Keep it simple, stupid!
Succesful fat loss and more than than: the maintenance of a lean and healthy physique is a matter of habits, not FADs, hypes & experiments.
I recognize myself in most of these habits, do you?
Have a look and ask yourself what you could change to become leaner!
Thanks Andrew for another great article!
- People who are naturally skinny. You know that friend of yours who can eat whatever he/she wants and is still not fat – he/she won the genetic lottery – you didn’t – keep looking.
- People whose full-time job is to be in amazing shape. Examples include: professional bodybuilders, physique stars, models, movie stars or pro athletes. These folks are in a different world than you and I.
- Young people – many folks in their teens and early 20’s are lean simply because they are young – not because they know what they are doing. Now, I know plenty of young trainers who do know what they are doing so don’t misunderstand what I’m saying – if young trainer can help middle-aged adults get lean, he/she obviously knows a thing or two.
Your action step: pick on the methods listed above and develop the habit of consistently tracking everything you eat. At least a few times per week, go back and reflect on your records.
Your action step: strive towards consistency with your eating and training. The real secret with doing this is start where you are at. Don’t try to go all hard-core overnight. Instead, take slow, gradual consistent baby steps towards consistent lean eating and consistent hard training.
Your action step: choose a way to evaluate your progress. Avoid just looking in the mirror or standing on the scale. Instead, this might be snapping a quick selfie (same conditions each time), doing measurements, seeing how you fit a certain pair of jeans or getting more official body composition testing. Re-test every 2-4 weeks. You won’t see massive changes but you will know if you are on track or not. Adjust your nutrition and training when things are not moving in the right direction.
Your action step: emphasize strength training in your training program. If you want complete fat loss workouts that emphasize strength training, check out my book Athletic Training for Fat Loss.
Your action step: instead of hopping from one program to the next, pick a program and stick with it for at least a month or two. Get a training journal. Always start a training session by looking back at your previous session and trying to beat that with an extra rep or a little more weight.
|How far do you want to go?|
I can’t believe i’ve not shared this recipe before!
I found this recipe from Holly on Pinterest many, many months ago and have been using it as a base for nearly weekly turkey burgers! They just never get old.
How I customize them to my own tastebuds: always include fried onion in the mixture and as I like it spicy I use loads more Chili and vary the type.
I alternate the cheese I use, blue being an absolute favorite. Then I sometimes like to bulk them up by adding fried mushrooms, apple, dried tomato or even cooked lentils. The sky is the limit: I will admit I like very odd combinations… but don’t knock it til you’ve tried it yourself. Enjoy!!!
Thanks Holly 🙂
Jalapeño Cheddar Burgers (Turkey or Beef)
I LOVE Burgers! Beef, turkey, pork… I love them all! Cheese, mushrooms, onions, jalapeño…. there is almost nothing I don’t love on burgers!
These might be my absolute favorite turkey burgers of all time!! The delicious jalapeño cheddar filling in these burgers keeps lean meat juicy and tender while adding tons of flavor! The burgers in the photo were made with turkey, but I have also done these with lean beef and they were equally delicious! They can broiled in the oven or cooked on the grill!
If you prefer, you can purchase a stuffed burger press to get perfectly uniform stuffed burgers… or you can just do them by hand. Either way, you won’t be disappointed with these delicious patties!
- 28 oz lean turkey or beef (not extra lean)
- 2 tablespoons finely minced onion
- salt & pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons cream cheese
- 2 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, diced (seeds removed if you prefer less spice)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Rolls & Toppings as desired
- Preheat grill to medium or oven to broil on high.
- In a small bowl combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic powder and diced jalapeno.
- Combine meat, salt & pepper and minced onion. Divide meat into 4 even pieces (7oz each). Take ¼ of the cream cheese mixture and flatten it into a pancake shape. Wrap beef or turkey around the cheese ensuring the cheese mixture is completely covered. Brush each burger with a little bit of olive oil.
- Grill burgers over medium heat for 6-7 minutes on each side or until completely cooked. (Turkey should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees and beef should reach 160 degrees.)
