Fat Loss 2001! Part I
by Arik Orosz

There aren't too many things in this world that we all seem to have a common interest in. Getting and/or staying lean may be the exception. With the exception of a handful of athletes that need extra bodyweight for their respective sport, and the fat guy at the gym who always brags about his bench (you know the one I'm talking about) because he doesn't have the discipline to deep-six the Ho-Ho's for more than two days at a time, we all want to be lean, attractive specimens deep down inside. If we didn't, would the supplement industry have grown from a two billion-dollar-a-year industry to a 14 billion-dollar-a-year industry in no time flat? Not likely.

What's been responsible for this industrial uprising of mammoth proportions? Well, simply put, there are actually good companies out there putting out products that actually work now - imagine that. A huge percentage of these products happens to also be products aimed at the fat-loss population, which is bar-none, the largest segment of the industry. After all, we all need to shed a little blubber here and there. This doesn't discriminate against any group. Bodybuilders need to be lean, most athletes need to be lean, middle-aged corporate America wants to be lean, hell, even my Grandpa likes to be lean. We all want to be lean for both functional and aesthetic purposes.

So are all these handy-dandy little pills the Pandora's Box of fat-loss they proclaim to be? Well, to be honest, some of them certainly do help, but not as a stand alone solution. Fat loss gurus don't seem to agree on much these days, but one thing they will all agree on is this - diet comes first! No supplement will ever get you ripped without the right diet, and that's nuf' said bout' that.

That leads us to the next obvious question. What in the name of Joe-friggin-Weider is the best diet to follow to get lean? There are so many diets! I'm so damn confused! Just simma' down now my friend and pay attention while we attempt to put all of these dietary complexities together for you in a easy-to-understand format. The intent of this article is to simply lay down some basic (yet often overlooked) rules to abide by when trying to dump bodyfat with minimal muscle loss. Let's get it on!

Rule one- Don't eat more carbs than your body needs

Notice I didn't say, don't eat any carbs. I don't care what some of the so-called diet experts claim. Weight-training athletes need carbs, period. Here's a simple equation for us all to abide by: adequate dietary carbohydrates + weight training= full glycogen stores (i.e. fuller, more attractive muscles and a faster metabolism) inadequate dietary carbohydrates + weight training= low glycogen stores (i.e. you look like a wuss... and feel like one too)

We all know that moderating the carbs is a necessity for getting lean, but how low is too low. Generally speaking, a 200lb male will not do well going below a carb intake of .5g/lb of bodyweight on non-lifting days and .75/lb of bodyweight on lifting days, and these numbers are not in stone by any means. They are merely a guideline for minimum intake. Most athletes will do better on a slightly higher intake than this depending on activity levels. At this rate, a 200lb athlete will consume 100g of carbs on off-days and 150g of carbs on lifting days. In actuality, most will probably do better somewhere between 200g-250g on the lifting days assuming you have at least an average metabolism. The carb sources are cut and dry, as the staple bodybuilder carbs haven't changed for years - Potatoes, rice, yams, oatmeal, beans and as many greens as you need for filler food, very simple stuff. Though Dr. Atkins and Dr. Sears may attempt to have me lynched for providing this list of wonderful, high-glycemic carbohydrates, I still stand by it, cause' it's always worked. One grave mistake that dieters fail to make when addressing the glycemic index issue is the overall GI of the meal, not just the carb. Most athletes are sitting down to a big chicken breast, and a small portion of rice and black beans with salsa with perhaps a tsp or two of olive oil. This is a very low glycemic meal, regardless of the fact that the white rice may be topping the charts glycemically speaking. Don't fail to consider the balance of the meal. This is ultimately what matters.

