The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest her or his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.
– Thomas Edison, inventor and owner of over 1,000 U.S. patents
Nutrition is powerful. Just take a look at the average U.S. citizen. In a day and age when we have more access to diet and nutritional information, healthy foods, exercise experts, and medical interventions than we have ever had before, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes has never been more prevalent. No drug, no medical intervention, or no supplement is as powerful as what you put in your mouth. We wouldn’t be far off from the truth if we said we were literally eating ourselves to death.
From a pure aesthetic perspective, nutrition becomes even more important. In fact, many of the top fitness and nutrition experts in the world agree that losing weight is 90% nutrition and only 10% exercise. At Ageless, rarely will we see a trainee miss her weight loss goal because of her training regimen. It’s almost always because of her diet. On the flip side, every amazing transformation we’ve had was built upon the member creating a healthy eating lifestyle plan. Exercise was just “topping on the cake.” We cannot emphasize enough that what you put on your plate is so, so, so much more important than how many miles you run on the treadmill. As the old saying goes, “You cannot out train a bad diet.”
You’re not entirely to blame though. There are 30,000+ experts talking about 30,000+ diets that have 30,000+ real world examples and research studies supporting them. It’s confusing, overwhelming, and at times, frustrating. In fact, many times it’s the sheer volume of information as well as the contradictory views that cause trainees to suffer from “information overload” and miss their goal. Trainees will spend too much time bouncing from one fad diet to the next, while never taking the time to truly listen to their body. Everyone is different, and thus everyone responds differently to various diets.
Diets don’t work in the long-term. Healthy lifestyles and/or habits do. Don’t expect miracles. There are no overnight successes in the weight loss world. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It took you 15-20 years to get fat so don’t expect to get skinny in 2-3 months. Most poor lifestyle decisions are the direct result of poor habits. Habits are hard to break. It takes time. Remember, it’s a journey. And like any journey, it will have its up and downs. Persevere, and fight! Nothing worth having is ever easy, and that includes a smaller, healthier body.
2) The Good News
He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skills of the physician.
– Chinese Proverb
The GREAT news is that it can be done. No how terrible your diet is or how out of shape you currently you are, you CAN do it. We’ve seen it with our very own eyes with amazing transformations by members at our gym over the last 3 years. Some of those members were young. Some were old. Some were female. Some were male. Some were morbidly obese, while others just need to shed 5 or 10 pounds. The two common characteristics they all had were perseverance and grit.
You CAN and WILL do it. In fact, it will probably be even easier than you think. The hardest part is overcoming inertia: getting a plan together and starting it. Once the wheels of motion start, it’s easy. All you have to do is continue to follow the plan and make a few adjustments here and there. Like we tell all of our athletes, not all of you are blessed with the same genetics. Some of you aren’t born with natural strength, speed, and athleticism. That’s ok. That doesn’t mean you won’t reach your goals. It just means that your race may be a little longer and have a few more hills and obstacles on it. Don’t let that be discouraging. Let it be encouraging. The world doesn’t reward talent or intelligence. There are plenty of talented, intelligent people in the world that have never accomplished anything in life. The world rewards hard work. And everyone is born with the ability to work hard. That’s a decision YOU make!
3) What You Can Expect
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
This isn’t a diet. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not a book. It’s a guide. Think of it as a roadmap that has multiple pathways to success. It’s meant to be simple, yet effective. We wanted to provide enough information to get you started, but not too much to where it discourages you.
We wanted it to be a Cliff’s Notes version of everything we’ve used, studied, and have been taught over the last 10 years about nutrition and healthy lifestyles. It’s rooted in science, yet has been tried with success in the real world. We tried to synthesize and simplify it as much as we could so you could read it in an evening, get a plan together in an hour, and start the next morning.
It was specifically designed for the beginner who doesn’t have the time, energy, or interest to read about the science behind weight loss and nutrition. If that interests you, we will gladly point you to a few books we love. This is for the everyday gym member who just wants a simple, straight forward healthy lifestyle plan that will help them look, feel, and perform better.
4) Determining a Realistic Goal
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
–Lewis Carroll, creator of Alice in Wonderland
In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired.
How do you know if you’ve succeeded if you don’t have a goal? Go get a pad of paper right now because we’re going to create a goal NOW. And when we are done, you’re going to post it on your fridge so you see it every day. You’re also going to post it on Facebook so all of your friends can see it. Studies have shown over and over again that the more people that know about your goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. No one ever wants to look like a failure, especially in front of her friends.
Don’t be lazy. Most people will probably just throw a goal out there. “I want to lose 10 pounds.” That’s already setting you up for failure. Setting your goal is the very beginning to a successful lifestyle change.