- Place burgers on a foil covered pan approximately 6″ from the broiler. Broil 5-6 minutes on each side or until completely cooked. (Turkey should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees and beef should reach 160 degrees.)
Sound familiar? It’s the first thing people say to me when we sit down to talk about their fitness goals and how their diet plays into them.
The fact is that simply eating “healthy” isn’t going to cause fat loss. You can eat healthy food all day, but if you eat too much of it, you will not lose fat. Our media and many popular diets have lied to us, promoting the idea that simple moderation is enough to cause fat loss. In reality, most people’s diets need a long-term, lifelong overhaul, not just a simple reduction in portion sizes or a trade-off from 5 Snickers snack bars per day to 3.
That’s not to say that portion control isn’t a factor in fat loss (see point #3, below). But portion control alone does not account for the different types of foods available to us, and knowing what foods to prioritize is an additional key to starting the fat loss process.
Here, then, are 3 diet changes just about everyone must make if she wants to lose body fat:
#1. Prioritize protein over carbs
Protein is the foundation of a lean, strong body. It repairs muscles and tissues. It cannot be stored by the body. And many of the amino acids necessary in the body cannot be made by the body — so we must eat protein to get the appropriate amino acids.
In addition, people looking to lose body fat and maintain muscle mass need to eat more protein than average. Unfortunately, most people who simply attempt to lose fat via calorie or portion control often do not meet their protein needs. They choose to eat carbs — such as breads, grains, beans, fruits, and potatoes — over proteins, and when they realize their protein intake is too low, they can’t find ways to fit it into their diets without going over on calories. To make matters worse, many people eat more carbs than their body needs on a daily basis, creating an excess that the body will store as fat if those carbs aren’t used up.
The solution to this is simple:
Cut back the carbs that are taking up so much of your diet, and replace them with protein.
A good basic measure of protein portions is the palm of your hand. If you eat frequently, such as 5-6 small meals each day, shoot for 1 palm-sized portion of protein at each meal. If you eat less frequently, such as 3-4 larger meals per day, shoot for 2 palm-sized portions of protein at each meal.
Once you’ve added this protein to your meals, you’ll need to cut your carb portions back. Consider just eating carbs at 1-2 meals per day, or consider eating your carbs only after you’ve had your protein, and stop eating those carbs once you’re starting to feel full.
And then jump to #3 below to make sure you know the difference between just full and over stuffed.
#2. Eat veggies over fruit (and starchy carbs)
The recommended fruit and vegetable intake in the US tends to be somewhere in the 5-9 servings per day range, depending on age and information source. The problem, however, is that many people satisfy this recommendation (if they satisfy it at all!) with mostly fruit and very little veggies.
For fat loss, however, veggies give you the bigger bang for your buck. Non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, zucchini, greens, and lettuces, are far lower in calories and higher in volume than most popular fruits.
In other words, you can eat what appears to be a LOT of veggies for what amounts to not a lot of calories.
Contrast this with higher calorie popular fruits, like bananas, apples, pears, and melons, and the difference could be a couple hundred calories per day. This isn’t to say that all fruit should be off-limits for fat loss; rather, the focus should be on vegetables, not fruits, with fruits used in smaller amounts and as garnishes rather than central meal components.
The same goes for starchy carbs — rather than fill a dinner plate 1/2 with potatoes and 1/4 with spinach, flip flop those ratios. Fill a plate with 1/2 spinach, 1/4 potatoes (if you need the potatoes at all), and top it all with your protein selection.
If you can build your meals around mostly veggies and lean proteins, you’ll find yourself more easily satisfied after eating, and you’ll be well on your way to fat loss.
#3. Eat until you’re just full
You’ve probably heard the idea that your body doesn’t start to send out fullness signals until around 20 minutes after you start eating. Most of us, however, don’t need 20 minutes to eat a modest meal. And telling you to chew more slowly is trite and unpractical. Unless you’re sucking down your food faster than a shop vac, you’re probably eating slowly enough.
The struggle, then, is how to stop yourself when you’re just the right amount of full instead of continuing to eat until you’re stuffed. Building your meals around protein and veggies is a good start — both of those foods create fullness faster than many other foods.
