Last night I was out with a friend celebrating his recent promotion. Recently he and his wife had lost a large amount of weight – 30 and 55 lbs, respectively.
While my girlfriend and his wife shared their weight loss strategies, my friend told me something I already sort of kind of knew: “Men have it easy. It’s much easier for women. For me, I barely even tried and lost 30 pounds. It doesn’t make sense. Sure, I trained hard when I went to the gym. But I didn’t go to the gym as often as she did. And she was much stricter than me with her diet.”
Ain’t that true now?
There are a myriad of reasons why women lose fat slower than men. Today I’m going to show you some strategies you can use to break through a weight loss plateau and re-ignite your fat loss for both men and women:
#1 – Calculate your Daily Caloric Intake
Women tend to eat less while training more. My friend’s wife shared this insight: “Once I started eating more, the weight loss started again.” Then she began sharing what she had eaten for that day, and she was eating more frequently than I was! 1-2 hours, from what I can gather.
Here’s a quick and easy chart to use when calculating your caloric requirements:
Current Body Fat
17Kcal per pound of LBM
16Kcal per pound of LBM
15Kcal per pound of LBM
14Kcal per pound of LBM
22.1% or above
13Kcal per pound of LBM
This chart will give you your maintenance requirements. To lose fat, eat no less than 500 calories below maintenance.
#2 – Discover your Empty Calories
Bad habits return without you realizing it. For a week, write down everything you eat and drink, and the exact times you consume it. Not just for the sake of counting calories and macronutrients, but also see where you can locate empty calories.
Here are some things you should watch out for:
Night out with friends – the group mentality sets in, and you end up justifying a cookie here and a frozen yogurt there.
Sugary beverages – at this point remove all juices from your diet. Drink only water.
Office snacks – there is always a birthday or special event at my workplace. Refuse. Refuse. Refuse.
Late night snacking – sometimes you work late, and end up munching on random snacks. If you’re going to munch, make it protein.
Sweetened breakfast – oatmeal and certain cereals are great for you, but if they are sweetened, take a look at how they are sweetened. Opt for the un-sweetened brand.
Take these two basic steps with your nutrition, and see your fat loss reignite. Later this week, I will share 2 simple workout strategies to break through a fat loss plateau. Stay tuned!
I love reading research studies, but this one floored me. The study is about alcohol consumption among athletes, specifically rugby players. Scientists studied 19 rugby players before and after a drinking session the night before a big game.
The athletes were tested for jumping, sprinting, hydration, and other physical aspects before drinking up to 20 pints of alcohol, and after the match they played the following day.
The biggest change was how much the athletes slept. Some of them only slept an average of 1-3 hours after the drinking session. This reduced their “lower body output” or their ability to jump high from a standing start.
Every other aspect of their performance was constant, meaning there was no negative effect on their performance during training sessions due to their alcohol binge! Their lower body strength returned to normal after just two days.
So what does this mean for the average joe? This simply means that you shouldn’t be as afraid of drinking alcohol if you’re an athlete. I don’t recommend getting trashed after an intense training session or a hard game, but a few drinks won’t dramatically hurt your performance as originally believed.
Now, what about alcohol and it’s effects on muscle building?
One key aspect of alcohol is that it impairs muscle recovery, but is there an amount of alcohol you can drink without your muscle recovery being impaired? According to researcher Michael Barnes, that number is somewhere between .5 grams per kilo, or 4.3 drinks for a 190lbs person (with 10 grams of alcohol per drink).
So, then what about alcohol and it’s effect on fat loss?
Here’s something else very interesting that people don’t know, and the experts won’t tell you. Alcohol is labeled as 7.1 calories per gram, but the real value is close to 5.7 calories due to the thermic effect of food (TEF). For alcohol, this is 20%, making it second to protein. This means that you burn 20% of calories you consumed just through process of breaking down calories from alcohol.
