Get Shredded for Summer
Losing weight is simple: burn more calories than you consume — it’s basic physics1. Once you understand the laws of thermodynamics — particularly the first one that says energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only altered in form — you can begin to understand the simplicity by which we lose, gain, or maintain body mass.
What does this mean to you? Simple. If you’re not losing weight, you’re eating too much — or moving too little. If you can manage to expend more energy than you’re consuming, you’ll lose weight, period.
It can, however, be easier said than done. So I’ve put together nine easy-to-follow diet strategies that you can implement right now to increase energy expenditure — or decrease energy intake — without starving yourself or spending hours in the gym doing endless amounts of cardio.
9 Simple Diet Strategies to Get You Shredded
1. Stop eating when you’re thirsty
It’s quite common for people to confuse thirst for hunger. Since we aren’t drinking enough water daily, our body adapts to the low fluid intake and thus we lose our thirst sensation. If the goal is weight loss, knowing the difference between feeling hungry and thirsty is critical.
Eating when you’re thirsty is a surefire way to load up on unnecessary calories — making it much harder to achieve the caloric deficit required to lose weight.
This is why I recommend that you make an effort to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. Avoid waiting until you’re thirsty before drinking water. If you’re feeling thirsty, chances are you’re already a bit dehydrated.
How can you avoid drinking when you’re thirsty? Drink a 250ml glass of water when you feel hungry. Wait 10 minutes, and if you’re still hungry, eat. If not, you were probably just thirsty.
2. Decrease calorie load
Knocking off 250-500kcal per day is more than enough to go from a slight energy surplus to a healthy deficit. Cutting that many calories from your daily intake can be done easily by decreasing calorie load.
For example, rather than using whole milk for your cereal, try fat-free; substitute that handful of peanuts for a handful of blueberries; if you’re a fan of peanut butter sandwiches, ditch the bread for rice cakes; and drink water instead of juice or soda.
These may seem like small, insignificant changes, but enough of them in the day should be more than enough to move the needle on the scale.
3. Have a late breakfast
Pushing breakfast back as far as possible (aka intermittent fasting) may very well be the simplest way to reduce calorie intake without starving yourself.
The mechanism by which intermittent fasting works for fat-loss is quite simple: every day our bodies go back and forth from a fed state to a fasted state — delaying our first meal for as long as possible extends the time we spend fasting. Because most of us have breakfast upon rising and don’t stop eating until late at night, we tend to spend more time fed than fasted.
By allowing us to spend more time in a fasted state, we are reducing the amount of food we’re consuming on a daily basis, thus reducing our overall calorie intake, effortlessly.
Not only will it aid in fat-loss, but intermittent fasting has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity3, have anti-ageing effects4, increase growth hormone production5, reduce inflammation6, increase metabolic rate7, reduce oxidative stress8, and increase brain health.9
4. Don’t waste your willpower
It’s no secret that willpower is, in fact, a limited resource.10 Think of it as an energy bar on a video game and every time you have to make a choice, you drain the bar a little more. This is why most people are more likely to stick to their diet early on in the day, but then cave into cravings at night — too many decisions are draining their willpower.
So although most fitness gurus will tell you, you’re not disciplined or that you don’t want it badly enough, it’s not always the case. It’s easy for them, now, because they made those choices long enough for them to become habits. Once they’re habits, they don’t require willpower. Unfortunately, though, reaching that level takes time and effort.
For now, practice avoiding unnecessary decisions. For example, if you’re craving a brownie at bedtime, it’s going to be hard to resist if you know it’s there — especially once you start thinking about the creamy goodness it becomes when you dip it into a glass of cold milk. Don’t want to cave to chocolate cravings at night? Don’t buy brownies; buy apples instead.
5. Eat your veggies
Eating 500kcal worth of broccoli is far less likely than getting the same amount from a box of doughnuts. This is due to two things: food volume and fibre content — making vegetables far more satiating than sugary snacks.
If you want to avoid testing your willpower due to food cravings (caused by hunger), add one cup of vegetables to each meal. Not only will this limit the number of calories you can fit on your plate, but the sheer volume of food will keep you satisfied for a longer period of time.
6. Eat more protein
Due to its slow absorption11, protein is the most satiating macronutrient of them all.12
Similar to broccoli, it’s going to be much more difficult for you to get 500kcal from chicken breasts than it would from a box of Oreos. Not only has it been proven that a higher protein intake is superior for preserving muscle mass in individuals who have been restricting calories for a prolonged period of time, but it’s a great way to reduce appetite13 — making it much easier to stick to your diet.
7. Get caffeinated
Our body burns calories in a few different ways:
- BMR — the calories we burn from being alive (that is, breathing, keeping your heart beating, and so on
- TEF — the calories burned from processing the food we consume
- TEA — the calories burned through exercise, and
- NEAT — the calories burned from non-exercise activity (that is, standing up, sitting down, brushing your teeth, and so on.
