Need To Kick A Sugar Craving?

I’m baaaaaaack!  I know, try and keep your enthusiasm contained.  My wife and I had a great time up in the mountains with my family.  Lots of food, rest and fun.  But I’m back at it now (for a whole week before I’m gone again).

I try my best to completely shut my brain off from training when I’m on vacation (even though I can’t really do it completely).  As such, yesterday I sat down to work on a post for this week and found myself absentmindedly starting at my computer screen. 

Realizing that I wasn’t going to get anywhere, I posted on my Business Facebook page for suggestions on a topic.  I got some great ideas and will use all of them soon.

However, one suggestion was for ideas on how to combat sugar cravings.  Knowing that a lot of my clients struggle with craving sweets, as do a majority of the population, I thought this would be a good topic to tackle today.

Sugar cravings come about for a variety of reasons like stress, needing a “pick me up”, hunger and nutritional imbalances.  While each of these can be indicative of other problems or things that need to be addressed, they can all lead to the same result-stuffing your face with sugar.

Here are some practical ways to combat sugar cravings:

Take an emotional inventory

As I mentioned previously, often times sugar is craved when life gets stressful.  You lose a job, your boyfriend breaks up with you or you’re not sure how your going to pay the bills and the sugar cravings kick in.  When this happens, it can be a valuable tool to take a brief moment and look at what else is going on besides wanting to eat something sweet. 

Are you feeling stressed?  Was it a rough day at the office?  Is life busy handing you a crap sandwich?  If so, you’re more likely responding physiologically to an emotional issue.  Evaluate the situation and see if emotions are driving your cravings.  If so, simply acknowledging this can be a powerful tool in resisting temptation.  However, for some this simply doesn’t cut it.  So what do you do then?

Let other activities replace eating sweets

If you’re craving due to stress, responding physically can curb cravings significantly.  Go train, go for a walk, ride your bike, call a friend, sit on your back porch with a nice cold glass of water and just breath deeply or take your dog for a walk while flying your helicopter. 

All of these things can curb sugar cravings-if you let them.

What is common is for people to simply say “those don’t work for me.”  Well the truth is, they do if you will allow them to.  Sure they may not be as effective at first, but like with anything, the more you do them, the more effective they become.  Not to mention, you are all adults and can make big boy decisions.  You really do have control over what you do with your body and are not simply at the whim of every emotion or craving you have.  We teach our children to have self-control.  Shouldn’t we exercise a little bit of it ourselves?

Eat more protein

Some studies have shown that a lack of protein in an individuals diet can cause them to crave sugar more often.  I ask my clients to try to eat protein every time they eat.  Not only does this provide the body with necessary nutrients for burning fat and building muscle, but it also can help you get past craving sweets.

Eat more often

I’m not a die hard “you must eat 5-6 meals a day to lose fat” kind of guy.  In fact, I have clients doing all kinds of different things depending on what works for them.  Some eat 5 times a day, others 3 times a day, and some only once.  But when it comes to sugar cravings, it can be advantageous to eat more often.  It is not uncommon for people to experience more intense sugar cravings when their blood sugar drops.  To keep this from happening, eat smaller, more frequent meals. 

Let other foods serve as a “sweet”

We have natural foods that can serve as a sweet treat.  Ever had a piece of fruit, or a yam?  These things are actually quite sweet, they just may not seem that way because you are so desensitized by the incredible amounts of sugar you are eating on a regular basis.  Try this-cut out any sweets (candy, cookies, soda, diet soda, etc) for two weeks.  Then go eat a piece of fruit and tell me that it’s not incredibly sweet.  Nature gave us natural desserts, we just have to let our taste buds rediscover them.


Quit eating sweets

This may seem like a “well, duh!” kind of statement, but you would be surprised at how many people fail to get this.  If you’re craving sweets all the time-quit eating them!  The more you eat sweet foods, the more you will continue to crave them.  ‘Nuff said.

I understand that sugar cravings can be intense, even down right frustrating.  But if you really give it some effort (and yes I mean you actually have to try) you can overcome them.

How about any of you?  Any other ways you’ve helped yourselves kick sugar cravings?

Remember to share on Facebook and Twitter.  If you do, you get a sticker for being “helper of the day”!


To Dog Food, Or Not To Dog Food?

