Eating for fat loss is a complex subject. Summarised below are some of the key facts that you need to know when deciding what to eat to lose excess body fat.
Your diet is your current eating pattern and you should work to optimise your diet to lose fat and maintain or gain muscle to a level which can be maintained for life.
Your diet is made of up of the three macronutrients:
Protein is required for repairing and building muscle. It is the ‘building block of life’. Eating protein makes you feel fuller for longer, therefore less likely to snack on other fat gaining foods during the day.
Fat is required for the formation of all cell membranes and the absorption of vitamins. Your body needs fat therefore do not cut it out of your diet. You just need to know which fats to eat and which fats to avoid (see below).
Carbohydrate is your body’s primary source of energy. Your body can process carbohydrate for fuel far quicker than protein and fat. That’s why after you eat carbohydrate, i.e. a biscuit, you soon feel hungry and reach for another biscuit and so the cycle continues along with the increased fat gain. Later in this blog article you will learn about the insulin response caused by carbohydrate consumption and the effect it has on fat gain.
Your diet also includes the two micronutrients Vitamins & Minerals. They are required for structure and function and they also unlock the energy contained within the macronutrients. Micronutrients also manage vital physiological processes within your body.
How much Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate should you eat for fat loss?
Protein – Protein should be a major part of every meal. A recreational adult exerciser should aim to eat between 0.8-1.5g of protein for each kg of body weight a day.
A portion of protein is:
1 . Cooked lean meat, poultry or fish the size of a deck of playing cards
2. Half a cup of cooked dried beans
3. One egg
4. Two tablespoons of peanut butter
Dietry Fat – Fat has traditionally had bad press, but it is essential for the body to function. Types of fat are:
Saturated fat – usually hard at room temperature and predominantly from animal sources (meat poultry and dairy), but also from non-animal sources such as coconut oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter and palm oil. Coconut oil acts as an anti-microbial and an antiviral agent. Your body likes coconut oil as it prefers to use this fat for energy production and not fat storage. Coconut oil also encourages a fat burning environment within the body.
Unsaturated fat – Usually liquid at room temperature and come in two main categories:
Monounsaturated fats – Diets high in monounsaturated fats have been shown to lower levels of the LDL (bad cholesterol) as well as reduce fat in the blood. Good sources of monounsaturated fat include olives, olive oil, avocado, lard, beef dripping, rapeseed oil, peanut oil, nuts and seeds
Polyunsaturated fats – are considered fundamental to underlying health. Omega 3 from fish oils help to reduce cholesterol levels.
Whereas Omega 6 oils which are predominantly vegetable oils (sunflower oil, corn oil, pumpkin seeds) are found in processed foods and stimulate inflammation within the body.
What Fats make you fat?
The key dietry fats to avoid are the heavily processed hydrogenated fats especially trans fats which cause diseases such as obesity, cancer and diabetes to name but a few.
These ‘bad’ fats can be found in margarine products, pre-made biscuits, pre-made cakes, take away foods, pre-made pies and pastries, pre-prepared box meals and many processed food products.
Carbohydrate – insulin response and fat gain
The UK governments Eatwell Guide, recommends that just over a third of your diet should be made up of starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, and another third should be fruit and vegetables.
This means that over half of your daily calorie intake should come from starchy foods, fruit and vegetables.
However, unlike protein and fat, when you eat carbohydrate, your body turns it into glucose and transports it around your body in your blood. With excess glucose (hyperglycemia) in your blood, your body then releases the hormone insulin which drives the glucose from your blood into the body’s cells.
High carbohydrate diets cause insulin levels to spike in an attempt to reduce glucose levels. When insulin removes glucose from your blood, you can then be experiencing low blood sugar and become hypoglycemic. This can cause you to reach for further carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar and so the cycle continues.
The insulin response caused by carbohydrate favours fat storage and suppresses the burning of fat as fuel. For body fat loss you are encouraged to cut down or avoid heavily processed high glycaemic index carbohydrates.
Many low fat foods that are marketed as ‘healthy’ often contain significant levels of high GI carbohydrates.
Eating too much carbohydrate causes fat storage and reduces your body’s ability to burn fat as fuel, which is a double negative hit on your fat loss diet goals.