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.
No one can resist a good bolognese. I love using spaghetti squash for meals where I want to keep the carbs a bit lower (
so i can have pudding) and this bolognese is absolutely heavenly, as most of Diane Sanfilippo meals are!
This recipe is from my New York Times Bestselling book, Practical Paleo.
spaghetti squash bolognese
A traditional meat sauce, Bolognese is usually made with heavy cream and a variety of meats. To keep this one dairy-free, I use coconut milk instead of cream.
grain-free • gluten-free • dairy-free • nut-free • seed-free • sugar-free • 21DSD
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOKING TIME: 60 minutes
YIELD: 4 servings
NUTRITION INFO: click here
- 1 spaghetti squash
- Sea salt & black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat or grass-fed butter
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 stalk of celery, finely diced
- 1 clove of garlic, grated or finely diced
- 1/2 lb ground veal or beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 3 ounces (1/2 small can) tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (optional, omit for 21DSD – you may replace with beef broth if you feel you need to add some liquid)
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise so that two shallow halves remain. Scoop out the seeds and inner portion of the squash, and then sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Place both halves face down on a baking sheet. Roast for 35-45 minutes—until the flesh of the squash becomes translucent in color and the skin begins to soften and easily separate from the “noodles” that make up the inside.
- Allow the squash to cool enough so that you can handle it, and then scoop the flesh out from the inside of the skin into a large serving bowl. Set aside until the sauce is finished.
- While the squash bakes: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the bacon fat or butter, and sautée the onions, carrots, and celery until they become translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Add the ground veal, pork, and bacon, and cook until browned through. Once the meat is done, add the coconut milk, tomato paste, and white wine (optional), and simmer over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes or until the sauce is well combined and any alcohol is cooked out (if you added it).
- Add sea salt and black pepper to taste before removing the sauce from the heat.
- Serve over the roasted spaghetti squash.
Yes, you can enjoy this recipe while on the 21-Day Sugar Detox! Simply omit the wine from the recipe.
I have told you before how much I love the versatility of cauliflower. This recipe is the start of that love story. The day that I discovered how similar mashed cauliflower tastes to mashed potatoes, was the day I started loving cauliflower. It was my gateway recipe to the world of transforming vegetables into meals you love. This recipe is one of the easiest to prepare. There are essentially three ingredients: cauliflower, almond milk, and garlic.
At our last get-together, I even tricked my family into eating mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes. They loved it. This is not just a dish for people eating Paleo, it is for everyone. Serve it in lieu of potatoes to lighten up your next meal.
To start this recipe, you heat up the oven and prepare the garlic. Then while the garlic is roasting, prepare the cauliflower. It doesn’t really matter how particular you are when chopping up the cauliflower into florets, because it will all be blended later anyways. The cauliflower is steamed for 12-14 minutes (which is much faster than boiling potatoes, if I may say so). Then it is blended with the rest of the ingredients.
For the measurements of almond milk and ghee, remember that you can always add more. You definitely don’t want to end up with soupy cauliflower, so add them in slow increments when blending.
I believe that the addition of roasted garlic really elevates this simple dish. Once the garlic is roasted and you let it cool or a few minutes, you can squeeze the garlic right out of the clove. I may or may not have added an entire head of roasted garlic to my mashed cauliflower. Feel free to use less of course. Though it’s a little extra time, roasting brings out so much more flavor than raw garlic would. Definitely worth it.
Once again, I love to use my immersion blender for recipes such as this, or for soups. Mainly because there is no need to transfer hot ingredients to and from a food processor or blender. Instead you can blend the cauliflower right in the pot.
One head of cauliflower will only serve about two people, which is perfect for my boyfriend and I. But if you are going to make this for a crowd I recommend doubling the recipe. It is a surprisingly delicious alternative to traditional mashed potatoes. Mashed cauliflower is an easy way to lighten up any meal, and it is plate-licking good.
- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/4 cup almond milk
- 1 tbsp ghee
- Head of garlic
- Fresh chives, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb, then cut off the very top of the head of garlic to expose the individual garlic cloves. Place in aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil, then seal the foil around the garlic. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cloves are soft. Allow garlic to cool, then squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of the skin.
