Back in January, many people “resolved” to get lean by cleaning up their diets. Some flourished, shaving excess holiday blubber from their waistlines, but a great many more of them failed because their high expectations weren’t matched by solid, realistic planning.
Too strict, not strict enough, binge eating, poor meal timing, bad food choices — the list goes on. Getting peeled to the bone requires, above all else, a stubborn insistence on reaching the goal at hand but understanding that the fundamentals of fat loss can help you to achieve a rock-hard, striated physique. Avoid the same dietary pitfalls that have doomed diets past, with the help of nutritionist Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC.
1 EAT OFTEN
Eating five to six times a day, according to White, may be the most crucial part of your fat-loss plan. “You need to have regular meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your metabolism peaked and your energy levels high throughout the day,” she says. In other words, missing meals in the name of reduced calories ends up working against you. Also, frequent meals and snacks keep your blood sugar levels steady, holding cravings at bay.
2 CHOOSE HIGH-QUALITY PROTEIN
Sure, there’s protein in that double cheeseburger, but the fat content isn’t exactly manna for your midsection. “To get lean, you should be focusing on high-quality proteins such as lean meats, fish, eggs, chicken and turkey,” White says. “Dirty” proteins found in fast food will only flood your diet with empty calories and more fat than you’d like.
3 TIME YOUR PROTEIN
Rely on whole foods most of the day and keep the protein shaker cup on hand for your postworkout recovery. “Getting in 40 to 60 grams of fast-digesting whey after working out is ideal because your muscles are broken down and most sensitive to the protein you take in,” White says. If you train in the evening, this postworkout shake also serves as a healthy bridge to a protein-rich dinner.
4 DON’T HATE ON CARBS AND FAT
Sure, you need to be on a “higher” protein diet if getting lean is your goal (about 1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day), but going overboard with the carb- and fats-deprivation can actually hamper your results. “You need all three macronutrients — protein, carbs and fat — to keep your metabolism running efficiently,” White says. When it comes to carbs, reach for mostly whole-grain sources and avoid consuming them too late in the day, say after 6 p.m. Choose nuts, seeds, avocados and healthy oils for your major fat sources.
5 DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS
Ever been at work and had the vending machine shout your name from down the hall? It’s far more likely that you’re thirsty than hungry. Water not only keeps you satiated but also keeps your fat-fighting machinery functioning properly. And have you ever tried to plow through a high-octane, fat-burning workout when you’re low on water? “Dehydration can lead to fatigue early in workouts,” White says. Aim to consume half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day. For a 200-pound male, that’s 100 ounces. Easier than it sounds, we assure you, and far easier than pushing through dehydration-related weariness.