Although I’ve only got a few posts up, it’s been a pretty awesome week here on the blog.  Monday, I put up some some pretty kickin’ before and afters of a client of mine.  Then, on Tuesday, Nia Shanks (one of the countries top trainers) gave an interview, swore a little and left awesome all over the place.  In case you missed either of these posts, be sure and check them out here and here respectively.

Six weeks ago I declared (from the roof tops, no less) that I had two goals I wanted to meet before my wife and I go on vacation next week.  The goals were to get 12 consecutive pull ups and to lose 12 pounds of fat.  The catch was, if I didn’t 100% meet both of these goals,  I would eat an entire can of Alpo dog food…the big can…all of it…and film it……and then post it on here for all of you to enjoy.

Today is D-day.  Either I’ve met my goals or I haven’t.

First, let me start with the good news.

I crushed my fat loss goal.  I started at 195.6 and am currently at 178.0.  I lost a total of 17.6pounds, and 16 of those were fat.  Also, I lost roughly 7% body fat.  To say I’m pleased would be pretty accurate.

However, when it comes to the pull ups…well let me say this, I started being able to do 7 consecutive pull ups and my goal was to get 12.  I’ve never done a high frequency routine to put on pull up numbers, so I had no idea what to expect.  It could have worked great, or it could have left me putting only another pull up or two on my total.

But, I thought that if I really focused, I could pull it off (or pull it up).

Anyway, enough stalling.  The short version is this…I didn’t make it.  As embarrased as I am to admit that…it’s true.  So without further ado, that part you’ve all been waiting for…the video of me eating dog food.


What’s that?…

Over in the distance……

BOOM!!  That’s me nailing 12 pull ups baby!!

No dog food for this hombre!

I’m pretty happy with the results and it feels great to have set a couple of concrete goals with a set timeline and to have met them both.

Here’s what you should take away from this:

First, if you really set your mind to accomplish something, you’ve already given yourself a huge advantage, because you’re much less likely to abandon something you’ve firmly decided on doing.  Second, if you make your goals public, even if it’s just with a few friends, you have a much higher level of accountability, thus making you much more likely to give it everything you’ve got to make sure you complete those goals.  And third, if the prospect of eating a can of nasty dog food doesn’t motivate you to meet your goals…I’m not sure what will.

I’ll be on vacation most of next week.  Eating lots of food, taking lots of naps and enjoying a few well earned days off.  Try not to miss me too much!

An Interview With Nia Shanks

I’ve mentioned before that in the fitness industry women get barraged with crappy, misguided information.  Whether it be awful dietary and nutrition advice or training programs based on walking and kegels, it can be tough to find “experts” that actually preach solid information to women.

 Enter Nia Shanks.

In my incredibly professional opinion (and it should be yours too after reading this), Nia has one of the strongest, most intelligent and unapologetic voices in the industry when it comes to leading women towards stronger, leaner and healthier bodies.

A champion of simplicity in both nutrition and training, Nia encourages women to work hard, lift heavy, and eat smart (which includes having a cheeseburger if you want it) and with a monstrous #315 deadlift at only 120 pounds of body weight, Nia walks the walk.

From writing kickin’ programs like “Fat Loss Detour” and her newest one “Beautiful Badass” to writing a regular blog, Nia is doing all she can to give women the tools they need to be strong, lean and feel sexy.

Time to listen up, Nia’s got the floor.

 Hi Nia!  Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.  I’m excited to have you on the blog and I know my readers will enjoy hearing what you have to say.

Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about how you got into the training business.

First off – thank you for the very kind introduction, and thanks for doing the interview. I love spreading the word to women about the truth of lifting weights and eating smart, and how simple it truly is to build the body you want.

 Thankfully I grew up with very active parents. From a very young age I got involved in sports and other physical activities – basketball, softball, martial arts, roller blading (I’m talking about going off ramps, grinding rails, jumping flights of stairs, etc; not just skating in a straight line).

 Around the age of 14 or so, I started lifting weights because of my Mom. She was the first female personal trainer in our town and she introduced me to the weight room; I never turned back. Naturally I gravitated towards training others too.

 I later went on to get my bachelor of science in exercise physiology at the University of Louisville. Actually, I first went to U of L to major in justice administration; but my love for training others and learning more about the human body eventually led me to switch my major.

The fitness industry thanks you for switching majors!