- Meanwhile, place a couple inches of water in a large pot. Once water is boiling, place steamer insert and then cauliflower florets into the pot and cover. Steam for 12-14 minutes, until completely tender. Drain and return cauliflower to pot.
- Add roasted garlic, milk, ghee, and salt to the cauliflower. Using an immersion blender or food processor, combine ingredients until smooth. Top with chives and freshly ground pepper.
Another day another FAD diet, super food or ‘fat loss’ secret pops up into the media…
JMax did an excellent job at narrowing it down to 10 ‘commandments’ – blowing all FADs out of the window!
It’s the time of year we are all looking to get shredded.
To get shredded, you have to put the work in. This includes work in the weight rooms and in the kitchen with your nutrition.
To obtain that lean shredded physique that we all want takes time. It will not happen overnight. We can’t wake up one morning and expect to have a sculpted six pack. Although how great would that be! But do not fear! We’ve got you covered. Below are 10 commandments that we believe will give you the best possible chance of getting shredded if you take action and apply them. We have no doubt that if you follow these commandments, and lift some heavy things about 3-4 times a week, you will get the shredded physique that you’re after.
If you want to get shredded, here’re 10 simple nutrition commandments to follow.
Commandment #1 – Thou shall create a calorie deficit.
We are going to start with the basics.
Calories are the MOST important factor when it comes to determining how much weight we put on, or how much weight we lose. This sounds extremely simple, but if you want to lose weight or fat, you HAVE to eat less.
It still absolutely amazes us that people say that calories do not matter when it comes to fat loss. People who come out with this blanket statement are flat out disagreeing with the first law of thermodynamics. Energy cannot be destroyed or created, only transferred. Saying calories don’t matter when it comes to weight/fat loss is like saying a engine does not matter when it comes to driving a car. Your number one priority when it comes to getting shredded is making sure you are in a calorie deficit. If you don’t get that right then nothing else will matter! Cutting out gluten, wheat, dairy, and sugar does not get you shredded. Ensuring that you are in a calorie deficit for a prolonged period of time will get you shredded. We are not just talking about being in a calorie deficit for a couple of days. You need to make sure you’re in a calorie deficit for the week and weeks that follow. Consistency is the name of the game! A calorie deficit is where you consume less calories via food and drink than you burn through various metabolic pathways. To find out how many calories you need to get shredded, and how to find out if you’re in a calorie deficit, click here.
Commandment #2 – Thou shall consume adequate protein.
The Greeks had it right when it came to protein.
The word protein comes from the Greek word “proteos,” which means first one or most important one. Who is going to argue with Zeus and the rest of the Greek Gods?
They were absolutely right when it came to protein. If you want to get shredded you have to make sure you are consuming enough protein for various reasons.
Because we are in a calorie deficit and we are involved in resistance training, we are breaking down a lot of protein in the muscle. It is therefore vital that we consume enough protein through our diets to offset this breakdown of protein. We need to protect our muscles like newborn babies. Eating enough protein will make sure we do this.
A diet higher in protein will help with your satiety levels, meaning it will keep you fuller for longer. Because we are eating less calories, this will help keep hunger in check.
A final point, protein has the highest Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) out of all of the macronutrients. As you can see in the table above this will contribute to how many calories you burn a day. So if you are eating more protein in a day, this will help with your overall calorie burn for the day. It’s a win-win situation.
How much protein? This is the million dollar question. There have literally been hundreds of studies throughout the years determining protein intakes for athletes, people involved in regular resistance training, and for people who are in a calorie deficit. In a study by Phillips and Van Loon they suggested that anywhere between 1.8 – 2.7g of protein per kg of body weight may be optimal for athletes training in a calorie deficit. However, this study did not take into consideration already lean individuals. Leaner individuals may require even higher intakes of protein. A recent review by Helms et al found that a higher intake (between 2.3 – 3.1g/kg) to be superior. This study was based on already lean individuals. This makes a case that the leaner you are, and the more training experience you have, could mean you need higher intakes of protein. To read this full study click here. You can’t go wrong with starting your protein intake between 0.8 – 1.0g per lb of bodyweight. You can then tweak this number depending on your progress.