The idea that alcohol consumption leads to a “beer gut” doesn’t seem to hold much water either, especially when you see heavy drinkers weighing less than non-drinkers! Two possible reasons for this are that 1) alcohol consumption reduces food intake in the long run, and 2) that it improves insulin sensitivity.
There are studies that suggest that alcohol intake reduces the craving for carbohydrates, although more research is needed to confirm this.
What is more interesting to me is alcohol’s effect on insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is a fancy way of describing your body’s ability to handle carbohydrates. If you find that you become extremely sleepy or fall into a “food coma” after the consumption of carbs, you may be insulin resistant, meaning that your body is having a tough time using insulin effectively.
There is always more than one way to get from point A to point B. When selecting the right way, you need to decide what’s more important: getting to point B fast, or getting to point B efficiently.
The difference between fast and efficient is the difference between being skinny fat and being jacked. So, for example, lets say you wanted to lose 20 pounds. You can easily achieve your goal by starving yourself, performing an excessive amount of cardio, and popping some thermogenics. However, I guarantee you that your shirtless before and after shot won’t be much impressive. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you looked worse after the losing the 20 pounds.
If you instead focused on efficiency, or the method which took into account the difference between lean muscle and fat, with an emphasis on losing fat while either maintaining or gaining muscle mass – then getting to point B might take longer, but you’ll look and feel much better after the transformation.
There are plenty of workouts and exercise info which you can use to help with your 20 pounds goal. But, if you want efficient fat loss, then the focus needs to be on nutrition.
Avoid Eating out of a Can
Quite simply, trade in low-quality processed food for high-quality, natural food. When most individuals try to lose fat fast, they run to the grocery store and grab anything and everything which says “low carb”, “low fat” or “low calorie” on the packing. Take a closer look at the nutrition label on that food package you’re holding and you’ll see the immense amount of chemicals which make that food taste so good. You’re putting ingredients that you can’t even pronounce into your stomach, setting yourself for all sorts of strange health problems in the long run.
Slow down, and start teaching yourself how to plan and cook your meals. It’s a pain in the start, but if I can do it, anyone can. Don’t be afraid, here is a simple guide that will point you in the right direction: Paleo Diet Basics. The Paleo Diet is a simple diet which focuses on introducing natural foods into your diet. It’ll help you make the transition from processed foods to high-quality foods.
by Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer
Ok, I decided to do something crazy recently… For the last six weeks, I used myself as a guinea pig and completed an overeating experiment.
The purpose of the experiment was to see how much weight I would gain if I purposely tried to over-eat on a daily basis for six weeks straight.
What do you think the results were? Did I get fat (after all, I gained 9 lbs on a 7-day cruise last year when my normal diet at home was replace with my cruise diet…although I subsequently lost that 9 lbs in only a week and a half after that cruise). Or maybe during this overeating experiment I stayed the same weight or even got leaner?
My theory was that if you eat the right types of highly nutrient-dense foods and do not stray from those foods at all, that your body will automatically re-balance itself (your hormones, appetite levels, etc, etc)… and even though you are attempting to over-eat, as long as the nutrient-density of all of your meals is maximized, total calorie balance will inevitably end up at a level where I would not gain weight.
This goes along with my theory that calorie counting is basically pointless as long as your nutrient density of your foods is so high that the body obtains all of the nutrition it needs and re-balances your appetite and hormones to account for this.
Think of it this way… if you eat 1000 calories worth of soda, donuts, and cookies, your body needs to readjust hormone levels, increase your appetite and try to force you ingest more food to attempt to get more nutrients, since those 1000 calories were almost devoid of the nutrition your body needs.
However, if you eat 1000 calories worth of healthy foods with high nutrient density such as avocados, whole eggs, nuts, vegetables, fruits, grass fed meats, and other healthy options, your body obtains most of the nutrition it needs and accounts for this by leveling your appetite and hormones in the time period following that meal (the remainder of the day perhaps). In this scenerio, your body is not forcing you to eat more food (via cravings) to obtain the nutrition it needs since it already received a boatload of nutrition.
