I absolutely hate diets and I’m pretty sure that the majority of people don’t enjoy them either. They’re evil, miserable, and misleading by definition. What is a diet? It’s a temporary, unhealthy, unsustainable approach to eating. Note the words temporary, unhealthy, and unsustainable.
If you want an uber fit, lean, healthy body it requires a basic understanding of and adherence to effective nutritional principles and dietary habits. Our bodies weren’t created to survive on fad diets that ban carbs or fat, restrict your eating to grapefruit and/or cottage cheese, or force you to drink liquid calories 24/7. NO!
The Lean It UP! Diet isn’t a diet at all, but rather a holistic lifestyle approach to nutrition and weight loss. Below are 19 of the absolute most effective nutritional tactics to sculpt and maintain a fat-free, sexy, healthy physique. I swear–I eat delicious, healthy, food all day long, I’m never hungry, and I still find that I’m able to maintain a lean physique without even thinking twice.
These principles are tried and tested, they straight up produce results.
Act on a few of these principles and you’ll be well on your way towards a life of leanness. I promise you, once you get going and push through a few initial hurdles, you’ll be absolutely unstoppable for the rest of your life.
1. Know YOUR body.
Everyone has different caloric needs. Height, weight, sex, and body fat % all factor into the caloric equation. Although calories in vs. calories out is one small piece of the weight-loss journey, it’s absolutely vital that you understand your own body’s energy requirements. Download the free Lean It UP! calorie calculator to easily figure out how many calories daily you need to lose fat, gain muscle, or maintain your weight as is.
2. Count your calories.
This might seem like a pain in the ass, and I’m not going to lie…it totally is. Carry a journal, use an excel spreadsheet, or download an app on your iPhone…whatever works for you, and start recording the calories you consume throughout the day.
I’l admit, at first counting calories is really difficult and inconvenient. Consider it a small investment in your long term health. The nutrition and dietary knowledge you’ll gain is unparalleled by any other method.
The good news is that counting calories becomes exponentially easier as you continue to do it more and more often. You’ll begin to memorize the # of calories in specific foods, and before you know it your mind will transform into an encyclopedia of nutritional knowledge. Mine definitely has, and at this point I can just keep a running tally in my head throughout the day. In the end you’ll be infinitely more knowledgeable, equipped to make much smarter food choices, and can fuel weight-loss from the inside out.
After a sleep session your body is completed depleted of energy and needs food asap. Moreover it’s in a catabolic state, or a state of muscle break down. Eat breakfast as soon as you wake up to quickly shuttle energy to your muscles and brain–this is critical if you’re looking for a fast, energized start to the day. Research shows that people who eat breakfast eat far fewer calories and are less hungry throughout the day. Breakfast eaters also make healthier food choices.
4. Eat high levels of protein.
If you’re looking for a miracle “quick-fix” to lose weight, adding more protein into your diet is the most effective, most direct tactic available.
Protein controls hunger, slows digestion, and creates a thermogenic effect–an effect that boosts metabolism and burns excess calories. Up to 30% of calories derived from protein sources are burned during digestion. For every 100 calories of protein consumed, you’ll actually burn 30 solely through digestion. Powerful. Protein also plays a major role in muscle development, which creates muscle tone and definition.
In my opinion, sugar is the #1 cause of weight gain. Logically, cutting most of it out can accelerate fat loss.
When you eat sugar it enters the bloodstream and spikes insulin levels, which signals the body to store fat. Secondly, that same insulin spike increases hunger levels. Repeating that process over and over is what causes Type-II diabetes.
Remember how I said protein was the weight-loss triple threat? Sugar is the fat gain triple-threat…increased hunger + fat storage + diabetes. Cut it out.
6. Swap refined carbs for complex carbs.
Replace all simple carbs (i.e. products made with white flour, products high in sugar) for complex carbs (i.e. whole grains, whole wheat, and oat products). Refined carbs have the same negative effects as sugar, just to a lesser extent. Switch from white bread to wheat bread, white rice to brown rice, cereal to oatmeal and you’ll see major changes.
