In the last blog I told you about my client who lost 8 lbs over the holidays, whereas in previous years she had always put on at least 8 lbs.
Her change in mindset set the stage to try out different strategies. I taught her the most effective ways to enjoy these holiday party foods, while also seeing continued fat loss.
She had been successful at the approach we had discussed: a clean diet of lean proteins and veggies most days. She had been enjoying two weekly cheat meals that included foods higher in starch or sugar or alcohol. At that rate she was seeing decent fat loss. When she had more than her two weekly cheat meals, she used strategies to balance them out.
Before I share these strategies, let me give you some background on
how the body uses carbs:
The average woman needs between 100 and 150 grams of carbs per day to stay in fat loss mode. How many do you need? Take your goal weight in pounds as a target. For example, if your goal weight is 150 lbs, then aim for around 100-150g of carbs per day. Dropping below 100grams for more than 2-3 days can backfire with a raging appetite and low energy.
If you eat more carbs, your body will send excess carbs into the liver and muscles. Both can store up to about 2,000 calories, which is about 400-500 grams of carbs. (The more muscle you have, the more carbs you can store, so that's why strength training is so important for a responsive metabolism). When those stores are filled, the body converts the excess carbs into body fat and stores them in your fat cells. That’s when weight gain happens.
If your goal is to lose body fat, you want to moderate your carb intake.
Let’s assume you’re eating a carb heavy meal (pasta and dessert) and eat a whopping 100 grams of carbs more than you need. Those excess carbs will get stored in your liver and muscle glycogen stores. Once those stores are full, the excess gets converted to body fat. You want to balance out those 100 grams of excess carbs to prevent them from getting stored away.
Eat fibrous veggies with a lean protein. Skip starches, sugar, and alcohol. Balancing out an extra 100 grams of carbs may take 1-2 days of lower carb eating - hence choose veggies because they keep you satiated and your blood sugar balanced.
Skip the next meal or two. Do this only if you don't end up overeating. For example, after a big dinner, you may want to wait to eat breakfast or lunch until you feel physically hungry (your stomach growls). Then, make sure those meals consist of lean protein and fibrous veggies (kale, spinach, celery, asparagus, broccoli with chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, etc)
Reduce your carb intake in the meals before your cheat meal by focusing on protein intake to keep full. You can do that for the entire day or just a few meals before the big meal- all depending on how well your appetite stays balanced. If you tend to overeat as a result of going too low-carb, don’t use this approach.
Skip dinner. Finishing your day with a light dinner, a smoothie, soup or none is one of the most effective ways to burn fat. You’re allowing your blood sugar to normalize, your digestion to rest, you're allowing your brain to 'clean up' and you're boosting anti-aging effects. Too hungry to skip dinner? Drink a protein shake or veggie smoothie to keep things light.
Use exercise to burn off some carbs. The average person burns about 30-45grams of carbs per hour of exercise. That's only about one slice of pie, so not that effective. If you worked out a lot more than an hour, you may end up getting super hungry and overeat again as a result of working out too hard. So, use exercise to burn off excess carbs wisely.
Work out before a big meal. A workout will lower your blood sugar. A higher carb meal right after an intense workout won't create such a sugar spike. You can also schedule a more intense workout within 12-16 hours of the higher carb meal, so the carbs stored in the liver and muscles can be burned off.
The above are listed in order of what’s most effective.
Balancing food with smarter food choices is more effective than exercise alone. You cannot undo a high-carb diet in the gym. However, you can use exercise in a fasted state to boost fat loss and your metabolism and adjust your carb intake.
Here's a Super Effective 19-Minute Workout (password: rewarding) that will help burn off carbs and put your body in to fat burning for 48 hours afterwards. No equipment needed:
Enjoy your Holiday meals. I want to leave you with one last thought:
Find your tipping point of enjoyment.
That's the point where you enjoy the meal AND how you feel afterwards. So, how much food do you need to feel you're celebrating, connecting with your family and loved ones, AND also feel great the day after?
See if you can tune in this holiday season. If you feel you overdid it a bit, simply, apply the above strategies to feel more balanced.
I'd love to hear how you did!
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