 (By the way, although I sucked, I used to be a bit of an inline street skater also.  I idolized guys like Ryan Jacklone and Arlo Eisenberg.)

I lived and breathed aggressive skating for a few years. I had homemade ramps, rails, boxes, and other fun toys. My only regret is not getting some of that crazy stuff on video!

You are a bit of an outlier in the fitness industry.  You tell women to lift heavy, train hard, and to quit counting calories (which is all very refreshing by the way.)  Were you always an advocate of women training this way, or did you evolve out of the typical “let’s do 2 sets of 45 reps with a 5 pound dumbbell” training methodology?

Ha ha. No I never was an advocate of the “baby weights for high reps” philosophy.

Because of my personality and how I’ve always approached athletic endeavors, I always pushed myself in the gym, or in whatever physical activity I was involved in at the time. I constantly wanted to improve my performance and see what I was capable of achieving. Adding weight to the bar was a main priority for sure.

I think people often miss the importance of that simple element-adding weight to the bar.  Using the same weights for years doesn’t get anybody anywhere.

That’s why I’m always a little amused (and saddened) when I go back to the gym I started training. I’ll see the same people who have been there for years, and they look exactly the same. Many of them do the exact same workout, same weights, same reps, etc. And they wonder why they don’t look or feel any different.

 Who would you put your money on in an arm wrestling match, Tony Gentilcore or Bret Contreras?

Ah hell. I really don’t want to answer that one! I absolutely love and respect both of those guys and wouldn’t want to pick one over the other.

In all honesty, I would just sit back and watch the show and not root for one guy over the other. It would be damn entertaining for sure!

Way to go all PC and not choose sides…just like Switzerland.  I was hoping this would lead to an epic arm-wrestling-off between the two of them.

Nope. Not gonna happen! I love those guys way too much to choose sides.

I will say that Tony and I have an unscheduled deadlift-off that will take place some day. Who do you think will win that one?   ; )

*All right buddy, don’t screw this up.  It appears that the interviewee has become the interviewer.  She’s flipped the script.  Classic Nia.  On one hand, Nia’s crazy-awesome, not to mention she’s a guest here, and it would only be polite to choose her.  On the other hand, if I pick Tony, then maybe I’ll finally get that hug I keep asking him for.  She’s put you in a quite the pickle Miguel.  Hmmm….what to do?…what to do?……think…THINK!!……wait, THAT’S IT!!*

 Oh, sorry Nia, I gotta go.  My mom’s calling me for dinner……

 OK, I’m back.  Now what were we talking about?  Oh yeah, I was asking you a question.  When it comes to gaining lean muscle and/or dropping some body fat, where do you think most people go wrong?


That is definitely the area where most people struggle, and I know this from personal experience and through my work with clients.

It’s a lot easier to motivate yourself to hit the gym consistently, but for people who are constantly surrounded by heavily processed foods, sweets, and other not-so-good food choices, it can become a problem.

For example, I know a lot of individuals who work in an office where someone is always bringing in cookies, candy, or baked goods. These people feel pressured to take part in eating because if they don’t, people make fun of them and make them feel awkward. This is a story I’ve heard dozens of times.

My general advice – stop giving a shit about what other people think and do what makes you happy.

In the example above, stop eating treats just because everyone else is doing it. You don’t have to say “I’m on a diet” or “I’m cutting down” or anything like that. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your actions. Eventually they’ll stop giving you crap, and if they don’t, it’s because they are jealous of your ability to stick to your guns and achieve your goals.

Unfortunately, many people will root for you to fail to reach your health and body composition goals because it will make them feel better about their lack of trying, or their own failures. It’s a sad but true fact.

My other advice – adopt simple nutrition principles that you can follow for a life time. I promise; it’s a lot easier than you think.

I’ve always found it amazing at how negative people can people about others making healthy decisions.  What are some of those “simple nutrition principles” you mentioned that you give your clients?

Eat primarily whole, natural food. If it doesn’t rot or spoil, then it’s not real food.  (Note from MG: it’s amazing how profound that last statement is to a lot of people.)

Eat when you’re hungry, and don’t eat when you’re not. Now those last two guidelines definitely take some time to get used to, but it’s worth it. Too many people eat by a clock – they think it’s mandatory to eat lunch just because it’s noon, or breakfast because they just woke up.