We recommend a two-step process to goal setting. The first step is called the big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG). It should be the finish line. It should be emotional. It should be personal. Most of all, it should be motivational. If you want to lose 100 pounds in 12 months, fantastic. Your goal becomes, “I’m going to lose 100 pounds in the next 12 months.” That’s your BHAG. That’s the end. It’s exciting, yet scary. Now picture yourself weighing 100 pounds less. Imagine how you’ll feel. Imagine how you’ll look. Imprint those emotions and images into your brain. Better yet, go buy a swimsuit that you’ll fit into when you weigh 100 pounds less. Put it on your closet door so you’re reminded about it every day.
The 2nd part of the process is less emotional and more calculated. We call these road markers. They are mini goals that make sure you’re on the right path. They should be concrete, specific, and process-oriented. They should also be adjustable and planned no longer than 4 weeks in advance. An exercise road marker would look like, “I’m going to walk on the treadmill for 45 minutes at a 3% incline on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week at 5:30 pm for 4 weeks and lose 1-2 pounds per week.” That’s how specific and concrete it needs to be. A nutritional road marker would look like, “I’m going to drink only 3 regular sodas per week for 4 weeks, and they will be with my dinner meal on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.”
Use a checklist or calendar and actually physically cross these off as you achieve them. You’ll be shocked at how small wins will quickly result in big wins. As the legendary business consultant Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.”
That’s how detailed goal setting should be. When you’re done, it should actually look more like a plan than a goal.
5) Calculating Your Daily Caloric Intake
Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
We’re going to try to keep this as simple as possible. Although losing weight is not as simple as calories in vs. calories out, that’s precisely where we are going to start. The Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) method always seems to be the most effective in the real world.
We will start with the formula below, and adjust your calories weekly not just based on the scale (The scale will eventually lie to you), but also on how you look in the mirror.
Our formula comes from Dr. John Berardi and Precision Nutrition.
Total Daily calories = current body weight x 10-12
It’s that simple. Although we may not finish here, this is where we will start.
Warning: We will ask you to count calories. There’s no way around it. The good news is that after a week of counting calories, you’ll become so good at it that you won’t have to do it anymore. It’s like riding a bike.
6) The Macronutrients
If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.
– Hippocrates, the father of medicine
This is where things get a little complicated. There are 3 macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Each 1 gram of fat provides us with 9 calories, while each 1 gram of carbohydrates and protein provide us 4 calories. Remember when we mentioned earlier that all calories are not created equal. This is what we were talking about. Because each macronutrient performs different jobs within the body and interacts with different hormones, not all of the macronutrients are particularly weight loss friendly.
30 years ago, low fat diets were all the rage. The top nutritionists, trainers, and medical experts were promoting the heck out of them. The government even started promoting them. A funny thing happened though. Diabetes, heart disease, and obesity continued to rise, and not just rise, but rise at an even more alarming pace than usual. Essentially, we got fatter, much fatter. The problem with low fat diets was fats weren’t necessarily bad. Omega 3 fats and to a certain extent omega 6 fats are actually healthy. Avoiding all fats wreaked havoc on our bodies. On top of that, dieters were replacing the calories from fat with calories from carbohydrates. Bam. Dieters would consume so many carbohydrates, hyperinsulinemia would ensue, and then they’d lose their insulin sensitivity and eventually become diabetic.
Then Dr. Atkins came along with the Atkins diet. He was completely on the other side of the fence. He promoted extremely low carbohydrate diets. Although initially effective (some would report losing 20-25 pounds within the first 2 weeks), the diet was absolutely miserable to be on. Family members of the dieters actually begged them to become fat again. They were so crabby and mean it was unbearable. Even though Dr. Atkins was on the right path, his diet was too extreme. To function normally (and happily), we need carbohydrates. We just need to consume the good ones in moderate amounts, and eliminate the bad ones.
Our lifestyle is based off of Dr. Barry Sears’ Zone Diet and Dr. John Berardi’s Precision Nutrition diet. Initially, we recommend:
Carbohydrates –25% of daily caloric intake
Protein – 35% of daily caloric intake
Fat – 40% of daily caloric intake.
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for the body. They can be composed of single sugars, double sugars, or multiple chains of sugars. An example of single sugar is glucose or fructose. An example of a double sugar is table sugar, which is fructose and glucose. A multiple chain sugar would be a complex carbohydrate or fiber.
