One aspect of eating for fat loss that isn’t talked about nearly enough is determining the ideal times to eat certain macronutrients. When you eat, your body breaks down and uses that food for different functions and the way the body uses it is based on what type as well as when that food is eaten. This is called nutrient partitioning.
In my last post in this series, I advocated a simple but strict low carb approach for 2 weeks to prime the body for pretty rapid fat loss. If you have completed this step, congratulations. Your reward, for 6-8 hours on that 14th day eat as many carbs as you want- the starchier the better. I personally pick relatively clean carbs such as rice and potatoes, and stay gluten-free but this is the time to really get crazy if there’s something you’ve been craving. (Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t taste as well as you remember or if you don’t want that much of it ). Enjoy your night.
As you wake up from your carb-induced coma, you have some choices to think about in how you want to structure your eating habits. Depending on your goals, you can choose between 3 basic ways of eating. (these categories can be further broken down but we will keep it simple for our purposes)
- Eat a sensible, low carb diet keeping macronutrients(protein, carbs and fat) the same daily. If you have some weight to lose but don’t want to worry too much about the ins and outs of carb cycling, keeping your carbohydrates in the 75-100g/day range should keep the weight loss steady. As I’ve written about before, eat adequate amounts of good fat and keep the processed foods and drinks out of your diet. Your food should be whole food proteins and vegetables. Your carbohydrates should come from one serving of starch a day- preferably at the last meal- and 1-2 pieces of fruit during the day. The strength of this approach is that it’s fairly simple and once integrated into your routine, there’s not a lot of thought that needs to go into it. The only drawback is that if you start to backslide, you may not notice immediately because it will most likely be occasional cheats that become more frequent. If a cheat meal is needed, I recommend planning ONE meal once every 2 weeks.
- Cycle carbs every 2-3 days on after a workout. This particular recommendation is for people who are working out 3 days or more of week with strength training or another high intensity workout. On the days that you don’t work out, eat 30g or carbs or less(meat and vegetables). Following the evening workout on days, eat 100-300g of carbohydrate from starch. The amount of carbs here are dependent on the intensity of your workout. This will be beneficial for fat loss as well as athletic performance. To learn more about this approach, John Kiefer is the expert. While there are many people who eat a lot of junk during their carb-loading phase, I recommend that this carb-loading is kept relatively clean with occasional splurges once a week.
- This option is basically going back to what you were doing in the first phase for 6 days and on the 7th day at 3pm begin a 6-8 hour “carb up” or refeed. The refeed is mandatory because it has the function of raising your leptin and thyroid levels so that you don’t lower your metabolism and hit a plataeau. As before, keep your carbs 30g or below for 6.5 days. On the back half of the seventh day have a great time. The next day, restart the cycle. The strength in this approach is that it is simple and it works very quickly. The challenging aspect of it is if it is not adhered to, the results will be limited- if there are any at all.
So which one of these fat loss approaches is right for you? Any of these approaches will work but some are better tailored than others for certain individuals.
- If you have a lot of weight to lose and/or are sedentary, option 1 and 3 are more suited for your purposes. Option 3 will work quicker but strict adherence is required. The strict adherence is rewarded on a weekly basis with a “carb up”. Option 1 is a bit more lenient on a daily basis but the weekly half-day carb-ups that last several hours in option 3 are replaced with a more modest cheat meal once every 2 weeks. Pick the one that you are more likely to adhere to. Exercise is recommended for mobility and other health benefits but not necessary for fat loss with these approaches.
- If you have a 10-30 lbs to lose and performing strength training or high intensity exercising at least 3 times a week, option 2 is a good choice. It allows you to replace glycogen used during exercise efficiently. Option 1 or 3 can also be used but performance may not be optimal. This approach is not recommended for sedentary individuals.
So, these are basically plans to stick to while in your fat loss phase. If your activity levels change, you may want to consider switching to a more appropriate option. On all of these plans, the protein levels are the same (.7-1g of protein/lb of body weight). If hunger is an issue, raise the amount of protein.