12 secrets every dieter should know

Dieting is by far the most popular and sometimes controversial nutritional topic in history. Help your diet plan be successful by understanding these 12 secrets to fat loss. 


1. Carbohydrates do matter

Carbohydrate-rich foods like potatoes, pasta and rice are considered high glycemic foods. Your body treats them the same as sugar. They stimulate your body to release insulin, which will turn excess carbohydrate into fat. Bodybuilders and endurance athletes like to stimulate insulin release after a workout because insulin helps replenish their muscles with carbohydrate. But when dieting, you want to avoid spikes of insulin secretion.

To stop surges or spikes of insulin secretion, avoid simple or high glycemic carbohydrates. Shoot for 50-100 grams of carbohydrates a day, depending on your weight. Your goal is to burn all the carbohydrates from a single meal within a couple of hours. For the first few days of your diet, eat as few carbohydrate-rich foods as you can. After your first week, eat only low glycemic carbohydrates like lettuce or salad greens, grapefruit and apples. These foods do not stimulate rapid insulin production or fat storage.


2. Skip alcohol

It's fat free but loaded with calories. Alcohol raises levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that also promotes fat storage.


3. Don't skip meals

Whenever you feel "starved," you trigger hormones that slow your metabolism. There is no greater enemy for a dieter than a slow metabolism. Skipping meals can also lead to overeating to satisfy your appetite. Instead, eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day. Studies show you'll eat fewer calories this way.


4. Eat protein with every meal or snack

First, protein digestion requires energy (calories) and time. This means you're burning additional calories yet you still feel satisfied. Second, protein provides the amino acids your body needs to prevent breakdown of your own muscle. On many fad diets, rapid success in weight loss is usually due to muscle and water loss, not fat loss. Remember, when your body is "starved", it will act like a cannibal and consume your own muscle for energy too. Many high protein powders and protein bars are great choices for those between-meal feedings.


5. Aim for 1 pound of fat loss per week

Any more than 1-2 pounds of weight loss is probably not just fat loss, but muscle and water loss. Not only is your body weaker after losing muscle, but your metabolism slows. This is why most dieters gain much of their weight right back after a fad diet. Unfortunately, lost muscle is hard to replace.


6. Eat fat

Yes! Certain fats are essential for your body's normal function - you can't live without them. They are normally referred to as essential fatty acids (EFAs). The most important are linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). They are necessary to maintain healthy skin, joints, hormone levels and mood.

Research showing their benefits for the entire cardiovascular system is growing daily. EFAs will also help you feel full longer after meals. Your stomach naturally empties more slowly when you eat any type of fat. Flaxseed oil is the most economical source of omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. It can be easily added to your protein shake or salad dressing. Because of its mild flavor, many people take it straight from the spoon. Fish oil sources of these EFAs are also excellent, but tend to have a slight fishy taste and come only in softgel capsule form.


7. Splurge once a week

When your diet becomes so restrictive that you can't go out to dinner with friends, your chances of staying on the diet are very slim. Allow yourself one meal a week to eat any way you choose. Be flexible and reasonable with your diet program.


8. Build muscle and burn calories while you sleep

By building muscle with resistance exercises (weight lifting), not only will you burn calories exercising, but you will continue to burn more calories while you sleep. By increasing your lean body mass (muscle), you will directly increase your basal metabolic rate. This is why a 230 pound bodybuilder with 5% body fat needs to consume huge amounts of food to maintain his muscle, even when not working out. A 230-pound sedentary man with the same calorie intake would pack on the fat.


9. Exercise in moderation

You can triple your metabolic rate with cardiovascular exercises like running, bicycling or swimming. Starting too strong may be costly. As we age, none of us are as resilient as we were at 18. Don't let injuries sabotage your plans. Start with 30 minutes of your favorite cardiovascular exercise, 3-5 times weekly. Gradually increase your exercise intensity as you go.


10. Throw out your scale

Losing fat is the goal. Rapid weight loss is an indication of muscle and water loss, not fat burning. If you need to check your progress to keep motivated, you can use a tape measure to measure inches lost or a special scale that estimates body fat. At your local sporting goods store, ask for a scale that measures body fat by impedance. Remember, don't just follow the pounds.


11. Always take your vitamins

With our over-processed Western diet, you simply can't get all the vitamins and minerals you need every day. A high potency supplement will make sure you are not missing any of these vital elements of your diet.


12. Stay well hydrated

Drink at least 6 glasses of water daily along with a fiber supplement. When you burn fat, you may be prone to dehydration and constipation. Psyllium, alfalfa tablets and other natural fiber products will help regulate elimination while your body becomes accustomed to your new dietary program.

If you follow these tips, you will have better success in shedding your unwanted fat! And you'll be doing it in a healthy, muscle-sparing fashion.

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