Shredding – Down to a Science Part 2

Nutrition for a Shredded Physique

Designing a Diet to Best Shred Body Fat and Preserve Lean Muscle Mass

Eating to get cut doesn’t just boil down to a single factor. To promote fat loss and shred your tummy, a diet must be all-encompassing. It must consider – in unison, the calories required to maintain an energy deficit with your current exercise regime in addition to when and how much different macronutrients should be eaten.

The Wrong Way: Eating the Right Foods in Excess

Unfortunately, “too much of a good thing” does exist. You may be eating the right foods but just a tad in excess. As previously mentioned in Shredding – Down to a Science Part 1, an avocado may be considered a super food but having too much might just be enough to tilt you into an energy surplus. Not ideal if your goals are to obtain shiny new abs.

The Right Way: Eating the Right Foods in the Right Amounts

Tracking your calories while taking into consideration energy burned during exercise is a recipe for success. This way you ensure your caloric intake is less than daily energy expenditure and you’ll be nestled in a weight loss zone. So incorporate a delicious avocado, but perhaps make that half an avocado.

The Best Way: Designing a Diet to Specifically Target Fat Loss and Preserve Lean Body Mass

Believe it or not, there have been peer-reviewed scientific analysis of diets with particular macronutrient profiles that specifically target fat stores and maintain lean body mass.

Calorie restrictive diets lead to concomitant losses of fat as well as lean mass

Calorie restrictive diets lead to concomitant losses of fat as well as lean mass. As the caloric deficit becomes greater, there are greater losses of lean tissue. Thus, it has been suggested to consume between 2.3-3.1g protein per kg of fat free mass (FFM) with severity of the caloric restriction determining which side of the given range you should consider (12).

The more dramatic the drop, the higher the protein consumption. Remember, your 6-pack falls into the category of lean mass; therefore, preservation of this precious muscle tissue while in a caloric deficit will make those babies pop once the fat has melted away. Diets high in carbohydrates compared to diets high in fat produce a net negative fat balance!

diets high in carbohydrates compared to diets high in fat produce a net negative fat balance

Although being mindful of energy balance is indispensible, you may be interested to learn that macronutrients are also in a balance. At maintenance calories, high fat diets may result in the body burning just as much fat as it is storing (13). Therefore the net effect is that there is no effect – fat balance is 0. When the desire is fat loss, this scenario is not ideal.

Now consider a diet high in carbohydrates. The ladder scientific analysis has concluded that – at maintenance calories – diets high in carbohydrates compared to diets high in fat produce a net negative fat balance (13). This effect likely arises because as one ingests more carbohydrates, they become more predominant as a fuel source.

However, burning fat is not simply discarded but continues in the absence of equivalent dietary fat intake. The outcome is more fat loss than fat gain, makes sense right!?

With that being said, there is one caveat to carbohydrate ingestion if shredding is your goal. Eating the proper ratio of macronutrients will promote fat loss; however, dietary timing is a significant factor to consider. In a study involving 60 minutes of cycling following 1 hour of eating a meal high in carbohydrate or post-overnight fast, it was shown that the availability of carbohydrates impedes the utilization of fat as fuel during exercise (14).

Eating the proper ratio of macronutrients will promote fat loss

Be mindful however, that carbohydrates act as an ergogenic aid (they enhance performance) (15) and therefore should only be spared if you believe you can maintain the same exercise intensity in their absence. If you cannot conduct your training in fasted state, consider consuming low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates prior to bouts of exercise as they provide a lesser attenuation of fat oxidation during exercise than high GI carbohydrates (16). This may be the key to developing a balance between fueling your body and attaining optimal fat oxidation while training.

Finally, pre-exercise fasting is likely to be your best bet to optimize fat utilization during exercise. We’ve discussed that pre-workout carbohydrates hinder fat oxidation during exercise, but what about pre-workout meals high in fat? Well, it has been reviewed in a 2000 publication that due to long gastric emptying times and complexities of digestion, long or medium chain fatty acids is not a practical approach to increase fat oxidation during exercise (17).

To summarize, eating for abs means taking into account energy expenditure during exercise and consuming enough calories to remain in an energy deficit. This deficit will lead to weight loss; however, to specifically and optimally target fat stores while maintaining lean tissue, consume high daily amounts of protein while keeping fats low and carbohydrates (primarily high GI carbohydrates) away from pre-workout meals. Keep your protein high and your carbs low GI.

This deficit will lead to weight loss

Like every human being that goes on a diet, the will to cheat or binge may suddenly creep in. Consider these tricks on a daily basis to ward off urges and stay on track:

If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. You don’t have to have breakfast at 7AM or lunch at 12 noon. If you can push your meals a tad later, you may be able to thwart late night temptations. Remember it’s about daily caloric intake, not necessarily when you’re eating (with the exception of training).

Keep your protein high and your carbs low GI. When participants switch from a low protein to a high protein diet, they report feeling fuller and less hungry – even though they were ingesting the same total calories (18). These findings will help protect against binge eating or snacking. Moreover, scientific data has suggested that consuming low GI carbohydrates may also ward off hunger and the amount of calories desired in your next meal (19).

Keep busy. A lot of people eat excessively simply because they’re bored. If you’re in between meals and you find yourself reaching for a snack, go for a walk instead. Not only will walking take your mind off of treats, but it will also enhance your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) which can be very important in overall weight management!

Sugar free snacks. You may have your own opinion on this one. If you’re an avid believer that calorie-free sweeteners are awful for you, I am not going to try and persuade you. For others who think the abdominal-associated benefits of having a diet coke instead of cheesecake outweigh the potential risk of sweeteners than this one is for you. Sugar-free gum, mints and sodas can be an effective tool for satisfying your sweet tooth until the next meal!

Like this article, you may also like Shredding – Down to a Science Part 1

By: Steven Bugiel (IG: @stevieinonstagram) BSc (Food Science and Nutrition); MSc (Biochemistry)

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