Let’s have some real talk here: Diets suck. There is no way of sugar-coating that one. It’s not the most awesomest time in the world to restrict calories and cut out some of our favorite junk foods for extended periods of time.
But the bottom line is this: in order to avoid the disgusting DadBod and get our bodies in the shape that we all covet, whether that be for a New Year’s Resolution, for beach season or to just look great naked, we need to face up to the truth that winning the fat loss war means burning calories. We can do that through diet, exercise, or the most effective solution … a combination of both.
To lose the weight, gain some muscle and change your body, we need to approach things in this holistic sense. It takes both good training and a good diet to see REAL and sustainable results. But where so many programs and countless diets fail is in their inability to provide proper knowledge about the right foods to eat, when to eat them, and most importantly, how much to eat.
Sure, the “calories in versus calories out” game is the ultimate key to seeing weight loss. But, we need to dive a bit deeper for longer-lasting and effective FAT LOSS (yes, there is a difference). To get this solution, you must turn your attention to macronutrient composition – the protein, carbohydrates and fat content in the foods you eat. Macronutrients (or “macros” for short) are the most important factor of what determines success or failure. Every popular diet approach has its own individualized take on macros. The Atkins Diet stresses lower carbs. The Zone Diet encourages more of a balanced approach across the board. Who’s right? Who’s wrong?
Well, the answer is a little more complicated than that. Essentially, the best diet is the one that you can stick to and the one that is most conveniently set up for you to be consistent. We are creatures of habit and if we can find the right diet approach that turns into a consistent and healthy habit, we will establish a long term plan for success. I’m here to break down the barriers and bust through all of the myths and misinformation to give you the proper knowledge for long term success.
We kick things off by breaking down the Big 3 of nutrition and why they are all needed in your diet …
Protein: The Building Block of Muscle
Many diets place a huge emphasis on proteins and the amount that you consume. And for good reason. About 25 percent of your muscle mass is made up of protein which also plays a major role in the proper function of cells in your body. The tricky thing about protein is that it is the one nutrient that the body can not assemble by combining other nutrients. This means you must consume enough protein in your daily meals in order to achieve that awesome physique and terrific health.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about just how much protein our bodies can handle. Rest assured, your body can process a lot more protein in each meal than what the trendy magazines may have you think. One of the biggest myths about protein is that you shouldn’t have more than about 20-30 grams of protein per meal and that anything else consumed in one sitting will essentially go to waste. Wrong.
This theory is actually one of the guiding principles behind the directive for everyone to eat small and frequent meals throughout the day. The thought being that these 4-6 small meals, every 2-3 hours, with a decent size of protein (but never more than 30 grams!) would still allow you to hit your daily protein goals and raise your metabolism. Science has since debunked this theory. Unfortunately, it is still pretty common to see this myth being spread. Consider yourself officially edu-mah-cated now. You are now free to look forward to that big steak dinner.
Sure, it is beneficial to consume some protein before and after a workout (and even sometimes during the workout, depending on the workload), but it is not the end-all-be-all. The key is to simply get your total protein source for the entire day … spread out throughout the day. However that breaks down in a convenient fashion.
Typically, we should target anywhere from about 0.5 to 1.0 gram of protein per pound of body weight for those who are active. More specifically, we really should be hitting about 1.0 to 1.5 grams of protein per lean body mass (LBM). This can be difficult to calculate. So for the real sticklers out there, set your daily goal at 1.0 gram of protein per pound of your TARGET or GOAL weight.
In other words, if you are 180 pounds and would like to lose 20 pounds … you’d set your protein goal at 160 pounds. Simple enough, right?
The Real Focus on Protein:
In order to truly reach our fat loss goals, protein must become a major factor of the nutritional game. In addition to the functional properties that it plays in your body, from a satiety standpoint, consuming more protein will help keep us fuller for longer periods of time – and that’s a calorie-restricted dieter’s best friend. Your goal in the coming weeks is it to slowly increase your intake of protein through lean and whole food sources like meat, poultry, legumes, eggs and dairy (provided there are no food intolerances or allergies, of course). Sometimes you may need to turn to a protein powder to help supplement and reach those protein goals (whey, casein, egg, and/or vegan blends of hemp, pea, etc.).
