20 tips for torching fat this spring
As winter thaws and spring takes its place, now is the best time to start losing those extra few pounds you put on when it was frigid out. Take advantage of natural changes to your metabolism, gain better dietary discipline and find out what foods sabotage your efforts with these 20 nutritional tips to help you torch that winter weight gain.
--By Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.
Sure, it’s pricier, but organic beef and dairy are worth the extra bucks. U.K. research shows that organic milk has about 70 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk, and a study published in the Journal of Dairy Science found that grass-fed cows produced milk containing 500 percent more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than cows who ate grain. Since omega-3s and CLA can both help you drop fat as well as gain muscle, it makes sense to shell out the extra cash for organic cheese, cottage cheese, milk and yogurt, as well as grass-fed beef.
When you reach for carbs, choose slow-digesting whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread, which keep insulin levels low and steady, and prevent insulin spikes from halting fat burning and ramping up fat storage. A study conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that men or women following a low-calorie diet with carbs coming only from whole grains lost significantly more abdominal fat than those following a low-calorie diet with carbs from refined sources.
Eat unforbidden fruit
A study from the Scripps Clinic (San Diego) found that men who ate half a grapefruit or drank 8 ounces of grapefruit juice three times a day lost an average of 4 pounds in 12 weeks, without changing their diet. The effect is likely due to grapefruit’s ability to lower insulin levels, thereby limiting fat storage. To test the effects yourself, try regularly adding half a grapefruit to a few of your daily meals.
Egg you on
Eggs are packed with protein and have been shown to promote muscle strength and mass. Research shows that subjects consuming eggs for breakfast not only eat fewer calories throughout the day but also lose significantly more body fat. We recommend eating eggs for breakfast daily, scrambling three whole eggs with three egg whites.
Certain fats—particularly omega-3s—do not lead to fat gain and can actually promote fat loss. Eating fat to lose fat seems counterintuitive, but if you keep your fat intake at about 30 percent of your total daily calories by choosing fatty fish such as salmon, sardines or trout, as well as other healthy fat sources such as olive oil, peanut butter and walnuts, you can actually boost your fat loss when compared with eating a low-fat diet.
Dairy products are rich in calcium, which can help spur fat loss, particularly around your abs. This may be due to the fact that calcium regulates the hormone calcitriol, which causes the body to produce fat and inhibit fat burning. When calcium levels are adequate, calcitriol and fat production are suppressed while fat burning is enhanced. Adding low-fat versions of cottage cheese, milk and yogurt (Greek or plain) to your diet are great ways to boost protein intake and aid fat loss.
An apple a day
Apples are a great slow-digesting carb with numerous beneficial antioxidants. One group of compounds known as apple polyphenols has been found to boost muscle strength, endurance and even fat loss, especially around the abs. While apple polyphenols appear to directly improve the body’s ability to burn fat while limiting fat production and storage, the boost in endurance and strength is helpful as well, allowing you to train longer and harder. A typical large apple provides about 200 milligrams of apple polyphenols and about 30 grams of carbs.
A high-protein diet not only promotes hypertrophy (muscle growth) but also enhances fat loss. Researchers at Skidmore College found that men who followed a high-protein diet—40 percent of total daily calories from protein—for eight weeks lost more body fat than those following a low-fat/high-carb diet. One reason eating more protein may work is that it boosts levels of peptide YY, a hormone that decreases hunger levels.
A study from California’s Loma Linda University reported that subjects following a low-calorie, higher-fat diet (40 percent of total calories from fat)—with the majority of fat coming from almonds—lost significantly more body fat and abdominal fat in 24 weeks than subjects consuming the same calories but more carbs and less fat. So be sure to include nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts in your diet.