But you’re also going to have to simply suck it up and stop eating sooner than you’re used to, and this is the habit that many people struggle with. We tend to show our love and to celebrate life via food, often via overeating food, and we have become accustomed to large meals and portion sizes. Changing this is really a matter of consciously choosing to stop eating. And as simple as the answer may be, it is also extraordinarily difficult.
One thing that can help is remembering to visually check portion sizes before you start eating. When you know your plate contains the properly sized portions to make your body full but not stuffed, you can start to pay attention to what just full, rather than stuffed, feels like. Once you stop eating at the proper portion sizes several times, you will get your brain and body accustomed to the feeling, so that after a while, you no longer have to consciously choose to stop eating. You’ll naturally feel like your meal is over when your proper portion sizes are gone; by repeating the behavior multiple times, you’ve normalized it.
You don’t need to jump from an unhealthy diet to an overwhelmingly restrictive meal plan. But you do have to make specific changes if you want to reach and maintain long-term fat loss. Protein, veggies, and learning to eat just to fullness are the big rocks of successful fat loss — once you’ve mastered those, then you can sweat the small stuff.
Over the past year, I’ve continually identified sleep as the limiting factor for many people’s weight loss attempts. Beyond tracking food intake and exercise, I’ve had people I work with track sleep. It doesn’t have to be detailed; I just want to know if they’re over seven hours or under. It’s striking how much sleep deprivation can get in the way of success.
Recently, I experienced this sleep deprivation cycle first hand. My wife found a stray dog in the parking lot of the grocery store, and we took him in. Let’s hope it isn’t a 15-year foster. Given the fact that we already have three dogs, my sleep has suffered. I have been waking up more often, and my sleep has been dipping under seven hours.
As a side effect, I’ve noticed I’m far hungrier. My usual breakfast doesn’t hold me over. One night, I had three bowls of chili, and was still looking for more. Usually one bowl would have kept me happy. I also started to include bench press in my workouts for the first time in years, so perhaps that has something to do with increased hunger. Stray dogs and bench press are bad for your health. You heard it here first.
The Science of Being Tired
When we don’t sleep enough, good food choices become difficult from both a psychological and physiological standpoint. Our mind is tired, and coming home from a long day at work makes cooking dinner and exercising difficult. Being trapped in an office, fueled by caffeine, and staring at pastries is tough enough. Doing it when you’re tired also causes our bodies to be hungrier. So we get hungrier and snacking becomes more desirable.
Shift workers are most often the subjects of research into the effects of sleep deprivation, because of the marked increase in obesity and metabolic complications seen in this group. There are many hypothesized reasons shift workers see these issues: lack of access to quality food at night, increased hunger during day time, and a broken circadian rhythm are a few.
Researchers attempt to recreate these conditions to isolate causes. In one study with an impressive study design, young adult males were basically shacked up for 11 days and forced to be sleep deprived. One group slept four hours a night, the other group got six. Meals were given, and snack opportunities were had, but the participants were not allowed to eat whenever they liked. Core temperature was continuously monitored rectally to track circadian rhythms. I hope these guys were well compensated! The researchers tried to gain insight on hunger levels related to circadian cycles to understand more about shift workers.
The group allowed four hours per night reported higher hunger levels, less satiety (feeling full), more consumption, and less satisfaction from meals than the six hour a night people. Both groups certainly had negative changes, but in this study, it appeared dose-dependent. The less sleep, the worse it was in terms of eating.
Two of the biggest factors for weight loss are portion control and having set meal times. This becomes increasingly difficult when we need to eat more to be full and we are less satisfied with meals. This leads to more snacking, and since we are tired, the decision to snack becomes easier.
The less sleep you get, the poorer your food choices are likely to become.
An excellent review of the existing literature highlights many of the hormonal changes that result from sleep deprivation relating to hunger and poor health outcomes. I love this line in particular:
“Chronic circadian misalignments not only influence sleep but also influence several other systems including the immune system, appetitive hormones, and energy balance.”