Commandment #3 – Thou shall not cut out carbs.
One common theme we see is that when people are looking to get shredded they will go on some crazy low carb diet.
This does not work in the long term. Remember our goal is to look lean and shredded.
We don’t want to look like we have just finished school. For this to happen we have to train with moderate to high intensities with weights. So we must drop calories, but we still must train with weights to get that shredded look we want. Our bodies preferred fuel source for this type of exercise is glycogen. It is easy for our bodies to use glycogen for energy, so we can smash it in the weights room. Having high levels of glycogen in the liver and muscles will keep workout performance high in the gym, which is what we want. After a few days of really low-carb dieting, it is more than likely that your workout performance will suffer. Your glycogen levels are severely depleted. At this point, you will probably struggle to bench 20 pounds. Additionally, research has shown that as long as they are in a calorie deficit, people lose fat equally well whether they are doing high-carb or low-carb approaches. By following a moderate to high carb approach, you can still have good, productive sessions with the iron. Which means you’ll be losing body fat but protecting your muscle mass.
Commandment #4 – Thou shall consume enough fibre.
We all know that fibre keeps us regular.
But it is also an important tool when we are looking to get shredded. One of its main benefits is that it helps control our satiety levels, keeping hunger at bay.
We have established with Commandment #1 that you will be eating less calories than you are used to in order to get shredded. So it is extremely important that we do the best we can to control hunger, and make sure the meals we do have keep us fuller for longer. That way we are not reaching for the Krispy Kremes! A great way of doing this is to make sure that we are consuming adequate fibre. The absolute minimum you want to aim for is about 25g a day. You can do this quite easily by including foods such as oats, wholegrain breads, and different pulses such as beans into your daily diets. Also be aware you can consume too much fibre. This can cause stomach discomfort such as bloating and constipation. So as a maximum try not consume more than 20% of your carb intake from fibre. For example, if you are consuming 300g of carbs a day, try not to consume more than 60g of fibre a day.
Commandment #5 – Thou shall eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
My granddad always used to say, “Eat all your greens up- it will make you big and strong.”
I should have listened to him more often. Fruits and vegetables should be included in your diets if you’re looking to get shredded.
Firstly they contain hardly any calories per serving. You can eat a high volume of these sorts of food and you will still have plenty of calories left for the day. For example, 100 grams of blueberries has roughly 70 calories in it. 100 grams of broccoli has about 40 calories in it.
Secondly, they will help you avoid nutritional deficiencies. Energy levels, strength, endurance and our moods all rely heavily on us getting enough vitamins and minerals in our systems.
The research shows that getting adequate micronutrients in our diet through food alone is extremely hard! A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition analyzed 70 athletes’ diets. Every single diet was deficient in at least 3 nutrients. Some were missing up to 15! Combine this with the fact that we are already consuming less calories per day, and it becomes extremely important that we make sure we are consuming enough fruit and vegetables.
Simple ways of nutrition to get shredded
If you’re looking to build muscle and get shredded, fruit and veggies need to be a mainstay in your diet.
Commandment #6 – Eat fat in MODERATION!
Since the turn of the millennium, high fat diets have become more popular than Justin Bieber!
Everywhere you turn, in every single article you read, they are praising the high fat diet. They describe how it is the magic pill to get us all shredded and turn us superhuman.