These four things determine your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). If we can manage to expend more calories than we consume, we’ll lose weight.14
Want to burn more calories while increasing energy15, enhancing your mood16, and reducing the risk of deadly disease17? Drink some coffee! Caffeine has been shown to increase energy expenditure18, making it easier for you to achieve a negative energy balance.
Note: most fat burners contain caffeine and can help you in the process.
8. Eat bigger meals
You’ve probably heard the old adage, ‘your metabolism is like a fire: if you don’t add wood, it dies down’. This implies that by eating more frequently throughout the day, we’re keeping our metabolisms ‘revving’. Theoretically, it makes sense. In practice, however, it has never been shown to be true.
In fact, a 2013 study compared the effects of consuming three meals versus six meals per day.19 Researchers found that, between the two groups, there was no difference in fat oxidation; however, consuming smaller, more frequent meals may increase hunger and desire to eat.
If you’re eating five to six meals per day and finding that you’re hungry every couple of hours — or you’re not satisfied after a meal — knock that down to three larger meals and see if that works better for you.
9. Take the stairs
As I type this sentence, I am burning calories. This is known as Non-Exercises Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT — and it’s one of the most overlooked factors in weight loss.
If you’ve ever met someone who isn’t losing weight despite making healthy food choices, they’re probably spending too much time sitting at a desk or lying on a couch.
Ways to increase NEAT:
- Park further away from the grocery store
- Take the stairs
- Carry your groceries
- Walk your dog (or your neighbours)
Moral of the story: move more!
1 Hand GA, Shook RP, Paluch AE, Baruth M, Crowley EP, Jaggers JR, Prasad VK, Hurley TG, Hebert JR, O’Connor DP, Archer E, Burgess S, Blair SN. The energy balance study: the design and baseline results for a longitudinal study of energy balance. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2013;84(3):275-86. Delete?
2 “Laws of thermodynamics.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_thermodynamics
3 Van Proeyen K, Szlufcik K, Nielens H, Pelgrim K, Deldicque L, Hesselink M, Van Veldhoven PP, Hespel P. Training in the fasted state improves glucose tolerance during fat-rich diet. J Physiol. 2010 Nov 1;588(Pt 21):4289-302. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.196493.
4 Mehrdad Alirezaei, Christopher C. Kemball, Claudia T. Flynn, Malcolm R. Wood, J. Lindsay Whitton, and William B. Kiosses. Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy. 2010 Aug 16; 6(6): 702–710.
5 K Y Ho, J D Veldhuis, M L Johnson, R Furlanetto, W S Evans, K G Alberti, and M O Thorner. Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. J Clin Invest. 1988 Apr; 81(4): 968–975.
6 Aksungar FB1, Topkaya AE, Akyildiz M. Interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and biochemical parameters during prolonged intermittent fasting. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(1):88-95. Epub 2007 Mar 19.
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11 Bilsborough S, Mann N. A review of issues of dietary protein intake in humans. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Apr;16(2):129-52.
12 David S Weigle, Patricia A Breen, Colleen C Matthys, Holly S Callahan, Kaatje E Meeuws, Verna R Burden, and Jonathan Q Purnell. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. July 2005 vol. 82 no. 1 41-48 DELETE?
13 Eric R. Helms, Caryn Zinn, David S. Rowlands, and Scott R. Brown. A Systematic Review of Dietary Protein During Caloric Restriction in Resistance Trained Lean Athletes: A Case for Higher Intakes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2014, 24, 127-138.
14 “Balance and Food Activity.” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/healthy-weight-basics/balance.htm
15 Smith A.P. Brockman P. Flynn R. Maben A. Thomas M. Investigation of the Effects of Coffee on Alertness and Performance during the Day and Night. Neuropsychobiology. 1993;27:217–223
16 Nehlig A. Is caffeine a cognitive enhancer? J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 1:S85-94. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-091315.
17 Andrew O Odegaard, Mark A Pereira, Woon-Puay Koh, Kazuko Arakawa, Hin-Peng Lee, and Mimi C Yu. Coffee, tea, and incident type 2 diabetes: the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. October 2008 vol. 88 no. 4 979-985.
18 Astrup A1, Toubro S, Cannon S, Hein P, Breum L, Madsen J. Caffeine: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of its thermogenic, metabolic, and cardiovascular effects in healthy volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 May;51(5):759-67.
19 Kazunori Ohkawara, Marc-Andre Cornier, Wendy M. Kohrt, and Edward L Melanson. Effects of Increased Meal Frequency on Fat Oxidation and Perceived Hunger. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Feb; 21(2): 336–343