This is the third and final chapter in the Dieting For Fat Loss series. In parts one and two, we discussed the nuts and bolts of how to structure your diet for maximal and sustainable fat loss. Additionally, we addressed the cold hard “fat loss facts” that are truly non-negotiable if fat burning, muscle maintenance, performance, and overall health and are your goals (which they must be if you want to guarantee your success).
Now it’s time to put the finishing touches on the fat burning foundation that has already been laid down. In this post, we will fill in the blanks and provide answers to the important questions that rarely get answered in an honest and straightforward way. I chose the following topics because they are some of the most common concerns of dieters.
The first issue I’d like to address is protein requirement. If you’ve been in the fat loss/fitness game for any period of time, I’m sure you’ve had just about every expert drill into your head the need for a very high protein intake for muscle building and fat burning.
I myself was a victim of the same rhetoric early in my training career, and I bear the scars of believing this flawed theory. In fact, I’ve wasted thousands of dollars on protein supplements, amino acids and enough steaks to feed an army. In the end, none of helped helped my wallet, my health or my level of fitness.
You see, when I first bought into the high protein theory, I was eating two grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily. Like an obedient soldier, I religiously followed this protocol for two straight years. During this time, I would hear my internal “protein alarm” sound off every 2 ½ hours; if I didn’t get a huge serving of protein within minutes of this alarm, I wasn’t very pleasant to be around.
Looking back, I was a real tool! There I was, carrying my Tupperware (loaded with some type of flesh) everywhere I went. Like a drug addict, I was the guy walking out of the party to go to my car to get my “protein fix”. Even with all of this sacrifice, dedication and sticktoitiveness, I did not get any leaner, stronger or more muscular during this time. Not even a little bit! Actually, considering I got no noticeable benefits from eating all of this additional protein, it is surprising that I stuck with it for two long years.
The truth is that I was scared to stop eating all of that protein. You see, the protein industry’s brainwashing process was quite effective. They had me convinced that my muscle would shrivel up and my strength would diminish if I even considered reducing my protein intake.
However, this all changed on the day when a blood test revealed that I had elevated liver enzymes and kidney values. Since I suspected that my diet might have contributed to this, I decided to make some big changes that would support my health first and foremost.
For the first time in two years, I started to include more fruits and vegetables into my diet, while cutting back significantly on my protein intake. To be honest, even with my dangerous blood levels, I was still a little apprehensive about cutting back on the protein intake, so I did it in stages.
First I cut back to one and a half grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. And guess what? I didn’t lose an ounce of muscle, mass or strength. This gave me the confidence to cut it even further. Then I cut it to one gram per pound of bodyweight. Still no muscle loss! Hmmm, this experiment was starting to get interesting.
Then, out of pure curiosity, I cut my protein intake down yet again, this time to one half of a gram for every pound of bodyweight. Can you guess what happened? Nothing! My rate of progress and my body composition continued to improve at the same exact rate as before. This was absolutely astounding to me!
All along, I neglected to eat enough fruits and vegetables because I was under the false belief that protein was the MOST important nutrient. As it turns out, all nutrients are important for health, performance and a lean body. Since making this change, my blood tests have revealed perfect values. Some may suggest coincidence, but my instincts tell me otherwise.
The verdict is in. You need about one half of a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to maintain your lean muscle mass and stay optimally fit. In other words, a 200-pound man only needs to consume approximately 100 grams of protein daily.
The major exception to this rule would be individuals with very poor tolerance to carbohydrates. These folks may need to decrease carbs a bit and substitute them with extra protein and fats. In these cases, increasing protein up to one gram per pound of bodyweight can be helpful.
I’m sure many of you think you fall into the “carb intolerant” category, and thus, that you need to continue to eat high amounts of protein each day. I would caution you to NOT jump to that conclusion. I’ve met countless dieters who thought they were terribly carb sensitive but were not.
Instead, they just were not on a sound diet containing healthier carb sources (fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes, etc.) You see, most people are “sensitive” to calzones and pop tarts so don’t form your judgment while following this type of junk food meal plan.
The next topic I’d like to tackle is meal frequency. We have all heard that frequently eating small meals (usually 5 or more) throughout the day is the best way to go. The reason for recommending this protocol is that it helps stabilize blood sugar levels and provides a constant influx of protein to the body.
Although I understand and agree with this philosophy, I do recognize the downsides of this approach as well. There are two major shortcomings to following this feeding schedule. The first one is the lack of freedom it provides you with. Most people don’t want to live their entire lives planning, preparing and/of finding the next perfect meal every 2 ½ hours. This constant state of “hunting down the next meal” is unrealistic for those with even a moderately busy lifestyle.
The second downside (and perhaps the more important one) is that this protocol never allows the digestive system to take a break. When your body is constantly digesting food, it doesn’t have a chance to detoxify itself. This can lead to a compromised ability to recuperate and heal, which is clearly undesirable for many reasons.
There are two ways to circumvent this problem. They are:
1) Eat the standard three meals per day and supplement these meals with one snack. This schedule works well for people who want to eat at “normal” times throughout the day and don’t want to feel as if they are a slave to their diet.
2) Practice intermittent fasting. Fasting (done the right way) can solve both of the above-mentioned problems with frequent meal feedings. For starters, nothing can give you more freedom from your diet than fasting! You literally don’t have to even think about what to eat, where your next meal come from, or stress about the quality of that meal.
Additionally, being in a fasted state allows your body to detoxify itself. Furthermore, the reduction in inflammation, the increased recuperation and the mental alertness that a proper fast can provide makes fasting a great option, in my experience.
For more info on intermittent fasting click here.
Well, there you have it. Follow these recommendations and you’ll be on the right path to health, fat loss, and performance!
Dedicated to your success,
If you’ve missed any of the parts of this series, click the links below to check them out.