Protein not only helps build muscle, but during times of calorie restriction, it helps you hang on to the muscle you already have. Furthermore, protein is highly satiating—a protein-rich meal of meat or eggs will leave you feeling fuller longer than eating an equivalent number of calories from grains. Consume 1–1.5 grams of protein per pound of your body weight daily, as recommended in the Men's Fitness Food Pyramid (available in 101 Best Workouts Of All Time).
Running for an hour may burn more calories than a one-hour strength workout, but weight training causes you to keep burning calories for days after the workout is over. Repairing and rebuilding the damaged muscle fibers requires energy—that is, the calories you’re consuming, which might otherwise be stored around your waist. On top of the metabolic effect, weight training boosts your natural fat-fighting hormones like testosterone and growth hormone.
Let’s say you’ve finished your diet, revealing a new, leaner you. Now you want to sample just a few of the foods you denied yourself for months—hell, you’ve earned it, right? Unfortunately, studies show the average snack portion is nearly 500 calories—that’s the same amount as an average meal! Just one extra snack a day can mean 3,500 “bonus” calories a week, which is enough to make one unwanted pound of body fat. Snack smaller and snack wisely.
Researchers say that much of what we perceive to be hunger is really our bodies telling us they’re thirsty. Next time you feel the mid-morning grumble, put down 16 ounces of water and wait 15 minutes. Chances are the hunger will pass. Green tea and black coffee are also good choices, as they can boost the metabolism.
The leanest people on the planet move around a lot more on a given day than those with average or above-average body fat. That means if you work a full-time desk job, you likely need more exercise than a one-hour workout three days a week to get and stay lean. Stand up and move around—take the stairs instead of the elevator, and make your 15-minute coffee break a brisk walk around the block. Extra movement, no matter how trivial, contributes to your overall calorie-burning for the day and adds up over time.
Studies show sleep-deprived people feel hungrier, make poorer food choices, and eat more (as much as 300 extra calories a day). Shoot for seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night, and try to get to bed earlier instead of sleeping in later.
The recent trend of intermittent fasting—where breakfast is skipped—certainly works well for some people. However, there’s no denying that the majority of folks who’ve lost weight and kept it off did so while consuming a healthy breakfast. Furthermore, studies show that calories “saved” by not eating in the morning are often made up for by greater snacking in the evening.
Vegetables and fruit are packed with fiber, and studies show that high-fiber meals reduce calorie intake at the next meal. They also prevent wild blood sugar fluctuations that can lead to fatigue and hunger pangs. Be sure to eat vegetables with every meal, except immediately before or after training, and consume whole fruits as an energy snack instead of sugary drinks.
The current Paleo craze has demonized grains, which isn’t fair, or rooted in solid science. Still, most people get and stay leaner when they limit their intake. This is partly due to grains being readily available and easy to overeat. A wise move is to save your grains for just one meal a day, either at breakfast, in the hours before or after you lift weights, or as part of your last meal of the day.
The right fats in your diet can help you burn off body fat. Fat in the diet makes for greater satiety after meals, and can fight inflammation. Most of your fat should come from lean meats, but feel free to supplement with fish oil and do some of your cooking with unrefined coconut oil. Use olive oil on salads.