When you consume a carbohydrate, it is eventually broken down into glucose and released into the blood stream. Because glucose can be toxic at high levels in the blood stream, insulin is released to shuttle the glucose into muscle and fat cells, as well as the liver. Thus, insulin is considered an anabolic hormone, and impairs our fat burning mechanisms.
Complex carbohydrates and fiber take a longer time to digest, thus glucose isn’t released as quickly into the blood stream. That’s an ideal situation, especially if you are interested in weight loss. It prevents those extreme highs and lows in blood sugar levels that are caused by high glycemic, quick-acting carbohydrates (See the common questions section for an explanation as to why simple sugars create cravings.). Minimizing those fluctuations minimizes sugar cravings, provides you with sustained energy levels, and decreases the chances of hyperinsulinemia.
So here’s what types of carbohydrates we recommend:
Vegetables: spinach, broccoli, asparagus, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, celery
Fruits: apple, pears, pineapple, grapes, banana, strawberries, blueberries
Grains: oats, oat bran, whole flax seeds, quinoa, whole barley, wheat bran
Legumes: lentils, chick peas, split peas, kidney beans
Proteins are a component of every tissue in the body. That includes hair, blood cells, hormones, neurotransmitters, and muscle. They are composed of chains of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids. 10 are considered essential amino acids, which mean your body cannot make them. 3 of them are called branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). BCAAs are extremely important because they are the only amino acids that can be used as fuel by the muscle. Plus, leucine, the most important BCAA, turns on lean mass building pathways all by itself.
Most women consume too little protein and too many carbohydrates. Thus, they struggle building lean muscle, and losing fat. Men have such an easier time losing weight because they carry more muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn. And please don’t be afraid of gaining too much muscle. Unless you’re taking steroids, it’s not going to happen. Women produce too little testosterone to build slabs of muscle. Those bodybuilding women you see on stage have amazing genetics, extremely disciplined diets, a great tan guy, and usually consume an extra “supplement” or two.
Lean meats: ground beef, chicken, turkey, bison
Eggs (Whole and Whites)
Fish: Tilapia, Halibut, Salmon, Buffalo, Cod
Low-fat dairy: cottage cheese, yogurt
Vegetarian: tofu, soy burgers, soy jerky, soy sausage
High saturated meats
Fats aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, we NEED fats. They provide insulation, store energy, and are the precursors for hormones and prostaglandins. The problem is we consume too many of the bad ones, and avoid the good ones. Thus we have an imbalance that leads to heart disease, obesity, and cancer.
We won’t go into the details regarding the difference between saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Just remember to minimize saturated fats and hydrogenated fats (trans fatty acids), consume moderate amounts of monounsaturated and omega 6 polyunsaturated fats, and focus on omega 3 polyunsaturated fats.
Flax seed oil – unstable in heat
Extra virgin olive oil (mono) –heat stabile
Avocado Oil (mono)
Coconut Oil (saturated) – heat stabile
Walnuts, cashews, almonds, and pecans
Fast food items
7) Adjusting Your Diet
Time And health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted.
Not everyone is going to lose weight during the first week. Our initial daily caloric intake was just a starting point. We fully expect it to change. In fact, even if you’re losing weight, you will eventually still have to change it.
We only take one measurement per week. We take the measurement on the same day at the same time each week. We first look in the mirror. If we can see changes and we’re happy, we’ve found our daily caloric intake for now. If not, we move to the scale. If we haven’t lost 1-2 pounds, we need to make a change to our daily caloric intake.
Once again, we keep it simple. If you haven’t lost 1-2 pounds AND aren’t happy with the results in the mirror, decrease your DAILY caloric intake by 250 calories. Continue for a week and repeat. If you still aren’t happy, decrease your daily caloric intake by another 250 calories.
The complexity arises when you’re trying to determine what macronutrients to cut. Because most people aren’t insulin sensitive and have consumed way too many carbohydrates over the years, we try to reduce the carbohydrates first as long as it doesn’t affect you emotionally. If it does, try to keep the ratios the same, and reduce each macronutrient equally.
8) Common Questions
Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.
-John F. Kennedy
Q: I hate diets and don’t want to count my calories. What can I do instead?
A: That’ easy. Find a bad habit you have, and focus on eliminating it. Let’s say you still drink regular soda. Set a goal of gradually reducing the number of sodas you drink per week. Just focus on that. You’d be surprised at how much you can change your body by eliminating just one bad habit.
Q: Those foods on your list are disgusting. Can I just drink a shake for my meals instead?
A: Yes and no. We wholeheartedly think the majority of your calories should come from whole foods. However, that’s not always possible, especially if you have sensitive taste buds, always on the go, or on a tight budget. If that’s the case, yes replace your meal with a high protein shake. Just make sure you’re still meeting your daily caloric intake.
