Zana’s Top Tips to improve your nutrition while accelerating fat loss
Let’s be clear - This isn’t about weight loss. This is about fat loss. You really don’t want you to lose your precious muscle or any of your lean body mass: that’s what gives you your strength, your stamina and your shape. Your skin, your heart, even your nerves are all part of that group we call lean body mass. Not to mention of course when it comes to muscle, it in itself helps you burn fat, too!
Equally this is not about deteriorating the quality of your nutrition (or simply reducing calories!). Controlling your calories without monitoring your insulin levels will not give you the results you’re looking for: you may not even lose weight, particularly once you get to a certain age, and what weight you lose will likely be your vital muscle!
If you’ve noticed that you’ve put on weight around your middle, any weight around the middle, is not necessarily related to excess food – but is related to too much insulin. Only when you focus on stabilising your insulin levels will you begin to lose this fat.
There are three main reasons why your body may be releasing too much insulin, and more often than not with my clients, they are experiencing all three!
- Too much sugar. Too many carbohydrates eg: chocolate, cakes or simply an over-dependence on “healthy” carbohydrates such as rice, bread, potatoes or pasta. Both versions break down into sugars, which in turn increase your body’s release of insulin.
- High levels of stress, especially over a prolonged period. Stress can result in the release of the hormone, cortisol and cortisol breaks down glycogen & muscle stores in order to access sugar. The sugar is released into your bloodstream to ensure you have enough energy to fight or to run (flight) and of course, if you do neither, the body needs to release insulin to get this sugar out of the blood, shuttling it off to be converted into - not muscle again, but belly fat! In short – stress can cause you to lose precious muscle and increase fat around the middle.
- Hormonal fluctuations, especially through peri-menopause and beyond can also cause us to be more insulin resistant, increasing the likelihood of belly fat.
So how do we flatline insulin?
Reduce starchy carbohydrates – avoiding them for four or five days every week will make a massive difference to your shape. You don’t have to eliminate them completely – if you do in the short-term, you will certainly lose fat – and in the long term, once in shape you can still enjoy those foods occasionally.
Don’t count calories, but instead, replace those carbohydrate based foods with more fat and protein.
Fat is the only food group that does not cause your body to release insulin: coconut oil, olive oil, butter, nuts, avocado, cheese, egg yolks and they are rich in the essential vitamins we often lack lack – especially Vitamin D2 and K3 - especially if the animal fats are coming from grass-fed sources. Add fat to every meal.
Protein is the only food group that contains amino acids, the building blocks that are essential for every part of you: your neurotransmitters, your skin, your eyes, the enzymes that break down your food, your hair, your nails, your circulatory system. Your entire body is made up of amino acids. In the long-haul, a low-protein diet could be disastrous! Fish, meat, egg/cheese for vegetarians, lentils/chick peas for vegans, all break down into the essential amino acids that build you. Whereas protein foods also break down into a small amount of sugars, it is small, so you may experience a little insulin release, but much, much less than you will with the heavy carbohydrate foods.
It's essential that you include both fat and protein with each meal.
You can eat 3, 4, 5 times a day, replacing carbohydrates with fat and protein – as long as you do not snack or graze.
Even if it’s just a handful of blueberries. Don’t do it! Every time you eat, your body releases digestive enzymes, hormones and insulin, whether you’re eating a handful of blueberries or a steak. If that energy that’s released isn’t used, it turns to fat. Don’t graze. Give your body a break between meals. As I tell my clients, Mind The Gap!
Get your breakfast right. Whether it’s at 9AM or 2PM, it will break your fast. Don’t send your insulin sky-high with your first meal – it will be up for the day and you won’t get it down, you’ll cause the release of the craving hormone, ghrelin and you’ll be heading towards the fridge for a snack before you know it.
Don’t have a carbohydrate or sugar-heavy breakfast. In the short-term, while you’re focussing on flatlining your insulin, avoid even the good bread. Even porridge. As I mentioned earlier, if you can follow this regime for four or five days and then want to reward yourself at the weekend, that’s fine. In the short-term, have full-fat natural yoghurt, a fistful of berries and a handful of nuts. Smoked salmon and cream cheese is great. Enjoy eggs and bacon. Focus on your first meal being protein and fat-based.
Bring in intermittent fasting. You’ll get very good results if you just follow the advice above. You’ll see fat loss from around your middle: take measurements now and again to see the results and keep yourself motivated!
Intermittent fasting works. If you can get plenty of fat and protein into your evening meal – and as many vegetables as you like – you will easily manage to fast for 14-16 hours i.e. if you finish dinner at 7PM, you probably won’t feel hungry again until 11AM the next day. That gap is not about calorie control. It’s about giving your body time to re-set – insulin levels dropping which allows the release of growth hormone which in turn pushes protein into where your body needs it. The body can convert fat into energy.
You should find your energy is very strong when you follow a plan like this. When you reduce calories, you’re potentially reducing the food that should be supplying you with energy. When you get those calories from fat and protein foods, you’ll find that your energy levels increase, particularly when you try intermittent fasting and your body learns to convert and use that fat as a fuel – not just the fat you’re taking in, but excess fat that you may have on your frame.
I find that Casein Protein is absorbed by the body better than any other I have tried, and it keeps you fuller for so much longer. Take a look at the Strong Nutrients Casein Protein – it comes in three flavours, Vanilla, Unsweetened Vanilla and Chocolate.
Please do take measurements before you embark on this advice! And of course, please stay on medications and follow medical supervision you’ve been subscribed by your doctor. This advice is about improving your nutrition – if you have medical issues it is always worth consulting your doctor before you embark on any new course of action.
Take a look at our Strong Beliefs for insights on everything from getting a good night’s sleep to balancing your hormones.