When Natalie Bencivenga, the editor of twoday magazine, asked me to write a 4-6 week continual piece on getting in shape for the summer I thought, “Okay, now I have to bring something to the table that will blow their socks off.”
So my plan is to provide a solid goal every week that you can work towards along with an exercise tip. We’ll start with what can produce the most gains over time (4 weeks out) to the ones you still need to use but can start later (1 week from bikini time). That way by the time we are done you will have four new lifestyle changes and four exercise “tips” leaving you well on your way to lean, healthy bodies for life.
Alright, let’s get to it.
Week 1: Always Eat Breakfast & Eat Every 3 Hours
I know I am the “fitness guy”. But so much of your body composition is comprised by your food intake. The saying “you are what you eat” isn’t necessarily true but rather, “you are what you metabolize.” (I stole that one from Mark MacDonald of Venice Nutrition.) So what I wanted to focus on this first week was your food intake and why it plays such a huge role in your body composition. If you want deeper info than this article check out a previous twoday article of mine, “How To Lose Your Belly…”
To start your body as a fat-burning machine every day you need to eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking. You’ve just woken up from a good night’s rest (hopefully) and haven’t eaten for at least 8+ hrs (hopefully). Your body is starving. It hasn’t had nutrients in a long time. That’s why the first meal of the day is called breakfast. You are breaking the fast. You want to eat within 30 minutes of waking to kick-start your metabolism. Protein & fat are the way to go at this meal. Remember, dietary fat doesn’t make you fat. So don’t be afraid to drop some avocado on those eggs. 5-15% of the calories we burn is a result of the thermic effect of food – or what it takes our body to process the food. Protein takes longer and burns more calories in the process.
Avoid carbs as they will boost insulin (blood sugar) to undesired levels and you will store fat. The only exception being berries as they are low glycemic. Reach for darker berries and thin-skinned berries, as they will have far greater antioxidant properties. If you have a LOT of fat to burn then I would suggest even ditching the berries at breakfast and saving them for post-workout.
Once you’ve eaten breakfast within 30 minutes of waking, you have set your schedule to eat every 3 hours until the day is over. What this will do is stabilize your blood sugar and keep you in the desired range to not store fat or burn muscle. Remember, your muscle is your metabolism so you want to keep as much lean muscle as you can.
IF you decide to wait too long to eat, say 6 hours after breakfast, then your blood sugar drops too low and your body will burn muscle. Conversely if you eat exactly 3 hours later but eat too many carbs or too many calories you will be in that elevated state again and storing fat.
I can sense all of you are now freaked out as to what to possibly eat to stay in the healthy range of blood sugar stabilization. The rules that I teach are:
1) Eat until you are not hungry (not “full”). Everyone is different as well as different times of the day you’ll be more or less hungry – like after a workout. So just listen to your body.
2) Focus on low-glycemic foods like eggs, above-ground veggies and raw nuts. We avoid below-ground veggies because they have higher sugar content and will boost your insulin levels. Not good for fat burning!
Hypothetical situation time: Let’s say you ate breakfast at 6am and stuck to the 3 hour rule so you also ate at 9am, 12p, 3p & dinner at 6p. You go to bed around 10pm. Do you eat at 9pm? The answer – absolutely yes! Your body still needs energy while you sleep or your metabolism will come to an even greater halt. As long as you stick to some protein and fat combination your body and brain will have some fuel to process and you will actually burn more fat! Actually, you will probably sleep a little bit better as well because your body won’t be waking you up begging you to go feed it!
Fat-Burning Exercise Tip of the Week:
Do “Big-Bang” exercises that use many joints and many muscles. These are exercises like squats, dead lifts, push-ups, chin-ups and squat-push presses. Also do them near the beginning of the workouts as you will be fresher physically and mentally.
Next week: How sleep helps you to burn fat PLUS another fat-burning exercise tip!
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Like this article? Here are some other great tips from Phil Gephart for twodaymag:
Check out Phil Gephart's website which is full of great workout tips HERE
About Phil Gephart:
Phil Gephart is a certified personal trainer with a Master's Degree (MS) in Exercise Science with a focus in Coaching & Athletic Administration, received in 2009 from Concordia University in beautiful Irvine, California. Phil’s passion for fitness is reflected in his involvement in sports throughout his life—in high school, he played basketball, baseball and soccer, in college he continued playing basketball and soccer. Phil also played basketball professionally for five years.
Phil Gephart is currently a professor in the exercise science department at Concordia University, where he teaches an Advanced Personal Training course to undergraduate students.