What a lot of people don’t realize is that a fat loss diet is different from a “weight loss” diet. When you follow a diet and drop 10lbs in 3 days, the weight is usually coming from somewhere other than fat (muscle, water). When your goal is permanent weight loss, you want to keep your muscle at all costs, since muscle dictates your metabolism (more muscle = more calories burnt at rest!) Holding onto muscle will keep you lean and healthy.
A fat loss diet is different from a weight loss diet because weight loss is focused more on calories, whereas fat loss focuses more on types of foods and hormones. On a fat loss diet, you eat more food than you think should, however the foods you eat are nutritionally dense, calorically sparse, and have plenty of protein and fiber.
Keep in mind that there are foods that are considered “healthy”, (packed with vitamins, minerals and good-for-you ingredients), but they can stall fat loss efforts. So our focus here is on fat loss.
Foods with Fat Loss Characteristics:
- Food should be relatively low in calories.
- Food should have more protein and or fiber relative to sugar and carbohydrates. Foods containing high protein slow the absorption of carbohydrate, preventing major dips in energy while also keeping you full longer.
- Food should be high in fiber content relative to total carbohydrate. These are mainly low glycemic index fruits, all fibrous vegetables and leafy greens. Whole grains have higher absolute amounts of fiber but contain too much total carbohydrate (relative to fiber) to be considered a true fat loss food. Fiber also helps to stabilize blood sugar, decreasing hunger and cravings.
- Fat loss foods are ones that are higher in water relative to sugar. Fruits in general have high water content, but many contain high amounts of natural sugar. Choose fruits that are lower on the glycemic index and that contain higher amounts of fiber and water. All fibrous vegetables contain a greater % of water than do denser starchy ones like potatoes peas, corn and squash.
Here are the top fat loss foods:
Bison or grass fed beef
Lean turkey (ground or breasts)
White fish (halibut, cod, tuna etc)
Spinach and all other leafy greens
Unsweetened cocoa powder
10 Rules of Eating for Fat Loss
Eat smarter not less
The idea here is to increase the amount/volume of food you eat without increasing the calories. How? Eat food that has a higher water, fiber and protein content (like the foods just mentioned). This will speed up your metabolism during digestion without going over in calories.
Use the “bite rule” for starch and sugars.
Insulin is a fat storing and fat locking hormone, which means when it’s around, calories will be stored as fat and fat can not be used as energy. The major trigger for insulin release is starchy foods and sugar like bread, pasta, cookies, crackers etc. (especially large portions of these foods). The body will do best with a small amount of starch and sugar, but excess intake will increase fat storing. By limiting the amount of starch/sugar to “bites” and/or small controlled portions, you will be able to simply and efficiently control insulin levels while avoiding drops in blood sugar that can cause cravings and low energy.
In general, most people will want to limit starch/sugar intake to 3-15 bites at a meal depending on how insulin sensitive they are, or stick with the ½ cup portion size. This can vary depending on activity and calorie needs, but this is a general rule for fat loss.
Eat the Right Fats.
Certain fats will help you burn fat. Eating healthy fat (in the right amounts) can help you burn fat. First, fat helps control hunger through the release of a hunger hormone called CCK. Next, certain healthy fats (like omega 3 from grass fed animals and wild caught fish) can actually turn on fat burning genes by interaction with cell receptors called PPAR’s. While decreasing fat is a good thing because it can be high in calories, avoiding it all together is not smart. The best approach is to eat your fat in the form of fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and grass fed or wild animals.
Eat lean protein at every meal.
Protein has many beneficial effects on fat burning. First, when eaten it will release the fat burning hormone glucagon. Protein is also very slow to digest and requires more work by the body to break it down. This increases the amount of calories and heat the body has to use.
Another beneficial effect of protein is its very satisfying and helps us stay full and maintain blood sugar levels to avoid drops in energy and reduce cravings. Extra protein also helps build and maintain muscle which is the body’s most important metabolic tissue. Skimping on protein will create cravings and leave you feeling deprived.
Avoid foods that increase hunger
There are several foods and beverages that will increase hunger because of their effect on stress hormones and insulin. These include sweets, snack foods, fried foods, artificial sweeteners, etc. Some people call these foods "trigger foods" because when you have one bite you don't want to stop. This is not willpower it is a chemical reaction happening in your brain. Avoid these foods to keep from developing cravings which leads to overeating.
Give your body at least 12 hours of digestion rest each night.
When you give your body time to digest between meals, your insulin levels are low which helps you enter into fat burning mode. This is why intermittent fasting has become a popular way to get lean. While this window of eating can be different for everyone depending on lifestyle and fat loss goals, it can be very helpful to make sure you have at least 12 hours of digestion rest each night.
Never let yourself get too hungry
Extreme hunger is a powerful subconscious drive. Once you let yourself get very hungry, all bets are off and this is the biggest reason people overeat their calories at meals. Try to eat every 3-4 hours to ward off extreme hunger, and make sure the quality of your nutrition is keeping you satisfied until the next meal.
Protein bars and shakes are great for quick meals- as long as they are the right kind!
Bars and shakes can be handy functional foods that can quickly and conveniently decrease cravings and hunger. These should be used as small snacks in between meals to decrease hunger, provide building blocks for muscle and stabilize energy. They should be purchased only if they fit the label reading rule (see #9). A lot of bars out there are packed with sugar and hydrogenated fats so make sure you read the label. Or you can learn to make your own protein bars/shakes to assure you are getting great nutrition.
Learn the metabolic effect label rule
The nutrition labels on packaged foods such as protein bars are confusing for most people, not to mention there are so many to choose from these days.
Rule: If you subtract the fiber and protein from the total carbohydrates on a label, the total should equal 10 or less to be a great fat burning food. The lower the number, the better.
In addition, the fat content should be less than 15. If not, this food will not be effective at helping you manage your fat loss goals.
Get enough sleep! Sleep can be prime fat burning time or prime fat storing time. The best way to assure you will be burning fat not storing it is to first get adequate sleep. Sleep helps release human growth hormone (HGH), which is a powerful fat burning and muscle building hormone.