-By Tom Venuto, The Body Fat Solution
After more than twenty years of designing nutrition programs that counted every food to the calorie and gram, I’ve reached some important conclusions.
First, count calories and grams, calculating nutrient ratios, and weighing or measuring food is extremely effective because it removes most of the guesswork. Second, it lets you easily pinpoint problems. You can’t troubleshoot something very well unless you’ve quantified and tracked it first. Third, putting it on paper helps to improve compliance by increasing personal accountability. Fourth, it provides an education in nutrition and food values that can’t be equaled any other way.
For all the virtues of precisely calculating calories, macronutrient ratios, and grams of protein, carbs, and fat, there are downsides. Number crunching can be tedious, time-consuming work, even with the Internet, software, or handheld devices. It’s not an exact science and most people don’t have the patience in inclination to do it. I’ll always be in favor of doing “nutrition by the numbers.” However, my goal is to make nutrition a breeze for the average busy person who demands simplicity, practicality, and results at the same time.
What follows are ten action steps that bring health, fat-burning nutrition to the level of everyday lifestyle.
1.) Focus on the calorie deficit first and budget calories wisely
You could follow every rule of good nutrition, but if you’re eating more calories than your body can use, then the excess will be stored as fat. Yes, even healthy, nutrient-dense food will cause weight gain if you eat too much of it. Every time you eat, the first question you have to ask is how many calories your meal contains. When faced with a choice between two foods or meals, choose the one lower in calories.
Also the lower your caloric intake, the more important it is to budget calories carefully. Your first priorities are essential amino acids (protein), essential fats, and food rich in essential vitamins and minerals (veggies and fruits). Eating low-nutrient junk foods while you’re in a caloric deficit is like buying a trip around the world when you’re having trouble paying rent. It’s a luxury you can’t afford.
Ask yourself these questions before you eat:
1.) How many calories are in this food? Is it high or low in calorie density?
2.) Does this food have nutritional “plus” value that will improve my health?
3.) Does this food have nutritional “minus” value that will damage my health?
4.) Is this a good way to spend my calories right now?
5.) Can I afford it?
2.) Start building every meal with lean protein
Start each meal by picking any food from the lean protein group. This includes eggs, turkey breast, chicken breast, lean read meat, bison, game meats, fish, shellfish, and also high-protein dairy products such as cottage cheese and yogurt. Protein supplements can make it easier and faster to get your protein in too.
Research on the ideal numbers suggests 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of target body weight every day. Even more may be needed in bodybuilding and or intense strength training.
3.) Eat vegetables (fibrous carbs) with every meal
Eat at least five to six servings of fibrous (non-starchy) carbs a day, one for every meal or snack, or two different veggies for each main meal.
- Green Veggies – broccoli, asparagus, green beans
- Salad Veggies – leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers
- Or Any Other Fibrous Veggies – mushrooms, onions, zucchini, squash, eggplant, beets
4.) Eat omega-3 and other healthy fats every day
There’s no need to obsessively cut fat out of your diet. Dietary fat does not cause more body fat storage at the same caloric intake. However, since fat has the highest calories density at 9 calories per gram, it does have the potential to lead to excessive calorie consumption. Although eating dietary fat is satisfying psychologically, it’s really protein and high-fiber foods that are most satiating.
5.) Eat at least two fruits every day
Like vegetables, fruits are nutritional powerhouses, loaded with vitamins and health-promoting phytochemicals. Fruit is also a great source of fiber. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, pears, peaches, cantaloupes, grapes, pineapples, papayas, bananas, grapefruits, nectarines, oranges, and apples are just some of the fantastic fruits you can choose from that are high in fiber, high in nutrients, and low in calories.
6.) Eat natural starches and grains as your “X-factor”
Once you have the essentials in place—lean proteins, healthy fats, and fibrous vegetables and fruits—you’ll probably have room left in your calorie budget for another group of carbs, the natural starches and natural grains. The word “natural” is an important distinction because white carbs (white-sugar and white-flour products) and processed grains are not the same and should not be on your regular food lists.
Many low-carb diets require the elimination of all starch carbs and grains, even if they’re natural in origin, high in fiber, high in nutrients, and low in calories. This is not necessary. Instead of demonizing starches and grains, you should make natural starches and grains your nutritional X-factor. This means that while lean protein, healthy fats, and fibrous carbs remain relatively constant in your daily nutrition, the natural starches and grains should be a variable.
If you can’t eat whole-wheat products due to allergies or intolerances, that’s not a problem; you can stick with the fibrous carbs and fruits. Or explore items such as spelt or quinoa!
7.) Eat mostly foods that pass the “natural test”
From a health and body fat perspective, the single most important criterion for choosing which carbohydrates and other foods to eat is whether they’re natural or processed. Perhaps carbs and fats aren’t the issue after all. Maybe the real problem is unnatural man-made carbs and fats. When deciding what foods to eat, the ultimate solution is to ask the “natural food question.”
DID THIS FOOD come directly from a tree, from a plant, from out of the ground, or did it walk, fly, or swim?
If the answer is yes, then it’s natural.
8.) Eat five to six times a day—a meal or a snack every three hours
Eating five to six small meals daily is the preferred method of many athletes and bodybuilders. It’s arguably the optimal way to fuel a highly active person, especially someone who wants to build muscle or maintain high levels of physical performance. It’s also a good way to help control appetite and manage blood sugar levels. However, some people find cooking, meal preparation, and eating every three hours too difficult of a lifestyle commitment.
Because snacks don’t require time-consuming meal preparation or cooking, the easiest meal plan is three traditional meals a day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—with snack in between.
Power snacks: Nuts and seeds, raw veggies, fruit, yogurt, cottage cheese, lean proteins, protein shakes
9.) Limit or avoid liquid calories and drink mostly water or green tea instead
Liquid beverages such as soda are high-calorie-density, zero-nutrient-density foods—the worst possible kind. They also don’t activate the satiety mechanisms in your brain, stomach, and GI tract the way they do when you eat, chew, and swallow whole foods.
Alcohol is problematic because it has the second-highest calorie density at 7 calories per gram. Some evidence says that one drink of red wine per day may offer health benefits. Alcohol, however, does not help your fat-reducing efforts because alcohol adds empty calories or displaces nutritious calories. While alcohol is being metabolized, fat oxidation is almost completely halted.
10.) Follow the 90/10 compliance rule
Depriving yourself completely of your favorite foods in unnecessary. It’s also counterproductive because you crave what you’re not allowed to have. After a while, the cravings build up to the point of losing control. If you’re obsessed with thoughts about food, you’re out of balance. There should be no forbidden foods, but use the compliance rule.
Compliance refers to how many of your meals adhere to the rules of the program. The premise is that is if you follow the rules 90 percent of the time, then what you eat the other 10 percent of the time won’t matter much. But it will release you from the guilt of occasional indulgences and take the pressure of perfection off your shoulders.
I also suggest calling your 10 percent meals “free meals” instead of cheat meals because cheating presupposes it’s something you’re not supposed to do. When you cheat, you feel guilty. Guilt is one of the strongest negative emotions and biggest diet destroyers.
In a Nutshell
1.) Be constantly aware of the importance of a calorie deficit for fat loss.
2.) Achieve that deficit easily and automatically by eating primarily low-calorie-density, high satiety foods.
3.) Attain optimum health by eating high-nutrient-density foods.
I hope you have a gained some great takeaways from this post and do not hesitate to reach out if you need more help! To read more and a great resource check out Tom Venuto’s Book called: The Body Fat Solution.
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