So, here were the details I had to adhere to in my little experiment:
1. I could NOT just eat any and all types of foods… I could overeat on as much food as I wanted, but ONLY the foods that are “approved” according to my rules… this means all foods had to be un-processed natural foods. No pasta, white rice, refined flour breads, or refined grain cereals were allowed. No trans fats, deep fried foods, or any other processed foods such as candies, cookies, cakes, etc were allowed in the overeating experiment… I was only allowed to overeat on healthy food.
Some staples during my overeating phase were tons of whole eggs (yep, including the extremely healthy full-fat egg yolks), full-fat grass-fed raw cheese and yogurt, avocados, almonds, pecans, walnuts, lots of virgin coconut oil and olive oil, grass-fed butter, berries, lots of fruit and veggies, sprouted grain bread, raw almond butter, sweet potatoes, and lots of venison and grass-fed beef.
2. I was still training very intensely 3-4 days/week at the gym but nothing extremely different from my normal workouts (this means that my caloric expenditure from exercise was not drastically different than normal).
So what was the end result after six weeks of trying to stuff my face with as much healthy food as possible?
>> My body weight stayed EXACTLY the same! I didn’t gain a single pound.
I know the first reaction of many people is that I just must have a “fast metabolism” or something along those lines and that is why I did not gain weight.
But that is false!
The truth is that I have no problem at all gaining weight when I overeat on junk foods, or eat large amounts of processed foods in general. I can guarantee you that if I was overeating on pasta, white rice, cookies, white bread, donuts, and other processed foods during these last 6 weeks, I would have gained a massive amount of weight.
In fact, as I have mentioned before, in the past I have easily gained as much as 10 pounds in only 1 week when I have been on some sort of vacation and simply eat the normal types of processed food that everyone else is eating.
This proves that I am just as prone to gaining weight as anybody else.
However, notice the stark contrast in my experiment with attempting to overeat on all healthy unprocessed foods… I simply could not gain weight because my body would be constantly re-adjusting the hormone levels and appetite levels to account for the super-high nutrient density of food I was eating.
In the end, this meant that my body automatically maintained calorie balance without the need for calorie counting.
This is the type of eating lifestyle that pretty much totally eliminates your cravings… Remember that I have said before that I do not think I have had any real cravings in at least five years (that is the time since I have been more strict on the type of foods I eat).
I also think it is actually fun and more enjoyable to eat in such a healthy manner (for the skeptics that think this involves some sort of deprivation).
by Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer
I receive a lot of questions from my readers where they have been doing much better at choosing healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but they are still struggling to find good ideas for healthy and quick “mid-meals”… especially a quick small meal or snack that can be brought to the office or on road trips (so you can avoid the fast food junk!).
Some people may call these “healthy snacks”, but I prefer to consider them meals because they should be similar in size to your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, if you want to spread your calorie intake out over the full day to “graze” so to speak.
After all, I’m sure it’s no secret by now that eating 5-6 small meals per day is a much better strategy for getting lean compared to the traditional “3 squares” a day (which for most people, turns into only 2 big meals/day as many skip breakfast).
The problem that I see most people having is being prepared enough to bring healthy mid-meals with them to work for the day. If you don’t plan ahead, and bring something healthy and balanced with you when you’re out and about for the day, or at work, you’re going to end up choosing the junk food at the vending machine or corner store.
So here are some of my favorite mid-meals that I’ve used for years with great success and that lots of my clients love too. I want to keep things simple here, so I’m just gonna give a couple of my easiest, quickest, and healthiest…
Quick, healthy mid-meal ideas to keep you lean:
Apple or banana with almond butter
Cottage cheese mixed with yogurt, berries, and walnuts or pecans
A couple hard boiled eggs with carrot and celery sticks and hummus (roasted red pepper hummus is my favorite)
Celery sticks with organic peanut butter (a classic quick snack)
Avocado slices wrapped in deli turkey breast (one of my favorite quick snacks)
A piece of sprouted grain toast (or whole grain, but sprouted grain preferred) with nut butter and berries
Fresh sliced pineapple with a handful of macadamia nuts
a bowl of blueberries mixed with raw almonds
Cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple slices, and walnuts (mmm, mmm good)
NOTE: This post has been submitted by James Chan, NSCA-CPT. His profile is at the end.
