Last week, I wrote a post about the 3 biggest mistakes when trying to lose weight.
In this post, I’m sharing Part 2/3: my top nutrition tips for achieving sustainable results.
It’s actually quite simple:
It all comes down to hormones: everything you eat and do (e.g. exercise) affects your hormones.
It is virtually impossible to lose weight if certain hormones are out of balance.
Your body is smart. It doesn't store fat "for no reason". It's designed to maintain optimal fat to survive, and when it gains weight, it's because something in the system broke down, and in most cases this has to do with hormones, NOT calories.
Insulin: It’s impossible to lose weight when insulin is consistently high. This is why insulin is commonly referred to as the “fat storage hormone”
Cortisol: It is also called the “stress” hormone. Elevated cortisol level leads to release of sugar into the blood, triggering a rise in Insulin and blocking fat burn.
Bottom line: if you do or eat anything that consistently raises insulin or stresses your body, you CANNOT lose weight.
By contrast, if you eat in a way that CONTROLS Insulin and stress, your body will NATURALLY drop the weight since it doesn’t need it anymore.
A Big Mac and an Avocado with some olive oil have almost the SAME number of calories! It’s how the food you eat interacts with your body that matters, NOT the calories.
- Control your total intake of carbs (Personally, I prefer to eat carbs at dinner. See below to know the reasons)
- Avoid foods that cause a spike in Insulin (sugar)
- Eat high quality nutrient-dense foods
- Eat when hungry, don’t eat when not! Your body is smart and knows what it needs
- Avoid foods that cause inflammation / spike in Cortisol
- Don’t “starve” yourself (restricting calories consistently è stress è rise in Cortisol)
- Stress your body 2-3 times per week through high-intensity exercises to trigger adaptation
- MOVE MOVE MOVE. Avoid sitting still like the plague.
- Recovery is key to minimize stress, ESPECIALLY SLEEP.
So let’s get specific
1. Control your total intake of carbs (Personally, I prefer to eat only carbs at dinner)
2. Avoid foods that cause a spike in Insulin (sugar)
3. Eat high quality nutrient-dense foods
4. Eat when hungry, don’t eat when not! Your body is smart and knows what it needs
You all know about Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates.
- Protein is used to build muscles, enzymes, hormones, and hundreds of other functions in the body.
- Fat is used for the nervous system, hormones, combat inflammation, build cell walls, and hundreds of other functions in the body.
- Carbohydrates are used for energy, and… well that’s about it for the most part!
You see where I’m getting at? If the carbs that you eat are not utilized quickly for energy (exercise), they’re going to get converted to fat by your liver no matter what!
Imagine this common scenario:
- You wake up in the morning after a good night of sleep. Unless you did some high intensity workout in bed ;-), then your carbohydrate stores are still full.
- You eat a bowl of oatmeal or cereal, which gets digested within 90min and is present in your bloodstream as glucose.
- This glucose has nowhere to go! You’re not in the middle of a marathon and your carb stores are full. So, your liver converts all of that glucose into triglycerides (FAT).
By comparison, if you leave your carbs to your evening meal, you would have emptied some of your carb stores during the day (especially if you worked out hard), and as such the carbs from dinner will go to replenish the carb stores instead of being converted to fat!
But do NOT avoid carbs altogether: you need carbs for proper thyroid function and to maintain insulin sensitivity. The trick is to get “quality” carbs and “time” them properly.
Here is what I personally do:
- I almost never have carbs for breakfast or lunch, unless I did a VERY high intensity workout in the morning and the carbs will get used to replenish by carb stores rather than get converted to fat.
- My breakfast and lunch are focused on high quality fats and proteins, to give my body the necessary nutrients to function well, including building new proteins, muscle, hormones, and nervous system (which is 70% fat)
- I usually save my main carb intake for dinner: starch with dinner (e.g. potato, rice, sweet potato, buckwheat, quinoa, etc) OR fruits after a low-carb dinner
Sample day for me:
- Breakfast: full fat organic Greek yogurt, raw nuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, cacao nibs, organic stevia, a few blueberries (recipe)
- Lunch: big salad with avocados, walnuts, olive oil, olives, & some protein (chicken, ribeye, fish, etc)
- Dinner: protein with LOTS of veggies and some carbs (usually potato) OR fruits (Kiwi, apples, oranges)
(I sometimes post recipes on my Instagram)
BONUS: carbs with dinner lowers Cortisol, which is CRITICAL for good quality sleep. Most people who have trouble sleeping / insomnia suffer from high Cortisol at night. You need carbs to bring it back down.
1.Avoid foods that cause inflammation / spike in Cortisol
2.Don’t “starve” yourself (restricting calories consistently causes a rise in Cortisol)
Remember, anything that causes Cortisol to spike will stop you from burning fat.
2 things relating to food can cause that: (i) foods that cause inflammation (minimize or avoid), and (ii) restricting calories all the time (which sends your body the signal that there is a “famine” happening and it will need to store fat as “reserve”).
This is ESPECIALLY true if you try to restrict calories and train hard at the same time. NEVER “diet” on hard training days, since you would be pushing your body into “survival” mode, where its natural instinct is to store fat to protect itself.
Foods that cause inflammation:
• Processed foods
• Preservatives & colorings
• Artificial sweeteners
• Commercial salts
• Commercial wheat
• Most grains
• Commercial dairy (especially processed cheese/dairy)
• Soy products
• Commercial eggs (different than free-range organic)
• Commercial meat/chicken products (different than free range)
• High fructose corn syrup
And NEVER let yourself go hungry! If you feel hungry, it’s for one of 2 reasons: (i) your body is in need of nutrients, or (ii) your hormones are off balance because of something else: stress, sugary foods, inflammation, etc. Know which of the 2 it is and deal with it. If you follow the nutrition advice I’m suggesting here, you will never have “cravings” for no reason!
The beauty of eating this way? You can do it forever! It doesn't require much discipline. It's not a "diet"!
For more advice, read some of my older posts:
• Sugar vs Starch - Does it make a difference?
• How does stress cause sugar cravings and what you can do about it
• So... when can I eat a ton of carbs and not worry about it?
• So how "does" stress make you gain weight?
• The Glycemic Index is SO yesterday
In Part 2 (to be posted tomorrow), I will provide specific guidelines for exercise which don’t require you to spend half your life in the gym!
I'm not addressing ALL nutrition aspects here on purpose. If you get these basics right, the rest doesn't really matter.
As always, I'm more than happy to answer questions so please don't hesitate to reply to this email or comment below.