Animal foods are the best sources of protein because they contain all the amino acids the body needs to perform all its functions, including building muscle. Chicken, fish, eggs, lean beef, and turkey should be your dietary staples. Protein powder supplements are also an acceptable source. A three-to-four-ounce portion of lean meat is about the size and thickness of your palm, and contains 20–25 grams of protein and five grams of fat or fewer (look up the nutrition facts for certain foods if you’re not sure).
Remember that the fats in your diet will come mainly by way of your protein foods, but you can have fattier fare such as avocados, nuts, nut butter, and cooking oils such as olive and coconut to make up the rest. Your carbohydrates should come mainly from white rice, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Why white rice over brown? The brown stuff contains compounds that can block the absorption of nutrients. “White rice has had its hull removed,” says Miyaki, “leaving only the starch, which is all your body needs to replenish the glucose stores that fuel your training.” It’s true that brown rice packs more vitamins and minerals, but that’s what vegetables are for. Your intake of green veggies should be high—there’s no limit on how many you’re allowed.
“You can have one piece of whole fruit after your weight workouts,” says Miyaki. “Fruit is a fast-digesting carb source that can provide your body with immediate recovery fuel.” It’s a better choice than a carb powder, which Miyaki says can spike your insulin and cause rebound hypoglycemia—that crash you get after a sugary meal that can sap your energy for hours. An apple or banana works perfectly, and comes out to about 30 grams of carbs total.
Dairy, grains, and processed foods are not good diet choices. While they do provide useful nutrition, most people have an intolerance to them that causes digestive distress. If you feel fine eating some dairy or grains, go ahead and enjoy them sparingly, but you’ll get faster and better results sticking to the foods on our list.
THE ROLE OF TRAINING
Working out doesn’t burn enough calories to unload serious fat, but it does make you more muscular, which increases your metabolism and will help you stay lean once you’ve dieted down to where you want to be. “Standard weight training works fine,” says Krahn. “Do a heavy upper and lower day, and then two light days later in the week.” Your heavy days can limit reps to 5–8, and lighter workouts can be done in the range of 8–15. “Or, you can do three full-body workouts per week.” Since abs are primarily the result of clean eating, exercises that isolate them are not absolutely necessary, but feel free to include one to three ab moves per session.
Cardio is not essential for fat loss. However, it is required for optimal heart health and conditioning, so perform some kind of cardiovascular exercise three to five times per week.