Ever since I’ve read the book, “The China Study,” I’ve experimented with lowering my animal protein intake and upping my vegetables. If you haven’t read the book, what it essentially says is that the lower your intake of animal proteins, the lower your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a whole slew of other diseases.
It provided some very compelling evidence, compelling enough for me to reevaluate some of my assumptions as a former bodybuilder of ten years who ate 5 times a day of high protein (all animal) meals.
Every so often, I get the question from vegetarians, “Can I build muscle as a vegetarian?”
My answer: NO, you cannot build a large muscular physique without animal proteins. Animal proteins don’t just include beef, pork, poultry, and fish, but they include anything that comes from an animal: eggs and dairy.
The key word is can you BUILD muscle without animal proteins? Try it on only soy, beans and nuts, and you will not build a yoked out physique at all. You can build an impressive physique that is trim and lean IF you strength train, but your muscles will have a soft and stringy look to them.
But big, buff, and dense muscles? NO.
Now a lot of people point to vegetarian bodybuilders such as Bill Pearl and others, but I’ll tell you this: Bill Pearl built an impressive muscular physique with animal proteins and THEN became vegetarian. afterwards, he still ate eggs and dairy.
Having experimented with a near vegetarian diet, I will tell you this: it is much easier to maintain a muscular physique on a vegetarian diet AFTER you’ve built it on a diet chock full of animal proteins.
And even then you will lose muscle density on a vegetarian diet. plus you will experience poorer recovery from workouts and more aches and pains.
However, your cardiovascular health will be much better. Rather than having an brawny physique, my physique is now trim and lean. but that is only because I am still strength training heavily, not running and yoga.
Plus I still eat animal proteins, but I practice what is known as “protein-pulsing.” Rather than constantly eating a steady flow of animal proteins every few hours every day, I gorge on protein once a day.
This is the way animals eat, and predatory animals such as tigers and leopards can maintain a very large and impressive musculature on that.
James Chan, NSCA-CPT, is a full-time police officer for the University of California Police Department in San Francisco. He is also a NSCA certified personal trainer, and from time to time, trains a handful of clients ranging from off-duty law enforcement to white collar professionals. His training articles have appeared in Fitness and Physique Magazine and T-nation.com. He is also the author of the book “Strength and Physique, Volume One.”
Editors Note: Vegetarians still have a chance. You may not be able to look freakishly large as a bodybuilding, but as James stated, you can certainly create an athletic, trim physique on a vegetarian diet.
by Mike Geary, Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Specialist
Of course, you’ve probably heard a million times now how bad trans fats and high fructose corn syrup are for your health… so I’m not going to give you that same old story.
Instead, we need to look at a couple common foods that are probably in your diet in large quantities and may be causing major problems such as weight gain, headaches, sicknesses, indigestion, etc, etc… and those possible culprits are: Wheat and Dairy
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you that both of these staples need to be eliminated permanently from your diet… but read on to see an interesting test that may help you a great deal…
In all of my years of personal training and nutrition counseling, if I had to choose a couple VERY simple dietary changes that have made the biggest difference for my clients in allowing them to FINALLY see fat loss results (and other health problems solved), it would be this following test:
1. Test removing all wheat products from your diet for 2 entire weeks, and take notice of how you feel, look, and your body composition.
2. Test removing all dairy from your diet for 2 entire weeks, and take notice of how you feel, look, and your body composition.
The best way to do this is to eliminate them both for 2 full weeks, and then reintroduce one at a time so that you can determine if one of them or both wheat and dairy are causing negative health effects for you.
