Are you confused about how to eat to lose body fat? It seems like every day a new diet pops up online. Diets vary in their macronutrient profiles; that is, different diet plans recommend varying amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats. But one simple fact remains the same: Fat loss often comes down to restricting calories.
The simple equation that sets the foundation for fat loss is calories in versus calories out. Calories, the unit of measure used to describe “how much” energy foods produce, is for the most part, the bottom line in getting lean. If you over-eat and take in more calories than you need, the body will store excess calories as body fat. On the other hand, if you cut back on your intake of food, the body begins to burn up its stores of body fat.
While calories largely rule fat loss, there are other things that you can do to help your body burn fat better. Let’s look at 4 ways to increase fat burning:
1. Eating More Protein: The Thermic Approach
Still not sure you need more protein than the Average Joe? In addition to building muscle, protein helps keep you lean. Every time you eat, your body burns a certain amount of calories in order to digest foods. That’s right. Just as you burn calories when you go for a walk or ride a bike, you also expend energy (calories) when you digest foods.
How? It’s part of the metabolism, the breaking down of food to obtain the energy/calories trapped within. In other words, it takes calories to break the food down into small particles, and unlock the energy stored (calories) within. When you eat something that is nearly all fat, say a tablespoon of butter which yields 100 calories, about 3% of those 100 calories are required for digestion. Three percent, or three calories, are burned in order to breakdown, digest, and absorb that tablespoon of butter.
When you eat a food that is nearly all carbohydrate, such as half a cup of rice or a large apple that yields 100 calories, about 10% of the 100 calories are required for digestion. Ten percent, or 10 calories, are burned in order to breakdown, digest, and absorb the half a cup of rice or the large apple.
A neat way to conceptualize the fact that your body burns calories for digestion, is found in this business example. When you run a business, there is an inherent “cost” of doing business. For example, if Acme Roof Company takes in $100 but it costs the company $25 in expenses in order to get the $100, the net income to the company is $75. The same is true with foods. It “costs” the body energy to “get at” the calories found in food.
When it comes to digestion, foods that contain protein could be considered “expensive” in the way that it can take up to 30 calories to obtain the energy found in 100 calories of protein. How does this affect you? When you eat protein foods, say a small chicken breast yielding 100 calories, the body could burn up to 30 calories in breaking down, digesting, and absorbing the small chicken breast. In reality, the 100-calorie chicken breast could wind up providing a “net” calorie intake of 70.
In this sense, we say protein foods are up to 30% “thermic” (heat producing) in nature. Carbohydrates are roughly 10-12 % thermic, and fat is only 3% thermic. Consuming more protein by fixing your daily protein intake at 1 gram per pound of bodyweight (or slightly higher) not only supports muscle growth, but also enhances the metabolism. This is the protein intake recommended on the Lean Body Program.
2. Eating Five to Six Meals Muscles You up and Slims You Down
How many times have you heard that eating five to six smaller meals helps build lean muscle? Turns out, smaller meals also increase the metabolic rate by increasing thermogenesis (heat production in the body.) Every time you feed the body, a small increase in the metabolic rate occurs. Therefore, eating 2,800 calories a day split over six smaller meals stimulates the metabolic rate, six different times! On the other hand, the individual eating the same number of calories each day spread over four meals will experience an increase in metabolic rate only four times. Over time, say a 6- to 12-week period, the person eating six times a day will experience a greater loss in body fat than the one eating four times a day because of the added increase in metabolic rate.
3. Yes! You Should Eat Less at Night
If you are trying to lose fat, you can benefit by curtailing your carbohydrate intake in the final meal of the day. The reason is that as you continue to eat carbohydrates during your first five meals of the day, the body’s reserve tanks for carbohydrates (called glycogen) begin to fill up. The closer they come to being full, the smaller the thermogenic effect. So, for your final meal of the day you should cut down on your carbs and eat a little bit more protein. Have your protein with very low calorie vegetables, such as lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, cucumbers, or peppers.
4. Rotate Carbs
We know the thermic effect of carbohydrates begins to fall as the muscles become full of glycogen. One way to increase thermogenesis is to reduce your carb intake for three consecutive days, followed by a single day where you return to a more normal intake of carbs. For example, a dieter might be eating 250 grams of carbohydrates a day or 50 grams split over each of the first five meals. He or she can decrease the amount of carbohydrates in the muscles by cutting the carbs by 50-70 grams a day. Instead of eating 250 grams, he or she could eat 180 to 200 grams.
Not only does this create a small caloric deficit leading to the burning of body fat, but it also begins to deplete the muscles of glycogen. The benefit is that when muscles are low in glycogen and carbohydrates are then re-introduced into the diet, the body responds with a significant increase in thermogenesis. When you return to a higher carb intake, a greater portion of calories are burned off as metabolic heat, leaving fewer to be stored as body fat.
Try these four recommendations if you’re trying to lose bodyfat – you’ll be glad you did!
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.