In my introduction to this series How to get ripped for the rest of us – Introduction I talked about how I don’t count calories, calculate syns or follow any special diet, and that instead I follow a few simple rules that have allowed me to develop the physique that I have now while still eating, for the most part, like a normal human being.
Let me just say before I get into it, I am by no means saying that there are not quicker or more effective ways to lose weight and/or get ripped. But keep in mind this is supposed to be a guide for the rest of us, who don’t want to spend time counting calories, calculating macros and spending hours and hours in the gym. Also keep in mind, my motivation for eating the way I do is not only to control body fat and build muscle, but also to promote health and longevity. I do not believe it is worth sacrificing health in order to make short term gains.
So with that being said, lets go into the few simple rules I follow…
Rule number 1 – Sugar is the enemy
I think most people are finally getting the memo that fat is not what makes people fat. No, sugar is the real enemy. The whole fat is bad for you idea was so ingrained in our collective thinking that its taken some time for the message to get around. And if you’re just getting this message now, then don’t dismiss it. I don’t want to go too deep into the science, if you want that then have a google for some actual scientific studies, but I will go into the theory very briefly.
The basic reason people put on fat is not because they eat fat foods, it’s in the way the body breaks down and processes the foods you eat. To put it simply, if you put in what you need, the body will use it, if you put in more than you need, the body will store it. But it’s not as simple as you eat it and voila its available to the body, if so anytime we ate anything the body would have to store almost all of it as the body only needs a small amount of energy at one time unless we are taking part in some physical activity.
This fact pretty much leads to the cornerstone of my whole philosophy of eating to lose body fat. You have to eat in such a way that the energy in the food you have eaten, only becomes available to the body at the rate (or slightly lower than the rate) your body needs it.
If you don’t want to get too technical, just remember that. That is the number one thing to keep in your head at all times. Its so basic to the whole point of this I’ll repeat it… The rate at which energy becomes available to your body has to be slightly lower than the rate at which your body uses the energy if you want to burn fat.
So with that in mind, the reason rule number 1 is “Sugar is the enemy” is because high sugar foods break down and become available to the body at a very high rate, a rate higher than your body is likely to be using that energy unless you are taking part in some physical activity. And so when you eat sugary foods, it’s very likely your body will store a lot of that food as fat. Like I said its obviously way more complicated than this, but understanding that basic principle will get you 90% of the way there.
Rule number 2: Protein! I love protein
I’m not just in the business of losing fat, I don’t just want to be skinny. I want to have a low body fat and have a decent amount of muscle. I think this rings true for women too, “strong not skinny” is definitely the way forward. And so for this reason, as much as I want to avoid sugar to prevent storing my foods as body fat, I also want to be consuming enough protein to make sure my muscles can recover and grow following on from a heavy workout.
So with rule number one and rule number 2 in mind, whenever I look at a label on a food container and ponder whether or not eating this will either help or hinder my goals, I look at the protein to sugar ratio.
Yep, just like in “You don’t mess with the Zohan” it’s all about the ratio. I don’t have a hard and fast rule about the ratio of protein to sugar but in general, the more protein to sugar the better. If there is more sugar than protein I don’t even bother unless it comes under rule 3 (coming shortly!) and most often, I want there to be at least four times as much protein than sugar for me to consider it as a food that will help me towards my goals.
Below is the nutrition on the back of a pack of rolled oats that I often eat for breakfast, probably the most carb heavy thing I eat.
||Typical Values Per 100g
||Per 40g1 (%*)
||291 kcal (15%*)
||8.6 g (12%*)
|of which Saturates
||3.9 g (20%*)
|of which Sugars**
||15 g (16%*)
||0.30 g (5%*)
So a couple of things to note, the protein is way higher than the sugar content. Although this is very carb heavy the carbs should be released slowly as my body needs them. I also add a few ingredients to push the balance towards higher fat/protein than sugar/carbs. such as peanut butter and various seeds.
Rule number 3: Don’t forget your health!
So quite often I hear someone mention something along the lines of fruit being bad for you as it contains a lot of sugar. While technically this is true, there are a couple of things that you should think about around this. Firstly, in whole fruit (not juice) the fibre in the fruit does help to slow down how quickly your body can get hold of the energy. So while this does not mean eating fruit will keep you in that magic zone of having less energy available than your body needs at any single point in time, it does reduce quite how much over this threshold you might go.
The second thing to consider here is this. Fruit has a tonne of vitamins and nutrients that are just so good for you. Life is not all just about reducing body fat, we need to be healthy too right? So weigh up the pros and cons. If you just eat fruit all day then sure, you’re not gonna get far with your fat loss goals. But if you eat some fruit once or twice a day, then sure you’re body might only be in fat burning mode 80-90% of the time instead of 100% but also you’re receiving vital nutrients and vitamins.
A final word on mindset
So that’s pretty much my 3 simple rules. Avoid sugar, seek out protein, and think about your health with regards to ensuring you get all the vitamins and nutrients you need. Simples. I did want to say one thing about mindset though. I know a lot of people will eat something they shouldn’t, and when I say shouldn’t all I mean by that is , not in line with your goals. It’s not a sin! It’s just moving you in a direction opposite to where your goal lies. So anyway they eat something they shouldn’t, and immediately have some thought along the lines of “well I’ve ruined it now and so I may as well give up”.
If you think about fat loss and muscle development as a journey (I don’t mean some spiritual juju, I’m talking about thinking of it as an analogy) then every meal that you eat that satisfies your protein and other nutritional needs while keeping “The rate at which energy becomes available to your body … slightly lower than the rate at which your body uses the energy”, is a step in the right direction in this journey. Good stuff. Now if you eat a meal that does the opposite of this, because you succumb to temptation or maybe you just have a life and you’ve gone out for dinner with friends or family, this means you’ve taken a step in the wrong direction in this journey.
Now this is the important bit, if you’re on a journey somewhere, anywhere, and you take a couple of steps in the wrong direction. Do you just throw your arms in the air and shout “F**k it” and turn around and go home? No, because that would be completely insane. You retrace your steps and quickly make up the lost distance. As long as you’re taking more steps in the right direction than the wrong direction, you’ll eventually get to where you’re going.
Of course, the less steps you take in the wrong direction, the quicker you’ll get there.