The body is amazing in its capacity to heal and stay slim with the right food and a minimum of the right exercise.
There is no one diet that fits all. But if you have failed many times then that is actually a good thing because then you can rule out what did not work. Some of the diets you have tried will have certain parts that did work to some degree which can serve to put you in the right direction.
No question about it, burning fat is a 24/7 endeavor. To keep the fires hot, you need to eat every 2-3 hours throughout the day. Not only that, but you must choose the right foods in the right amounts to keep your metabolism revved up so your six-pack will be ready for its close-up. The way we see it, there are 12 fundamentals - laws, if you will - that are all you need to shed that unwanted blubber from your midsection and elsewhere. Most of them are nutrition-driven, but training comes into play as well. Your mass-gaining phase is over for the time being; now it's time to get lean. These 12 laws of fat-burning will help get you there.
Step 1 revolves around simple math: You must eat fewer calories than your body is accustomed to in order to drop bodyfat. When a calorie shortfall is created, the body responds by digging into bodyfat reserves to make up the difference. And presto, you grow leaner. All other laws aside, this one heads the list every time, no matter what dietary approach you take.
Do This: Most guys who are fairly active and exercise regularly burn about 18 calories per pound of bodyweight or more per day. On that basis, a 200-pounder would consume 3,600 calories daily. To start dropping bodyfat, reduce your calories to between 14 and 16 per pound of bodyweight per day on workout days, or 2,800-3,200 calories daily. On nonworkout days, drop to about 12 calories per pound per day (2,400 calories for the guy who's 200 pounds).
The easiest way to cut calories? Eliminate excess dietary fat - meaning no butter, oils, salad dressings (low-fat or fat-free dressings are okay); remove the skin from chicken; substitute egg whites for most of your whole eggs; avoid whole-milk dairy products; and ditch marbled red meats such as rib-eye for lean cuts such as flank. Keep some healthy fats in your diet, such as salmon, mixed nuts, peanut butter and avocados.
Though calorie control is a must, hormonal control is nearly as important. Coupled with calories, hormones govern fat-burning. Suppress fat-storing hormones and you can expect a significant amount of bodyfat to melt away. The ideal way to control these hormones is to keep your carbohydrate intake in check, since carbs kick up insulin, a hormone that inhibits fat breakdown and drives fat storage. Eat fewer carbs and insulin levels tend to moderate, leading to fat loss.
Of course, not all carbohydrates are equal. In short, fast-digesting carbs tend to create a large insulin burst, leading to more potential fat gain. These carbs include white bread, most cold cereals, any sweets, rice cakes, white rice and white potatoes. Conversely, slow-digesting carbs (found in whole-grain breads, oatmeal, sweet potatoes and legumes) don't cause much of an insulin rise, so these should make up the vast majority of your carb consumption.
Do This: The commonsense approach is to halve your carbohydrate portions. If you tend to eat a large bagel for breakfast, eat only half and save the rest for tomorrow, or simply eat a smaller bagel. If you typically eat 2 cups of pasta at dinner, eat just one. In time, you'll see the effects of insulin control.
As for carb choices, the aforementioned bagel should be 100% whole wheat, not white. At all times during the day, in fact, choose whole-grain foods over refined ones, the only exception being immediately after a workout, when fast-digesting carbs reign supreme for boosting insulin and replenishing muscle glycogen stores (see Law 8). Keep carbs to less than 2 grams per pound of bodyweight per day.
Is a calorie truly a calorie? Not always, because different types of calories can affect your body and your results differently. Dietary fat, for example, is more "fattening" than protein or carbs because it's less likely to be used to build your body. Granted, carbs can potentially make you fat, but they also directly fuel your training. Protein? That's a no-brainer: It builds muscle. Fat does neither, but it isn't useless; moderate amounts of it support vitamin absorption and help manufacture hormones.
But if you're trying to get ripped, you must minimize your consumption of fat. Protein, on the other hand, not only adds to your muscle - key in boosting the metabolism - but actually increases your metabolism more directly. The body burns more calories processing protein than it burns to process carbs or fat, known as the thermic effect of food. That's the main reason diets that include a lot of protein result in greater fat loss than low-protein diets, even when both diets contain the same amount of calories.
