It’s no secret… you need to eat clean to get lean

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The cliché that you are what you eat is absolutely true. Unfortunately for most, the world we live in is littered with poor quality manufactured foods that aren’t conducive to the creation of a desirable physique.

While the health implications of processed, convenience and fast foods are numerous, in the context of creating and maintaining a lean, muscular body, processed carbohydrates and sugar are the most disastrous food choices.

Hormonal havoc

Due to the influence these substances have on our hormonal systems, an overconsumption of either or both will leave you with a soft and rounded midsection and an inability to efficiently metabolise body fat.

This is primarily due to a faltering insulin response. To sharpen your insulin sensitivity, you must:

  1. Cut our all forms of sugar
  2. Implement some form of carbohydrate manipulation.

When this is done in conjunction with a high-intensity weight training programme, body transformation magic usually ensues.

Carb manipulation techniques

However, we’re not suggesting you go full-tilt Banting. The degree to which you should manipulate your carb intake will depend on many factors, such as your prevailing level of insulin sensitivity, your genetics, your daily activity levels, and your meal timing.

However, before you go fiddling around with your carb intake, it’s important to get the basics right. There are a few fundamentals that are universally relevant to anyone looking to improve their body composition. These include:

  • Eating as close to nature as possible. This requires adhering to a diet that predominantly consists of organic meat and airy, fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. As far as possible, stay away from processed and packaged man-made foods.
  • Never exclude an entire food group. Any diet that severly restricts or eliminates an entire macronutrient group will have a detrimental effect on your muscle tissue, which can reduce your metabolism and stunt gains. Quality, natural carbs are crucial for optimal healthy and an active lifestyle.
  • Portion control and a controlled calorie intake are vital to keep weight gain in check. A slight calorie deficit of no more than 500 calories a day can be required to stimulate weight loss.
  • Consider the glycaemic index (GI) of the carbs you eat AND the glycaemic load (GL) of the meals they’re contained in.
  • Snack wisely and only if you are hungry.

Use macronutrient timing to fine-tune your physique

Having established a solid nutritional foundation to create a platform for efficient fat loss, your final consideration should be macronutrient timing.

Despite conventional wisdom and advice to the contrary, a balanced diet does not always mean that each plate of food must a portion of each macronutrient group.

Consuming most, if not all of your carbs during your post-workout meal – a dietary strategy commonly referred to as carb backloading – offers the ideal balance between limiting carbs to boost insulin sensitivity and reduce fat storage, while still fuelling your body with it needs to grow and perform.

Avoiding carbs at night also has its place in weight loss and weight management. However, not all carbs are ‘evil’. If you have starchy veg at night, such as butternut, sweet potato, pumpkin and corn, you may increase your insulin levels slightly, but not so much that it negatively influences weight gain. The rest of your meals can comprise proteins and fats to meet your daily macronutrient ratio requirements and also your daily calorie intake.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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