Other than that, allow yourself to enjoy the occasional treat or other foods that don’t fit the “natural food” description. For example, if you get invited over to watch a game or hang out with friends, you can eat some pizza and ice cream. Eat it, enjoy it, and the move on. Don’t beat yourself up over eating “cheat food.”

Speaking of “cheat meals” and what not, I really don’t like or recommend them for most people. I go into detail on this in The Dark Side of Cheat Days. I much prefer people eat the foods they really want when they really want them – not because it’s scheduled.

But like I always say – people need to do what works best for them. Some people do really well with cheat days and still get great results. I personally don’t recommend them, but to each his own. If it works for you, then go for it.

 You recently came out with a new program “Beautiful Badass”, how does this program differ from your previous program, “Fat Loss Detour”?

One of the main differences is the FLD is a 16 week program that focuses specifically on fat loss (through an unconventional method, hence the term detour). Beautiful Badass, on the other hand, contains 16 different programs that allow you to focus on getting stronger, losing fat, or whatever goal you have.

Beyond that, Beautiful Badass is a simple, no nonsense guide to building a better body. It’s all about keeping things simple – from training to nutrition.

FLD is definitely simple to follow as well, but you need access to more equipment such as a bench, dumbbells, cable machine, etc. For Beautiful Badass all you need is your bodyweight and a barbell.

I am very proud of both products because I know they work (as long as people actually do what’s instructed and don’t change things!). The interesting thing about Beautiful Badass is that’s it has turned into an awesome movement that encourages women to lift heavy weights and discover their inner “badass”. For examples the readers can check out an ongoing series here, here, and here.

 From talking with you and reading your blog it’s obvious that you’re someone who knows how to get results in a safe and intelligent way.  However, there are a lot of trainers out there who have no idea what they’re doing, or how to get a client any closer to their goals than the client could do on their own.  What are a few things someone thinking about training with someone could look for in a trainer to ensure they’re not just going to wind up hiring a glorified rep-counter?

First I recommend observing a training you are considering working with. Watch how they talk to their clients and the exercises they have them perform. If the client is performing mostly dumbbell, barbell, and bodyweight exercises, that’s a good sign.

Does the trainer provide coaching cues and correct his/her client’s form?

Is the trainer taking the client through a total body workout? Bodybuilding split? Does the majority of the training consist of big, compound exercises?

Do not be misled – just because a trainer has a certification doesn’t mean they have a damn clue what they’re doing or how to train someone. I have seen dozens of trainers with multiple certifications take clients through dangerous and stupid workouts.

And on the other hand, I have seen trainers with no certifications or formal education do amazing work with clients.

Personal training is not a strictly regulated field, and so practically anyone can become a trainer overnight. Just be very cautious to whom you give your hard earned money.

Great advice.  Too often people think that a trainer knows what they’re doing simply because they call themselves a trainer.

Yep. I know what you mean. I can’t count how many people I have seen hire a “trainer” only to end up injured or looking exactly the same after spending hundreds of dollars.

Alright, lastly, a little random word association.  No thinking, just type the first word that comes into your head:

-Deadlifts: awesome

-Greek Yogurt: moooo

-Sprint Intervals: badass

-Bosu Ball: face palm

-Jersey Shore: inebriated 

-Jillian Michaels: FAIL

Nice answers!

Awesome stuff Nia.  Thanks a ton for stopping by, sharing your awesomeness with us and for fighting the good fight for women everywhere!

To read more from Nia check out her blog at  (Go do it now!) And be sure to share Nia with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Fantastic Before And Afters!

This week is going to be a busy week here on the blog.  Today we’ve got some awesome before and afters.  Tomorrow we’ve got a great interview with one of the top trainers in the country, and at the end of the week-either a blog of me meeting my goals, or a blog of me eating some dog food because I didn’t meet those goals.

Trust me you want to stay tuned in this week!

I’ve been working with a female client for the last three months.  As she mentions in her testimonial, she’s a 41 year old, working mother of 4.  So yeah…you could say she’s busy.  

First a few stats and then her testimonial.

(Oh and be sure to leave a comment telling her how awesome she is for not resigning herself to having a “mom” body, but for fighting against the grain and absolutely killing it!)

Over the course of three months this client lost a total of 11″ and 17 pounds.  She also dropped 6.5% body fat, got A TON stronger and more confident.  She even told me last week that she feels like a new person.  And that my friends is something worth celebrating.

