Fuel Your Body to be a Fat-Burning Machine: Phase I

Exercise alone, without a nutrition intervention, is not an effective way to lose weight. However, eating the right foods at the right times and exercising will stoke your metabolic fire and make you a lean fat-burning machine.

The first thing you need to do is to take an honest look at what you are eating. For the next four to six weeks, I would like you to keep a food journal.  In your journal, record when, what, and how much you consume, calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, sodium and sugar content - food or beverage. Limit sodium to less than or equal to 1500mg and sugar to less than or equal to 25 grams (6tsp for women and 36 grams (9 tsp)for men. Also track water consumption. Anything that you ingest should be written down. It is a tedious task, but it is a very helpful tool.

You can use a notebook or there's an app for that. There are several free online journals and iPhone/iPod applications. Check them out to see which one appeals to you. If you opt for the notebook, use the online calorie counters to look up stats for your foods.

Online Journals
iPhone/iPod Apps
  • Lose It
  • Spark People
  • Fat Secret
Online Calorie Counters

Dr. John Berardi, creator of Precision Nutrition, has ten simple rules to help your metabolism work for you.  Although the rules are simple, implementing them all at once can be overwhelming.  I broke them down into three phases.  Start with Phase I for four to six weeks.

Phase I
1) Eat every 2-4 hours; 4-6 times/day.
Frequent eating (of the right foods) stimulates your metabolism, balances your blood sugar, helps you maintain/build lean body mass, and helps you burn body fat.

If you want to keep a fire burning hot and steady, you add wood and stoke it periodically; you don’t wait for the fire to burn out and then add wood.  Your metabolism is a fire.  Food is the wood that fuels the fire.  Waiting more than four hours to eat is like waiting for the fire to die and then adding wood.

Your body has not yet adapted to the current availability of food.  It still thinks we are hunters and gatherers.  Well, we are, but today we hunt the local grocery store, farm stand, or farmer’s market just blocks away and gather the food in it.  The human body stores fat whenever the slightest hint of hunger or starvation arises.  The body is naturally inclined to feed fat and starve muscle when it is underfed, infrequently fed, or if it is fed sporadically.

2) Eat a complete, lean protein with every eating opportunity.
It is hard to achieve the best health, the best body, and the best performance without adequate protein intake.  Women should consume 20-30 grams of protein (1 palm-sized portion) with each eating opportunity and men should consume 40-60 grams of protein (2 palm-sized portions) with each eating opportunity.

It is critically important that you consume lean protein with every eating opportunity.  Protein is the main building block for muscle.  Muscle is one of the main drivers of your metabolism and a lack of protein in your nutrition program while you are trying to lose fat will cause your body to turn to its own muscle tissue for fuel.

Protein is a highly thermic food.  If eating is like adding wood to your metabolic fire, consuming protein is like adding lighter fluid to your metabolic fire.  In fact, you can burn up to 35% of the calories via the digestion process alone.  The digestive process can burn up to 10% of the carbohydrate calories and 5% of the fat calories.

3) Drink only beverages with 0 calories and work up to 1 gallon (128 oz) of water a day.
Fruit juice, soda, and other sugary beverages should be eliminated from your diet.  Fruit juice has little to no nutritional value and is loaded with calories and sugar.  Fruit and vegetable juices are not substitutes for real fruits and vegetables.  You should eat your fruits and vegetables, not drink them.

Most of your liquid intake should consist of water and green tea (black w/o sugar).  Coffee is acceptable, but should be limited to one to two cups per day and you need to limit the amount of milk or cream and eliminate sugar.  Caffeine can be a metabolic booster, but only if you take in 200mg or less/day.  More than that stresses the adrenal glands and stimulates the release of cortisol, which stimulates the body to store fat in the abdominal region.  The more abdominal fat you have, the more cortisol your body produces, and the vicious cycle continues.

While diet sodas and artificial sweeteners have zero to minimal calories, recent research has shown that your body’s hormonal response to artificial sweeteners is the same, if not worse, than its response to sugar.  Water and green tea (black w/o sugar) are your best choices; eliminate all other beverages. 

Your body is mostly water - 60%.  Your health, body composition, and performance will suffer if you do not drink enough water.

Tip: Add lemon juice to your water for flavor, to help prevent water retention, detoxify your system, and help burn fat.

Notes: If you participate in exercise that produces a large sweat loss or that lasts for more than 1-1.5 hours, you should consume an electrolyte beverage to avoid a situation of electrolyte imbalance that could be life threatening.

4) Eat vegetables or fruit with each feeding opportunity, but limit your intake to two servings of fruit per day.

Vegetables and fruits are loaded with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that are essential for optimal physiological functioning.

Proteins and grains are acidic; vegetables and fruits are alkaline.  It is important to balance the acidic load that protein and grains present to the blood with alkaline-rich vegetables and fruits.  Too much acid and not enough alkalinity leads to the loss of bone strength and muscle mass.  Be sure you are balanced.  A simple way to make sure you’re getting enough vegetables is to consume 1-3 servings (a serving is about ½ cup) with every eating opportunity; that is 10-15 servings a day.  You can supplement a couple of these servings with a high-quality greens supplement, like Greens+ (sold at Whole Foods).

Try this: 1-2 scoops of a low-sugar vanilla whey protein powder (Bionic Edge) + 3 tsp wild berry burst or orange greensicle Greens+ with 8-10 oz of cold water

5) Plan ahead and prepare eating opportunities in advance.
The hardest part about healthful eating is CONSISTENCY.  Good nutrition involves making the right food choices to support your goals, eating very two to four hours to stimulate your metabolism, and making sure the right food is available when it is time to eat.

Your success is dependent on developing food preparation strategies to ensure that you can consistently get the nutrition you need, when you need it to send your body consistent messages to burn, not store, fat.

Food Preparation Strategies
  • Stock your kitchen with measuring cups and spoons and a digital food scale ($30 from Target) and purchase a cooler and ice packs to take to work with you each day. 
  • Plan your meals for the week and stock your cabinets and fridge with the foods you need to support your goals. 
  • Prepare foods ahead of time.
  • Chop veggies twice a week and store them in airtight containers.
  • Chop fruits twice a week and store them in airtight containers.
  • Pre-cook your protein for the week.
  • Make big batches of healthy stir-fry and chili and store them in single-serving sizes.
  • Divide large container of cottage cheese into single-serving size ½-1 cup Ziploc/Gladware containers. 
  • Pre-blend super shakes and store them in fridge at work.
  • Pre-chop and measure dry super shake ingredients and store in blender/shaker bottle.  When you are ready to drink, add water, green tea, or low-carb milk (Calorie Countdown or Mootopia) and shake. 
  • Get up 30 minutes earlier and prepare food for the day.
  • Hire a food preparation service to do it for you, but make sure the food choices fit the rules and watch the sodium content.
  • Pack your cooler with all the foods that you need for the day.  Include a few extra snacks and carry extra protein powder and greens supplement in case your day runs longer than you plan.  When you are headed out to run errands, take a day trip with the family, etc., pack your cooler with foods that will help you stay on track.
It is critical that you have a plan.  It is true – failing to plan is planning to fail.  Each day you have endless opportunities to make your body worse or better.  Which do you chose?

Recommended Reading
Master Your Metabolism - Jillian Michaels
The Metabolism Advantage - John Berardi

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