBM
19-22% = 14 x LBM
>22% = 13 x LBM
As mentioned, the reason for higher calorie intakes when leaner and lower calorie intakes at higher body fat percentages is due to the fact that leaner individuals need higher intakes to maintain lean body mass while those carrying higher amounts of body fat can maintain muscle and lose fat more rapidly at lower intakes without sacrificing muscle. So, now you know how many calories to consume, but how do you go about
“counting” those, and how do you know how much protein, carbs, and fat to take in daily? Good question, and as I mentioned earlier, I’ll show you how to streamline everything to make the whole “counting” issue easy.
Let’s take, for example, our same 200 lb man at 30% body fat. This individual has a lean body mass of approximately 140 lbs. Knowing this, we use the maintenance caloric multiplier of 13 listed above, and
reach a dietary intake of 1,830 calories. We’ll then subtract 300 calories to create a very moderate caloric deficit for a fat loss dietary intake of 1,530 calories daily.
Now, that might seem low, but remember that this individual is just starting out with weight loss and will be progressively eating more as he loses body fat. For now, because he has quite a bit of fat to lose, he can get away with slightly lower intakes.
Now that we have the calorie totals, it’s time to figure out how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat this individual should consume. Because this person is starting at such a high body fat level, I’d absolutely start them with a low carb “prime” to reset leptin and insulin receptors, following the guidelines I provided previously:
Multiplying by the percentages above, we get the following calorie intakes per macronutrient:
Fat: 1530 x .6 = 920
Protein: 1530 x .35 = 535
Carbs: 1530 x .05 = 80
To convert these caloric values to grams for easy counting, we can divide by the caloric values of each which are as follows:
Fat: 9 cal/g
Protein: 4 cal/g
Carbohydrates: 4 cal/g
This gives us gram totals for each macronutrient of:
Fat: 920/9 = 102g
Protein: 535/4 = 134g
Carbohydrates: 80/4 = 20g
So, for our 200 lbs individual @ 30% body fat, he’d be consuming 102g of fat, 134g of protein, and 20g of carbs daily (fiber needs not be counted toward the carb total).The cool thing about converting everything to grams is that you no longer have to worry about counting calories. You simply count the grams of each macronutrient you consume as indicated in the nutrition facts. This makes things much easier considering the way our food labels are organized. If you are unsure as to the nutrition content of a particular product, you can look up the info easily at an online nutrition database such as www.NutritionData.com or www.CalorieKing.com.
Tip #6 - The Off Week
Every sixth week, just like you have a cheat day, take a full week off and increase your caloric intake by about 20%. Don't think about it too much, just relax and let your body enjoy what it wants, take a break and reset yourself. This allows your body to avoid the inevitable fat loss plateau and reset your metabolism.
Tip #7 - Nutrient Timing
1. Metabolism is at its highest point in the morning
2. Carbohydrate tolerance is at its highest in the morning
3. Food consumed in the morning is much less likely to lead to fat storage as you have the entire remainder of the day to burn it off as energy
1. Metabolism is at its lowest point in the evening
2. Carbohydrate tolerance is at its lowest in the evening
3. Food consumed in the evening is much more likely to lead to fat storage as your metabolism will soon hit its lowest during sleep
For this reason, you will be consuming most of your carbs in the morning upon waking, and some after training only. Most of the meals earlier in the day will be protein and carbs with minimal fat, while meals later in the day will be protein and fat with minimal carbs.
The overall size and caloric content of the meals will get progressively smaller as the day goes on and your metabolism drops.
Tip #8 - Carbohydrate Cycling
There is many good resources on the net to get you started on carb cycling, it is proven to work and I highly recommend it. Carb cycling basically consists of three types of eating days, high carb, low carb, no carb, and you cycle through them accordingly.
Here is a weekly cycle that should work well for most:
Monday - no or low carb
Tuesday - low carb
Wednesday - high carb
Thursday - no carb
Friday - low carb
Saturday - high carb, cheat day
Sunday - no carb, fast
Tip #9 - Harness the Power of High Energy
Too many consecutive days of low calorie and low carb eating can leave you depleted. Thats why we cycle the macronutrients and calories. You may have days that you are more energized than others, take big advantage of those great opportunities, but do not be a slacker and make excuses when things aren't perfect. Get it done. No one said this was going to be easy.
Tip #10 - Post Training Carb Consumption
This is a fun method, but not for everyone. Within 3 hours of the start of your workout, you will consume about half of your total daily calories and almost all of your total carbs for that day. During this post workout window, your body is like a sponge and sucks up energy very efficiently. You will have to make some changes for this one, do not expect to use all of these tips at the same time, as some of them won't work simultaneously. They are all good tips and can and should be tried to see what works best for you.
*Bonus* Tip #11 - Be Consistent, Don't Make Excuses, Hold Yourself Accountable for your Actions
Thats pretty self explanatory. You are an adult, act like one. Be responsible and do not be influenced by others. Be a leader and guide your own path. On a very side note, the appropriate use of some supplements can be beneficial. High dose fish oil has had some positive research. Like anything else, you can find evidence to support anything you want to find. For every article stating positive effects of fish oil, you will find something negative to say. Its up to you to do the research and experiment safely.