20th April 2014
There isn’t one diet that is right for everyone. What you should eat for fat loss depends on a lot of things: your age, gender, current health, activity levels, goals, environment, financial status, personal preferences, to name a few. But one thing is certain: that losing fat requires a calorie deficit and a sustained daily effort. Here are 5 simple ways to shed fat without sacrificing hard-earned muscle.
1. Get back to basics
Losing fat is far easier if you focus on basic or ‘real’ foods i.e. minimally-processed foods that resemble something that you may find in nature. These foods are more filling and satiating than processed foods, which automatically limits the amount of calories you consume without needing much restraint.
2. Adjust carbs
The key to fat loss is to adjust your carbohydrate intake. This doesn’t mean forgoing pasta or potatoes, but reducing it to a level that gives you just enough fuel for your training but not too little to cause fatigue or illness. Training at high intensities with low glycogen levels will eventually result in fatigue and poor performance. You’ll need to eat less than your ‘maintenance’ level and you’ll need to eat more on days when your energy needs are higher (i.e. on training days). For most people, this is likely to average 3 – 5 g carbohydrate / kg body weight/ day.
3. Don’t be afraid of fat
Fat may be high in calories but it is also satiating so it gives the body the feeling of being full – providing you eat it in as natural a form as possible (e.g. milk, cheese, nuts, avocado, oily fish). Avoid anything labeled ‘low fat’, ‘reduced fat’ or ‘fat free’- they are often higher in sugar and calories than the full-fat versions to make up for the flavour and texture that’s lost when food manufacturers take out the fat.
4. Keep protein in the mix
Protein has been shown to reduce appetite and induce satiety (‘fullness’) more than carbohydrate, which is why it is particularly useful when you’re trying to shed fat. In fact, slightly upping your protein intake may help maintain your muscle mass while dieting. One study found that when athletes ate 1.6g or 2.4 g/ protein/ kg body weight (2 or 3 times the RDA) they lost more fat and less muscle compared with those who just ate the RDA for protein, 0.8g/ kg body weight. Include a portion of high-quality protein (meat, poultry, fish, dairy foods, eggs) with each meal.
5. Choose naturally fibre-rich foods
Fibre-rich foods such as fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains do a better of satisfying your hunger than low-fibre foods, such as cakes, biscuits and chocolate, which empty from your stomach quickly, and leave you hungry again in a relatively short time. Also, fibre-rich foods require more chewing, which helps slows down your eating and prevents you overeating. Eating slowly gives your brain the chance to recognize that you’re full.