I am 41 years old with four amazing kids who are all old enough that I can’t blame my ‘out of shapeness’ on their baby years anymore.  I have exercised over the years and maintained a generally decent weight and shape but I realized after turning 40 that things that had worked before no longer worked. It was like my metabolism had bottomed out and not matter how much P90X, Zumba or Jillian Michaels I did, nothing made much of a difference.  I honestly had begun to resign myself to the fact that I was going to walk the path of most of my family line…gain about 5 pounds a year until I was very overweight and dealing with health issues (heart disease and diabetes both run in my family).  This was not the ‘me’ I wanted.

“I began working out with Michael about three months ago.  It was a very hard first day to come into the gym.  First of all, I had never worked out in a gym before.  The environment itself intimidated me with all its machines (none of which I knew how to use) and mirrors everywhere.  As we went through the process of initial evaluation I had to keep telling myself ‘this is just a starting point’.  I had never really done much in the way of weight training (just some poorly formed P90X) and quite honestly I felt weak not just physically but emotionally.  Michael was very patient to not assume I knew things and fully explained each move to me.  I learned how to do things the correct and effective way.  He coached and encouraged me.  While he always challenged me to more, he never yelled and he always listened to how I was feeling.

It is now three months later and not to sound like a cliché but I feel like a new person.  I feel stronger than I ever have in my whole life…literally.  I have muscle and definition that I have never had.  I have energy and new strength.  The only clothes I cannot wear in my closet anymore are those that are too big for me.  But the changes are not only in my physical body…they branch out into every area of my life.  I just feel better about myself.  I pushed through some pretty tough workouts and I lifted some pretty heavy weights.  I accomplished things that I never knew I could and that knowledge gives me a strength that is not just physical.

My advice to you if you find yourself in the same position I was in…call Michael.  Just do it.  Go get some workout clothes that you can feel decent in and dive in.  Don’t cheat yourself by cheating the program. Do everything he tells you to do in diet and exercise.  Give it all you’ve got and have no regrets.  You will be amazed at the change.  Oh and by the way, I did all this with a family of six, a full time job, a home to keep up and a great deal of personal stress going on in our family.  You can do this and you are worth it.”

Hard work and consistency always pay off.  Nice work!

Give this client some love and share her hard work and accomplishments on Facebook and Twitter!

A Little Tough Love And Some Healthy Eating Advice

As many of you know, T-Nation is one of my favorite websites to visit.  It’s jam packed with tons of training, nutritional, fat loss and inspirational articles from literally the top strength coaches and trainers in the world.  Coaches who train professional athletes.  Coaches who get people ready for modeling gigs.  Coaches who train powerlifters, bodybuilders, and housewives. 

To say the breadth of knowledge and experience put up on the site is wide would be an understatement.

Anyway, enough of me confessing of my love for T-Nation.



I hopped on the site this morning and found that today’s article was written by Dan John.  Dan has been described as the Yoda of the strength community, and I completely agree.  Every article I read or interview I listen to with Dan, at some point I go “Woah”, Keanu Reeves style.

Dan’s article this morning (which you should read here) discusses eating like a warrior and eating like a king.  In short, eating like a warrior means being extremely dedicated, focusing on the moment and attacking fat loss with everything you have for a short period of time (4-6 weeks.)

On the other hand, eating like a king means keeping the big picture in mind, planning ahead, and in general being an adult.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Someone recently asked me about “the secret to nutrition.” Seriously, you don’t know what to do about food? Here’s an idea: eat like an adult.

Stop eating fast food, stop eating kid’s cereal, knock it off with all the sweets and comfort foods, and ease up on the snacking. And don’t act like you don’t know this: eat more vegetables and fruits.

Really, how difficult is this? Stop with the whining. Stop with the excuses. Act like an adult and stop eating like a television commercial. Grow up.

Every success in your life doesn’t call for several extra rounds of beer, a salutary doughnut, and high fives from everyone. You’re an adult now; you don’t need a cookie every time you do something special.

Great athletes score a touchdown, goal, or point and just keep moving along. It’s your job, so get over it.

“Act like an adult.”  That’s some tough love right there.  That phrase to me says-take responsibility for your actions.  If you’re not losing the weight you want to lose-take responsibility for it and change your actions.

