Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

THE SKINNY ON FAT! Issue #073 03/22/11

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The 5 Best Fats for Getting Lean

By Whitney Provost

You might think that to lose weight, you need to cut the fat out of your meals. After all, fat is higher in calories than protein and carbs, and low-fat diets have been popular since the Senate Nutrition Committee first recommended them in the late 1970s. But research shows that a moderate-fat diet (with about 35 percent of calories consumed coming from fat) will help you drop pounds permanently, feel full longer, and avoid bingeing. The trick is to eat the right kind of fat to increase satisfaction and boost weight loss. Here's why it's important to eat fat—and we offer five of the best fat sources to add to your diet.

Salmon

How eating fat will help you lose fat

In 2008, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel found that people who followed low-fat diets lost less weight than people who followed low-carb or moderate-fat diets. The low-fat group lost an average of 6.5 pounds over 2 years, but the low-carb and moderate-fat groups lost about 10 pounds. Women did especially well on the moderate-fat diet, losing an average of 13 pounds during the study.

Fat is an important element in weight loss for several reasons:

  • Fat helps your body control blood sugar and insulin spikes after eating carbohydrates. Better sugar metabolism means less fat storage.
  • Fat slows down digestion and aids nutrient absorption. You'll stay fuller longer and get more health benefits from the food you eat.
  • Essential fatty acids (like omega-3s) may boost your metabolic rate and increase fat burning.
  • Fat tastes good. It also provides a "mouthfeel" that is satisfying, which can help you be happy with less food.

Eating more fat may also help you stick to your diet longer. In a study conducted by Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, participants got either 20 percent of their calories from fat or 35 percent of their calories from fat. After 6 months, both groups had lost weight. But after 18 months, only 20 percent of the people in the low-fat group were still following the diet, compared with 54 percent of the people in the moderate-fat group. Likewise, the subjects in the moderate-fat group had maintained their weight loss, while the low-fat group participants had gained most of the weight back.

If you reach for a box of low-fat or fat-free crackers or cookies when you want to lose weight, you may actually be sabotaging your diet. Manufacturers frequently replace fat with sugar in packaged food items to make them taste better. You think you're making a good decision by eating fat-free products, but the excess sugar and refined flour can lead to fatigue, cravings, mood swings, and weight gain caused by the overproduction of insulin, the fat-storage hormone. As a snack, a sliced apple with some peanut butter or a salad with oil and vinegar dressing would be a better weight loss choice. The complex carbs and healthy fats will maintain your blood sugar levels, boost your energy, and keep you satisfied longer.

What kind of fat should you eat?

To get lean, you need to eat the right kind of fat. Avoid saturated and trans fats (which are found in red meat, full-fat dairy products, and many packaged foods), and instead choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Here are some of the best sources of fat to help you reach your weight goal.

  1. Fish. Fish like salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines contains beneficial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Most experts agree that eating two servings of fatty fish per week is safe for people who are worried about mercury or other toxins. (Pregnant women should consult with their doctors about consuming fish.) If you don't like fish, a quality supplement like Beachbody® Core Omega-3 will give you the benefits without the fishy taste.
  2. Olive oil. Heart-healthy oils like olive, canola, and peanut oil are excellent sources of fat for dieters. They have also been shown to lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Use them sparingly when sautéing, or drizzle them over your favorite salad vegetables with a little vinegar and some herbs to maximize the absorption of nutrients. Moderation is important: You really only need about a teaspoon of oil to get all its benefits. Using more will add significant calories.
  3. AvocadoAvocados. Eat a spinach and carrot salad with a little avocado, and you'll not only get a dose of good fat, but you'll also absorb more phytonutrients like lutein and beta-carotene. Scientists at Ohio State University in Columbus found that more antioxidants were absorbed when people ate a salad containing avocados than when they ate a salad without this tasty fruit. One-quarter of an avocado will add flavor while only adding about 75 calories.
  4. Nuts. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts are powerhouses of good nutrition—full of antioxidants, minerals, and monounsaturated fat. The Nurses Health Study, where more than 86,000 nurses were followed for 14 years, found that those who ate nuts regularly (about an ounce per day) tended to weigh less than those who didn't. The protein, fat, and fiber make nuts more filling, which helps dieters stay on track. Plus there's a psychological bonus to eating nuts: Because they're rich and satisfying, you probably won't feel like you're on a diet.
  5. FlaxseedsFlaxseeds. Packing the triple wallop of fat, protein, and fiber, flaxseeds are a delicious and healthful addition to any diet. You can grind them up and add them to oatmeal, yogurt, salads, or vegetables, or pretty much anywhere you want a nutty crunch. They're a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, making them a good choice for vegetarians or the aforementioned non-fish-loving folks. Ground flaxseeds also have 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon, which helps slow digestion and keep your blood sugar stable.