Q: I heard extremely low calorie diets are the best. It’s what all the stars use. Is that true?
A: If you’re looking for short-term, unhealthy results, then yes. Then again, so is starvation and purging. However, eventually those things will catch up with you, and you’ll be worse off than you were before. Balance is the key to life. Not too much. Not too little.
Q: I’m using your macronutrient percentages for my daily caloric intake, but I’m still not losing weight. What should I do?
A: Continue adjusting your daily caloric intake each week by 250 calories daily until you start losing 1-2 pounds per week or you start noticing a difference in the mirror. If you still are having problems, the next step we recommend is adjusting your daily carbohydrate intake. Some people are just extremely carbohydrate sensitive, and really have to watch their carbohydrates. Drop your carbohydrate % to 20% and replace those calories with a combination of protein and fat. If you’re still not happy, drop it to 15%.
Q: I’m completely new to exercise and nutrition. I’m a little overwhelmed. Where do I start?
A: That’s easy. Pick a bad habit, and focus on eliminating it. Do you have a cookie every afternoon at 3pm as a pick me up? Find something healthier to replace it with like nuts or an apple.
Q: I see all of these ads for weight loss supplements. Which one should I take?
A: If you are eating fruit, vegetables, lean protein, and good fats, you don’t need supplements. They will be a complete waste of money. Fat burners are junk. We’ve yet to see one clinical study that wasn’t paid for by the supplement manufacturer that showed a fat burner was effective at weight loss. Don’t be fooled by clever marketing and “doctor” testimonials. Just think about it. If someone actually created an effective weight loss agent, it would be worth a billion dollars, and a drug company would snatch it up.
Q: Why are carbohydrates so bad? I almost feel like I have to have them.
A: All carbohydrates are not bad. In fact, good carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables in moderation are actually really good for you. The problem lies with the quality and quantity of the carbohydrates you’re probably currently eating. When you consume a simple carbohydrate like sugar in soda, a bunch of glucose (the breakdown product of sugar) is dumped into your bloodstream. The body knows it can do damage if it’s in your bloodstream for too long so it releases insulin to store it in your fat, liver, and muscles. Insulin shuts down all fat burning processes because it’s a hormone that signals the body to store calories, not burn them. And how does it store excess calories? Usually as fat. The problem with high glycemic index carbohydrates is that they are released and removed from the bloodstream so quickly; you get rebound low blood sugar which sends a message to your brain to crave more sugar. It’s a devastating feedback loop that eventually leads to hyperinsulinemia and diabetes. Was that scary enough?
Q: Cheat meals.. Can I have them and how often?
A: Yes, we firmly believe in cheat meals. We like to think of cheat meals as rewards for exercising hard and sticking to a healthy lifestyle. There are two ways we recommend adding cheat meals. The first one, which is the one we prefer, is to consume a cheat meal once or twice per week after your hardest workouts of the week. Studies have shown that 45-90 minutes after a tough workout, your muscles are begging for nutrients. In fact, that’s when they are most sensitive to insulin. It doesn’t matter if those calories are bad or good, your muscles want them. Thus, there’s a less likely chance your body will use those calories from your cheat meal to create fat. The trick is to consume that meal with an hour or two after your workout.
The 2nd option is more practical because it fits into your weekly schedule. If you exercise and stick to a healthy lifestyle throughout the week, you reward yourself with cheat meals on the weekends.
We’ll walk through an example of determining a daily caloric intake, as well as how many grams of macronutrients each day so you know exactly how to do it. With all of the math that’s involved, it can get confusing.
Sara weighs 155 pounds. Her goal is to lose 20 pounds (Yes that is a lazy goal). So if our goal is to lose 1-2 pounds per week, Sara should reach her goal in 10-20 weeks. If I had to bet, I’d say Sara will probably stop at around 140-145 pounds. As she adds muscle and loses fat, she’ll be shocked at the change in her body. A 10 pound weight loss will look like a 20-25 pound weight loss.
Sara’s initial daily caloric intake = 155 pounds x10 (or 12) = 1550- 1860 calories each day (average 1705)
Her daily macronutrient breakdown will be:
Protein: 0.35 x 1705 = 597 calories/4 = 149 grams of protein each day
Carbohydrates: 0.25 x 1705 = 426 calories/4 = 107 grams of carbohydrates each day
Fat: 0.4 x 1705 = 682 calories/9 = 76 grams of fat each day
So if you’re eating 3 meals per day, the simplest method is to just split the total daily grams of each macronutrient between each meal. So each meal, you’ll consume 25 grams of fat, 35 grams of carbohydrates, and 50 grams of protein.
