The Quick Six:
Here are the “quick six” rules for eating to be lean and creating your Magic Metabolism:
1) Eat Breakfast, then eat every three to three and a half hours– Eating a balanced breakfast is the best way to kick-start your metabolism for the day. It is best to get a mix of lean proteins and complex carbohydrates within thirty minutes of waking up in the morning. Adding a fruit or vegetable to that mix is ideal. And because our modern food supply is lacking in many of the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function properly, it is essential to get a good multivitamin. I use and recommend Prograde made from more than 25 organically grown fruits and vegetables. This is better than those that are synthesized in a lab. You can only buy them online. Information is on the resources page at the end of the book. They make one specialized for men and for women.
Eating breakfast early kick-starts your metabolism for the day. Eat the right amount of calories by eating until you are “satisfied” but not “full”.
Then, eat a supportive meal or snack every three to three and a half hours. This is the fuel that keeps your “furnace” (metabolism) burning optimally. It is really that simple. Make sure to choose foods that are “best” or “good” from Page 2 of the nutrition guide. These are also called “A” and “B” grade foods.
Your body is incredibly powerful and has self-regulating mechanisms. This is how you make them work optimally.
2) Sugar Is Your Enemy – It is sugars (and white carbohydrates and processed foods that your body treats like sugars) that turn to fat in your body. When you eat these items, your body releases too much insulin, which in turn shuts down its ability to produce its primary fat-release hormone, Glucagon, effectively locking in fat storage. Your body is either a fat-storing machine or a fat-burning machine, depending on its hormonal balance. PERIOD. To get this balance right, avoid sugars, white carbohydrates and processed foods as much as possible, opting instead for lean proteins (eggs or egg whites, fish, chicken, lean cuts of red meat), complex carbohydrates (oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, yams) and fruits and vegetables.
If you are shopping and cooking at home, the “good” foods will be found in the periphery of the supermarket, while the “bad”, processed ones will be found in the aisles in the middle. You can also refer to Page 2 of my Supportive Nutrition Guide which lists the “best” and the “good” foods for each macronutrient type. Make a copy to put up on your refrigerator and one to take with you to the supermarket.
And watch out especially for “sugar on steroids”, also known as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This is the most toxic form of sugar. And it is in almost everything, even so-called “healthy” foods. Start to read labels and ingredient lists and avoid anything that contains HFCS.
People have been taught to eat only the white of the egg for as long as I can remember. The white of an does indeed contain very high quality proteins with the perfect amino acid profile. But it is in the yolk of the egg that most of the nutrition is found – nearly every vitamin required by the human body. Whole eggs have been shown to LOWER cholesterol, not RAISE it as we have been mislead to believe.
Imagine – The “incredible, edible egg” has enough nutrients to turn a single, fertilized cell into an entire baby chicken. And eating eggs for breakfast can increase your body’s fat-burning capabilities.
In a pinch, when you are unable to eat within the 3 to 3.5 hour time frame, a good, low-sugar protein shake (a mix of whey and casein protein is best), can be a good choice. Eating a protein with every meal is one of your best tools to turn your body into a fat-burning machine.
Speaking of bad fats, the fats to absolutely avoid are the hydrogenated fats, also known as trans-fats; these are enemies of every cell in your body and some of the very worst things you can eat. These are the fats that stay solid at room temperature for long periods of time such as the fats you will find in most processed, packaged foods and at many fast food restaurants. But they can also be lurking in healthy-seeming products, so it is important to read the labels on the back of food packages. AVOID THEM COMPLETELY.
The other type of fat, saturated fats, are the ones that are solid at room temperature such as butter and the fat in steaks. While you don't want to overdo it with these, eating some is actually good for you. For example, real butter is a MUCH better choice than margarine or “I can't believe it's not butter” type substitutes. These have added sugars, often HFCS and chemicals that turn into fat in your body and will pack on the pounds. Remember the recent cover of Time Magazine? It says, simply, “Eat Butter”. With some moderation, these fats are actually good for you.