If more people took this to heart, I absolutely believe that we would be a thinner, healthier, less-diabetic ridden, cholesterol-reducing-pill-popping, achin’ and hurtin’, happier society.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for enjoying nasty, greasy comfort foods-at times.  But in serious moderation and not for every meal and certainly not to “celebrate” everything from getting a high five from your boss to using the last of the toilet paper.  When people get in the habit of eating whatever is placed in front of them without putting any thought into, bad things begin to happen.  And nobody wants bad things to happen.

I’ll prove it.  Let’s take a quick survey: If you want bad things to happen to your body and would like to be less healthy, then raise your hand……anybody?……anyone at all?……guess not.  I told you so.

As Dan says, “stop eating like a television commercial” and starting eating like you know you should.  You’ll be amazed at how huge of an impact this simple thing can have on your body.

(If you found this helpful or entertaining, re-post on Facebook or put it up on Twitter.  Thanks for your support!)

A Lesson From The Major Leagues

A quick FYI, I am now a little more current and hip (as if that’s possible) and have got myself a Twitter account.  Although I have to admit I’m still a little uncertain as to how it all goes down, I’ve been enjoying it.  So now, not only can you share the blog on Facebook, but you can also tweet and re-tweet to all of your Twitter tweeters. Also, if any of you have an account and would like to stalk me, hit me up @GrayFitness where I too will be tweeting away.

This last Saturday a pretty awesome thing happened in the world of professional baseball.  Derek Jeter, from the New York Yankees, got career hit number 3,000. 

To say the least, I’m not a Yankees fan.  I mean, I’m really not a Yankees fan.  I think I’d rather have a colonoscopy than root for the Yanks.  However, reaching 3,000 is no small feat.  In fact, it’s so rare that less then 30 players have ever reached this career milestone in the major leagues.  Jeter is now in the company of the best players to ever step up to the plate.  Plus he seems to be a stand up guy, so Yankee or not, it’s definitely worth mentioning.

There are a couple interesting thing about this event that got me thinking.  First off, Jeter has been on the disabled list more than a couple times.  ( I saw one list that had him on there 10 different times in the course of his career.)  Each time he was injured, he took an appropriate amount of time to heal and recover.  But then he would do the weirdest thing.  He would go back to playing baseball.  He didn’t lose his motivation and quit.  He didn’t whine and throw a fit about it.  And, while I’m sure frustrated, he didn’t let it overwhelm him to the point that he threw in the towel and said “what’s the point?’

Second, he didn’t get 3,000 hits in his first game.  Or in his first season.  This is his 17th season.  17 years of day in day out, practice, games with hits, games with no hits, travel, off-seasons, injuries, rehabilitation, and on and on to reach this milestone.  I think it’s safe to say that there isn’t a single major league player (you could possibly exempt pitchers) who wouldn’t love to join the company of the 3,000 hit club.  But none of them will get there without putting in years of effort and years of consistency.

If people took the same approach with their training, how much further along would they be?  I can’t tell you how many times I see someone come in to the gym and they’re super consistent for about two weeks.  Then, suddenly, they disappear and are never seen again. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping my clients make amazing transformations in a short amount of time, but people forget that fitness is also a long game.  Feeling better, being stronger, getting leaner for the rest of your life takes work, dedication and effort (wait for it…waaaaiiit for it…) for the rest of your life

If you get hurt or injured and have to take some time off, what’s the point in saying “I’ll lose all the ground I’ve made so what’s the point of getting back to it at all?”  What you need to do is get better and then get your butt back into the gym and back to working hard.  You need to understand that there are elements of fitness that take years to either reach or maintain.  You don’t get to show up for a few weeks and suddenly be in amazing shape, and you don’t get magically maintain everything you’ve gained without continuing to work hard.

Be consistent.  Keep working hard.  When you have set backs, adapt, recover, rest, and then move forward.  Understand that some things are worth working day in and day out for. 

Some things will come quickly, others will take time.  But they are all worth it.






Can Reducing Grains Really Help You Lose Body Fat?

Fat loss has been the theme for the week here on MGF (that’s right, I just gave the blog a nickname).  Over the last few days I’ve put up several tips that can aid you in your fat loss quest.

One of the tips I mentioned was to reduce grains significantly, if not cut them out all together when trying to drop your body fat.  A few of you were curious as to why I would speak such heresy, so in response, here is my rational.

