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Burning Body Fat

by Tavis Piatolly, MS, RD

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“I want to perform better, gain more muscle, be leaner and eat better, but burning body fat is my biggest problem.”

These are common goals that most if not all athletes strive for when training for a season, event or match.  It’s not uncommon for athletes to put too much emphasis on scale weight instead of burning body fat, thus improving their muscle to fat ratio.

I’ve seen losses of 20 lbs and only 3-4 pounds are fat. The remaining 16-17 pounds are muscle tissue and fluid.

The primary reason is these people engage in dietary methods that induce weight loss too quickly which compromises muscle tissue–starvation diets, very low carb diets and fluid restriction.  The negative long term effects result in poor performance and a decline in health.

There are many nutritional strategies proven to help you achieve optimal fat loss for a leaner physique and improved athletic performance.

Eat every 2-4 hours during the day

​You’ve heard this over and over again but there’s a reason it’s the #1 recommended method for assisting with fat loss. Research has proven that eating small frequent meals throughout the day result in fat loss because it:

• Supports your metabolism or increases metabolic rate

• Minimizes hunger throughout the day reducing food volume at each meal

• Improves blood sugar control with the proper balance of nutrients

• Minimizes your risk for overeating later at night

• Improves vigor to help you train at a higher level

 Substitute vegetables for starches except for after exercise

​Most people don’t get the recommended activity to warrant eating starchy carbohydrates. If you’re not getting at least 60-90 minutes of combined strength and cardiovascular training, replace your starches with non-starchy vegetables and fresh fruit.

This may be a big challenge but you will see the difference on your body composition in the long run. Vegetables and fresh fruit have less effect on insulin levels and improve blood sugar increasing lipolysis (fat breakdown). Stick with fruits such as berries, apples, citrus fruits such as oranges or grapefruit, pears, and grapes.

Replace bad fats with good fats

​The biggest misconception is all fat is bad for you. That’s not the case when we’re discussing heart healthy fats such as Omega 3 Fats and Monounsaturated Fats.

Omega 3’s offer numerous benefits to the athlete but most importantly, they act as an anti-inflammatory agent which may reduce muscle soreness and improve the healing of joints, tissue or injured muscles.  Incorporate intake from foods such as salmon, mackeral, sardines, tuna, halibut, nuts, almond butter, olive oil, avocados, flaxseed and flaxseed oils.

Eat starchy carbohydrates only after exercise

​Since our goal is fat loss I’m challenging you to minimize your starch consumption to after you train, especially if you train hard for more than 60 minutes. Your body can make better use of carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables as before-training fuel.  Wait until after you exercise to indulge in starchy carbohydrates as your body will utilize them as fuel instead of storing as fat.

Minimize high calorie fluids

High calorie fluids are a detriment to your fat loss, especially if you’re consuming sodas, juices or sport drinks. If you need your daily fix, the best place to use a sugary or high calorie fluid would be during and/ or after your workout but only if the exercise event lasts 90 minutes or more.  Add a scoop of whey protein powder to your juice or sports drink to enhance muscle recovery.

Incorporate fish oil supplements daily

In addition to improving mood, motivation, heart function and many other health related conditions, fish oil supplementation has demonstrated that it promotes fat loss. Since fish oil’s primary fat is Omega 3, you cannot substitute flaxseed oil or cod liver oil for fish oil as they don’t have the same effect.

Use 1 gram of fish oil for each percent body fat you have. If you’re 20% body fat, use 20 grams of fish oil up to a maximum dose of 30 grams per day and follow for 14 days. After 14 days, cut the dose in half and use indefinitely. Use liquid fish oil over capsules as they are higher in purity.  One tablespoon of fish oil contains 15 grams of fish oil.  Speak with your doctor prior to taking, especially if you’re on a blood thinner (i.e. Coumadin).

Eat what you want 10% of the time (some say 20%) 

​There’s no such thing as the perfect diet.  It’s unrealistic for the majority of us to eat clean 100% of the time without an indulgence and that’s ok. If you go into changing the way you eat with the mindset that you can’t have a particular food or meal, you’re more likely to fail.

I believe in eat whatever you want 10 (to 20%) of the time. That’s right, you can have king cake, pizza, hamburger, fries or your favorite indulgence but let’s not go overboard. Doing so allows you not to feel deprived and not feel like you’re on a diet. If you eat 5-6 meals/day this is equivalent to 35-42 meals/week. This gives you an allotment of 3-8 (10-20%) “your choice” meals per week.

You would be having anything fried, high in sugar and fat (fast food, french fries), as well as meals you skipped.  Don’t bank these and save until Sunday.  Eating back to back unbalanced meals on the same day could do more harm than good. Spread these out during the week or have them after you exercise, as your body can use the additional calories there.

Be smart about alcohol intake

​One night of heavy drinking can off-set just about everything you’ve accomplished during a week of training. Excessive alcohol can inhibit the production of testosterone and growth hormone, increase protein breakdown in muscle tissue and trigger the craving of high fat foods. Limit your alcohol to 2-3 drinks but choose wisely–clear liquors mixed with club soda, water or diet beverages, otherwise light beers or dry red wines.  See my MorFit post titled “Effects of Alcohol On Athletic Performance.”

Eat lean protein with every meal

For more rationale on the subject of eating protein with every meal you may access my article on MorFit titled “Does High Protein Food And Supplimentation Affect Performance?”

Reach out for more information, encouragement and support.  Post  comments and your experiences of burning body fat in the “reply” section.

Burn baby!

 

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