Unleash The Fat Burner Within!

Phil Kaplan


Watching a well-intentioned fitness enthusiast seek valuable nutritional information is analogous to watching a mouse drive itself crazy trying to work its way through an impossible maze. Where in the world do you get clarity when confusion abounds?

If you’re like most committed health club members, you try diligently to find information that applies to your specific needs. First stop, the bookstore. One book says “cut carbs.” There it is! That’s the secret. You happen, however, to glance at another book on the same shelf. This one says, “60 percent of your intake should be carbs.” One book says “avoid fat,” another says, “to lose fat you have to ingest fat.”

After you pick up enough of the conflicting books, your head begins to spin. You go to the supermarket, hoping to find foods supportive of your exercise efforts and you’re besieged with the magazines at the checkout counter. Each one reveals yet another secret to fat loss and fitness.

“Jennie lost 42 pounds in 16 days with this miracle eating plan.” Is that the plan you want to try, or should you “Find out how to breathe away the pounds without giving up your favorite desserts? ”

I’ve made a career of helping people find their way out of the maze, delivering clarity so people become empowered to finally see the results they’ve been trying so hard to achieve. I simplify concepts so people can see what is in fact legit and what is a bundle of hooey.

I help people understand that no device short of a vacuum and scalpel can reduce a given area. I help people understand that if they want to shed fat, they must take control of their metabolism. I repeatedly demonstrate the virtues of the synergy between the right nutrition, moderate aerobic exercise, and a concern for muscle — and explain why all three elements must be in place for positive physical change.

What specifically does “the right nutrition” mean?

If the goal is health, fitness and a better looking body, the right nutrition involves an eating program (not a “starving” program) that allows you to boost metabolism… to make your body more efficient at burning through food. Ideally you’d need a supportive balance of lean proteins, starches, fibrous carbs and essential fatty acids. While people often gravitate toward supplements, these are all nutrients found in food.

Food is thermic (heat producing)! A calorie is a unit of heat so if you eat more thermic meals, you’ll actually burn more calories in the act of digestion. If you put thermic meals through your body every 3 to 3 1/2 hours, your body becomes more efficient at oxidizing food. In other words, your metabolism speeds up.

Ideally, you’d attempt to get a mix of those vital nutrients, proteins, complex starches, fibrous carbs, and essential fats by eating a supportive meal every three hours — amounting to six meals per day.

I know if weight loss is your goal, there’s an immediate knee jerk reaction to that suggestion. The underlying belief in our minds is “eat less, weigh less.”

Weight lost via starvation, which is what most diets amount to, is not healthful. By missing out on the vital nutrients your body needs you run the risk of losing lean body mass, calorically active tissue, which slows metabolism. You’ll be programming your body to get really good at accumulating fat.

Natural produce choices for fibrous carbohydrates are dense in vitamins and minerals and also provide fiber to aid in moving nutrients through the digestive tract. Essential fats are components of cellular walls and are vital in maintaining optimal health. The simplified ideal would, therefore, be a lean protein, a starchy carb and a fibrous carb made from natural choices every 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

Lean protein sources include chicken breast, turkey breast, egg whites, and fish. Thermic and supportive starchy carbs include whole grains, peas, corn, tomatoes, oatmeal, potato, sweet potato and brown rice. Fibrous carbs include most vegetables you’d put in a salad. Turning the concept of lean protein, starchy carbohydrates and fibrous carbohydrates into meals, we can come up with some examples:

Chicken breast, baked potato, broccoli

Broiled salmon, brown rice, a green salad

Egg white omelet with peppers and mushrooms and a side of oatmeal

We’ve now taken a major turn in the maze. We understand the necessity for obtaining supportive meals frequently, and we understand the components of such meals. The next question that always arises is… how much?

Kenny, a client of mine, started on one of my programs a few years ago. For the first two weeks, he came up to my office every day to show my staff the size of his meals. “Is this too much rice? Do I need more chicken?”

tried to make this simple for him, as I’m about to do for you. I told him to firstly stop stressing out over the portions and to trust his appetite. If you aren’t hungry every 3 hours at this point, realize that your appetite has developed based on what you asked of it. You’ve developed habits that cause chemical signals to result in hunger at given hours of the day. You can alter that appetite. Eat supportive meals frequently for 2 or 3 weeks, and you’ll find yourself ravenous if you have to go more than 3 hours without food.

Kenny wasn’t fulfilled with the idea. He was confused. Here was my suggestion: “Put equal portions of lean proteins, starchy carbs, and fibrous carbs in front of you every three hours. Eat until you’re not hungry. Three hours later, do it again.” I know people often want specifics. They want numbers. There are two major challenges with providing people a nutritional regimen that involves “grams” or “calories.”

