Most diets are all about what foods you'll cut out. This one is all about what you'll include. And that's good news, because if you want to emerge on the other side of this plan with a new body, you must have the flexibility and freedom to keep yourself from getting hungry, and the knowledge that you can eat well no matter what.
So let's get right to it, because eating more of the right foods more often is the basis of the Abs Diet. Remember:
MORE FOOD = MORE MUSCLE = LESS FLAB
That's why the Abs Diet isn't a diet you'll feel you "have to" stick to. It's one you'll want to stick to.
See, I've talked to lots of men who've tried diets, and many of them describe trying to stick to a strict diet plan as sort of like standing waist-deep in the ocean and being pummeled by one wave after another. Those waves come in the form of doughnuts the boss brought in, the office vending machine you're stuck with when the boss makes you work late, and the happy hour to celebrate the firing of the boss who gave you all those doughnuts and late vending machine nights.
When you're staring at a wave that's clearly bigger than you, you have three choices. You could run back to shore or try to jump over it, but those options will leave you with a suit full of sand. But if you dive through the wave head-on, you'll emerge unscathed. Same with a diet. You can try to run away by avoiding restaurants, parties, weddings, or anyplace that's likely to tempt you with nachos grande. You can also try to take the high road, but ordering a salad and water after a softball game hardly feels right. If you want a diet to work -- if you want to emerge on the other side of this plan with a new body -- your only choice is to have the flexibility and freedom to keep yourself from getting hungry and the knowledge that you can eat well no matter what.
You're about to dive into the Abs Diet.
We're so used to hearing people talk about eating less food that it's become weight-loss doctrine. But as you remember from the physiology of metabolism, you have to eat more often to change your body composition. The new philosophy I want you to keep in mind is "energy balance."
Researchers at Georgia State University developed a technique to measure hourly energy balance -- that is, how many calories you're burning versus how many calories you're taking in. The researchers found that if you keep your hourly surplus or deficit within 300 to 500 calories at all times, you will best be able to change your body composition by losing fat and adding lean muscle mass. Those subjects with the largest energy imbalances (those who were over 500 calories in either ingestion or expenditure) were the fattest, while those with the most balanced energy levels were the leanest.
So if you eat only your three squares a day, you're creating terrific imbalances in your energy levels. Between meals, you're burning many more calories than you're taking in. At mealtimes, you're taking in many more than you're burning. Research shows that this kind of eating plan is great -- if your dream is to be the next John Candy. But if you want to look slimmer, feel fitter, and -- not coincidentally -- live longer, then you need to eat more often. In the same study, subjects who added three snacks a day to three regular meals balanced out their energy better, lost fat, and increased lean body mass (as well as increased their power and endurance).
In a similar study, researchers in Japan found that boxers who ate the same amount of calories a day from either two or six meals both lost an average of 11 pounds in 2 weeks. But the guys who ate six meals a day lost 3 pounds more fat and 3 pounds less muscle than the ones who ate only two meals.
There's science to support the fact that more meals work, but the plain-speak reason it works is because it does something that many diets don't do: It keeps you full and satiated, which will reduce the likelihood of a diet-destroying binge.
How it works: For scheduling purposes, alternate your larger meals with smaller snacks. Eat two of your snacks roughly 2 hours before lunch and dinner, and one snack roughly 2 hours after dinner.
Sample time schedule:
8 a.m.: breakfast
11 a.m.: snack
1 p.m.: lunch
4 p.m.: snack
6 p.m.: dinner
8 p.m.: snack
how to incorporate the recipes into your everyday life.
The Abs Diet will teach you to focus on (not restrict yourself to) a handful of food types -- the Abs Diet Power 12 -- to fulfill your core nutritional needs. These foods are all good for you. They're so good, in fact, that they'll just about single-handedly exchange your fat for muscle (provided you've kept your receipt). Just as important, I've designed the Power 12 to include literally thousands of food combinations. There are hundreds of dairy products, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and other choices to satisfy your tastes. Incorporating these Powerfoods into your six meals a day will satiate your tastes and cravings and keep you from feasting on the dangerous fat promoters in your diet.
For now, I just want you to remember:
Almonds and other nuts
Beans and legumes
Spinach and other green vegetables
Dairy (fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese)
Instant oatmeal (unsweetened, unflavored)
Turkey and other lean meats
Whole-grain breads and cereals
Extra-protein (whey) powder
Raspberries and other berries
With schedules the way they are today, it's no wonder that your definition of a kitchen gadget is the one with a team logo that can open bottles. You need to make one exception for the kitchen gadget that won't fit on a key chain: the blender. I don't care how many speeds it has or how it looks, and I couldn't tell you the difference between a mince and a frappe. All I care about is how much stuff I can put in it and how good the stuff tastes when it comes out. (One thing I do recommend: Get a blender with at least 400 watts, which will give it the power to handle chopping ice and shredding fruit and to outlast any Jimmy Buffett fans who might drop by unexpectedly.)
When you consider that changing your body takes time, motivation, and knowledge, consider your blender to be one of your most powerful tools in this plan. Smoothies made with a mixture of the Abs Diet Powerfoods can act as meal substitutions and as potent snacks, and they work for a few reasons.
- They require little time.
- Adding berries, flavored whey powder, or peanut butter will make them taste like dessert, which will satisfy your sweet cravings.
