Losing Fat and Building Muscle With a Simple Lifestyle Diet

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Note from TG: Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Ohio based personal trainer, Collin Messer. Collin wrote an interesting guest post a few weeks ago HERE, and afterwards proposed a post on how to help people develop a simple lifestyle diet. I like simple. Simple works. Enjoy.

As the saying goes, the best diet is the one that you stick to. Some people have the capacity to stick to intense or complex diets and they get great results. But that’s not me. I prefer a nice lifestyle kind of diet that I can just tweak here and there to burn some fat or grow some muscle.

 Photo Credit: Je hyung Lee

Usually my clients resonate with this too after they’ve wrecked their metabolism doing all kinds of crazy diets and detoxes. This led me to take the most simple approach I could. I start with a general foundation, then make small adjustments as I go depending on the client.

This is how you do it…

The Foundation

First I start with a simple foundation that all my clients can adhere too pretty well. There are five rules that I have found to be fairly painless for most people to follow.

  1. Eat well 90% of the time and don’t worry about the other 10%.
  2. Eat 2-3 meals per day.
  3. The majority of your diet should be lean meats and vegetables with occasional intake of fruits and carb sources like white rice, quinoa, or oats.
  4. Avoid processed foods, food products, and sugar as best as possible.
  5. Try to only drink water, tea, or coffee.

Usually when I give new clients these foundational principles they drop a few pounds of water weight and lose some of the bloating they didn’t even realize was there. I’ll have people build good habits and focus only on these rules for 1-2 weeks before doing anything else.

One thing to notice here is that I didn’t give any recommendation on calorie intake. I have found that by cleaning up the food choices people tend to eat in normal amounts and their body adjusts to a healthier lifestyle.

 

Building Upon The Foundation

After I establish a solid foundation with the client then I’ll start to build upon it and tweak things depending on the person’s goals, habits, and lifestyle. There are a lot of things you could do from here but I have a few adjustments I routinely make.

Note that I only add one or two adjustments at a time and it always depends on the client. Not every option is good for everyone, use your own judgement and you’ll do just fine.

Intermittent Fasting For Fat Loss

If the client is focusing on fat loss then I like to work in some intermittent fasting. I really like the 16/8 model found at LeanGains.com. It’s essentially a 16 hour fast followed by an 8 hour eating window. The easiest way to do this is to just skip breakfast and have your first meal at a your regular lunch time. So you would have a normal lunch, a normal dinner, and a meal or snack in between as necessary.

At this point I still don’t tell clients to try and eat less. For most people, the “diet” part is the fast in the morning. If you try to lower calories and skip breakfast then you’re probably going to be drastically undereating and clinging to that body fat for dear life.

Note From TG: for more information on Intermittent Fasting, I’d highly recommend checking out THIS resource by the peeps over at Precision Nutrition. Easily one of the best resources I’ve ever come across on the topic. It doesn’t make your head hurt with big words and it’s free. So there’s that.

Carb Back Loading For Fat Loss

Some people just don’t like skipping breakfast. It gives them a reason to get out of bed and not hate the early morning life. And that’s just fine because I can work with that. My go to solution here is back loading the carbs to later in the day.

By shifting the carbs later in the day you body will stay more sensitive to insulin for a longer period of time (one of the goals of intermittent fasting). Depending on the person and their lifestyle then I’ll have them eat their first carbs at lunch, post workout, or dinner. So, they’re eating breakfast but still taking advantage of the low levels of insulin that the.

My go to breakfast option that won’t spike insulin is a few eggs with a fatty meat like bacon or sausage. Top this off with some black coffee and you’ll be good to go.

IF or Carb Back Loading For Muscle Gain

While these strategies are great for fat loss you can definitely use them for muscle gain. I’m currently using the 16/8 IF strategy to build muscle myself. The main difference is to make sure you’re eating above maintenance on the calories. So if you can’t fit in all of you calories in 2-3 meals in an 8 hour window then this isn’t the method for you.