You see statements like:
“Eat fat to burn fat”
“Build 10 pounds of muscle with high fat diets”
“Eat good fats to get lean”
The world truly has gone high fat mad! But like most things in this industry, we take something that can be really beneficial and overdo it. Yes fat is an extremely important macronutrient for us to include in our diets. It has many essential functions in the human body, most of them revolving around hormone production. The research says that we should include some fat in our diets for general health properties. But what everyone seems to forget about fat, no matter how you twist it, is that it always will be the most calorie-dense macronutrient. It has 9 calories per gram. That is over double of what protein and carbs have. Both protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram. When you’re looking to get shredded you will need to be in a calorie deficit. You should be eating less calories. If you’re obsessed with fat, it is very easy to overeat on! I found this out in my early 20s. I was obsessed with getting shredded, and I still am to some extent. But I was drawn in by the popularity of high fat diets, eating nuts, oily fish and avocados at every meal. Not to mention chucking coconut oil in my coffee at every chance. I was 100% overeating on calories and that is why I never got shredded. Remember- this study proved as long as you are in an overall calorie deficit you can lose fat whether you go low fat/high carb or high fat/low carb. If your calories are in check you will still lose fat. But what I will say is that you can include more volume of food if you go high-carb and get a dream pump during your weight sessions. As for how much fat to eat, we go with the recommendations of the nutrition guru himself Mr. Alan Aragon. He recommends a range of 0.3 – 0.7g per pound of bodyweight for fat intake. If you love carbs and you perform better on them, go with the lower end of this range. If you love fattier types of food such as steaks, cheese, and full fat milk then go with the higher end of this scale.
Commandment #7 – Take a flexible approach
Ah the great debate of the decade- clean eating vs flexible dieting (or IIFYM).
This war has been raging for years. I have experienced both sides.
Between the ages of 20 – 25 I was an avid “clean” eater, sticking to only a handful of foods. I only ate the classic bodybuilding foods- chicken, turkey, salmon, brown rice and broccoli. You get the idea. My food selection was very small indeed. What this lead to was the classic binge eating, especially at the weekend. You see if you restrict, restrict, and keep restricting yourself, there will come a point down the line where you will break. It will be an all-out warfare on food and you will be reaching for everything. My avid clean eating approach made me develop an unhealthy relationship with certain foods. When my cheat day came it was a free for all of these foods, which caused me to go way way over on my calories for that week. Flexible dieting will give you the control. You can include a wide range of foods that you enjoy, as long as they fit your calorie allowance. Now flexible dieting has gotten a bad rap over the years, with people posting hordes of junk food with their six packs on Instagram. I will state right now that flexible dieting is not an excuse to eat junk all day. You still base the large majority of your food intake on unprocessed whole food sources. For a more detailed look at flexible dieting, click here.
One study showed a strong correlation that people who followed a more flexible approach to their diets had lower levels of depression and anxiety. They were less likely to overeat and had a lower BMI. From a personal point of view flexible dieting has given me far more control over my food and food choices. When it comes time to get shredded and drop calories, it doesn’t really bother me as I still know I can include foods I love in moderation.
Commandment #8 – Turn up the volume on low calorie foods.
We all love eating big meals.
When we train hard, we want to eat some big meals to help us recover. But when it comes to getting shredded, we need to be a bit more tactical with our meals.
What I mean by this is you cannot have a full plate of steak and chips at every meal, because you would probably go over your calories very easily for the day. So what we would recommend is to choose foods that have a very low calorie count per 100g or per serving. We are talking about foods such as salads, fibrous vegetables, and leafy greens. You can literally fill your plate or bowl up with these sorts of foods and they will not take up many calories. These sorts of foods are great for filling you up and keeping hunger at bay, because they contain a lot of fibre and micronutrients. Plus from a mental point of view you naturally feel fuller because you’re eating these huge portions. You automatically think that you are full. But you’re not really consuming many calories. So again it’s a win-win situation. Next time you are out food shopping make sure that you fill your trolley up with these sorts of foods.
Commandment #9 – Control your environment.
Now we are not saying you have to join Greenpeace or anything.
But controlling your actual food environment could have a big say in how shredded you get. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” could be of huge help to us in our quest to get shredded.
Now I am a huge fan of flexible dieting and I absolutely believe you should include foods that you love and enjoy in moderation. But if you’re looking to get really lean, it is good to have as much control as possible over your food choices. I am talking about trigger foods. For example, a couple of weeks ago I started a pretty aggressive cut. I knew that I had to stop buying certain foods, just so they were not in the house. For me, foods like granola, certain kids’ cereals, ice cream, and bagels were all off the shopping list! Now there is nothing inherently wrong with these foods if you fit them in your calories for the day. But as soon as I start eating these types of foods I find it hard to stop. They are all pretty calorie dense, so they contain a fair amount of calories per serving. A few servings of this and a lot of calories have gone in an instant!