Do This: We can't harp on this advice too much: Eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every day. Your major protein sources should be lean meats (chicken, steak, turkey breast, tuna), egg whites (the yolks contain the fat, so discard most of them when you're trying to lose fat), protein powder (whey or casein) and low-fat cottage cheese. As for fat, limit it to 20%-30% of your total daily caloric intake.
When attempting to lose bodyfat, insulin control is crucial. The total amount of insulin released by the body isn't related to just how many carbohydrates you eat but how fast those carbs are digested. Refined carbs digest quickly, raising insulin levels substantially, which is why you should avoid them. But if you do happen to eat, say, a bowl of cold cereal (typically a fast-digesting carb), you can still take measures to ensure those carbs digest more slowly. This will cause less insulin to be released and therefore have less of an impact on your ability to burn fat.
Do This: One way to slow digestion is to eat carbs with protein and small amounts of fat. Never eat carbs alone. Accompany that bowl of cereal, for example, with scrambled egg whites or cottage cheese. Alternatively, you could eat plenty of vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and green salads, with your meals. These foods actually slow the breakdown and digestion rate of all carbohydrates.
Once again, it's about hormones. At night your insulin sensitivity decreases, meaning your body must release more insulin than usual to put any carbohydrates you eat at night to use in the body. And by now you know that higher insulin levels can decrease fat-burning and enhance fat storage. In addition, the body naturally produces a fat-liberating hormone called growth hormone (GH) within the initial 90 minutes of sleep.
GH not only increases fat-burning but is required to build mass and strengthen the immune system. Yet carbs put a damper on GH release, so it's ideal to go to bed under one of two scenarios: on an empty stomach or, even better, having consumed only protein, no carbs. This allows blood glucose - the high-tech name for digested carbs circulating in the blood - to remain low, which facilitates the rise in nocturnal GH production.
Do This: Don't eat anything about three hours before bed. A better option is to eat only protein meals the final four hours before bed, with one protein meal immediately before bedtime that includes only protein, such as a casein shake, low-fat cottage cheese or chicken breast. You can, however, eat a small serving of vegetables here if you wish.
Nitric oxide (no) is the compound that opens everything up and, not surprisingly, it's one of the best fat-burning products on the market. NO supports "the pump" when taken before training, enhancing blood flow to muscles by allowing more blood to make its way to tissues, including muscles, which can help maximize hypertrophy and boost metabolism. This arginine-based supplement is also effective when taken before bed, when it can exert a profound surge in GH levels and support fat-burning.
Do This: Within 30-60 minutes of bedtime every night, take a 5-10-gram dose of a nitric-oxide supplement that doesn't contain caffeine on an empty stomach.
Sure, calories and hormones can determine whether your body deposits food into muscle or as bodyfat, but meal frequency, or how many times you eat each day, affects your overall metabolism. Every time you eat, the body's calorie-burning engine, also known as metabolism, slightly increases. This is especially true for meals that contain protein. So if you eat six times a day, you'll experience six metabolic surges a day, rather than just four if you eat only four times a day. And, of course, eating seven or eight times per day would be even better than six. This is one way to lean out without having to drastically reduce calories. Frequent feedings tend to increase the chance that what you eat will make its way into muscle tissue rather than being packed away as bodyfat.
Do This: Eat 6-8 small meals per day, spaced 2-3 hours apart. Don't go longer than three hours without eating - your body will go into starvation mode, which can cause you to store bodyfat and makes it more likely that you'll overeat at your next meal. Speaking of overeating, just because you're consuming more meals doesn't mean you should be taking in more total calories. Determine your ideal daily caloric intake for fat-burning (see Rule 1) and divide that more or less evenly between your 6-8 meals.
After you train, it's difficult to gain bodyfat. Why? Depleted, broken-down muscles soak up both protein and carbohydrates for growth and recovery. If you eat too little at this time, you may actually set yourself back by impeding recovery; supporting recovery and growth actually increases metabolism while impeding it slows metabolism. In terms of spurring recovery and growth, just about the most counterproductive thing you can do after a hard workout is starve yourself.
Do This: Consume 30-40 grams of protein powder such as whey powder and casein along with 60-80 grams of fast-digesting carbs (a large baked potato, 4-5 slices of white bread or a large sports drink such as Gatorade) as soon as possible within an hour after training.