The best way to ensure that you are getting an optimal complement of vitamins and minerals is to get as many colors into your diet as possible. The different colors in fruits and vegetables generally represent different phytonutrients which your body needs (and most Americans just don’t get enough of them).
For example, eat blueberries with your yogurt in the morning, a morning snack that includes carrots and red peppers (maybe with hummus), a salad of spinach and kale with chicken breast for lunch, an afternoon snack of turkey wrapped around tomato slices or peanut butter with an apple, and a dinner that includes sides of yellow squash and mushrooms. See how many different colors are in that example. That represents a wide spectrum of the nutrients that your body craves.
I also get a lot of questions about whether it is important to eat organic and/or local. It is a great idea to do that whenever possible. You see, the soil at most conventional farming operations has been overworked for decades and the produce that grows from it can be lacking in the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that your body needs. Add to this the fact that many are using hybrids that are grown to survive the long trips from farm to supermarket, which means that they are not the same fruits and vegetables that your grandparents ate. They are bred for size and color so that they look good, but are generally not only flavorless, but devoid of most of the nutrients you want to be eating.
Whenever possible, and I know it’s a little more expensive, try to get organic fruits and vegetables. And if they were grown within 100 miles of where you live, even better. This way the nutrients do not get “watered down” in the long shipping process. This also cuts down on your carbon footprint.
Most cities have fantastic greenmarkets and/or
Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) and FarmShare programs where you can support your local farmers AND get the best quality, most nutritious fruits and vegetables that are available today. Oh, and they taste WAY better than that orange tomato that’s not supposed to be orange.
6) Water, Water Everywhere – Maybe you have heard that, on average, sixty percent of the body is made of water. In order to function properly and, yes, that includes the ability to store fuel as muscle and process and burn fat, one must drink enough water every day. While there is some disagreement as to how much is needed, an absolute minimum is one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight. So drink up!
A note on Calories:
Calorie Count – I believe that most people do not need to count calories. Rather, if you eat breakfast early, eat until you are satisfied but not “full” and then do it again every three to three-and-a-half hours, you should be getting the correct amount of calories for your body. That said, if you’re a numbers person and want to be very specific, you can calculate how many calories you use in a day. This is known as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and you can calculate it at: mytdee.com. It will also give you your basal metabolic rate (BMR) which is the number of calories your body would burn if you were to lie in bed all day an not move, just to operate your organs.
During the program, if you are a numbers person and want to consider calories, I recommend eating around your TDEE during the first four weeks of the program, and five hundred calories less than your TDEE for the remaining six weeks of the program. However, if you are a person with a smaller frame, a “hard gainer” or your primary goal is adding muscle, then I recommend eating five hundred calories above your TDEE while you are in Phase 1 of the Program and right around your TDEE for the rest of the Program.
A Note On Your Grocery Store or Supermarket:
When you go shopping for food, there are things you can do to ensure that you will be buying the items that will help you to eat supportively and help your body start working FOR you instead of AGAINST you.
The first is to make sure you have a copy of page two of the Empower Fitness Supportive Eating Guide to take with you to the store.
There is a great adage for nutrition today that we would do well to follow:
"If your grandmother wouldn't recognize a product as food, then it's NOT food".
Your grandmother would recognize all of the foods on page 2 of the guide.
Another simple rule to follow is this: Shop in the perimeter of the store; that's where the real food is! Fruits and Vegetables. Meat, Poultry, Fish and Seafood. Dairy Products.
On the other hand, the interior of the store is where you will find all of the processed "foods". Many of these items contain VERY little in the way of nutritional value and TONS of additives, preservatives, sugars (especially HFCS) and the most unhealthy oils of all (the ones that won’t spoil at room temperature, thus increasing shelf-life almost indefinitely). If it never spoils on the shelf, imagine what it does in your intestines. These processed foods are the ones MOST responsible for the obesity epidemic in America that began in the 1950s.
