Let’s get this out of the way first—if you’re reading Men’s Fitness, we’re going to assume you already know that you should eat less fat and more protein. Having said that, besides the obvious recommendation to eat more low-fat foods, there’s a number of habits you should have to help prevent gaining weight from fat. Here are the five you should know.
1. Keep a food log
We’re not asking you to count calories, but you do need some record of what you’re taking in. Write down all the foods that pass your lips in a day, every day, along with the approximate times you eat them.
“Keeping a food log is a great way for a beginner to get a handle on exactly what he’s eating each day,” says Shelby Starnes, a nutrition coach who helps bodybuilders get ready for competitions.
After a week or so, you’ll probably see a pattern develop. You may tend to skip meals when you’re stressed, or eat low-quality foods at night. “Two of the biggest problems I see are overeating and undereating,” says Starnes. “A log makes you accountable and helps you figure out where you need to make changes in your diet plan.”
2. Drink lots of water
Two liters (about half a gallon) per day is the bare minimum. Drink another 500 milliliters (about 16oz) for every 30 minutes you spend performing intense exercise.
3. Chew your food
Eat more slowly and grind each bite to a soft pulp before swallowing. The more slowly you eat, the more time your brain has to recognize feelings of fullness.
4. Eat breakfast
A 2013 study published in the journal Appetite found that eating breakfast before exercise improved cognitive function.
Plan to weight train four days a week. You can do two upper-body days and two lower-body days. If you can only exercise three days, train the entire body each session.
According to Starnes, cardio is best done four to six hours before or after weight training or on separate days entirely. Mix high-intensity interval training and slower aerobic training for three to six workouts per week.