There are so many variables, ranging from activity level to exercise intensity, from metabolic function to stress level that will determine the ideal nutritional requirements for any individual, it is virtually impossible to come up with a prescription for the masses. The new breed of books offers solutions in a new language of percentages. “40 percent protein, 30 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent fat,” or is it “40 percent protein, 20 percent carbohydrate and 40 percent fat?” Sort through the percentage prescriptions, and your head once again begins to spin.

If you follow the suggestions I gave Kenny, you’ll likely find the results he did. Kenny integrated supportive eating into his exercise lifestyle and ultimately achieved the best physical condition of his life… and he stopped bringing his breakfast to my office! The key wasn’t a formula or a caloric prescription, but rather an awareness of the innate power of learning to fuel his body optimally and trust his appetite.

As much as I discourage people from relying on formulas, when we’re dealing with athletes who earn their livings from their physical condition, there is an underlying willingness to calculate meals. There is a method of estimating ideal caloric intake… but the result is only an estimate. It does offer a starting point for those who want to convert foods into grams of nutrients and ultimately into calories. I’ll share it with you, just so you have the information. But, here’s what I ask of people who embark upon my programs.

Put the formula away. Eat visually equal servings of lean proteins, starchy carbohydrates and fibrous carbohydrates. Trust your appetite. After six weeks, break out the formula. If you’re like most people applying this approach, you’ll find that you’re instinctively within 250 calories of the formula induced estimate.

OK, now that I’ve made my point, now that I’ve discouraged you from using the following formula, I guess it’s safe to share it with you.

The numbers between 13 and 17 serve as a starting point. If you have a slow metabolism and are relatively inactive, use the number 13. If you’re lean, have a fast metabolism, and are very active, use the number 17. Use that as a gauge to select the number you’re going to plug into the formula.

In order to zero in on the ideal number of calories to ingest in the course of a day, multiply your bodyweight by the selected number (13-17), or, if you’re more than 15 pounds above what you believe to be your ideal weight, multiply your ideal weight by your perceived ideal. Let’s try this with a moderately active individual with an average metabolism. We’d select the number 15 as the multiplier. Let’s assume he weighs 180 pounds and believes his ideal is 160. He would multiply his perceived ideal weight by 15.

15 x 160 = 2,400 calories per day

To determine the per meal caloric ideal, you’d divide by 6 since we are striving for six feedings in a day.

2,400 / 6 = 400 calories per meal

Now we get into those dreaded percentages. It appears reasonable to use the following numbers, although physique athletes may go higher on protein, endurance athletes higher on carbs:

40 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrate, 20 percent fat

Going back to our example, this fellow would determine the following:

Meal = 400 calories
Protein = 400 calories x 40 percent = 160 calories
Carb = 400 calories x 40 percent = 160 calories
Fats = 400 calories x 20 percent = 80 calories

It would be nice if this was enough… but it isn’t. We don’t measure food in calories, we measure in grams. We therefore have to convert the calories into grams.

1 gram of protein yields 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrate yields 4 calories
1 gram of fat yields 9 calories
Taking the formula to its final step:

160 protein calories / 4 calories per gram = 40 protein grams
160 carbohydrate calories / 4 calories per gram = 40 carbohydrate grams
80 fat calories / 9 calories per gram = approximately 9 fat grams

Is your head starting to spin? That’s why I’m not a proponent of answering the questions, “how many calories, how many grams?” After sharing the numbers, I’m going to ask you to reacquaint yourself with your appetite.

There are some traps people fall into when first attempting supportive eating. One is the tendency to believe it necessary to add fat to meals. There is fat in a chicken breast. There is more fat in a piece of salmon or mackerel. You’ll find essential fats in seeds, nuts, grains and even meats from animals fed grains high in essential fats. Adding saturated fats to meals could add a significant number of calories.

Minimize saturated and hydrogenated fats and consider supplementing with flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is an essential fatty acid compound that contains both the Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fats. A teaspoon of flaxseed oil can act as an insurance policy to make certain there isn’t a deficiency in essential fat intake.

It’s also important to identify and minimize processed carbohydrate foods. Refined (processed) carbohydrates are less nutritious and far less thermic than complex starches and fibers. It’s as if a machine did some of the work your body was going to do, and those refined carbs are easily converted to triglycerides and stored as fat.

You must develop trust. Trust not only in the ability you have to alter your metabolism, but also in your appetite and its ability to guide you. The chicken breast on your plate should appear to be about the same size as the serving of broccoli. The serving of broccoli should be the size of the baked potato. Eat to quell hunger, do it frequently throughout the day, and you’ll find your appetite becomes your best friend, or perhaps your mirror will!



Phil Kaplan has developed a reputation as one of the world’s most in demand fitness professionals.

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