Lets look at a great example: Bread. Many stores have 50-yard shelves full of different kinds of bread. They sound healthy on the front of the package, with words like "Whole Wheat" and "Enriched Grains". What is essential to understand here is that the front of the package is the advertising section for the product. The food companies can say pretty much whatever they want here. If you want to know what is really in it, turn it around and read the ingredients and the FDA-mandated Nutrition Label.
"Enriched Bread" - Sounds healthy, right? These products start out as healthy grains, and then the food companies mill, bleach, refine and process them until there is nothing left that can actually be called food so that it tastes good to the American diet - fluffy, white, sugary-tasting. In fact, HFCS, is a MAIN ingredient in most of the breads). And because all of the nutrition is processed out, the FDA mandated that these products could not legally be sold as food because there was ZERO nutritional value. So, the food companies put a couple of the B-Vitamins back in to appease the FDA (not hard to do) and these breads are the "enriched breads" that you see in every supermarket and grocery store in America.
"Whole Wheat Bread" - This moniker does NOT mean that you are getting healthy grains. Of all of the dozens and dozens of breads that say they are "whole wheat" in the last supermarket I visited, NONE of them actually contained any significant amount of the essential ingredient: Whole Grains. If the first ingredient on the label (the one that most of the product is made from) is not "Whole Grain" then the bread is probably processed to the point where your body will treat it as sugar. So, why are these breads brown? Shouldn't that mean that they are made from whole grains? The answer is probably not - Many of these products are colored with molasses or caramel to appear more brown and healthy.
With breads, as with all foods, look at the labels on the back of the product. Pay attention to the list of ingredients. If there are tons of ingredients, many of which you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize, then the product is healthy, not good for your fitness goals and, frankly, it’s not really food.
Lets talk about dairy products. Are your drinking your skim or low-fat milk? You probably are, because you were led to believe that these are healthier and better at keeping the weight off. False. Utterly and unequivocally false. This goes back to our discussion of how America became obese. When very bad science convinced the public that fat was bad, the food companies saw great profit in using cheap, unhealthy chemicals (chemicals which sabotage your metabolism to boot) which they could sell to an unsuspecting public.
Skim milk for example: Before processing, skim milk has a very unappetizing blueish color, a chalky taste, and watery texture that doesn’t resemble natural milk at all. So, to whiten, thicken, and make it taste a little 3into the milk.
What’s so bad about powdered milk? Well, in the manufacturing process, liquid milk is forced through tiny holes at very high pressure, which causes the cholesterol in the milk to oxidize, and toxic nitrates to form. Oxidized cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, while unoxidized cholesterol from unprocessed foods is actually an antioxidant to help fight inflammation in the body. The proteins found in powdered milk are so denatured that they are unrecognizable by the body and contribute to inflammation.
The same can be said for pretty much all low-fat options at your supermarket or grocery. These products have a deleterious effect on your health, you ability to burn fat, your cholesterol levels and your heart, the problems that we were led to believe came from what are actually healthy, natural fats
These are just a couple of examples of how the public is tricked into making poor nutrition choices in every supermarket and grocery store in America. Don't be fooled. Learn how to read labels so that you are getting more nutritious foods, foods that your body will use as fuel for your workouts and activities of daily living. The alternative is eating foods that throw off your blood sugar levels and get stored immediately as fat. Not good.
Greg Rothman, MS PT, is a fitness professional, writer and the owner of Empower Fitness in NYC. He received his Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Columbia University and has twenty years of experience in the fitness and rehabilitation fields. He believes that absolutely anyone can have the body of their dreams once they understand how to eat and exercise in a way that supports their goals. It is his mission to Empower as many people as possible to do just that. His “Recession-Proof” Fitness Programs are an affordable way to find dramatic physical change over the course of 10 weeks. Greg is happy to hear from you if you have questions about any topic related to fitness or nutrition, and can be found at www.GetEmpoweredFitness.com.