Complex carbs are also high in fiber, which promotes digestive health, and plays a major role in hunger control.
7. Add cinnamon.
Cinnamon controls blood sugar and insulin, which prevents fat storage. It’s also an uber-powerful antioxidant.
8. Drink coffee, green tea, and ice water.
Coffee, green tea, and ice water are three of the perfect beverages ever created for weight loss. All three have 0 calories, plus they’re highly thermogenic–they burn calories, just like protein does. They also help suppress appetite.
You’re basically drinking negative calories!
9. Drink a glass of water before meals.
You’ll eat less.
10. Eat fruit, don’t drink it.
Swap out orange juice for the physical fruit. Whole fruit has more fiber and pulp, which will keep you fuller, plus it doesn’t have any added sugar.
11. Cut out all liquid calories (except skim milk, protein shakes).
Whole foods reduce appetite MUCH more than drinks do. Outside of milk and protein shakes, most drinks (i.e. soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, coffee drinks) are just sugar-filled monstrosities. Avoid.
12. Limit alcohol to two drinks.
Drinking too much alcohol is a surefire way to derail any diet. Having a drink or two every once in a while is perfectly healthy, but don’t habitually drink more than 2 drinks. It’s physically impossible to stay lean if you drink excessively.
13. Don’t eat while you drink.
When you drink alcohol your body preferentially burns it over all other calories in your body. Think about it for a second.
Anything that you eat — or is sitting in your body from beforehand — when alcohol is in your system will take a back seat until the alcohol has been digested. What’s the problem with that? By the time you finish metabolizing the alcohol, there’s a pretty high likelihood that any food in your body was already stuffed away in fat cells somewhere.
Drunk eating — which mainly consists of pizza, ice cream, and other fatty foods — is the primary reason for the “freshman fifteen.”
14. Eat spicy foods, chili peppers, pepper, etc.
Like protein, chili and other spices are HIGHLY thermogenic. That’s why you sweat when you douse a ghost chili, it’s literally heating your body up from the inside-out. HOT SAUCE ON EVERYTHING!
15. Eat healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats only.
Fat is a huge misnomer–it doesn’t directly impact body fat gain.
Fats are 100% vital to the body’s function and should never be cut out of a diet. In fact, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts and nut butters, seeds, olive oil, avocados, salmon and other fish, hummus, etc. are extremely heart healthy and fantastic for appetite control.
Additionally, healthy fats slow down the digestion of carbs/sugar, which prevents body fat storage. Fats get their bad rep because they’re higher in calories per gram than both carbs or protein (9 calories per gram in fat, 4 calories per gram in protein and carbs). Eat away, but make sure to monitor your fat intake because the calories will pile up quickly.
Also, avoid all trans fats–they raise nasty LDL cholesterol and lower heart-healthy HDL cholesterol. Eating these types of fat will result in heart disease, atherosclerosis, and heart attack. Saturated fats are vital for hormone production, and certain saturated fats can actually prevent body fat storage (e.g. Coconut), but intake should be limited.
16. Flavor with spices, not sauces.
Spices and rubs pack a ton of flavor without the added calories of sauces or dressings, like mayo or BBQ sauce.
17. Don’t drink diet soda or overuse artifical sweeteners.
In my own experience, I lost 15 pounds when I stopped drinking diet soda, so I swear by this rule.
Artificial sweeteners stimulate hunger. They’re also linked to numerous health conditions, including diabetes. If you’re curious check out http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20040630/artificial-sweeteners-damage-diet-efforts. Although the majority of evidence against artificial sweeteners is anecdotal, I would stay away from the stuff as much as possible. Ingesting chemicals is never a good thing. If you need to use a sweetener choose Stevia, a natural artificial sweetener.
Lean It UP is a web community that touches all ends of the fitness spectrum. We regularly publish workout plans, nutritional analysis, product reviews, supplement advice, recipes, and other related content that can help inform and educate on the most effective, practical ways to improve fitness levels, aesthetics, and overall health. We want to help YOU build your own perfect body -- hop on for the ride.