- Their thickness takes up a lot of space in your stomach.
I don't cook much. When I want a quick, healthy meal, I dump milk, low-fat vanilla yogurt, ice, uncooked instant oatmeal, peanut butter, and a couple of teaspoons of chocolate whey powder into my blender and press a button. You can mix and match ingredients, depending on your tastes (see these recipes), but use the milk, yogurt, whey powder, and ice as the base. Here's the evidence showing these blended power drinks will help you control your weight.
- Researchers at Purdue University found that people stayed fuller longer when they drank thick drinks than when they drank thin ones -- even when calories, temperatures, and amounts were equal.
- A Penn State study found that men who drank yogurt shakes that had been blended until they doubled in volume ate 96 fewer calories a day than men who drank shakes of normal thickness.
- In a study presented at the North American Association of the Study of Obesity, researchers found that regularly drinking meal replacements increased a man's chance of losing weight and keeping it off for longer than a year.
- A University of Tennessee study found that men who added three servings of yogurt a day to their diets lost 61 percent more body fat and 81 percent more stomach fat over 12 weeks than men who didn't eat yogurt. Wow! Researchers speculated that the calcium helps the body burn fat and limit the amount of new fat your body can make.
How it works: Drink an 8-ounce smoothie for breakfast, as a meal substitute, or as a snack before or after your workout.
Though calorie burning is paramount to losing fat, calorie counting will make you lose focus and motivation. By eating these 12 Abs Diet Powerfoods and their many relatives, the foods themselves will, in a way, count your calories for you. They'll keep you healthy and feeling full and satisfied. Plus, the most energy-efficient foods are almost like doormen at a nightclub:
They're not going to let any of the riffraff in without your approval.
Of course, that doesn't give you license to speed down the road of monstrous portions. Most of us claim that we watch what we eat, but most of us don't have a clue. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study asked men what they ate, then checked it against reality. The truth: Men ages 25 to 50 were eating twice the grains, fats, and sweets that they estimated. If you eat six well-balanced meals, your body will regulate portions through things like fiber, protein, and the sheer volume of the smoothies.
That said, it's always wise -- especially in the beginning of the plan, when you're most vulnerable and adjusting to a new way of eating -- to focus on portion control by limiting the servings of some foods, especially the ones with fat (like peanut butter) and carbohydrates (like rice or bread).
A good rule: Stick to one to two servings per food group, and keep the total contents of each meal contained to the diameter of your plate. A height restriction is in effect.
I drink beer. I drink wine. I like to drink beer and wine, and gin and tonics on a hot summer day, and a lot of other things. There are health benefits to having one or two drinks a day, but there are many ways that alcohol can get you into trouble. Most important, alcohol -- like soda -- adds calories that you don't need right now. These calories are empty calories because they don't actually help make you full or decrease the amount of food you'll eat. In fact, alcohol makes you eat more and encourages your body to burn less fat.
When Swiss researchers gave eight healthy men enough alcohol to exceed their daily calorie requirements by 25 percent (five beers for someone who eats 3,000 calories a day), they found that booze actually impaired men's ability to burn fat by as much as 36 percent. Booze also makes you store fat. Your body sees alcohol as a poison and tries to get rid of it. So your liver stops processing all other calories until it has dealt with the alcohol. Anything else you eat while you're drinking most likely will end up as fat. In some more indirect ways, alcohol can inhibit your body's production of testosterone and human growth hormone -- two hormones that help burn fat and build muscle.
I hate to tell you to drink water, but drinking about eight glasses a day has a lot of benefits. It helps keep you satiated (a lot of times what we interpret as hunger is really thirst). Water flushes the waste products your body makes when it breaks down fat for energy or when it processes protein. You also need water to transport nutrients to your muscles, to help digest food, and to keep your metabolism clicking.
If you're serious about shedding belly flab, I'd encourage you to stay off the booze for the 6-week plan. At the least, limit yourself to two or three alcoholic drinks per week. The best drinks you can have are fat-free, 1%, or 2% milk; water; and green tea (or, if you must, two glasses of diet soda a day).
I would never advocate cheating on your spouse, your employer, or your taxes. But I want you to cheat on this diet. I want you to take one meal during the week and forget everything about good carbohydrates and good fats. Have half a pizza, buffalo wings, or whatever it is that you miss the most while you're on this plan.
Have it, savor it, and then dig back in for another week. I want you to cheat for a couple reasons. One, I want you to control when you cheat. Plan your cheat meal for the week -- whether it's Saturday night out, during a football game, or whenever. But if you keep it planned, you'll stick to it. The way to control your cravings is to satisfy them every once in a while. If you can make it through 6 days, you reward yourself and know that 6 days of good eating is a regimen you can stick to over the long term.
And there's another important reason. I want you to cheat: because it'll actually help you change your body. A successful diet plan is about how you eat most of the time, not how you eat all of the time. In fact, a high-calorie day of eating can rev up your metabolism. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that men who ate twice as many calories in a day as they normally did increased their metabolism by 9 percent in the 24-hour period that followed.
But here's where you have to show control. I think that this diet plan allows you to have plenty of foods that are both good and good for you, but I know you will crave other foods that don't fit into our guidelines. Think of this cheat meal as the carrot at the end of a good week of eating. I encourage you to enjoy your meal of gluttony, and please, don't make the carrot literally a carrot.