By JIM STOPPANI, PHD, AND JOE WUEBBE Flex
If you want to get ripped, you know the well-established dietary rules that need to be followed: eat six to eight meals every day, keep your carbs in check and your protein intake high. And then there are the not-so-well- established rules, the ones that may seem counterproductive but have been proven to work, either scientifically, anecdotally or both. We like to call them “tricks” for the simple reason that not everyone has caught on to them yet. Incorporate them into your nutrition regimen and you’ll be hooked — not to mention shredded — in short order.
1- CHEAT ON YOUR DIET
You can’t get lean without adhering to a clean diet, but at the same time, occasionally straying — a.k.a. cheating — can actually assist in losing fat. This doesn’t mean you should eat fast food all day long; rather, that you can increase carbohydrate and overall calorie intake for a single day. You can even have one meal of anything you want: a pizza, a burger and fries, lasagna, etc.
WHY IT WORKS: When you’ve been dieting strictly, your levels of the critical hormone leptin start to drop. Leptin keeps hunger down and metabolism up, so when its levels fall, you essentially burn fewer calories but eat more. Overeating boosts leptin levels, which keeps your metabolism high and hunger low, allowing you to burn more calories and consume less.
DO THIS: Increase calories by 25%–50% one day per week and at least double your carbohydrate intake on that day.
2- EAT BEFORE BED
While you sleep, your body is essentially in a fasting state and is stripping amino acids from your muscles to fuel your brain in the absence of food. And since any muscle loss is going to negatively affect your metabolism, so too will it hamper your fat-loss efforts.
WHY IT WORKS: Eating right before bedtime means that aminos will be taken from that meal, not your muscles. However, we don’t recommend scarfing down carbs — only protein and/or fat. Some good options are cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, natural peanut butter, nuts, flaxseed oil and casein protein powder — all slow- digesting, high-protein sources. Research has shown that casein also can help to encourage fat burning at night.
DO THIS: Eat either 8 ounces of low- fat cottage cheese, 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter or one scoop of casein protein powder.
3- SLOW CARBS PREWORKOUT
Many people still opt for fast carbs before training, thinking it will provide a jolt of energy. Maybe it will, but it won’t help you burn fat like slow-digesting, low-glycemic carbs.
WHY IT WORKS: One study performed at the National Taiwan College of Physical Education found that athletes consuming a preworkout meal of slow-digesting carbs and protein burned more fat during exercise and were able to train longer before reaching exhaustion than those not eating the slow carbs.
DO THIS: Within 30 minutes before training, consume 20–40 grams of low-glycemic carbs such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, fruit or sweet potatoes in addition to 20 g of whey protein.
4- FOCUS ON FAT
When trying to get ripped, cutting out all dietary fat isn’t a good idea. Healthy fats, namely omega-3 fatty acids, as well as monounsaturated fats, can actually help you lose bodyfat.
WHY IT WORKS: Fatty fish like salmon and trout as well as walnuts are good sources of omega-3 fats, while olive oil, peanut butter, avocados and eggs (see “Incredible & Edible”) are all good sources of monounsaturated fats. Plain nuts are great, too. One study out of Loma Linda University (California) reported that subjects following a low-calorie, high-fat diet with the majority of fat coming from almonds lost significantly more bodyfat than those consuming the same calories but higher carbs and lower fat.
DO THIS: Keep fat intake at 20%–30% of total daily calories.
INCREDIBLE & EDIBLE Not sure what to eat for breakfast? We’ll decide for you: eggs. Research has shown that people who consume whole eggs at breakfast lose significantly more than those who don’t. Go with three whole eggs first thing in the morning, along with an additional bodyfat three egg whites.
5- EAT FAT-BURNING FRUITS
Think about it: How many people do you know of who have gotten fat from eating berries and bananas? Thought so. Fruit, then, is not exactly the devil, but some are better than others when it comes to getting lean.
WHY IT WORKS: A study out of Scripps Clinic in San Diego, California, found that people eating half a grapefruit or eight ounces of grapefruit juice three times a day lost on average four pounds in 12 weeks; this is probably because of grapefruit’s penchant to lower insulin levels and boost metabolic rate. Apples, on the other hand, contain antioxidants called polyphenols that, in addition to boosting strength and endurance, aid in fat loss, especially around the abs.
DO THIS: Add half a grapefruit to your breakfast and lunch every day and have one large apple as your preworkout carb source, as one apple contains about 30 g of slow-digesting carbs.
6- GET YOUR CALCIUM
Eating dairy isn’t just about getting protein for building muscle; the calcium is a huge benefit for fat loss.
WHY IT WORKS: Calcium has been shown in numerous studies to enhance fat loss, particularly around the abs. It’s suggested that calcitrol, a hormone that promotes fat gain and limits fat burning, is suppressed when adequate calcium is consumed in the diet. Calcium may also help decrease the amount of dietary fat absorbed by your intestines, and a recent study suggests that it helps to curb food intake.
DO THIS: Opt for dairy products such as low-fat cottage cheese and Greek yogurt two or three times a day as high-protein snacks.
IT’S ALL GREEK: The difference between regular and Greek yogurt is pretty simple: the latter contains about twice as much protein as the former and about half the carbs.
7- EAT ORGANICALLY
Buying organic will cost you a few extra bucks, but for some foods it’s worth the added expense, as these all-natural forms can greatly enhance the fat-burning process.
WHY IT WORKS: One study out of the United Kingdom reported that organic milk had roughly 70% more omega-3 fats than regular milk. Another study found that organically raised (grass-fed) cows produced milk with a whopping 500% more conjugated linoleic acid than conventionally raised cows and that the meat from the organic ones also contained more CLA and omega-3s — both of which aid in fat burning as well as muscle building.
DO THIS: When shopping for milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese and beef, buy organic if you can afford it.
8- DRINK COLD WATER
Drinking water may seem too simple a way to get lean, but it works, especially when the water is cold. Plus, it’s cheap, so you’ll save money that can be spent on buying organic dairy and beef.
WHY IT WORKS: One study out of Germany showed that drinking two cups of cold water could increase metabolic rate by about 30%. It’s theorized that this is due to an increase in norepinephrine release brought on by the water. Another study found that those drinking two cups of water between meals also ate less food and lost five more pounds in 12 weeks than those not drinking extra water between meals.
DO THIS: Drink two cups of cold water between meals throughout the day.
DON’T DO THIS: Many dieters depend on diet sodas and other artificially sweetened beverages to satisfy their sweet cravings. Research has suggested that such drinks cause you to feel hungrier, making you more likely to stray from clean eating. Moreover, these sugar-free beverages can still increase insulin release, which can inhibit fat burn absolutely can’t do without your Diet Coke, just try to limit yourself to one per day at the absolute most.
9- SEEK OUT SOY
We know what you’re thinking: real men don’t eat soy. But in reality, real lean men eat soy, as it’s a potent fat burner.
WHY IT WORKS: University of Alabama (Birmingham) researchers found that individuals taking 20 g of soy protein daily for three months lost a significant amount of abdominal fat compared to those using casein. Soy also has been found to increase growth hormone levels. GH helps build muscle, yes, but it also burns fat.
DO THIS: Add 10 g of soy protein powder to your pre- and post-workout shakes.