Wheat and dairy are easily 2 of the biggest intolerances that a large percentage of the population has.
Now this doesn’t mean that I’m saying you have to entirely eliminate wheat and dairy for the rest of your life, but what I am saying is that this is an important test to do for about 2 weeks to gauge if you see some dramatic changes in your body fat percentage, how you look and feel overall, your energy levels, and other health issues.
If you do the 2-week elimination of wheat and dairy and don’t feel that it helped you at all or made you feel better, than you can probably do ok on moderate amounts of each.
Most people do not realize this, but a large percentage of the population has at least some degree of intolerance to the gluten in wheat and several other grains. The biggest offender is wheat though, as it’s in such a large percentage of the average western diet… from breads, to pastas, to bagels, to cakes, wraps, cereals, etc, etc.
Most people don’t have the extent of intolerance that a celiac has, but most people feel much better, improve all sorts of health problems, and also lose fat faster when they eliminate wheat from their diet.
In fact, I just had a client last week tell me that when she eliminated wheat from her diet, her chronic headaches disappeared almost instantly… these are headaches she’s been having for years, and after eliminating wheat from her diet, they are gone (along with some body fat that she lost too!).
What about me? Do I still eat wheat?
Well, what I do is try to only eat wheat on cheat days, which many times means when I’m out at restaurants or at parties, barbeques, etc. Since wheat is so integral in the typical western diet, it’s almost impossible to avoid when eating out or at other people’s houses.
But I have virtually ZERO wheat products in my own house usually. Anything is simple to avoid at least 90% of the time, when it doesn’t even exist in your cabinets!
Now with as anti-wheat as I am, I’m actually a big fan of dairy… However, ONLY if the dairy is raw milk or raw cheese and from grass-fed cows. Did you know that many people who “think” they are lactose intolerant actually can drink raw milk without a problem? This is because the live enzymes and friendly bacteria in raw milk aid in the digestion of the lactose and the proteins in milk. These enzymes and friendly bacteria are destroyed in pasteurized milk, which makes it more difficult to digest for many people.
If I can’t get raw dairy, I choose to go dairy-free (with the exception of small amounts of yogurt). That’s because I feel that the pasteurized, homogenized milk products are not suitable for long term consumption (but that’s another story for another day).
btw, you can always search to see if raw milk co-ops or farms are available in your area on RealMilk.com. You’d be surprised at how many co-ops are available that deliver from rural areas to urban areas. It’s important to make sure that the farm is reputable and certified (in some states) to produce raw milk. Most raw milk farms are the cleanest operations in the entire dairy industry.
oh, and for the “germo-phobes” out there… I’ve been drinking gallons upon gallons of raw, full fat milk for about 6 years now, and I’ve never once gotten sick from it, nor has anybody else that I know that’s been drinking it long term… so to all of these so-called “experts” out there telling you that “there’s a reason they pasteurize milk, because it’s dangerous if not”… well, they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about.
Plus, the full-fat milk certainly has not made me fatter either… I used to drink skim milk only for years, but now for the last 6 years, I’ve drank nothing but full fat raw milk, and I’m easily in the best shape of my life now and leaner than ever.
People are more likely to get sick from pasteurized milk, because mass factory farms are generally dirtier operations with animals that are in poorer health than grass-fed raw milk farms.
And don’t forget the high levels of fat-burning, muscle building CLA in full-fat, raw, grass fed milk (and omega-3’s)!
Back from the tangent… I think this elimination of wheat and (pasteurized) dairy is one of the most important tests anyone can easily do to see if wheat and dairy are negatively affecting them. After all, it’s only 2 weeks to test yourself!
A couple quick things to note:
1. Eggs are NOT dairy… I’m not sure why so many people seem to think that eggs are a dairy product, but there is absolutely no dairy in eggs… eggs are basically meat if you want to categorize them. Eggs are practically a perfect food in terms of nutrition density.
here’s an entire article I did on whole eggs vs egg whites if you haven’t seen it.
