The Best Fat-Loss Diet For Women and Men

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Dan Gwartney, MD

The Diet Plan That Burns Fat and Promotes Health

Research on the Mediterranean diet indicates that it’s the best long-term fat loss diet for women. The diet’s appetite-suppressing and metabolism-boosting properties have induced weight loss in overweight individuals, but the diet also comes with many unrealized health benefits— the Mediterranean people have a relatively low rate of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other misfortunes that plague other countries. This has led many to conclude that the traditional Mediterranean diet is the answer to the question, "What is the best diet for weight loss?".

So what makes the Mediterranean diet so effective? Fish, olive oil and red wine, in addition to being delicious, provide essential fatty acids and protein with little burden of excess calories. The U.S. diet, in contrast, contains relatively little omega-3 fatty acids, marine-based protein or essential fats. Read on to learn why the Mediterranean diet is the best fat-loss diet for women, and then get started with our sample meal plan.

Olive Oil and Nuts For a Lean, Tight Midsection

Olive oil and certain nuts are rich sources of the conditionally essential fatty acid called oleic acid, and other bioactive compounds. In addition to its nutritional value, oleic acid is also a precursor for a number of hormone-like biochemicals that reduce inflammation and promote cardiovascular health.

Research has established the pivotal role of an oleic acid-based hormone in controlling food intake by initiating and prolonging satiety. Oleylethanolamine (OEA) is a “gut hormone” produced in the cells lining the small intestines. When a fat-containing meal is consumed, the process of creating OEA from oleic acid is initiated. Interestingly, OEA has been shown in rat studies to dramatically decrease appetite, primarily by causing a person to be satisfied with smaller meals for a longer period. As opposed to recent weight-loss drugs being developed, OEA actually improves signs of depression, as opposed to causing depression or suicidal thoughts— a problem that has halted development of the promising cannabinoid receptor antagonists drugs, such as rimonabant. OEA’s effects take place both in the brain at the hunger/satiety centers and in the gut, as it has been shown to delay gastric emptying (the passage of food from the stomach to intestines).

Though nuts are another rich source of essential fatty acids, they are also an energy dense food, due to their high fat content. Though this sounds like a negative that would make one prone to weight gain if she ate a considerable number of nuts, it is actually the opposite effect that is seen in nutrition studies. When nuts are provided to individuals, they do not gain weight and occasionally lose weight despite the increased fat consumption.

In a review looking at nut consumption, published in The Journal of Nutrition, it was revealed that nuts do not give up their calories easily. Most food products are processed so that the calories and nutrients are easily released when consumed. Blended protein shakes, power bars and refined carbohydrates cause a quick surge in sugar and amino acids to the body. Nuts are much more resistant to digestion, allowing a person to chew and swallow the nuts without the burden of all the calories. The slow digestion and bulk of nuts also provide a greater satiety in meals, allowing one to avoid hunger binges or between-meal snacking. Additionally, the inclusion of nuts tends to decrease the glycemic load of a diet.

Another property of long-term nut consumption supporting weight (and hopefully fat) loss is an increase in resting energy expenditure (REE). This means that people who eat a lot of nuts tend to have a more revved-up metabolism. An increased REE causes the body to burn more calories throughout the day, even when lounging on the couch.

It’s important to remember that focusing solely upon developing a ripped set of abs requires two things: training the abs to tone and develop the ab muscles, as well as eating appropriately to reduce body fat to single-digit body fat percentages.

Don’t Pig Out

Even with the Mediterranean diet, avoiding large meals is essential, as overeating is the foundation to fat gain. To develop toned abs, one needs to get in the habit of eating smaller meals. Obviously, this will result in more frequent meals to meet the daily calorie needs, but this will aid in avoiding overeating. Consuming moderate amounts of fat, including a significant portion rich in oleic acid and fish oils, will improve health and possibly reduce appetite. The bulk provided by whole grains and produce will aid in meal satiety, without increasing the glycemic load of the meals.

Points to Consider

One downside of the Mediterranean diet is the relatively low protein content. This would lead many active women to feel disappointment, as muscle tone decreases and strength/performance is lessened without adequate protein. Further, the addition of higher protein reduces the glycemic load and increases the satiety factor of a meal.

Another possible consideration for women is that the Mediterranean diet is relatively low in saturated fat and the omega-6 fatty acid, arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid is a precursor to many hormone-like molecules that are involved in cell signaling, inflammation, catabolic and anabolic processes.

Sample Diet

Targeting for a daily calorie intake of 10 calories X bodyweight in pounds (adjust portion sizes appropriately); 1 gram protein per pound bodyweight.

  • Meal 1: Omelet with egg yolks, black olives and diced tomato; low-fat milk; orange
  • Meal 2: Steel-cut oats mixed with yogurt, berries, whey protein; fish oil capsules (4 grams)
  • Meal 3: High protein shake with creatine (pre-workout)
  • Meal 4: High protein shake blended with banana (post-workout)
  • Meal 5: Non-sweetened yogurt with crushed pineapple; almond/walnut/cranberry mix
  • Meal 6: Salmon; whole-grain bread with olive oil and herb platter; steamed broccoli
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