The reason why I skip breakfast even though I’m building muscle is because I feel it helps me stay leaner while still building muscle. More muscle with less fat is always a good goal. Plus it fits my lifestyle well as I feel very clear headed and focused in the morning, so I get a lot of writing and programming done.

Refeed Meals

With the foundation I laid out, it would be easy to find yourself eating a pretty low carb diet (less than 100g carbs per day). Though that’s not exactly the point of the foundation, it usually benefits people to reduce their carb intake a bit.

After the initial 1-2 week adjustment period, if the person seems to be continually eating lower amounts of carbs then I usually advise to up their carb intake at dinner. A sweet potato or some extra rice will work well here. If they have hit a fat loss plateau then we’ll usually break through it again.

This works well for some people, but not everyone. They either think they’re upping their carbs when they really aren’t, or they just still need more. This is where the gift of a refeed meal comes in. For one dinner, I want them to significantly ramp up carbs and whatever sugary dessert they want.

The refeed is going to really help kickstart more fat loss and provide more energy. Plus it’s always a great mental break for them to enjoy their favorite dessert again.

Be careful with these though. The refeed doesn’t mean you can go on a weekend binge fest while watching the entire Lord of The Rings trilogy in one sitting. Usually just having a big bowl of ice cream at dinner is going to work well.

Putting It All Together

There you have it folks, this is the template for building a successful lifestyle diet. You start with the foundation and then adjust it as you go to maintain steady progress towards your goal. Once you reach your goal, its as simple as adjusting your calorie intake to maintenance level and you’re good to go.

Sometimes the most simple things are the most effective.

About the Author

Collin Messer is a Personal Trainer at MesserFit Strength and Conditioning in Lebanon, OH. He primarily works with younger athletes and weekend warriors. When he’s not crushing deadlifts or back bends he’s writing at CollinMesser.com about all things life and fitness.

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  • Mike D

    Great article Collin,
    I am wondering what your thoughts are on macronutrient combining specifically carbs and fats. For example, if a client is trying to increase calorie intake to build muscle would adding a big chunk of grass-fed butter on those sweet potatoes be a good move? I know the reasearch is pretty mixed on this topic so I was curious of your opinion. Thanks.

    • Mike, I think at the end of the day the biggest factor is total calorie intake. If you’re trying to build muscle and you are getting enough protein and carbohydrates in then definitely adding in extra fat will help bump up calories. Just know that the butter has calories too, it’s not just a free food. I think it’d just fine, plus buttered sweet potatoes just taste awesome.

      • Mike D

        Makes a lot of sense, thank you. And, I agree delicious!

  • Teri C.

    Hi Tony … I look, but couldn’t find, any background information on Collin. Does he have a degree or certification in fitness nutrition? I don’t want to sound like a weenie (as my dad would say), but I do want to know who I’m reading and taking advice from. Thanks.

    • Austin

      “Collin Messer is an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and S&C Class Director for MesserFit where he trains weekend warriors, high school athletes, and average Joes alike.” From MesserFit’s website.

    • TonyGentilcore

      You don’t sound like a weenie at all Teri. I added a bio of Collin at the end of the article, and you’re more than welcome to check out his website where I’m sure you can find out more information.

    • Hey Teri, thanks for reading the article. As mentioned, I am a Certified Personal Trainer with the NSCA. I also have a B.S. in Psychology.

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  • Amy

    Hi Collin, thanks for sharing these great tips. Eating right is hard, and sticking to a “lifestyle” diet is harder for sure. A particular section of women who succumb to this are new moms. I’d like to share some tried and tested, healthy recipes that will make a world of difference to not only moms, but anyone that needs nutrition and taste together. Sounds too good to be true, right? Here it is: http://sixpackmommy.com/category/recipes-for-moms/

    Amy
    http://sixpackmommy.com