2. When trying to eliminate wheat, this usually means that almost ALL processed foods have to be eliminated because wheat components are in so many processed foods.
Good luck with the test if you try it! Many people find it to be one of the best things they’ve done for their health.
by Mike Geary, Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Specialist
One of the problems I see with “diet talk” is that nobody seems to agree what “low carb” really means… One person may think of “low carb” as an Atkins style diet with as much fatty sausages, hotdogs, and nitrate processed meats as you want and virtually no carbohydrate based foods at all.
Another person may view “low carb” as 40% of daily calories coming from carbs instead of the traditionally recommended 55% to 60%.
If you think about it, in a 40/30/30 type of diet, the majority of the calories are coming from carbs, so that obviously can’t be called “low carb”…yet some people do call it that.
Because of these drastic differences in how different people view the term “low carb”, sometimes my clients are confused as to what I recommend.
First of all, I don’t recommend “low carb” or “high carb” per se… I don’t think it’s vitally important to have any sort of exact ratio. I think everyone needs to explore for themselves how they feel at different ratios of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
After all, the most important aspect to your success is your total caloric intake vs your caloric expenditure over a given time period.
But where carbohydrate intake becomes important is in how it can affect your hormones and blood sugar in your body and stimulate cravings. You could tell someone to eat 2500 calories/day of a higher fat and higher protein content combined with reduced carbs and they may actually finish the day at 2500 calories because their appetite is satisfied.
However, tell that same person to eat 2500 calories per day in a high carb fashion, and they may end up eating 3000 or more calories per day because the higher carbohydrate diet stimulated their cravings and they ended up overeating.
I know personally, if you throw a big steak in front of me and a big pile of vegetables, my appetite will be satisfied when I’m done that meal and for hours afterward. However, you throw a big plate of pasta in front of me, and I’m gonna devour the entire plate, and then head back for seconds and maybe even thirds.
This is what happens for a lot of people… once you start eating large portions of carbs like pasta or rice or cereals, it becomes hard to stop and then you’re craving more carbs an hour later too!
So what I’ve found to work best for me, and a large % of my clients in the past is to eat in a “controlled carbs” manner… this doesn’t mean atkins style… it means very reduced grains, zero refined sugars (to the best of ability of avoiding), and instead, getting almost all of your healthy carbs from vegetables, fruits, and maybe beans on occasion.
This ends up being very similar to the hunter-gatherer type of diet of meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies, which I believe is the healthiest way to eat.
Sometimes it just takes thinking a little differently about the way you eat and what’s considered “normal” in order to get rid of some of the useless grains and sugars in your diet.
For example, why do we need to eat a burger on a bun? Most people don’t even think of doing it any other way because that’s what’s “normal”.
One of my favorite lunch meals lately has been cooking up a grass-fed bison burger with no bun, and then I top it with grass-fed cheese, sliced avocados, diced onions, and salsa. I have a big side of sliced fresh veggies like carrots and red peppers (with hummus sometimes), and then maybe have a little bit of fruit or berries on the side too.
What you end up with is a meal that’s pretty well balanced between protein, healthy fats, and healthy carbs instead of overloaded with the refined grains from the typical hamburger bun.
Think about breakfast too…
do you really “need” the toast with your eggs, or can you do much better with loads of veggies with your eggs instead?
That’s what I like to do for breakfast… whole eggs with cheese and loads of veggies, avocado (yeah, avo’s are one of my favorite foods), and some green or white tea (or lately I’ve been really digging this mango yerba mate tea…mmm) with a little raw honey. So I get my carbs from the veggies and the little bit of raw honey instead of from the typical toast and orange juice that loads you up with extra carbs.
…Just some ideas in case it helps you to think differently about where you get your carbs from.
I have a great nutrition program for you today from nutrition expert Mike Geary.
Mike is one of my most trusted colleagues in the field of nutrition, so pay attention to this info on how to control cravings and appetite to get that lean body that you want.
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