Ever since my success story appeared in the January ’04 issue, people have been asking me what the number-one thing is they can do to drop bodyfat the way I did. Then before I can answer, they usually jump in with a statement about how they’re doing 100 crunches every day, but the belly flab isn’t budging. Truth be told, the number-one thing you can do to get rid of fat has nothing to do with crunching and everything to do with munching. In fact, you have to eat more to weigh less’that is, eat more often, not more food.
You have to eat every few hours’five to six meals a day’if you want to lose fat fast. (Of course, those meals can’t be giant slices of pie.) Many people already know that, but how many actually do it? And if you are doing it, are you doing it right? I’ll talk specifics in a moment. First, I’ve got some explaining to do’for those who aren’t doing it and who are thinking, ‘I only eat three meals a day now, and I’m fat. How on earth is eating twice as often going to make me leaner, not fatter?’ It has to do with the way the human body processes food.
If you eat three big meals a day, you’re undoubtedly getting excess calories at each one. Guess where that excess goes? It’s stored as fat. Think about how you feel at each of your three meals. I know that if I wait four hours to eat, by the time I get to my next meal, I feel as if I’m starving. Then I usually gorge myself, and the excess goes right to my fat cells. The storage hormone insulin, which is triggered when you eat a big meal’or eat simple carbs alone’makes that a big, fat reality.
So leaving a lot of time between meals is counterproductive to burning fat and very conducive to storing it. Even more interesting’and critical to bodybuilders’is that your body tends to burn muscle for energy if there are too many hours between meals. When your stomach starts rumbling, it’s a sign that the starvation mechanism is in full swing, and that means your body is producing cortisol, a powerful stress hormone that helps it burn muscle and horde bodyfat. Put another way, when your stomach is churning, muscle is burning.
It’s a survival thing. When your body senses famine, it burns muscle first because it’s got a lot of it. Muscle is expendable (obviously, Mother Nature is not a bodybuilding fan). On top of that, bigger muscles require more food to maintain, so nature prefers that you burn muscle for energy. The result is that you can survive famine and avoid being animal chow if you’re fairly small, mobile and have a decent amount of bodyfat. That’s the reason frequent protein feedings prevent muscle burn’you keep a constant supply of amino acids circulating in your bloodstream so Mother Nature knows you’re not starving and sees no need to throw muscle into the energy incinerator. In other words, why break down muscle tissue to put aminos in the bloodstream when they’re already there? If there’s a slight calorie deficit now, there’s no need to cannibalize muscle, as bodyfat is the chosen energy source.
In case you didn’t quite get all that, here’s a more practical way to look at it: You need to eat protein at each of those six meals you eat every day. That does a number of good things:
‘It prevents your muscle from entering the energy spin cycle.
‘It prods your body to burn stored fat for fuel.
‘It keeps your blood sugar stable, which prevents cravings and binges.
‘It ensures that the raw materials for building muscle are available at all times’you always have a supply of aminos on hand to repair damaged fibers.
And here’s the best part: Protein takes more energy to digest. Research indicates that a high-protein meal boosts postmeal thermic activity by 100 percent over what you get with a high-carb meal (Am Col Nutr, 21(1):55-61; 2002). The extra heat is a metabolism booster that can convert lots of bodyfat to energy.
So does that mean you can whip up a whey-protein shake every two to three hours to pull off the fat-burning, blood-sugar-stabilizing trick? That works to a degree, but it’s not the best strategy. The problem is, whey is a fast protein’it’s in and out of your bloodstream in about an hour. That’s perfect for what you need right after you train, but between meals you want at least some of the protein to take its sweet time trickling into your bloodstream.
A trickle of aminos over the course of many hours means your stomach has no reason to rumble before your next meal (starvation mechanism, cortisol, bodyfat preservation, bad, bad, bad). A better choice is a mix of whey and micellar casein. Casein is a slow protein that gradually enters your bloodstream, and it sticks around for two to three hours, right up until your next meal. So you get stable blood sugar, no cravings, no muscle meltdown.
I accomplished my protein-at-every-meal goal with a twofold strategy:
1) I decreased the portions of my breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, but I made sure that each gave me at least 15 grams of protein from such foods as chicken, yogurt or eggs.
2) Next I started using one packet or a half packet of Muscle-Link’s Muscle Meals meal replacement midmorning and midafternoon. (Muscle Meals has 40 grams per packet of whey, micellar casein and egg protein, along with some good fat and a few carbs.) I did that for about one month. That gave me six meals a day on training days, including my postworkout drink, and five on nontraining days. During the second month I replaced the Muscle Meals with one or two scoops of Muscle-Link’s Pro-Fusion’same protein content but fewer calories. Keep in mind that it’s much better to make small, gradual calorie reductions than one big slash. A big cut triggers that nasty starvation mechanism and can halt fat burning. ALL Let’s do the math (don’t worry, it’s easy). One Muscle Meals has 340 calories, while two scoops of Pro-Fusion has 220. So, if you use two Muscle Meals packets a day’one midmorning and another midafternoon’that’s 680 calories. After a month you substitute two scoops of Pro-Fusion for each packet, and you’re down to 440 calories. You get a reduction of about 240 calories a day without a drop in protein grams. Oh, and you still get a fast-slow protein mix, which is a must for keeping your blood sugar stable.
Here’s the diet I used during my transformation:
High-fiber cereal with milk
or two scrambled eggs with
one slice whole-wheat toast
1 piece fruit
1 cup coffee
Vitamin-and-mineral capsule Fruit capsules, 2
Muscle-Link’s Muscle Meals
meal replacement, 1 packet in water;
after six weeks replace with Pro-Fusion protein powder, 2 scoops in water
Meal 3 (postworkout)
postworkout supplement, 2 scoops in water
6 ounces vanilla lowfat yogurt
with pecans stirred in or lowfat cottage cheese with banana
Muscle Meals, 1/2 packet;
after six weeks replace with Pro-Fusion protein powder, 1 scoop in water
Chicken with green veggies
Vegetable capsules, 2
Another way to use Pro-Fusion is to have a scoop mixed in water along with a solid-food meal. My husband, Steve, likes to do that at night with his evening meal. It gives him an extra protein kick and stokes his metabolism’high-protein meals help maintain thyroid hormone, which keeps your body in a fat-burning zone (J Nutr, 133:411-417; 2003).
The fat-burning strategy I described above works better than anything out there. I know: I’ve seen it get my husband and his training partner, Jonathan Lawson, ripped every summer for the past four years, and last year I proved it with my own transformation. The 6x Nutrition Plan can work for you too. It’ll get you leaner, not meaner, with plenty of shapely attention-grabbing muscle. Give it a shot. You’ve got nothing to lose except pounds of ugly fat.
Editor’s note: You can get two boxes of Muscle Meals meal replacement (40 packets) and two canisters of Pro-Fusion protein powder for only $99.95 (you save $35). Call 1-800-447-0008 and ask for the IRON MAN Research Team Transformation Special. For more on getting ripped, including fat-burning tips, facts, diets and training programs, tell the operator to add a copy of Fat to Muscle 2 to your order for only $9.95. It’s the hottest-selling book on transforming your body available. IM