Making room for fat

Certain fats might be considered necessary for health, but that's not a cue to overindulge. At 9 calories per gram, fat is a more concentrated energy source than either protein or carbohydrates (each has 4 calories per gram). You need to be mindful of your overall caloric intake if you want to eat more fat and lose weight. But when you feel full and satisfied after eating the right kinds of fat, you'll probably find it a bit easier to manage your calories.

Related Articles
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"6 Ways to Fire Up Your Metabolism"
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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, March 28th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

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P90X® on the Front Page of The Wall Street Journal

Tony Horton at the Capitol Building

It's not just budgets that are getting cut on Capitol Hill. In a rare act of bipartisanship, Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are Bringing It with P90X. Tony Horton recently made the front page of The Wall Street Journal with the story. Read more...

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4 Facts about Fat

By Joe Wilkes

We always talk about how we want to lose weight. But that's not really what we mean. When we talk about losing weight, we're really talking about losing fat, getting rid of the spare tire, turning the keg into a six-pack. It's about more than getting ready for swimsuit season or squeezing back into your "skinny" jeans, though. More importantly, it's about having a healthy amount of body fat so we don't put ourselves at risk for myriad diseases. After all, our bodies need some fat. Fat is responsible for regulating our body temperature. It insulates our vital organs. It stores energy our bodies draw on to function. Not to mention everyone wants a few strategically placed curves, and you can't get them with just bone and muscle. So what exactly is a healthy amount of body fat?

Woman Grabbing Leg

  1. What is body fat percentage? It's simple enough. It's the amount of adipose tissue (body fat) we carry compared to our weight. A 160-pound person who is carrying 32 pounds of fat would be said to have 20 percent body fat. We all want to be working toward an ideal body fat percentage, staying within a range where we carry enough fat to feel and look healthy, but not so much that we develop the health issues associated with obesity, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. So what are the ideal ranges, and what are the best ways to get rid of unwanted excess adipose tissue, aka body fat?

    Most organizations classify a healthy body fat percentage as 20 to 25 percent for women and 8 to 15 percent for men. Women who have more than 30 percent body fat and men with more than 25 percent are generally classified as obese. There can be some variations that are still considered healthy. Athletes will tend to have less body fat, for example; however, below a certain point, low body fat can be as dangerous as high body fat.

    There are various ways to calculate body fat percentage, with varying degrees of accuracy and expense. Many clinics offer what they describe as the only truly accurate readings, derived from water displacement, ultrasonic, or X-ray tests. Much simpler than that are many home body fat scales. While simple, they are fairly inaccurate. The best home device is an inexpensive and simple test using skinfold calipers. These calipers measure folds of skin at various parts of the body and provide an estimate of body fat percentage based on those measurements.

    Inaccurate or not, most trainers recommend using some sort of body fat calculation in addition to being weighed on a scale. For most of us, though, true accuracy isn't that important, just as long as we're sure our body fat percentages are going down. We can starve ourselves and lose weight to reach that goal, but a lot of that loss will be muscle loss and won't give us the healthy look or feeling most of us seek.
  2. ChaLEAN Extreme®Muscle burns fat. One reason we want to be cognizant of our body fat loss, as opposed to mere weight loss, is because muscles burn calories, and if we lose muscle, it will make burning calories—and, by extension, fat—much more difficult. Because the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn—even when you're resting! So it's important to follow an exercise program that combines resistance activities, like weight lifting, that build muscle with aerobic cardio activities that burn calories. This combination is key to the success of Beachbody's programs, including Chalene Johnson's ChaLEAN Extreme®.

