Clean eating creates fat loss, sure. Combine a lean protein with a veggie and within 2-3 days you’ll be in fat burning mode. That’s the simple way of putting it. However, there are a lot more things to know about your metabolism because if it was that easy, then everyone would be lean and fabulous already.
The good news is that you’ll see great results on any kind of diet you’ll start. You’re taking in fewer calories, exercise more and before you know it, the first 10 lbs are off. However, your metabolism is very smart and it adapts to everything you do and that’s why most diets will create a plateau within just about 3-4 weeks. Let me give you an example: Last year I started biking long distances in April. I started out with 4-hour rides to New Jersey. I’d have some starch in my dinner the night before, an egg sandwich the morning of the ride and 4 BonkBreaker bars during the ride (each has about 280 calories). After I got back, I’d have a big egg omelette with veggies, 2 slices of bread, and a few slices of bacon. For a good 2 months, I felt hungry during the ride and for hours afterwards and felt tired and spent most of my riding day.
As I continued to cycle, my metabolism adjusted to the training. It became more efficient at using my body fat for energy. My muscles didn’t need that much glucose anymore to fuel my rides, and my muscles adapted to the endurance. By July I didn’t require nearly as much fuel. I’d continue to have my egg sandwich before the ride but needed no more than 1 bar during that 4-hour ride. After the ride I’d have an omelette with veggies and 2 slices of bread and bacon here and there. The rest of the day I wasn’t hungry, had good energy and was able to do other things with enthusiasm. Within just a few weeks, my metabolism had adapted to what I put it through and it required less calories to do the same job.
You have to keep in mind that your metabolism will adapt to anything you put it through. So, when you start Slim & Strong and work out 3x a week, you will make the biggest fat loss changes in the first 2-3 weeks, but then your body will be so well trained, that it will no longer burn that many calories to do the same work. That’s why it is important to mix things up in the nutrition and exercise department. You want to avoid the metabolic compensation. How is that best done? You eat slightly more on intense exercise days and keep it low-carb on non-exercise days. You’ll match your carb intake based on you energy expenditure. Makes sense? Here’s an example:
Here’s an ideal day of eating for non-exercise days or rest days or when you’re only walking, doing yoga or pilates.
Since you’re not burning off calories or strength training, there is no need to feed your body with plenty of carbs from starches.
- Aim for 3-4 meals, every 3-4 hours
- Eat more carbs in the morning and fewer in the evening to allow the carbs to be used for energy during the day
- You’re skipping sugar and starches
- Every meal consists of a lean protein and veggies
Breakfast: 3 eggs with veggies (omelette), or 3 eggs on toasted whole grain bread, or veggie fritatta
Snack: 3 slices of turkey on 1 slice of whole grain bread or 2 boiled eggs with veggie crudite
Lunch: big green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, grilled chicken and lemon juice dressing
Snack: protein shake (orgain vanilla) with unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Dinner: grilled salmon with roasted brussels sprouts
Workout Day Nutrition:
Here’s an ideal day of eating on workout days, such as strength training, high-intensity-interval-training, endurance exercise, such as long-distance biking or running for longer than an hour. You want to have enough carbs to fuel your workouts and to ensure recovery. You need protein post-workout to stimulate muscle repair and recovery. You don’t want to eat fat right before or right after your workout as that slows down the absorption of the carbs for energy. Eat more carbs in the meal before your workout and in the meal after your workout (30g is plenty).
Scenario 1: 6.30am Morning Workout (Body Burn)
8am (eating within an hour of completing your strength/cardio workout is key to prevent hunger later on in the day and allows for recovery).
Breakfast: 3-egg omelette with mushrooms, onions, peppers and 1 slice of whole grain bread
Snack: Protein shake with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and spinach, 2 strawberries
Lunch: Grilled chicken with butternut squash and broccoli (here’s a bit of starch added to ensure adequate satiation and to refuel, and it prevents late-night hunger)
Snack: Veggie smoothie – frozen cauliflower, 2 strawberries, frozen butternut squash with protein powder and water
Dinner: Grilled seabass with grilled asparagus
Scenario 2: Evening Workout (Body Burn)
Breakfast: 3 eggs with veggies
Snack: Protein shake with protein powder and spinach, 2 berries
Lunch: Grilled chicken with butternut squash and broccoli (adding starch here to fuel the evening workout)
Snack (about 1.5 hours before your workout): 1 slice of whole grain bread (Mestemacher or Bread Alone) with 3 slices of turkey
6.30pm Evening workout
8-8.30pm Dinner: Grilled chicken with broccoli and butternut squash (adding a bit of starch here to refuel after the evening workout and to ensure your blood sugar stays balanced throughout the night).
How to make it work:
- If you work out in the morning, try to do so on an empty stomach. It will teach your body to go into fat burning mode. It won’t happen in the first workout, but give it a few sessions to see your energy increase without food.
- Eat your breakfast within an hour of finishing your workout.
- Have a little starch in the meal after your workout.
- If you work out in the evening, then fuel your workout with a bit of starch during lunch and add a bit in your afternoon snack, so that energy is available during your evening workout. You can refuel with a few bites of starch right after your workout or can choose to stick with veggies only if your blood sugar stays balanced.
How do you know this way of eating works for you?
- Your appetite is controlled:
If you’re hungry, then up your veggies and protein.
- Your energy is balanced:
If your energy is low, then add more veggies.
- You have no cravings for sweets:
If you have sweet cravings, you may have cut the carbs too low. You may also be sleep deprived or have worked out too much and didn’t eat enough. Your hormones might be to blame (PMS cravings – normal), or you have still be eating sweets, which makes you crave more.
The best way to fight cravings is with dark cocoa. Buy unsweetened dark organic cocoa and make a hot chocolate by adding it to hot unsweetened vanilla almond milk with a bit of Stevia. It will kill any cravings without sugar.
- Your sleep is uninterrupted
If you wake up during the night with racing thoughts, it could be a sign that you’re overdoing it and this can signify a stress response.
- Your mood is balanced
If you feel moody, on the edge, irritated, depressed or anxious for no obvious reason, this too could be a sign of stress from overexercising, underrating, not getting enough rest and nutrient deficiencies.
Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all-diet that works for everyone. If you neglect to check in with yourself to see if something works for you or not, you’re just following guidelines rigidly and won’t make the connection to your own body. You need to use guidelines and adjust them based on how you feel.After all, you are what you eat and you’ll look it too.
Feel free to touch base with me if you have questions or want to dive deeper into nutrition. As Clinical Nutritionist, I specialize in fat loss, endurance nutrition, health issues (diabetes, cholesterol, inflammation) and metabolic damage.