What's New in Fat Loss: News, Views & Opinions of a Natural Bodybuilder
Tom Venuto interviewed by John Sifferman, Part 2
Continued from Part One
JOHN SIFFERMAN: How much attention should we pay to our fiber intake Ė and what are some of the best fiber-filled foods?
TOM VENUTO: Fiber is very important for health but also it has implications for appetite and body fat control. The fiber itself is not fully metabolizable so all the caloric energy is not available; it gets passed through the digestive system unabsorbed. Fiber also contributes to the feeling of fullness and helps with control of blood sugar. For fiber, eat lots of fruits and veggies of course, but donít forget about the natural starchy carbs. The starchy complex carbs often get snubbed on a fat loss diet, but those can be some of your best sources of fiber, especially the beans and legumes. Also, if you donít eat a lot of berries, some of the berries like raspberries are loaded with fiber. Put some on your oatmeal in the morning and youíll have half your daily fiber intake in one meal.
JOHN SIFFERMAN: What do you think about intermittent fasting? I've read about some plans that involve fasting for 24 hours every so often. Some plans call for alternate-day fasting. It's said to improve insulin sensitivity and increase longevity, among other benefits. Any thoughts?
TOM VENUTO: I think itís noteworthy that you said many people are interested in fasting or intermittent fasting (IF) for longevity, independent of weight loss interests. Discussing ďlife extension by caloric restriction (CR),Ē including IF, is still entirely academic and totally theoretical because the life extension claims are all based on animal studies or at best, looking at biomarkers of aging in humans. CR clearly extends the lifespans of animals, and the subject is being studied in earnest to find mechanisms and see if animal findings transfer to humans. But we still have no direct, conclusive proof that CR will extend human life and even the CR researchers say so themselves.
In my opinion, the area that's most overlooked in life extension and improved quality of life as you age is psychology. I believe that understanding the mental and emotional side of health and aging are worth greater consideration than dietary factors. People with a purpose, a passion and a reason for living Ė especially if that includes other people - are going to live a long healthy life Ė thatís my personal belief anyway. Iíd recommend some deep introspection on this before starving yourself. I also think you have to think about quality of life above all else. Lifelong hunger is a tough sale, and nobody wants to tack on years of dysfunction and illness. What if you under-eat yourself into a weak and frail body Ė what will be the consequences when youíre older? One of the poster boys for CR is 6 feet tall and 115 lbs.
With intermittent fasting (IF), alternate day dieting or just an occasional fasting day, you have more reasonable and feasible approaches than prolonged CR. If fasting is not carried to extremes and or if short fasts are done infrequently, I donít think you have to worry about metabolic slowdown or any major muscle losses and there may be health or psychological benefits. Some people say the IF approach gives them a sense of freedom and relief from regimented diet programs especially ones requiring meals every three hours like Burn The Fat or other bodybuilding-based programs.
IF practitioners are quick to say that bodybuilding diets with 6 meals a day are not mandatory and may actually be an inconvenience to many peopleís lifestyles. Thatís a perfectly legitimate point. However, what seems odd to me is that their answer to 6 meals a day being a "burden" is to eat nothing for an entire day or the better part of a day rather than meeting in the middle with just 3 meals a day. So if someone absolutely does not want to use the bodybuilding method of 6 small meals a day, why not just eat 3 slightly larger meals a day (or preferably, 3 meals plus snacks), every day instead of having days with zero meals or just one big meal? Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner is actually the traditional and socially acceptable meal pattern and will help alleviate the hunger of long stretches without food, which is a big problem with any fasting approach.
Given the research on CR and IF and the interest in alternative lifestyle choices today, we donít need to be dogmatic about meal frequency nor fear the occasional missed meal or short fast. IF could be a legitimate quick fix way to lose weight because it virtually guarantees a calorie deficit, without having to do any calorie counting. A specific meal frequency is not an absolute requirement to lose weight, only the caloric deficit is, but I donít believe thereís any physiological fat loss magic in IF outside the caloric deficit.
Some people are best advised to avoid IF and that would include those with a history of binge eating or hypoglycemia and people who donít tolerate hunger well. I also wouldnít recommend IF to people who want to optimize muscle mass gains. For bodybuilders and those seeking muscle mass, I still strongly recommend eating 5-6 protein-containing meals per day as I explain in my book Burn The Fat, and this method has a decades-long proven track record.
JOHN SIFFERMAN: By now, most of us know that carbohydrates arenít the arch-nemesis of fat loss progress, and we all know that we do need carbs, in different amounts for different people. What is the best way to find out how many carbs we need individually?
