Q: I’ve got about 20 pounds of fat to get rid of before I can even think about getting lean and I figured the best way to go would be go on a diet consisting of three protein shakes a day with low fat milk. I’m doing about 40 minutes of cardio three times a week and weights on the other days. Would you recommend this ‘shake diet’ for me?
A: Well, you’re on the right track with the cardio and weights. But, lets rethink this shake diet thing. Your body was made to digest and absorb food – that is the munchy stuff that you have to chew. Protein drinks were never designed to replace that food, merely to supplement it. For one thing the very act of eating is, in itself, thermic – it burns calories. Protein foods can actually increase the metabolism by up to 30%, which is a terrific aid in the fat burning process. Powders will rob you of this effect. And while a protein shake will give you plenty of top quality protein, there’s far more to good nutrition than that. What about the starchy and fibrous carbs you need for energy, not to mention the plethora of vitamins and minerals that are needed to support muscle growth and good all round nutrition?
Lets take a moment, now to clarify this whole diet thing. Technically a diet is simply another word for an eating regime. Its popular use to convey the thought of a limited time period of restricted caloric intake is a distortion. In fact, you should never go on a diet in that sense. The reason is simple – your body perceives the restriction of calories as an emergency situation and responds by slowing down all bodily functions, including the metabolism. When you come off the diet, your body will store every last calorie that it possibly can to protect against the next emergency caloric restriction. That is, in a nutshell, why the yo-yo weight phenomenon is so prevalent among dieters.
Rather than going exclusively with protein shakes, think in terms of a gradual, permanent lifestyle change in your eating pattern that involves six meals a day. Make three of those meals protein shakes. Just make sure you’re getting your fair share of starchy and fibrous carbs, whole food protein and fats in the other four meals. Space your meals three hours apart and apply the one, two, three rule of macronutrient intake (i.e., at each meal you should have one part fats, two parts protein And three parts carbohydrates). Throw in a good dose of discipline and plenty of commitment and you’ll be dropping the pounds like nobody’s business.