Most diets are all about what foods you'll cut out. This one is all about what you'll include. And that's good news, because if you want to emerge on the other side of this plan with a new body, you must have the flexibility and freedom to keep yourself from getting hungry, and the knowledge that you can eat well no matter what.
Guideline #1: Eat Six Meals a Day
Didn't I tell you this isn't about deprivation?
We're so used to hearing people talk about eating less food that it's become weight-loss doctrine. The new philosophy I want you to keep in mind is "energy balance."
Researchers at Georgia State University developed a technique to measure hourly energy balance—that is, how many calories you're burning versus how many calories you're taking in. The researchers found that if you keep your hourly surplus or deficit within 300 to 500 calories at all times, you'll best be able to change your body composition by losing fat and adding lean muscle mass.
People with the largest energy imbalances (those whose calorie surpluses or shortfalls topped 500 calories from hour to hour) were the fattest, while those with the most balanced energy levels were the leanest. So if you eat only your three squares a day, your energy levels are all over the place.
That kind of eating plan is great—if your dream is to be the next Chris Farley. But if you want to look slimmer, feel fitter, and live longer, then eat more often. Simply alternate your meals with snacks (we've given you a ton of food suggestions below) and you'll keep your stomach full, which will reduce the likelihood of a diet-destroying binge.
Guideline #2: Drink Smoothies Regularly
A blender may be the ultimate weight-loss power tool. Smoothies—blended mixtures of milk, low-fat yogurt, whey powder, ice, and other good stuff—can act as meal substitutes and as potent snacks. They require little time; the berries, flavored whey powder, or peanut butter will satisfy your sweet cravings; and their thickness takes up space in your stomach. A University of Tennessee study found that men who added three servings of yogurt a day to their diets lost 61 percent more body fat and 81 percent more stomach fat over 12 weeks than men who didn't eat yogurt. Researchers speculate that the calcium helps the body burn fat and limits the amount of fat your body can make. So drink an 8-ounce smoothie for breakfast, as a meal substitute, or as a snack before or after your workout.
Guideline #3: Know What to Drink—and What Not To
There are many ways that alcohol can get you into trouble, and not just at the intern luncheon. Alcohol doesn't make you feel full or decrease the amount of food you'll eat. But it does encourage your body to burn as much as 36 percent less fat and make you store more of the fat you eat. And it can inhibit your production of testosterone and human growth hormone—two hormones that help burn fat and build muscle.
Okay, so water isn't exciting, but drinking about eight glasses of it a day has a lot of benefits.
It helps keep you satiated (often what we interpret as hunger is really thirst). It flushes the waste products your body churns out when processing protein or breaking down fat. And it transports nutrients to your muscles, to keep your metabolism clicking. Otherwise, the best drinks you can have are low-fat milk and green tea (or, if you must, no more than two glasses of diet soda a day).
Guideline #4: Focus on the Abs Diet Power 12
The Abs Diet encourages you to focus on (not restrict yourself to) a generous market basket of food types—the Abs Diet Power 12—to fulfill your core nutritional needs. These foods are so good for you, in fact, that they'll just about single-handedly exchange your fat for muscle (provided you've kept your receipt). Just as important, I've designed the Power 12 to include thousands of food combinations. The more of them you eat, the better your body will be able to increase lean muscle mass and avoid storing fat. Just follow these simple guidelines:
- Include two or three of these foods in each of your three major meals and at least one of them in each of your three snacks.
- Diversify your food at every meal to get a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
- Make sure you sneak a little bit of protein into each snack.
Guideline #5: Stop Counting
Though calorie burning is paramount to losing fat, calorie counting will make you lose focus and motivation. The great news is that when you zero in on the Abs Diet Powerfoods, you'll be healthy and won't feel hungry as often. Plus, the most energy-efficient foods are almost like doormen at a nightclub: They're not going to let any of the riffraff in without your approval.
Guideline #6: For One Meal a Week, Forget the Guidelines
I would never advocate cheating on your spouse or your taxes. But I want you to cheat on this diet. Take one meal during the week and forget everything about good carbohydrates and good fats. Have whatever it is—pizza, buffalo wings—that you miss the most. Think of this cheat meal as the carrot at the end of a good week of eating. Enjoy your meal of gluttony, but please, don't make the carrot literally a carrot.