TOM VENUTO: There are some questionnaires that are designed to help a person find their metabolic type. Theyíre not scientifically validated, but they do seem helpful to some people. There are also some clinical tests for glucose tolerance or insulin that might help. But I think thereís always going to be a little bit of trial and error necessary.
My preferred way to do it is to begin with a diet thatís nicely balanced between protein, carbs and fat, with about 40-50% of the calories from carbs. From there, if necessary, experiment with lowering that proportion of carbs and see how that affects fat loss and also how it makes you feel.
Some people may be able to avoid the trial and error because they already have an instinctive sense about whether they re the low carb or high carb type of person. They intuitively gravitate towards that approach. For those who arenít sure, Iíve put together a set of criteria that will give you a good way to screen yourself for carb sensitivity. This might give you a better idea where to start and also reduce the trial and error period.
First, run through the list of metabolic syndrome symptoms:
1. Abdominal obesity, which for men is a waist measurement greater than 40 inches, and for women, greater than 35 inches
2. High triglycerides (over 150)
3. Reduced HDL cholesterol (under 40 mg)
4. Elevated blood pressure (over 130/85)
5. Elevated glucose (fasted - over 110)
Then ask yourself:
1. Are you overweight or obese?
2. Are you over age 45?
3. Are you sedentary?
4. In your opinion, have you had difficulty losing weight on high carbohydrate diets? (keeping in mind that high carb diets make it easier to overconsume calories)
5. If you've tried a low carb diet before, in your opinion, did you feel that you were more successful with this approach than with any other? (keeping in mind that its easier to keep a calorie deficit on low carbs)
6. After eating a large dose of concentrated carbohydrates, especially simple sugars or calorie dense starches, do you tend to crash mentally and or physically shortly afterwards? (as compared to feeling more sustained energy and alertness)
The more of these you say yes to, the more likely you are carb intolerant which means you might want to be conservative on the carb intake. Since thereís so much variation from person to person, thatís one of the reasons I donít prescribe a high carb or low carb diet exclusively to everyone. My Burn The Fat Program has moderate carb and lower carb phases based on your goals and your body type. For most people, reducing carbs somewhat does help with the last bit of stubborn fat and I use a modified low carb program before competition myself. I explain that in chapter 12 of the Burn The Fat e-book.
Last but not least, one should keep in mind that the carb intake is relative to the activity level and training volume and training intensity. People who train more can and should eat more carbs. And in general you can eat more carbs on training days - after your workouts in particular - and all but the most extremely carb sensitive people will benefit greatly from that type of nutrient timing.
JOHN SIFFERMAN: From a health standpoint, should people be concerned with their blood acidity versus alkalinity?
TOM VENUTO: When I first heard about blood acidity I didnít think there was anything to it. I thought it was just another fad coming out of the ďalternative healthĒ movement. But that was probably because my first exposure to the concept came from someone claiming that balancing your blood ph properly was the key to weight loss. I immediately thought that was a bogus claim and still do to this day. I havenít seen a shred of evidence that eating a more alkaline diet will make you lose more weight if calories remain equal. However, Iíve read scientific papers which discussed the value of acid - alkaline balance for good health.
If we go easy on the processed grains and sugars, that will help. Some people also talk about acidity as a reason to avoid animal proteins and meat, but demonizing an entire macronutrient is never a good long term strategy. I see the issue as a matter of balance, which means balancing the acids with the alkalines which very simply means eating more greens and plant foods. Thatís something you should be doing anyway for good health, so ph balance is really not an issue I focus on that much because if youíre eating lots of greens and vegetables youíve got your bases covered.
JOHN SIFFERMAN: Any exciting plans for the coming year?
TOM VENUTO. Big plans. But I should keep quiet because I tend to jinx myself on deadlines when I announce stuff before I have it finished. Iíll announce some of the new projects when theyíre finished!
To learn more about how you can burn fat permanently and naturally with Tom Venuto's Burn The Fat System visit: www.BurnTheFat.com
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, independent nutrition researcher, freelance writer and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle and the #1 Amazon best-seller, The Body Fat Solution (Avery/Penguin books). Tom has written hundreds of articles and has been featured in IRONMAN, Australian IRONMAN, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Exercise for Men and Menís Exercise as well as on hundreds of websites worldwide. Tom is also the founder and CEO of the Internet's premier fat loss support community, the: Burn The Fat Inner Circle. To get notified of updates to TomVenuto.Com, subscribe to the free newsletter at: www.TomVenuto.com/free_newsletter.