Another useful tactic you can use is hiding your favourite foods. Put the cookies to the back of the cupboard, and put the Ben & Jerry’s in the outside freezer. Instead have the low calorie foods we spoke about readily available. Make sure there is plenty of fruit and veg in the house and invest in some low-calorie snacks that you can munch on. These sort of tactics give you full control and give you the best possible chance to get shredded.
Commandments #10 – Track your food intake.
We want to give ourselves the best possible chance to get shredded, right?
Then why not use all the tools at our disposal? I have so many conversations with people in gyms, who are looking to get shredded.
They say to me, “I just can’t lose weight” or “I’m not getting leaner.” When I ask them about calories or tracking food intake, their face just goes blank. The normal response I get back is,
“Oh I don’t need to track. I just eat clean.” We come back to the old “clean” eating. Clean foods still have calories in them and you can still overeat them. If you’re not tracking your food intake at all, then you are going into your shredding phase blindfolded! With apps such as My Fitness Pal and My Macros+ it is extremely simple for us to track our food intake. We get all of our clients to track for a certain amount of time, even if it’s just for a couple of weeks. It is such a underrated tool that can teach us about portion control and calorie awareness in certain types of food. If you’re looking to get shredded, give yourself the best possible chance to succeed and track your food intake.
New clients will tell me all the time ‘I eat clean’ – yet they seem lost on why they aren’t receiving the results they’re seeking. Gareth does a great job on explaining WHY.
Why Eating Clean Is Not Enough
Many people seem to think that simply eating “clean” will produce the muscle growth and fat loss results they’re after.
And that “bad” foods will keep them from losing weight or slow their progress.
The common ideology is that there are bad foods which should be avoided (or at least limited) and good foods that you can eat.
Now before we go any further, let’s first propose the question…
What Is Clean Eating?
There are a lot of terms and guidelines thrown around of what people consider to be “clean eating”.
And depending on who you talk to – the definition of what is clean is variable.
For a typical bodybuilder – brown rice, oats, and sprouted grain bread are deemed clean. But talk someone who follows a paleo eating approach, and these foods are off limits because they avoid grains at all costs.
The thing is — there really is no way to define what’s clean and what isn’t.
Everyone will have their own definition.
And although I don’t like to categorize them — for arguments sake we will say ‘clean’ foods are generally characterized by some form of the following:
- single or minimal ingredients
- grown in the ground, or from the land, air, or sea
- minimally processed
- natural or organic
On the other hand, ‘bad’ foods might be characterized by:
- lots of ingredients
- highly processed
- man-made, or a once natural food that’s been modified in some way
Clean Eating Can Still Make You Fat
I’ve heard many people claim they eat clean or “healthy”, but still can’t seem to lose weight.
Truth is, you can eat all of the healthiest, most nutritious foods in the world, and still get fat.
How’s this possible, you ask?
Because calories and overall energy balance – not specific foods, are what control whether you gain or lose weight.
Allow me to illustrate…
Take the following foods, for example:
- Grass fed beef
- Organic free range eggs
- Gluten-free bread
- Natural fruit juice
- Coconut oil
- Chia seeds
All very good, nutritious, healthy foods right?
Well yes – this is true. But most are also very high in calories.
And if you eat too many calories from healthy foods, you’ll still gain weight.
Many people really fail to grasp this concept. They seem to think that as long as a food is “healthy”, it is good for them.
But it depends on the context.
Remember, if you’re not creating a consistent caloric deficit, it doesn’t really matter what you do… you will not lose fat.
So if you think you’re eating ‘healthy’ and still can’t seem to lose fat, you’re probably just eating too many calories.
Where Clean Eating Is Flawed
The basic premise of clean eating often promotes simply selecting “healthy” foods to make up your diet, and doesn’t account for calories.
The real problem lies in the lack of accounting for calories.
Most people are so concerned with supposed food quality, that they end up completely disregarding food quantity.
People make this basic fundamental mistake, and don’t see the progress they want and expect to make.
And they don’t understand why.
