Fat Loss Nutrition for Beginners

balanced-nutritionIt’s no secret that diet plays a huge role in fat loss, and in part 3 of my interview with transformation expert John Alvino, John discussed at length the importance of adding a cheat meal into your diet.

Today, we’ll continue with more diet and nutrition tips.  First, John shares with us some little, yet surprisingly effective, nutritional changes beginners can follow to burn fat quickly.  And if you need a little inspiration to get going on your fat loss program, then you’ll definitely want to read the 180 one of John’s clients experienced simply using his recommendations.

So, let’s get into it….


Craig Ballantyne:  Okay so let’s go back to beginners.  What are the most effective nutritional changes they can make immediately?

John Alvino: Okay I find that the most important thing for beginners is for them to establish a base line diet.  So I don’t give a raw beginner an extreme pre contest diet.  It’s not necessary.  I’m assuming that a beginner hasn’t done any real weight training or any structured dieting in the past.

Initially a balanced diet is the best place to start.  I would recommend approximately 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein, 20% fat.   I generally start most people with these ratios and then from there I will see how their body is responding.  After several weeks of this I start to see how this person responds to carbohydrates in their diet, and if necessary we will adjust accordingly.

It’s important for beginners to learn good eating habits.  Like meal frequency for example.  Because no matter what plan you’re on you’re going to be eating every two and a half to three and a half hours if you’re looking to get in shape.  This has been proven time and time again to be the best way to eat.

So meal frequency gets established.  Caloric intact gets established.  And just general good habits of eating, drinking water, structuring meals, and food quality.

So basically for beginners I don’t do anything remotely advanced or difficult.  It’s more about laying down a solid foundation.

Craig Ballantyne:  Awesome.  Can you tell us a great beginner’s success story?  Maybe someone that came in a little bit more overweight than the story you told us about before and then what were the keys for the success for this beginner?transformation-success-story

John Alvino: Okay, I have one client who just recently lost 92 pounds; I think she will make a great example.

She was such a beginner.  She was scared to even come into the gym.  She felt intimidated, she felt like she didn’t belong.  She felt like people were looking at her and judging her.  So we had to overcome a million psychological hurdles before we could even really start.  She was determined, which I can respect and appreciate.  When my clients are determined, that gets me inspired, and even more determined to help them.

So she came in weighing 250 pounds.  Just walking on the treadmill was able to get her heart rate up big time and get her exhausted, and almost light headed.  I knew we had to start with baby steps with her.

After looking at her diet I knew we were not going to do anything extreme.  I just had her go from eating processed junk foods to natural whole foods.

When she came in, I was not sure she was being honest about what she was eating.  I really suspected she was eating a little more than she even put on paper.  But her claim was that she was eating 2,400 calories a day.  That was a little exaggerated downward in my opinion.  I didn’t want to cut her calories too much, so I just had her go to 2,100 calories, and started her doing light treadmill work and light dumbbell work.

One problem with someone at that weight is that they’re too weak to move their body weight.  So a lot of great exercises that we would normally prescribe that require you have to move your body weight were not possible at this time.

So I started her on a plan where she was doing MACHINE WORK where she could move light plate weight, and also some light dumbbell exercises.  It was a plan that I normally would not prescribe, but it was what she needed.

So she was doing exercises like presses and leg extensions and all kind of upper body machine work until she had a little base of strength so she could start doing some more effective exercises where she could start moving her body weight around.

Now, here’s the amazing part.  Just from making the changes from junk food to health food and just moving around the gym, nothing too intense at this point, she started losing weight at a clip of about five pounds a week. The first week she even lost more.  I noticed that for the first 30 pounds it really melted off without us doing anything other than givibodyweight-exerciseng her a better lifestyle.  From that point we had to make some transition.  I started changing her routine. She was able to start doing exercises like a step-up.  She was able to start moving her body weight around, which helped a lot.

Her cardio work went from ten minutes to twenty.  She was no longer panting from taking a leisurely stroll in the park.  We were able to start increasing the intensity there.  At that point she was totally HOOKED and she FELT GREAT.  All of the negative thoughts about the gym were completely erased.  Everyone was supporting her.  She would come in and she would have dozens of friends that were all really pulling for her, so the gym became like a second home for her which was great.  She felt good being there, she even spent extra time there.  She would come on off days to do a little extra cardio.