Let me first give a big fat disclaimer: I don’t hate grains.  I don’t think they should NEVER be eaten, and I think they can be a regular part of a healthy diet.  However, I don’t think they don’t have that strong of a place when fat loss is the goal.

In the dietary industry, there is a huge amount of research done in an effort to figure out which foods aid in fat loss, as well as which foods are a key part of a healthy diet, which ones reduce cholesterol, and on and on.  This research is great as it helps the rest of us who don’t have laboratories, bunsen burners and beakers get info that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Nope, not that Beaker

However, if fitness professionals are paying attention, there is another type of research going on around them constantly-anecdotal. Or simply put, research that isn’t “official”.  Some are quick to dismiss anecdotal evidence because it isn’t scientifically based and can be subjective.  However, when you train people day in and day out, you tend to notice that certain training protocols get people leaner than others, certain ones get people stronger than others, they flow better or help people feel better, etc.

Now, I might be crazy, but when situations like that occur, I don’t care what research says or what the traditional thought is, if it works-it works.  And if it works, I’m going to keep doing it until it doesn’t work any longer.  (Another quick disclaimer: I’m not talking about doing anything stupid or dangerous to get results, nor will I ever.)  Not to mention that often times, what has been discovered through anecdotal research paves the way for scientific studies to be done on the same things just so it’s legit.

From what I’ve experienced (with myself and my clients), anytime someone cuts grains out significantly, they have a much easier time dropping body fat.  I have never had anyone complain of any adverse side effects from eating little to no grains, and almost all have reported that they feel less bloated, they have better digestion, are thinking clearer, and have more energy.

One of the first places I have fat loss clients cut grains from is their dinner.  Almost all of them report feeling much better in the morning than when they consume grains in the evening.  In fact, I asked a couple of my clients to tell me how cutting grains has made them feel:

One said this:

I originally decided to limit my carbs after the advice of my Dr.  Not for weight loss reasons but because it has been proven to reduce inflammation and improve pain.  After a short period  I noticed pain reduction, but also my clothes were fitting much better.  I noticed I had MUCH less water retention, bloating and started losing fat!  Another great benefit is that I had a lot more energy and felt so much better overall.

And another:

When I eat grains, particularly in the evening I have digestion issues the next day and I feel much more gassy and bloated.

I have a few thoughts as to why people not only feel better, but also drop fat easier:

1. More people than we realize have some kind of intolerance to grains and they can act as an inflammatory to the body, leaving the individual feeling less than stellar.  When the body is in an inflamed or stressed state, it’s not functioning optimally.  And if the body isn’t functioning optimally, you’re going to have a much more difficult time shedding unwanted pounds.

2. Grains don’t have much to offer in the way of nutrition that isn’t easily replaced by other whole foods.  Grains are often cited as being a great source of fiber, however you can get a great all the fiber you need from other sources like avocados, beans, potatoes, fruit and vegetables.

3. Grains are usually higher in calories than other foods that can serve the same functions in the body, and when it comes to dropping fat, calories are very important.  Take for example oatmeal, one of the best grains out there.  A cup of Quaker oatmeal offers 300 calories and 8 grams of fiber.  While a cup of black beans offers 220 calories with 15 grams of fiber.  While I realize this is one example, it’s easy to repeat the same situation over and over with other sources of fiber that are lower in calories.

4. Most grains are highly processed and the body has a harder time knowing what to do with highly processed foods.  In fact, grains aren’t really a whole food.  They have to go through quite a bit of processing before they are eatable.  Look at the label of most whole grain foods and see what’s in the ingredients list.  Usually it will consist of a multitude of ingredients, not excluding things like high fructose corn syrup.  Foods that are this processed aren’t fat loss friendly.

There you have it-my rational for cutting grains in fat loss clients.  Whether or not someone cuts them out completely is a combination of personal choice and how they are progressing.  Some get by just fine while keeping a moderate amount of grains in their diet.  For example, I’m currently eating a half cup of dry oats a day and losing fat just fine.  (See, I told you I wasn’t a grain hater.)  Others do and feel better completely doing away with grains.

Do what you want with the above information, and if you wind up trusting the USDA’s recommendation to fill your plate with grains over mine, I understand.  After all, what do I know, I’m just someone who gets people lean for a living.