We are tired, sick, and cranky people! Go to bed.
The review highlighted several interesting developments in hormone research. Our gut is connected to our brains more than we know. The hypothalamus secretes orexin, which is involved in the sleep and wake cycle as well as energy balance. It helps activate parts of the nervous system that give the brain feedback on energy balance by monitoring things such as blood sugar and leptin levels. A lack of orexin leads to obesity in animal models, due to decreased activity. Even though appetite goes down in these studies, the lack of activity leads to weight gain. This orexin system is one way the brain keeps tabs on energy balance, and it does so by also including the hormones ghrelin and leptin. As we become sleep deprived, ghrelin increases and leptin decreases. This isn’t desirable, because ghrelin increases hunger, and leptin helps decrease it.
Essentially, when we lack sleep, our communication from brain to gut is disturbed, and this cascades into other hormones misfiring. Long term sleep deprivation makes these problems even worse. I give this information not to make you think about your ghrelin levels at night or talk about your orexin feedback loop at the water cooler. Rather, understand that there are physiological changes in your body when you don’t get enough sleep.
Tips to Hit the Pillow Harder
What can we do about this? We live in a time where it’s almost a badge of honor to work more and sleep less. Extra-large coffee and energy shots. When I moved from New York to Utah, I was determined to get there as quickly as possible because I hated driving that big truck. I popped caffeine pills, drank Mountain Dew, and slapped myself to keep awake. I have no idea how I made it in a day and a half. In fact, I can’t drive more than four hours anymore without becoming sleepy. I used up my “stupid decisions” quota.
But you’ll be more productive and much happier if you get seven hours of sleep or more. Being tired and having no energy becomes the new normal for us, until we break out of it. With a happier attitude, more productivity, and normalized hunger levels, making changes to your diet will be much more attainable. There are several important changes you can try.
Eat What You Know
One study noted that “…novel foods are found to have lower expected satiation than familiar foods and expected satiety ratings have been shown to increase the more familiar a food becomes.”
The more familiar you are with a food, especially when you know that it will keep you satisfied, the better the outcome. Going with a new food may lead you to eat more because it didn’t give you the sensation of being full. There is a whole area of study where scientists look at expected satiety and how we react to foods we know and do not know. If you expect that the meal will keep you full, it has a better chance to do just that.
I’m not advocating eating the same thing day in and day out. That gets boring. But certainly a breakfast can be a rotation of three options that you know and like. Picking one or two meals and making them a little boring for a while can help with eating less and not being hungry all the time.
Have a Tracking System
Without a system, how do you know what your body is doing? I have people I work with track sleep, over 7 or under, and rate how each meal keeps them full or not. You can begin to see correlations. If you sleep more on the weekends, for example, see how that changes your reaction to the same meal.
Data is helpful in lowering the intimidation factor for change. If you get 5 hours of sleep a night, getting 8 seems daunting. However, if you track hunger and sleep, and get 5.5 hours of sleep by making a few sacrifices (Game of Thrones on DVR, or move to the west coast to catch NFL night games earlier), you can see the improvements on paper. Perhaps those changes are good enough for now. Change enough to get results, and you can always do more at a later time.
Diet and workouts suffering? Start tracking your sleep, and you’ll probably find a correlation.
Magnesium is my first line of defense, especially the brand Natural Calm. It mellows you out enough to help you go to sleep. It isn’t too powerful, and it can help a small amount. Melatonin would be next. Try a small amount to see if it can induce sleep. Perhaps once you get in the routine of sleeping better, you may not need a supplement anymore. I chose these two because they are well-studied and have minimal negative effects. Perhaps a visit with a doctor can help you explore other options.
Change Your Routine
Some things in life are unavoidable. If you have a newborn, sleep can be hit or miss, and there isn’t too much you can do about it. But some things can be controlled. Cutting television short, getting home from work on time (which you can when you have more sleep, because you’ll be more productive), and preparing chores in advance on off days can help with more free time to get to sleep. Look for time “leaks” in your day, and I am quite confident we can add a half hour or more to devote to sleep.
