I want to tell you about a nutrition strategy I use that can be very effective for losing fat. It’s also simple, straight forward, and I call it “Lean and Green”.
What I mean by Lean and Green is that dinner is comprised of lean meats, vegetables (they don’t all have to be green), and healthy fats. Grains, processed carbs, and beans (starchy carbs in general) are not eaten. It’s basically how we as humans used to eat 10,000 years ago before the advent of agriculture. And yes, we were lean, mean, fighting machines back then. Do you need to avoid starchy carbs to lose fat? Absolutely, not, but doing so can help limit calorie intake.
Here are some examples of Lean and Green meals:
• Big salad with vegetables (basically any vegetable of your choice, you can get creative), grilled chicken (or any lean meat of your choice), and dressing (just be mindful 1 tablespoon of olive oil has 110 calories, and a couple tablespoons of the average dressing has around 100 calories).
• Salmon with string beans and asparagus
• Top Sirloin steak (preferably grass fed, has 1/3 the saturated fat) with spinach
I know your mouth is starting to water right now…ok, maybe it’s not, but I think you can develop an appreciation for going Lean and Green, especially when you start seeing the inches coming off.
My favorite Lean and Green meal is definitely salad with veggies and a lot of lean meat. I find it very satisfying and I crave the fresh taste of lettuce and especially crunchy peppers (I used to hate all vegetables and never ate salad until my late teens). One lean meat I really enjoy is 96/4 organic ground beef that I buy at Trader Joes for only $4 per pound. That’s an awesome deal and it only has 2.5 grams of saturated fat per 4 ounces.
So why can this Lean and Green strategy so effective? There are few key reasons:
1) Less Carbs – The vast majority of us eat far too many carbs in general, so our insulin levels are constantly elevated. Insulin is a storage hormone that whisks excess glucose out of our bloodstream into fat cells (assuming our glucose storage tanks – our muscles and liver – are full). Insulin is released when we eat carbohydrates, especially starchy, sugary, and processed carbohydrates. By limiting carbohydrate intake at night, we are in effect controlling the insulin our bodies release.
2) Veggies are “free” food – Vegetables are the perfect food for fat loss because eating them is like “free” food. What I mean is that the amount of calories a vegetable contains is usually burned off during digestion. So it’s really like you’re eating food that provides no calories. In fact, some vegetables like lettuce require your digestive system to burn more calories than the lettuce contains! This concept is known as negative calorie balance. To top it off, veggies contain ample amounts of fiber, which help you feel more satiated. Needless to say, if you are trying to lose fat, veggies should be an important part of your nutrition strategy.
3) Less Calories – The overall calories you consume in a day are usually less when you cut out starchy carbs at night. Most people have their largest (and unhealthiest) meal at dinner, right before going to bed. This may not be a good idea because eating too much right before you go to sleep can affect quality of your sleep and is associated with weight gain.[Available at: http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20090903/eat-late-put-on-weight. Accessed February 10, 2013.] If you go Lean and Green, then you are looking at 300-500 calories depending on how much healthy fat you have and how much meat you consume. That’s a solid range.
This type of strategy is also used by natural bodybuilders and fitness models, but it’s known as “carbohydrate tapering”. The idea is that our bodies are best able to utilize carbohydrates for energy in the beginning of the day, so as the day wears on, less carbs should be consumed to allow for maximum fat burning. There is no research to my knowledge that proves this approach actually works better, but the idea is that by limiting carb intake, you are limiting calorie intake. In addition, most carbs that people eat are generally the empty calorie variety.
I’m not suggesting you have to cut carbs at night in order to lose fat and that all carbs are bad. In fact, I prefer a moderate carb diet to a low carb diet. While low carb diets have been proven by mountains of research to lead to faster fat loss, they’re also notoriously difficult to maintain (there’s the catch!). So people who go “on” low carb diets inevitably gain the weight back when they go “off” the diet. That’s why I call Lean and Green a “nutrition strategy”, something to have in your bag of tricks.