Rule Two- Cardio on Empty, Lifting on Full

Once again, I realize I may be going against the grain with this statement, but I've proven this to be true time and time again. I've heard many well known sources recommend lifting and/or cardio on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. I can only agree with half of this statement. Moderate AM cardio before breakfast definitely works, if not abused and overused. It takes advantage of low insulin levels and minimal glucose availability. Morning lifting on a low-carb diet however is a different story. The muscle functions much better after putting down a few carbs throughout the day (increased ATP availability if nothing else) as well as being more resistant to breakdown, thanks to our anabolic friend, insulin. That's one you can definitely take to the bank. I've never seen a lifter on a low carb diet have the same size or muscle fullness when training in the morning vs. training in the afternoon or evening, sans steroid use. Now remember, I'm not knocking morning workouts altogether here. I'm simply saying that this tends to be very true on a low carb regimen. So in a perfect world, schedule permitting, I would recommend splitting cardio and lifting into an A.M./P.M. format. You will appreciate what I'm talking about when you try this for yourself.

Rule Three - Don't slack on the protein intake

Don't underestimate the power of cranking up protein levels when trying to lose fat. I can't believe the number of people that still ask me, "Won't all the extra protein make me fat?". This is important for a number of reasons. One, protein has the greatest thermic effect of any macronutrient, bar-none. In other words, protein actually expends a greater number of calories merely digesting than a fat or carbohydrate does. Explaining this in detail goes way beyond the scope of this article but the lesson to take away here is don't ever slack on protein intake during a fat loss diet. Secondly, protein induces glucagon which plays an important role not only in regulating blood-sugar levels when carb intake is low, but also in mobilizing fatty-acids as fuel that is usable by the body. Last, but not least, I believe that increasing the protein when dropping carbs a bit will act as somewhat of a safeguard against muscle loss. Don't take this out of context though. It's not a be-all-end-all solution as so much muscle maintenance is hormonal as well. Not to mention, glucagon does mobilize aminos as fuel also. It is my belief that the extra dietary protein will be utilized by the body as a fuel source in lieu of carbs rather than going right for the muscle tissue, especially if it's a readily available protein that doesn't require much digestion, such as whey.

Rule Four - Deep six the protein bars!

Okay, I'm writing this entirely under the notion that Worldwide Nutrition probably won't be calling me anytime soon to advertise their Pure Protein Bars. On that note, here's my beef with protein bars. Numero uno, most protein bars have an absurd amount of "hydrolyzed protein" in them. Hydrolyzed protein (unless it specifically states that it is whey) is actually a euphemism for hydrolyzed gelatin, the armpit of the protein universe. While gelatin is technically a protein, it is not a complete protein nor is it a very digestible protein. Have you ever seen anyone pack on the mass from eating those Jello bowls with the cute little marshmallows in them? Uhhhh, I didn't think so. Not to mention, we all know how important protein quality is on a diet. It will make a difference when it comes to reducing muscle loss. Numero dos, the soft, chewy texture of the bars that we all have grown to love is actually due to the high amount of glycerin that these bars contain. While glycerin does seem to have applications for endurance athletes, I can promise you it's not the answer for getting lean.

Rule Five - Don't eat when you're depressed

I know it's so easy to want to gorge ourselves in fatty foods when when we're feeling blue, but this is when we must muster our powers-that-be from deep within and resist these kinds of temptations. Pick yourself up! Grab a copy of Chicken Soup for the Overweight Soul. Uhhhh, yeah Arik, whatever you say dude. Okay, relax you hardcore guys. I'm just poking a little fun at the self-help fanatics.

1, 2, 3, 4... Put Down That Damn Tootsie Roll!

So there's the rock bottom basics of dieting for fat loss. If you want to be lean, and you aren't applying these rules to your program, you need to adopt them pronto. In the second installment of this article we'll dip deeper into some lesser known dieting tricks and map out the specifics of designing a training protocol for optimal fat loss. Until then, you'll just have to keep being fat. Nahhhh, just kidding! This first installment will definitely get the fat-loss-ball rolling. After this it's all icing on the cake. Now it's time to get to the store and stock up on some goodies. Hey, put those Twinkie's down!