So at that point we made a little bit more transition.  I didn’t drop the calories too much, but I just manipulated her carbohydrate intake a little bit where I just cut the carbs out of her last meal of the day, which accounted for 120 calorie reduction.  I just made little adjustments like that.

Obviously if you’re that overweight, you probably have an insulin metabolism issue and your insulin sensitivity gets a little bit worse at night, so we cut carbs out of that meal and at this point she was losing about three pounds a week.  It was just flying off her body; it was great.  Believe it or not, she was able to build muscle during this phase, even though her training was low intensity.  She really stuck with the plan, which of course made all the difference.

She was down 92 pounds when I got an upsetting phone call.  Her husband got transferred out to the Orient and she had to leave.  She does stay in touch with me and says it’s a little bit harder to eat well out there and she is still doing her plan and she has continued to lose weight and she has done really great.

All of her fears that she had at the gym, they were overcome.  Her insecurities have vanished.  Her dieting structure is completely changed now.  Now it’s like habit forming to eat well.  She’s at the point now where she can even have that once a week cheat meal.

She feels so much better about herself, and this is probably the greatest satisfaction that I got out of helping her.  She used to be a stress eater, so she would eat when she felt depressed, when she felt the low self-esteem issues kicking up.  It was kind of like a form of self punishment, but now that she was getting in shape she felt so much better about herself.  She would say, “I don’t know why I use to do that”.  Training became THERAPEUTIC for her.

She was a real inspiring story because of where she came from and where she was going.

Craig Ballantyne:  That’s an incredible story.

Two things I would like to talk about there and one of them is very complex.  To lose that weight that quickly, I would think there are some complex hormonal changes going on in the body.  Is there a way you can simplify an explanation for us about what you think was going on there and then why?

I believe beginners can really lose way more than a pound per week when they make that transition from junk food to good food and from no exercise to good exercise.  I mean, that is where, without a doubt, people can gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously and do so with incredible success.  So what’s going on?

John Alvino: That’s a very good point and what you said is very true.

Let’s just digress for a second, and point out that advanced trainees have already built up their metabolism.  So to make any strides, we have to employ pretty advanced techniques because your body likes to maintain a state of status quo.

Beginners don’t have a lot of muscle initially.  They typically have sluggish metabolisms. I suspect a lot of times in overweight people there is usually an intake of an abundance of calories in addition to being predisposed to gaining fat.

There are, as you mentioned, hormonal issues as well.  The one that is probably most predominate is INSULIN METABOLISM issues.  Let me briefly explain what insulin is and how it can negatively effect your body composition and health.  Insulin is a storage hormone made in the pancreas.  It is an important hormone and is vital to good health.  The PROBLEM is when insulin levels get high and stay high.  Insulin is released into the blood based on your blood sugar levels.  It then takes the blood sugar and shuttles it into your cells.  Blood sugar can be shuttled into muscle cells, which is certainly desirable.  But there is a potential problem here.

If your body makes too much insulin, the receptors on your muscles become resistant to insulin.  Once this happens, the body starts to release more and more insulin in an attempt to open up those receptors.  Think of the receptors as doors and insulin as a key to open them.  Now you have high blood sugar and high insulin levels at the same time.  Your body wants to maintain stable levels of blood sugar.  So if the receptors on the muscles are resistant, the blood sugar will get shuttled into the fat cell instead of the muscle cell.  This is when you start gaining a lot of unwanted body fat. Luckily there are ways to combat this.

Here are three easy rules to remember:

1. Cut down on saturated fat intake.fiber-foods
2. When you do eat saturated fats, don’t eat them with a lot of carbohydrates.  Cut down on sugar intake.
3. Eat plenty of fiber.

So hormonally speaking, a bad diet is going to set up the receptors to become resistant to insulin.

When we go on a good diet, however, we tend to have somewhat stable blood sugar, which is a direct result of a diet.  Let’s say that you’re eating healthy carbohydrates with vegetables and with a protein source.  And let’s say that your meals are balanced, your blood sugar is not going to get so high, and that your insulin is not going to have to panic and get too high either.  Whatever blood sugar you have is going to get shuttled into your muscle, rather than your fat cells.

So hormones do play a significant role in fat loss, and they can be CONTROLLED to a large degree through diet.