Calorie control is the name of the game; I had to understand this basic concept first to understand how to get ripped. Whole foods are typically less energy dense but more nutrient dense than processed foods. I ate a lot of vegetables, which helped me feel full while minimizing blood sugar fluctuations. I accompanied them with several 4-6 oz servings of chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork, or fish daily. But here’s something interesting: I noticed that if I ate lean protein alone (like chicken or turkey breast), it made me feel the same way a straight bowl of plain rice would an hour later (that is super hungry and maybe a bit lethargic). I did some web searching because I thought that was weird; it turns out that protein does indeed spike insulin, and its intensity is closely correlated with the protein source. Accordingly, different protein sources are associated with stimulating different hunger responses (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20456814). This is something I’m now aware of, so I try to consume some fat with protein (if I’m not eating a lot of vegetables with protein) in an effort to smooth out the insulin response. I’ve found that a good way to accomplish that is to consume a fattier meat (like like beef or lamb).
My experience with IFFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)
I mention a few times throughout this blog that I’m not a big fan of the “If It Fits Your Macros” (IFFYM) style of eating for a couple of reasons. If you’re not familiar, IFFYM permits an individual to eat literally anything he or she desires as long as macronutrient/ caloric targets are not exceeded (a macronutrient target is by definition a caloric target–request more explanation in comments if interested). I’ve certainly read about individuals who have gotten ripped eating whatever quality of food they choose, like donuts, fried chicken and pizza. Although I haven’t ever fully immersed myself in the IFFYM way of eating, I experimented for a time with being more lenient about food choices, eating chips, pizza, mac and cheese, stuff covered in chocolate, more ice cream than normal, etc. While eating this way was even more fun than normal, I found it to be counterproductive to my goals for a couple of reasons.
- I retained noticeably more water eating this way. I don’t know exactly why, but I have a feeling that the increase in sugar and salt had something to do with it.
- My sleep quality was reduced, but I’m not sure why. Perhaps something to do with elevated insulin levels, but I won’t speculate beyond that.
- Third, I was much hungrier more of the time. Granted, I had not begun fasting intermittently until later, so some of the hunger could likely have been attributed to blood sugar fluctuations that were the result of eating anything. But I’m almost certain that the hunger was closely linked to the poorer quality of the food I was eating. Specifically, my diet included more sugar and processed carbohydrates, which both elicit a significant insulin response (except for fructose, but that’s a whole other beast–request explanation in comments if interested).