Firstly, there is no such thing as a “diet.” Proper nutrition is a lifelong endeavor. We’re not talking about a transient weight loss in preparation for the prom. My prescribed “diet” is not based on a proprietary system or universal guidelines. It is based on science, on data, data extracted from you during your office visit. Here’s the great thing: it works every time, with 100% certainty, provided you remain diligent. Why? Because physiologically you are no different than me, nor your neighbor, nor your sibling. What makes you fat makes everyone fat. And the opposite is true as well.
A couple of foundational principles:
1. A low insulin signal promotes fat burning, while a high level of serum insulin encourages fat deposition. How does one drive insulin levels down? Easy. Consume only low glycemic index carbohydrates. My “upper GI cutoff” is 40.
2. Consume 1g of protein per pound of lean body mass daily. This will support your muscle mass. Why is this important? Your muscle is your metabolic machinery. And what does recovering muscle preferentially use an energy substrate? Fat. Yes muscle “burns” fat, even while you’re sleeping. That said, if you want to lose fat, skip the daily jaunt on the treadmill and instead train with weights. And eat to support that muscle.
3. Consume fat unapologetically. Eating fat encourages the body to use fat as an energy source. You must “teach” the body to burn fat by eating fat therefore. Does eating fat make you fat? No. That’s a myth, one that was unfortunately the premise of the 1980-style low-fat diet. Wrong.
4. Stoke the metabolism by eating frequently throughout the day. Forget the intermittent fasting. Eat every 2-3 hours as eating, particularly protein-laden meals, augments metabolic rate significantly. You want to live in a low insulin-state with a high metabolic rate. Burn fat and burn it robustly as a primary fuel source, even while you’re sleeping!
5. Eat at your BMR, no less. Part and parcel to rule #4. Consume enough food to support your metabolic machinery. Else run the risk of shedding muscle. Take the famed “HCG diet” for example. This is a prime example of what not to do. DO NOT EVER reduce your daily caloric intake below your sedentary BMR (calculated or measured) as is promulgated by many mainstream diet plans. Sure, you’ll lose weight, but you’ll lose metabolically precious muscle. Do you want to look gaunt and lose strength, let alone the longevity benefits that muscle confers? Don’t do it.
Onto the plan…
- Firstly calculate or ideally measure your sedentary basal metabolic rate (BMR). Do not factor in your activity level. Your macronutrients will be calculated based upon this value.
- Next, calculate your lean body mass by subtracting your fat mass from your bodyweight. How do you calculate your fat mass? Get a body fat analysis (either via DEXA, skin caliper measurement, water immersion or an anthropometric scale). Multiply this percentage by your total body weight and you’ve got it: your fat mass. Subtract your fat mass (in lbs) from your bodyweight. The difference is your lean body mass or LBM.
- Daily protein requirement = 1g of protein per pound (lb) of lean body mass. For example, if your LBM is 150 lbs, you will consume 150g of protein daily. Multiply your calculated daily protein load (in grams) by four (4). This will give you daily protein calories.
- Daily carbohydrate requirement = 50 – 100g. These include only those carbohydrates with glycemic indices less than 40. Where to start? 50, 75 or 100g? This will be a matter or trial and error. If you are more than 200 pounds (bodyweight) however, begin with either 75 or 100g of daily carbohydrates, else you may develop significant fatigue, during the first several weeks of the program while your metabolism is shifting. Once your carbohydrate load has been selected, multiply this value (in grams) by four (4). This will give you daily carbohydrate calories.
- Now, ADD daily protein calories TO daily carbohydrate calories. SUBTRACT this total FROM your calculated/measured BMR. Now DIVIDE this difference by 9 to determine your daily fat requirement (in grams).
There you have it. And now just a couple more rules to augment fat loss:
- No eating after 7P nightly.
- Drink at least 1 gallon of water daily, and if possible cold water.
- “Stack your carbohydrates” around your training sessions. This will not only promote muscle recovery (and in fact deter muscle loss), but also allow for rapid disposal of carbohydrate, protecting the endothelium (blood vessel lining).
- In a similar vein, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” Your heaviest burden of carbohydrate should be in the morning OR stacked around a training session as per rule #3.
And that’s it. Your macronutrients can now be plugged into a macronutrient tracker (my patients use the My Fitness Pal app). Track your macros daily for at least 12 weeks. This will condition your metabolism to call upon bodily fat stores (as opposed to relying on consumed carbohydrate). Concomitantly, you will be mentally conditioned to make the right food choices moving forward. Health is habit-forming! It is a lifestyle.