Your New Diet Plan
It's infuriatingly how easy it is for guys to lose weight. We overhaul our diet and the scale doesn't budge; they make a couple changes and drop a pants size almost immediately. And while an ample supply of testosterone certainly has something to do with it, what really gives men their edge in weight loss is their approach to food, says Jim White, RD, owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. And that approach can help you lose, too. Try adopting these seven dude-style habits into your own eating plan.
The Habit: Mowing Down on Meat
He orders the steak. You order the salad. But, sometimes, the former is actually the wiser weight-loss option. "Women often miss out on not only protein, but the nutrients that come along with many sources of protein and are helpful for weight loss," say celebrity nutritionists Lyssie Lakatos, RD, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, who are known as the Nutrition Twins. "For instance, steak is filled with vitamin B12, which is essential for energy so you can work out harder and longer and burn more calories."
Make It Yours! Get protein in every meal and snack you eat. If you don't want to give up your greens, you don't have to. Just top it with good-for-you protein like eggs, fish, chicken, or even red meat (granted it's a small portion!). Gone vegan? Beans, nuts, and legumes are your best bet for packing on protein.
The Habit: Drinking Beer
Beer bellies get a bad rap, but they are actually smaller than a margarita midsection. The reason: Mixed drinks typically come brimming with simple sugars and calories, and since the body prioritizes dealing with toxins like alcohol over sugars, the body typically stores the sweet stuff as fat, says Samantha Cassetty, RD, director of nutrition for Luvo. Plus, the carbonation in beer can actually take up valuable real estate in your stomach. "Beer is little bit filling, so it might keep you from resisting those bar nachos," she says. Bonus: Recent Japanese research found that the naturally occurring flavonoids in beer's hops increase muscle mass by preventing tissue breakdown. And more muscle means a faster metabolism, period.
Make It Yours! Try subbing out a mixed drink with a low-cal beer.
The Habit: Not Dieting
Research from the University of Toronto shows that restrained eaters are more likely to overeat before starting a diet and binge after they end it than ones who don't go on restrictive diets. "Depriving yourself is one of the worst things you can do when you are trying to lose weight. Being told you can't have something that you enjoy or want sets you up for failure, as it causes the mind to focus on what you can't have rather than what you can," say the Nutrition Twins. Guys though, rarely ever "diet." Sure, they might try to eat healthier or cleaner, but that's about it. No D-word, no all-or-nothing mentality. And because they make lifestyle changes rather than go on diets, their eating strategies have no real end date. They just keep going and going...and losing and losing.
Make It Yours! Allow yourself small portion-controlled indulgences — and get rid of the mind-set that one splurge has wrecked the whole day, says nutritionist Beth Warren, RN, CDN, author of Living a Real Life with Real Food. "Going on a binge-fest cheat-day because you ate one unhealthy food is like trying to get yourself lost after making one wrong turn on the road. It doesn't make sense and it's not productive."
The Habit: Boycotting Low-Cal Foods
Diet foods are a bit of a misnomer. They tend to be completely unsatisfying — which is why guys don't tend to bother with microwaveable low-fat meals and portion controlled snack packs. Instead, they eat full-fat cheeses and bakery-fresh cookies and it pays off. Why? When food manufacturers cut fat from foods, they often make up for lost flavor with sugar and sodium, which is a big weight-loss no-no. Plus, since they are often low on fat and protein, both of which are needed to stay full, they can actually make you eat more by day's end than you would if you had gone for the real deal from the beginning, explain the Nutrition Twins.
Make It Yours! Swap the low-cal, low-nutrition foods with unprocessed foods that will fill you up and curb your cravings — even if they do have a bit more fat or calories than your so-called "diet" foods.
The Habit: Guzzling Water at the Gym
We've all seen him: The guy toting a gallon of water around the gym. And while the move may seem a bit extreme, it gets one thing right: Prioritizing hydration, which might actually be more important for women than it is for men. Research published in The Journal of Nutrition shows that women are more vulnerable to the effects of dehydration, including fatigue, which can make you want to eat more in an attempt to gain some energy. What's more, losing just 1 to 2 percent of your optimal hydration levels can derail your athletic performance and decrease your fitness results — like weight loss, White says.
Make It Yours! Your workout might not dictate downing a whole gallon, but you do need to drink 4 to 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes during your sweat session, he says. And if you are going long and hard in the gym — like if you're training for a marathon — it doesn't hurt to weigh yourself before and after exercise. The goal is not to lose any weight during your workout, since any pounds lost are from water.
The Habit: Eating Constantly
Guys are a bit like constantly running garbage disposals. They eat and eat and eat, but where does all that food go? Not on their waistlines. Why? Because they are keeping their metabolisms stoked and burning calories like crazy. However, if you go more than four hours without eating (show of hands, please?) your body thinks it's starving and responds by slowing your metabolism and hanging onto any calories it can, Warren says. Even worse, if you get in the habit of letting your blood sugar fall between meals, over time, your body becomes increasingly resistant to insulin, predisposing you for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Make It Yours! Eat something every two to four hours, she suggests. Aim to eat when you are slightly hungry and stop when you are slightly full. And again, make sure you get some protein each time you nosh.
The Habit: Focusing on Macronutrients
"Women get so focused on counting calories that we forget about the quality of those calories," says Cassetty. However, since men tend to think about how their foods will fuel their body, they focus on balancing their intake of macronutrients — protein, carbs, and fat — instead. By keeping them relatively balanced (getting 20 to 30 percent of your calories from lean protein, 40 to 50 percent from whole carbohydrates, and 20 to 30 percent from healthy fat tends to be ideal for weight loss), you help ensure that your body has enough energy — both fast acting and long lasting — for sustained weight loss.
Make It Yours! You don't actually have to count how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat you consume each day — in the end, that's just as strict and counterproductive as counting calories, she says. Just pay attention and tweak your habits if you feel like you are having an especially fatty or protein-filled day.