Friday, November 12, 2010

10 Commandments of Getting Cut Part 2 of 3

Part II from The 10 Commandments of Getting Cut

Losing Fat, Not Just Weight by Chris  McClinch

Eating the Right Foods

5. Thou shalt eat the right foods.
To burn fat, you've got to know what makes you fat. The first thing that makes you fat is eating more calories than your body can use. Rather than eliminating the excess calories, your body stores them as body fat. We've taken care of that problem with the caloric deficit, but it's also important to understand that certain types of food are more likely to make you fat.

Some of the foods that make you fat are obvious: candy, soda, beer, chips, pizza, and fast food have no place in a healthy diet, period. When you're not dieting, they're okay as occasional cheat foods, but even then, pay careful attention to the words "occasional" and "cheat." As in, you're not going to be eating these foods on any kind of a regular basis, and you're fully aware of the fact that they represent a step back from your physique goals. An occasional step back is healthy, but 90% of what you eat should be quality bodybuilding foods.
The next group of foods is less obvious, especially since so many foods in this group are traditionally considered "diet" foods. This group includes pasta, bread, pretzels, crackers, white rice, rice cakes, breakfast cereals, and fruit juices. What do these have in common? They're all highly processed carbohydrates--high on the glycemic index, low in fiber, low in nutrients, and not terribly filling. They massively spike insulin release in the body, don't provide much other than calories, and leave you feeling hungry again shortly after you eat them. You don't need to go aggressively low-carb to lose fat, but you do want to severely limit your intake of processed carbs. You're much better off with fruits, vegetables, brown rice, yams, and old-fashioned oatmeal (the stuff that comes in the canister, not the packets) as your primary sources of carbohydrates.

Healthy sources of protein are hugely important for getting cut. Remember, you're not just trying to lose fat; you're trying to preserve as much muscle as possible, and one gram of protein per pound of body weight should be your goal here. Good sources of protein include lean cuts of beef, 90% or leaner ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey, chicken breast, turkey breast, pork tenderloin, fish, eggs and egg whites, cottage cheese, and egg-, whey-, and casein-based protein powders. I can't recommend soy to anyone other than vegetarians or vegans because of the high concentrations of phytoestrogens present in soy protein. Other protein sources to avoid? Bacon, pork chops, sausages, hot dogs, prime rib, fatty cuts of beef, and the other high-saturated fat usual suspects.

Finally, you need good fats in your diet. The big message moving forward should be that you need to eat the right fats if you want to burn fat. Let's start with what the wrong fats are: saturated fats and trans fatty acids. Saturated fats you're familiar with--they're the fats in butter, red meat, and hard cheeses. Any fat that's solid at room temperature is a saturated fat and to be eaten only in moderation. Try and keep them at less than half of your daily fat intake. Trans fatty acids are chemically manipulated vegetable fats such as you find in margarine or Crisco. Essentially, they're polyunsaturated fatty acids with hydrogen atoms added to them to turn them into pseudo-saturated fats. If the words "partially hydrogenated" appear anywhere on the label, it's best avoided entirely.

Good Fats The good fats are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, particularly those high in Omega-3 fatty acids. These fats can help boost testosterone levels and lower blood cholesterol. They also blunt insulin release and aid in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K. The majority of your fats should come from sources such as flax oil, olive oil, fish oil, natural peanut butter (if it has ingredients other than peanuts and salt, it's not natural), macadamia nuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, olives, and ground flax seeds.

Diets, Carbs and Cutting

The traditional high-carb, low-protein, low-fat eating plan is out.It's a nutritional and hormonal disaster, prompting massive insulin releases, obesity, adult-onset diabetes, and higher hunger levels. Uncontrolled insulin levels are the primary culprit here, so you want a plan that controls insulin while creating the caloric deficit you need to lose weight. There are several plans that have proven highly effective, but some are far more restrictive than others. Your ideal plan is the least restrictive one that gives you the results you want.
"Zone Diets"

The least restrictive of the plans I can recommend is the Zone--Barry Sears's diet. The basic premise is that every time you eat, 40% of the calories should come from carbohydrates, 30% should come from protein, and 30% should come from fats. Basically, the easiest way to plan a Zone meal is to get 1 1/3 grams of carbohydrate and half a gram of fat for every gram of protein. My only real caveat is that the calorie figures are too low for most athletes and that the advice on exercise (walk 30 minutes every day) is insufficient.

Not everyone does well on The Zone. Research has shown that while combining fat with carbohydrates blunts insulin release, the combination actually increases insulin resistance in some people. These people--the rare individuals who find themselves gaining body fat on a Zone diet--are better off with an eating plan that stresses separating fats from carbohydrates. This is John Berardi's Massive Eating protocol, which calls for eating your meals as either protein and fat or protein and carbs. Essentially, protein and carbs would be eaten immediately post-workout and for breakfast, with protein and fat constituting the rest of your meals. This one's a little more restrictive than the Zone, but if you find that your body doesn't handle the combination of fat and carbs well, this one's probably for you.

Low Carb Diets

Next on the list come the diets in which carbohydrates don't make up a significant portion of your daily calories at all. I wouldn't recommend these unless you're dieting for a competition or are obese and looking to lose the weight quickly, because they're not much fun. Most people feel drained, cranky, and dumb without carbohydrates, and there's a 1-2 week period of gastrointestinal adjustment that isn't pleasant. The least restrictive version of the low-carb diets is the cyclical ketogenic diet. There are two ways to do this. The most common way is to eat less than 70 grams of carbohydrates a day from Monday through Friday (under 30 on days that you don't lift), then eat whatever you want on the weekend. Obviously, the better your weekend choices, the better your results, but I can tell you from personal experience that it works even if your weekend choices run along the lines of pizza, Doritos, Coke, beer, candy, and Hot Pockets.

The less-common, more restrictive version of the cyclical ketogenic diet is to eat low-carb every day, with 2-3 carb-up meals a week. Typical carb-up foods here run along the lines of a sweet potato with butter, a banana, and two cups of brown rice or oatmeal. Not much fun, but it replenishes the muscle glycogen and temporarily boosts insulin enough to keep you training.

Next, there is the targeted ketogenic diet. On this plan, you eat just enough carbs to fuel your workouts, with no carbohydrates the rest of the day. This is the only one of the diet plans I've mentioned here that I've never followed, but I've had personal training clients do it with excellent results. The easiest way to do it is to carry a bottle of Powerade to the gym and sip from it between sets.

Finally, there is the strict ketogenic diet--the Atkins diet. All low-carb, all the time. Frankly, I don't recommend this one for people who work out because I don't think it provides an optimal hormonal environment for recovery or conservation of lean mass. Use this one only if none of the less restrictive diet plans work for you.
Chris McClinch is an Arlington, VA-based bodybuilder and personal trainer. He won the middleweight title at the 2001 International Natural Bodybuilding Federation's collegiate national championships. As a trainer, he specializes in physique transformation and sport-specific strength training preparation, and is an active member of the IronOnline bulletin board.
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