You Can’t Be Fit With Bad Sleep
We can’t “hack” sleeping less and doing more. At some point, it bites us. Starting a nutrition program or exercise routine is a great idea. But it all starts with sleep. It is the catalyst that makes every other change possible. Portion control, meal times, food quality, exercise intensity, and hunger are all altered by how much sleep we get. Losing weight requires a caloric deficit. Not sleeping makes us hungrier. That’s a nasty combination.
It sounds almost too simple to be true. Get more sleep, get better results. Sleep isn’t something we can buy, inject, trade, or binge on periodically. It has to be consistent and in the right amounts. Our lives really do depend on it.
1. Sargent, Charli, Xuan Zhou, Raymond W. Matthews, David Darwent, and Gregory D. Roach. “Daily Rhythms of Hunger and Satiety in Healthy Men during One Week of Sleep Restriction and Circadian Misalignment.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 13, no. 2 (2016): 170.
2. Shukla, Charu, and Radhika Basheer. “Metabolic signals in sleep regulation: recent insights.” Nature and science of sleep 8 (2016): 9.
3. Forde, Ciarán G., Eva Almiron-Roig, and Jeffrey M. Brunstrom. “Expected satiety: application to weight management and understanding energy selection in humans.” Current obesity reports 4, no. 1 (2015): 131-140.
Today we’re talking about this healthy and delicious dinner of Sriracha & Lime Salmon w/ Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts. Disclaimer: there might have been quite a few more sprouts before I started taking pictures but I couldn’t stop eating them! Ooops.
My favorite thing about this dish is that it requires the smallest amount of effort. The hardest part is mincing the garlic and from there you just throw everything in a skillet. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. But not lemon…we’re using lime.
When cooking fish at home, salmon is usually my go to. Unfortunately, I don’t live in an area where fresh fish is seen very often so I most often buy it frozen. So, that’s what we have here.
Since the brussel sprouts take longer to cook, those go in first with the garlic to saute for a few minutes.
After the sprouts have cooked for about 8 minutes, take them off of the heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine honey, lime juice & zest, sriracha sauce, and salt.
Taking each piece of salmon individually, dip it into the sauce so that it is covered on each side. Place the salmon in the middle of the skillet.
Once the salmon is placed, pour the remainder of the sauce over top of the 2 pieces of salmon. The juices will spread throughout the pan which is okay. The brussel sprouts will soak up the extra sauce and make them extra yummmmmyyy. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.
When I first made this dish, I didn’t anticipate how much the brussel sprouts would also be flavored by the sriracha and lime juice. The honey causes it to kind of caramelize around the veggies and make them extra delicious.
It’s all topped with a good handful of cilantro and eaten right out of the skillet for maximum flavor consumption.
SRIRACHA & LIME SALMON W/ GARLIC ROASTED BRUSSEL SPROUTS
~1 pound of brussel sprouts, stemmed (fresh or frozen)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
2 medium-large pieces of salmon
1/4 cup of honey
Juice & zest of 1/2 a medium lime, plus extra juice for serving if desired
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of sriracha sauce
1 handful of lightly chopped cilantro (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium heat and add in the brussel sprouts and garlic. Saute for 7-8 minutes and then take the skillet off of the heat.
In a small bowl combine the honey, lime juice & zest, sriracha sauce, and salt.
Taking each piece of salmon individually, dip it into the sauce so that it is covered on each side. Place the salmon in the middle of the skillet.
Once the salmon is placed, pour the remainder of the sauce over top of the 2 pieces of salmon. The juices will spread throughout the pan which is okay.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
Top with cilantro and extra lime juice and ENJOY!!
This week: quite possibly the best share i’ve contributed to our blog.
How fit feels – those of us that have found the benefits of staying active KNOW this feeling, if you’re on the brink of starting your fitness journey please watch this and give us a call to start your journey TODAY.
Full credit goes to First FItness Australia for this brilliant documentary.
“Have we become too obsessed with how fitness is meant to look? Over 12 weeks we conducted an experiment. 3 unfit people took up exercise and 3 of the fittest gave it up. We wanted to see #howfitfeels“