    The really good news is that when you exercise, your body begins turning stored fat into glucose for fuel before it begins breaking down muscle for fuel. This is why high-level athletes can eat so much and still stay sleek. Take Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps's 12,000-calorie-a-day training diet, for example. Because he has such a low percentage of body fat, he has to provide his body with enough fuel or his body will begin breaking down the proteins in his muscle, since it's pretty much out of body fat to use for fuel. During newsletter chats and on the Message Boards, P90X graduates often complain of an ammonia-like smell after working out. That smell is indicative of the protein breakdown that occurs when their elite new low-fat bodies have begun tapping into muscle for fuel. It generally means they need to start eating more to make it through the workouts—a problem most of us would love to have! Most of us aren't dealing with the problems of elite athletes trying to get enough fuel, though; we're just trying to get our bodies to approach that kind of shape.

    One popular exercise myth is that if we're trying to lose body fat, we should just do lots of cardio and sweat and burn fat, then build muscle later. That's a sort of "lose weight now, get in shape later" approach. There's some truth there. The more we exercise, the more calories we expend and the sooner our bodies tap into our fat stores for energy. But by building up muscle, in addition to doing cardio activity, we can burn a lot more calories, even while we're at rest, and maximize the calorie burn during cardio. Plus, when the stored fat begins to melt off, there will be lean, sexy muscle in its place.
  3. How diet affects body-fat composition. Something we've discussed before is the myth that dietary fat contributes to body fat. This is only half true. The fact is that body fat, or adipose tissue, comes from stored calories. Your body fat doesn't care whether the calories come from fat, protein, or carbs. Don't believe me? Try drinking a six-pack of fat-free beer every day—you'll have a pony keg under your shirt in no time. The "beer belly" comes by its name honestly, and beer doesn't have a gram of fat in it. Neither does soda, and it's one of the main culprits behind the obesity crisis.

    Fat does have more calories per gram than either carbohydrates or protein do, so it's wise to monitor the amount of fat in your diet, but if it's healthy fat, like the kind found in avocados, olive oil, fish, or nuts, there's no reason to exclude it from your diet. It's wise to avoid saturated and trans fats, but that has more to do with lipids in your blood, not the composition of adipose tissue.
  4. Woman Measuring WaistlineCan you target areas where you want to burn body fat? There's a French proverb that says that sooner or later, every woman must choose between her face and her bottom. What this means is that it's a myth that you can target one area of your body over another for fat loss. While we may mainly want to get rid of our guts or slim down our thighs, our bodies are largely democratic about where they take stored fat from—they take fat it from all over.

    If you've seen Madonna lately, you can see the results of her latest workout regimen. She has incredibly low body fat, but her face has lost the its fat as well, making her bone structure appear more prominent, with a more sunken appearance (although it looks like some cosmetic procedures may have helped her fill it out somewhat). So if you ever see advertising for any product that claims to burn fat off one part of your body and not others, it's over-promising. You can target specific muscle groups with exercise, but fat burning is a more generalized proposition.

Any activity will go a long way toward reducing body fat percentage. And health professionals advise that even a modest decrease in body fat percentage will have extraordinary health benefits. So even if achieving that ideal "supermodel" weight seems impossible, you can really enhance your quality of life by making a few minor changes in your activity level and diet. Engaging in a comprehensive program like ChaLEAN Extreme, which encompasses resistance training and aerobic exercise as well as a healthy diet, is a great place to start. Here's to seeing less of us!

Related Articles
"6 Simple Rules for Eating Sugar"
"10 Reasons to Eat Organically—and Locally"
"5 Tips for Getting More Whole Fruit in Your Diet"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, March 28th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

Submit A CommentTell A Friend Bookmark and Share

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Understanding Fats

Although the word "fat" can set off warning signals for many people trying to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight, it's important to know that certain types of fat are good—even necessary—in a healthy diet. Here, Danny Teeson shows you which fats you need and which ones to steer clear of. Click below to learn more.

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Recipe: Dreamy Avocado Dressing

Dreamy Avocado DressingHere's a terrific way to dress up a salad and really make it sing! Follow quantities as written for a thicker dressing that also makes a terrific dip. Add more yogurt for a creamier texture that makes it a little easier to toss. Either way, it's outstanding!

  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. minced red onion
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth. Chill, then toss with chosen salad ingredients just before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
97 g 4 g 3 g 9 g 6 g <1 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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