10 Rules to Lean Eating

To get the best results from your fat loss program, your diet doesn't need to be complicated—it just needs to be smart. These new rules of lean eating represent the most effective nutritional strategies that I've distilled from my years of work as a nutrition researcher, counselor, and practitioner. Some of this advice may run counter to what you've previously heard. (Especially on the Internet!) But keep an open mind: Not only are these rules grounded in science, they've also been shown to work in the real world. Try them yourself—and you might finally achieve the results you really want.

PLUS: 5 Weird Diets That Actually Work

Don't Eliminate Carbs, Prioritize Them

Reducing the total amount of carbohydrates in your diet is a simple way to accelerate your weight loss. It not only decreases your calorie intake, but it also optimizes fat-burning hormones. The key is to slowly cut carbohydrates back—instead of eliminating them immediately. Use this hierarchy of carbohydrates (below) as your guide to gradually reduce your carb intake. Cut out number one and number two right away. Then wait three weeks. If fat loss slows, remove the next carb group on the list. (If fat loss continues, you don't need to change anything.) Continue along in this manner, removing no more than one carb group every three weeks.

1. Foods with added sugar
2. Refined grains
3. Whole grains and starches
4. Fruit
5. Non-green vegetables
6. Green vegetables

RELATED: Americans consume 23 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Try these 6 Ways to Beat Your Sugar Habit and save your gut.

Feel Good about Failures

Most people's initial reaction to slipping up on their diet is to internally berate themselves. Bad strategy! Research shows that when trying to adopt a new habit or eliminate a bad one, the more compassion you have for yourself, the more successful you will be. Bottom line: Accept your mistakes, and consider them "learning moments" that will help make you better and stronger. To ensure this happens, keep a journal in which you outline your dietary indiscretions. Include what you ate, when you ate it, and what you were doing just beforehand. Then review weekly to discover the patterns and pitfalls that you need to avoid.

More: 10 Ways to Curb Emotional Eating Habits

Spike Your Protein

Protein is good for your fat loss and muscle building efforts, but constantly flooding your body with amino acids—the building blocks that make up protein—can be counter productive. Instead, you need to spike your blood amino acid levels, let them fall, and then spike them again. This is most easily achieved by eating at least 30 grams of protein no more frequently than very 4 hours.

PLUS: 37 Protein-Packed Recipes

Be the Best at Being Average

Most failed diet attempts are due to an ill-fated cycle of intense caloric restrictions followed by massive caloric binges. Break this cycle and lose more fat by trying to be average. Strive to have your diet be one that you can sustain forever. Don't greatly under eat and don't binge on a lot of calories. Be average and watch the fat melt off faster than average. What's average for most guys? Between 2000 and 2500 calories per day. (Eat on the low end of that range when your activity is lowest.)

RELATED: Learn how to stoke metabolism with foods found in your kitchen. Check out these 5 Food Swaps for a Better Burn.

Major in the Micros

Protein, carbohydrate, fat, and calories all matter for your fat loss. But don't forget to pay attention to important micronutrients—a.k.a. vitamins and minerals. These nutrients drive all your body's metabolic processes. A simple multivitamin will cover most of your bases, and serves as an inexpensive insurance policy for your body. But to really optimize your micronutrient intake, you can also supplement your diet with 2,000 IU of vitamin D each day with breakfast, and 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) of chelated magnesium before bed. The former will help with immune function, bone health, and weight loss; the latter works as a muscle relaxant, helping improve sleep and control blood sugar.

More: Active Cookbook: Easy Breakfast Recipes for Athletes

About the Author

Discuss This Article

Follow your passions

Connect with ACTIVE.COM