The general consensus suggests the more you eat, the larger you will become. This, of course, is especially true if you don’t exercise and the vast majority of your diet comprises foods high in saturated fats and carbohydrates.
However, it is possible to remain slim yet still consume a fairly large quantity of food, according to American nutritionist Max Lugavere. Taking to Instagram recently, Max admits he himself eats a “f*ck ton of food,” yet manages to stay “relatively lean.”
His secret? “Maximise satiety per calorie. In other words, you want to feel more full in fewer calories.” Clearly, Max’s personal health and fitness goals aren’t to pile on as much muscle as possible. If that were the case, he would want to put himself into a calorie surplus, i.e. a diet that sees him consume more calories than he burns through exercise to help him bulk.
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In his case, Max wants to remain lean, so he will still need to consume a good quantity of food, but not so much that it causes his body to fill out. Max says to do this, “the foods that can help are generally going to be high protein foods and high fibre foods.”
He adds that “if you aren’t used to eating higher fibre foods such as whole fruit or veggies, start slow.”
Explaining his reasoning, he continues, “protein is the most satiating macronutrient and provides the fewest calories, a quality attributable in part to the thermic effect of feeding (TEF).”
The Thermic Effect of Food/Feeding is, according to a study published in the Human Kinetics Journal, “the increment in energy expenditure above resting metabolic rate associated with the cost of absorption and processing of food for storage.”
A commonly held notion suggests that you use around 10 percent of your total calorie intake for a day on digesting the foods you consume. However, when food is broken down into carbohydrates, protein and fats, the energy required to digest and absorb associated nutrients changes.
For carbs, this is around 5 – 15 percent; protein requires 20 – 30 percent and fats require between 5 – 15 percent. Max agrees with this, adding to his Instagram post, “[TEF] is about 6x higher for protein than it is for fat and carbohydrates, so the net calories per gram is closer to 3 (carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram and fat provides 9).”
“Protein is also less likely to be stored as fat when compared to carbs and fats. Bonus points if your protein source also contains some fat, which slows gastric emptying, thus prolonging the satiety effect.”
He continues, “fibre is satiating because it mechanically stretches out the stomach when it absorbs water (which is also independently satiating). This turns off the hunger hormone ghrelin, which is secreted by the stomach.”
“For these reasons, staying well hydrated and focusing on protein and fibrous veggies and whole fruit lends lots of satiety but imparts fewer calories than eating to the same degree of low satiety low fibre, low protein foods.”
“Thus, no need to become obsessed with calorie and macro counting! (Though, if that works for you, by all means, keep it up.”
Adam Sullivan of Evidence Based Training provides regular posts on his Instagram account, the majority of which concern losing fat. He keeps things incredibly simple by saying the only way you’re really going to lose fat is by putting yourself on a calorie-restricted diet, i.e. a calorie deficit.
This video in particular walks us through the fundamentals of fat loss. Adam first explains that unless you find a diet or program that you know you’re going to be able to stick to, then you’re not going to get the results you want.
He then explains about putting yourself into a calorie deficit. He does, however (and in relative agreement with what Max says) add that you want to keep your protein intake high because this “helps to sustain muscle mass when we’re in a calorie deficit. Essentially, this is what is going to help you looking lean, instead of becoming thin.
The extent to how much lean muscle mass you have, however, is dependent on the amount of resistance training you do. He also explains that carbohydrate and fat intake can be “whatever works best for you,” but to just make sure you’re hitting your minimum requirements for each (to remain within your calorie deficit).
Finally, and perhaps slightly controversially, Adam says cardio “is not that great for fat loss.”
“It can be used as a tool to help us burn a few extra calories, but it shouldn’t be relied on to put yourself in a deficit.”
The foods you consume and the quantity of them will ultimately depend on your personal health goals. If you’re stuck when it comes to perfecting the perfect diet, then it’s always best to consult a qualified nutritionist for some guidance. But, as Adam says, start with putting yourself onto a calorie deficit diet, lift a few weights, and you will eventually see changes to your body composition.