They simply look at the foods they’re eating and consider them healthy choices — without understanding how they fit into the overall diet as a whole.
Instead of looking at foods as either clean or dirty – we need to look at the overall diet as a whole.
We know that:
On the surface, calories determine whether weight will be gained or lost.
The breakdown of those calories also matter.
When we think in terms of body composition – macronutrient balance is critical.
If you were to just focus solely on hitting calories with no regard to macronutrient breakdown, this would lead to inferior results.
- Fall short on protein and you wont be able to support the building and retainment of lean tissue.
- Consume too little carbs and your training performance is likely to suffer.
- Too little fats and you’ll negatively affect hormonal balance and testosterone levels.
You cannot overlook the importance of getting proper nutrients for optimal health and performance.
If you’re new to macronutrients, you can check out my comprehensive guide here.
It’s Not All About Food Choices
What matters more — The calories you consume, or the specific foods you eat?
Hopefully it’s clear by now, that it is not just your food selection that determines whether your diet is healthy or not.
Obviously using some common sense, we can recognize that some foods may be better for health and performance than others.
Food “quality” is important, but quantity is much more important.
Let’s compare two people.
One person consumes a wide variety of wholesome, nutritious foods while including some, typical “junk” foods, within his/her macronutrient goals –they will lose weight as long as they maintain a caloric deficit throughout the week.
The other person eats “cleaner” foods, but eats too many calories throughout the week – but they will still gain weight, despite what looks like a “healthier” diet on the surface.
The truth is — it’s really not necessary to cut out any specific foods when trying to lose fat.
Because fat loss is not dependent on how healthy or clean you eat.
What’s much more important is the overall number of calories and macronutrients that you consume at the end of the day.
Also Read: A Beginners Guide To Flexible Dieting
Shifting Your Focus
A lot of nutrition really comes down to a numbers game.
If you have a definitive goal – whether that is to bulk up and add muscle or lean down and lose body fat – you need to be tracking and managing your food intake and net energy balance with at least reasonable level of accuracy throughout the week if you want to see real, consistent, and predictable results.
If your goal is to build muscle, you’ll need to consume a slight surplus of calories (more than you burn each day).
Also Read: How Many Calories Per Day To Build Muscle
If your goal is to lose body fat, then you’ll need to create a caloric deficit by burning more calories than you consume each day.
It’s really as simple as that.
Sure there are other smaller details that go into planning a nutritional plan for optimal results:
- Specific macronutrient combinations
- Meal frequency/timing that makes adherence easier
- Food sources that make up the bulk of your intake which you actually enjoy eating
The thing is though… none of those things matter if your energy balance is out of whack.
This comes back to the 80/20 rule, which applies to many things in life.
To put it simply – with nutrition and fitness, there are things that really matter, and a lot of crap that really doesn’t.
Unfortunately, the most important things are often overlooked, simply because they sound ‘boring’ and aren’t as marketable.
We need to learn to work hard at the right things.
And ignore the bullshit.
Is Tracking Food Intake Really Necessary?
Depending on how serious you are about attaining your goals, you may not be prepared to go all-in and track everything down to the last detail.
And that’s fine. It’s probably not necessary for a lot of people.
If you’re just looking to get in better shape, you can probably get away with simply sticking to what you consider healthy, high quality foods the majority of the time and eating a bit less.
Most traditional “healthy foods” are not as calorically dense, so sticking to these kind of foods means you won’t take in as many calories at the end of the day – making it easier to maintain a caloric deficit. It has nothing to do with the healthy foods containing any special, powerful fat burning properties, but simply the fact that you’ll likely take in less overall calories without having to track anything.
However, if you’re not happy with the results you’re currently getting and really serious about taking control of your body, then it’s time to start tracking your intake with a reasonable level of accuracy.
Proper nutrition tracking is not as difficult as it is often believed to be and I’ve covered that in a comprehensive guide previously:
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not advocating that you should just eat junk food. Your diet is still going to be composed of what are considered healthy foods.
But if you completely ignore energy balance, and simply wing your diet and eat what you deem to be “clean” or “healthy”, then don’t expect to see significant progress in terms of muscle growth or fat loss.