10) Additional Resources
The best doctor gives the least medicines.
As not to overwhelm you with a ton of nutrition-related resources, we’re just going to mention three. If you’d like more, we’ll be more than happy to e-mail you all of the resources we use/read.
Precision Nutrition – www.precisionnutrition.com
Dr. John Berardi is the creator of Precision Nutrition. It’s a simple, practical approach to losing weight that’s based on a solid foundation of science and real-world results. He has consulted with thousands of collegiate and professional athletes, as well as Olympians. He’s a writer, researcher, professor, coach, and client.
This is our favorite approach to a healthy lifestyle, as it is balanced, practical, and simple.
Dr. Barry Sears’ and the Zone Diet – www.drsears.com
Dr. Barry Sears is the creator of the Zone Diet. 10 or so books later, it’s still one of our favorite approaches to a healthy lifestyle. Much like Precision Nutrition, it’s extremely balanced, rooted in science, and has thousands of thousands of successful clients. Plus, he is a huge fan of fish oil as are we.
Dr. Jonny Bowden – www.jonnybowden.com
Dr. Jonny Bowden is a nutritionist that focuses on natural approaches to health and wellness. With over 9 books on health and wellness, Dr. Jonny Bowden is an expert on anything related to supplements, herbal treatments, and nutrition. He’s our go-to source for supplement-related questions.
11) 3 Supplements (Almost) Everyone Should Be Taking
Fish Oil – 1,000mg – 5,000mg daily
Fish oil has been suggested to aid in the treatment of an array of medical conditions including: cancer, asthma, depression, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer ’s disease. Through a complicated process, it helps reduce inflammation, which is the root cause of many of the conditions listed above. As nutritionist Jonny Bowden recently mentioned, “We don’t die from high cholesterol. We die from high inflammation, oxidation, and glycation.”
Vitamin D – 1,000 – 2,000 units daily
If you haven’t heard about the benefits of Vitamin D over the last 3 years, you must have been living under a rock. Recent studies have touted its benefits in certain types of cancer, immune-boosting abilities, bone health, and anti-inflammatory properties. Because we live in the Midwest and sunshine is limited during the winter months, it’s even more important to us.
Green Tea Extract – 250mg three times daily
Green Tea Extract is primarily promoted as a weight loss agent. However, it’s much more than just that. Studies have suggested it can aid in: cholesterol control, blood sugar control, fighting inflammation, fighting certain types of cancer, and boosting the immune system. Like fish oil and vitamin D, its benefits are extremely widespread. As researchers continue to study it, they’ll find more and more benefits.
12) 2 Supplements To Help You Lose Weight
Before you go any further, please heed this warning. These are not miracle supplements. If your diet is pathetic and you never exercise, don’t expect anything from these. Even with a perfect diet and a great exercise program, you still won’t notice much. Over a 12 week period, compared to not taking them, you may notice an extra 5 or 6 pound weight loss.
Green Tea Extract – 250mg (50% ECGC) three times daily
We’ll let a few studies speak for green tea extract.
Researchers presented their findings in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in 2011 that showed over a 10 week period the group that consumed GTE burned more fat, as compared to carbohydrates, during exercise. The researchers concluded GTE shifted the body into fat burning mode by activating the beta oxidation of fat.
In 1999, Dr. Dulloo presented his research results to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that showed the group that took GTE burned on average 78 more calories per day than the placebo group, as well as 20% more fat. In 2005, Dr. Berube-Parent confirmed those results with her own study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. The GTE group in her study burned on average 178 more calories per day than the placebo group.
Dr. Westerterp and her colleagues publisher her research in the journal Obesity Research that showed the group that took GTE post-diet, actually continued to lose weight, while the group that didn’t take GTE, actually gained on average 40% of the weight they lost during the diet back.
Dr. Baile and researchers at the University of Georgia showed that fat cells exposed to GTE died at a much higher rate than fat cells exposed to the placebo chemical. He also showed that GTE slowed the creation of new fat cells.
Whey Protein – 1-3 shakes per day
Although whey protein doesn’t stimulate weight loss “directly”, it’s suggested to aid in a weight loss program by improving insulin sensitivity, improving muscle mass, improving satiety, and boosting the immune system. Several studies have shown significant weight loss when compared with placebo over 8-12 weeks.
Most women eat too many carbohydrates and not enough protein each day. Thus, replacing a carbohydrate meal with a protein shake is a simple, effective healthy lifestyle change. In fact, it’s usually the first “supplement” we recommend.