Fat: The Stuff that Makes Food Taste Awesome
We are finally coming to realization eating fat does not necessarily MAKE you fat. The fat scare of the 70s and 80s really did drive many of us to fear things like bacon and butter. The truth is that fat is a major source of fuel for the body and has a host of functions that help properly regulate keep things moving properly including: the absorption of vitamins, regulating inflammation, and hormone production. And just like its cousin, the protein, many fatty acids (like Omega-3) cannot be produced by the body, so we must include them in our diet.
Alright, we’ve already tackled that whole thing about eating fats and why it’s important and why it won’t make you “fat.” But, another myth is that saturated fat causes heart disease. Not true again. It can actually be beneficial to your health and body. Are all fats good? No. That much IS true. We know that trans-fats should be avoided at all costs and post a real health risk.
Eating a diet rich in whole, natural foods that include vegetables, fruits and nuts, along with lean sources of proteins, should be enough to get the right amounts of good fats to the body.
Now, in order to properly balance out the omega-3 fatty acids, it’s encouraged to supplement with about 0.5 to 1.8 grams of fish oil (EPA and DHA) per day, or consuming about 3.0 to 6.0 ounces of fatty fish per day (like salmon).
The Real Focus on Fat
Fats are essential. We know that much. But, it is highly individualized as to how much fat we should include per day. Too little fat will lead to a host of hormonal and mood issues. Too much fat could cause some weight gain – remember, at 9 calories per gram, fat is still the most calorically dense macronutrient after all … so go easy on that spoon in the peanut butter jar. The guideline here is to stick with about 20 to 35 percent of your total daily intake from fatty acids. Play around with it and find out what works best for you.
Carbohydrates: Not the Enemy of State, Honestly.
Just like a well-oiled machine, the human body needs fuel. And that’s the primary role of the carbohydrate. Once in the system, the body breaks the carb down into glucose to help power the cells throughout your body. Now, here’s the catch about carbs: unlike proteins and fats, the carbohydrate is not considered essential. The body can create fuel sources through processes called gluconeogenesis and ketogenesis – meaning that proteins and/or fats can be broken down and converted into energy. This is essentially where the low-carb approach comes from: reducing carb intake to force the body to pull from other sources (usually fat) to create the energy necessary to function.
That said, carbohydrates still play a major role in a healthy nutritional approach. Fruits and vegetables are both important sources of carbohydrates and both are needed to provide nutrients to the body to ward off diseases. Do these carbs make me look fat? Nope. They don’t.
One of the toughest myths to bust in the current climate of fitness and nutrition is that the low-carb approach is the only effective method for success. The carb has been demonized over the last 20-25 years as being the cause of obesity. This simply is not (entirely) the case. Low-carb diets do have their advantages and it is obviously been proven that diets lower in carbs can lead to real success. But, this is not the ONLY way to succeed.
The right amount of carbs depends largely on your level of activity. If you are more active, than a higher amount of carbohydrates in the diet could be beneficial to help fuel your lifestyle. More sedentary individuals should strive for less. Good sources of whole, natural carbs include: potatoes (white and sweet/yams), whole grains and oats, squashes, vegetables and fruits. A good rule of thumb is to EARN your carbs and eat a mostly lower-carb diet before physical activity, and consume that majority of your starches post-workout. The additional surge of carbs after training fuels muscle growth, which in turn promotes fat burning.
The Real Focus on Carbs
It is totally possible to eat carbs on a diet AND lose weight. True story. Obviously this depends on your goals, how much and how intense your training truly is and how your body reacts to the intake of carbohydrates. But, as with proteins and fats, by sticking with whole, natural and minimally processed food sources, you’ll be on your way to success. As a general rule, aim to consume 4-5 servings of vegetables per day, while allowing for another 1 or 2 of those sources from either fruit and/or a starchy-type vegetable (ex: potatoes).
Now it’s you know. And knowing is half the battle. Now that you have full knowledge on the protein vs. fat vs. carb game, you may officially goo forth and conquer with your diet plans, young Padawans. To take this info to the next level by including a workout program to go along with your nutritional knowledge bomb – click here to access the workout program that’s a perfect fit for busy dads who need short and effective workouts to get back in shape.
Any questions? Chime in below in the comments section and I’ll answer anything you’ve got.