Lots of attention is paid to the glamorous side of fat loss and muscle gain – fancy training programs get a 10-page spread in “Muscle & Fitness,” fad diets that make incredible “too-good-to-be-true” promises get to be on the New York Times bestseller list, and supposedly cutting-edge supplements get a shiny label and a huge, shredded bodybuilder with a model on each arm advertising how Super-Ultra-Hydro-Whey 50 is the reason they look the way they do. But what about the basics? You know, the boring stuff that actually works? We give them lots of love at AST, and suggest you do the same.
#1: The Meat & Nut Breakfast
When it comes to bang-for-your-buck dietary adjustments, nothing beats the meat and nut breakfast. This is a trick that we borrowed from renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin, and it’s been effective in everything from dropping lots of bodyfat (one of our clients lost over 25lbs just by consciously making an effort to fix his breakfast) to improving energy and productivity at work. The premise is simple – sugary and starchy breakfasts raise insulin (a fat-storage hormone) and serotonin (the happy, feel-good hormone), which usually results in the need for a nap 2-3 hours later. Protein and omega-3 fats, on the other hand, keep insulin low and raise acetylcholine and dopamine (the “drive” hormones), which leads to less bodyfat and more productivity and mental clarity.
Want to read more? Check out The Meat and Nuts Breakfast article from Charles Poliquin himself.
#2: Increasing Water Intake
Quick question – how much water should you have every day? For about 99% of overweight and obese people, the answer is simple – more than what you’re having right now. If I had to estimate from past experience, I would say that most of my clients over the last 10 years averaged about 12oz of water a day before they started doing something about it. You would be surprised at how quickly weight starts coming off when you fix your water intake. It doesn’t even have to be anything like a gallon a day (although that would be great!), just start with adding 2-3 extra glasses a day on a consistent basis. Doing it for 2 days at a time doesn’t count, doing it for 200 days does.
Water is an essential component in fat metabolism, so trying to get lean without water is like trying to drive a car with no gas. Push on the accelerator all you want, that car is going nowhere.
#3: Optimizing Basic Mineral Status
Before any fancy supplements are necessary, I like to ask clients to have blood levels of 3 things checked – vitamin D3, red blood cell (RBC) zinc, and RBC magnesium. 99% of people who come into our center are deficient in at least one of those 3, if not all of them. Ignore what the “lab norms” might tell you is good, since the norms are purely the range that 95% of people fall into, and since most people who get their bloodwork done are not that healthy, you don’t want to compare yourself to somebody who is in less than ideal health. Read more here about optimal levels and supplementation.
#4: Supplement with a Quality Fish Oil in High Doses
Fish oil is another boring old supplement that gets far less credit than it deserves. Yet in high amounts, it can work wonders to kickstart the body’s lipolytic (fat-burning) genes and turn off the lipogenic (fat-storing) ones. We use the same dosing recommendations as experts such as John Berardi, Charles Poliquin, and Johnny Bowden – use 1-1.5g of fish oil per % bodyfat, per day. So somebody who is 30% bodyfat would use between 30-45g of fish oil per day for up to 4 weeks. Try to split it into as many small doses as possible (5-10g per serving), and liquid fish oil is easier to take and more cost-effective in high amounts than capsule forms.
#5: Use a Cheat Meal
While it might seem counter-intuitive, a cheat meal once every 5 to 7 days can serve to keep you leaner and more compliant with your nutrition program. The cheat serves two functions: first, it helps to preserve sanity and prevent you from “falling off the wagon.” In my experience, the average person can make it about 4-6 weeks on a restrictive diet without deviating, but after that, things become too difficult and instead of going off a little, they will go way off and completely lose any benefits that the diet had given. A weekly cheat meal gives you something to look forward to and is not so infrequent as to make it unrealistic.
The second function is more physiological – a low carb, paleo-style diet free of gluten and dairy will work wonders over about a 2-3 week time span, but after that, progress will slow due to depletion of a hormone called leptin, which contributes to fat-burning. Throwing in a cheat meal with more carbs and calories in general boosts leptin levels and kickstarts progress. The key is not to overdo it and to follow some simple rules:
- Always eat your protein first.
- Eat your cheat meal at the table, not on the couch or in front of the computer. It needs to be a meal, not an entire evening.
- Put everything you want to eat at the table with you within arm’s reach.
- Eat whatever you want.
- When your butt leaves the seat, your meal is over.
- Try not to have your cheat meal be the last meal you have before bed. Eating between 5-7pm is ideal.
There you have it. Give these simple tricks a try and enjoy a leaner, stronger you!