Basic Principles of 8-Pack Eating
To burn through unwanted belly fat and reveal the diamond-hard eight-pack underneath, diet plays the lead role. It is arguably the most important aspect of the triad. You can do all the perfect 8-pack cardio and 8-pack abdominal training, but if you’re fat, you need to lose the excess weight through proper eating in order to really carve the 8-pack into visibility.
We are born with the wonderful capacity of free choice and the ability to change at will. We are not perfect creatures by any stretch of the imagination, but we make the choices that make us fat and unhealthy. To better understand your own personal choices so that, going forward, you can look back and understand how to change the bad choices to good choices, complete the following 24-hour diet recall. Remember that nobody needs to see this except you, so be as absolutely as honest with yourself as humanly possible. Think back over the last 24 hours and write down exactly what you ate, the time you ate it, and the approximate portion size. I caution you not to continue denying or lying to yourself here. For your personal revolution to work, it must begin with the raw truth.
Looking back over the past 24 hours, you now can clearly see your choices mapped out in front of you. Eating for the 8-pack involves recognizing the destructive patterns and tendencies that have been seemingly set in stone as a result of choices. Recognizing these destructive patterns is the first step. Fixing them is the challenge. But they are actually easy to reverse once you have the proper knowledge and skills. It’s like trying to loosen a bolt with a saw or a hammer. While they are perfect tools for their respective purposes, loosening a bolt is simply not one of them. Get yourself a wrench, and it’s as simple as can be.
When looking over what you wrote down, the most important thing is not what you might think. When eating for 8-pack abdominals, the timing of the meals is first thing to recognize. Most people tend to eat the vast amount of calories in the second half of the day, with the biggest meal being at night. This condition is the opposite of metabolic activation and must be reversed. The point here is that when you eat is as important as what you eat. If you have been starving your body, even a small number of calories eaten at the wrong time will lead to rapid gains in fat. It’s simply your bodies system attempting to resist change. Taking an example from the animal kingdom, when a tiger has had unsuccessful hunts and has gone hungry for an extended period of time, the animal’s body makes internal adjustments, slowing metabolism, changing hormone levels, and altering sleep patterns. The tiger is now in a state of starvation alert. But the moment the tiger finally makes a big kill and has a large meal their bodies have an interesting and seemingly paradoxical response. They generally collapse and fall asleep despite the massive amount of calories they ate. This response actually makes a great deal of sense when you think about it. The period of starvation throws the body into a shocked state in which it makes necessary survival adjustments including making more fat storing pathways. In so doing, during such a state the bulk of calories taken in are converted to body fat and not to energy. This is the nature of what I’ve called for years the starvation alert mode—the idea that, due to the period of starvation, the body is put on alert to prepare for another time of deprivation by causing the body to make body fat.
On a human scale, the Japanese Sumo wrestlers perhaps best exemplify the principle of starvation alert. If you’ve ever seen them on television, you know how enormously fat they are. Some weigh well over 500 pounds. It seems the Sumo wrestler has long since utilized the theory of starvation alert and basically used it to pile on layers of flab. Like the tiger example, the Sumo wrestler traditionally starves throughout the day and eats only once. The meal, called chanko, is a large meal served in the evening just before sleep. Interestingly, even though the total calories consumed are comparable to the total caloric intake of a normal size man, the problem clearly becomes one of timing and the resulting purposeful fat gain is obvious.
Perhaps the best example to bring my theory of starvation alert into your world is that of Thanksgiving Day. It seems that nearly everyone approaches this heavy-calorie day with a similar flawed logic and stumbles into a condition of starvation alert with huge gains in fat. It usually starts as early as the day before Thanksgiving when we begin holding back on eating in preparation for this large meal. For example, we might only have a cup of coffee for breakfast and skip lunch altogether, thinking that if we eat less during the day we will be able to get away with stuffing ourselves. Does this sound familiar? Just like the Sumo wrestler, we put ourselves in a state of starvation alert. The result is that we finally get to dinner and gorge ourselves. Unfortunately for us, and no different from the tiger or the Sumo wrestler, after we eat we are exhausted. Recall being so stuffed that you discreetly unsnap your belt buckle and rise deliriously from the table only to stretch out on the floor like a fat pig (that is of course until someone wakes you up to ask us if we wanted some pumpkin pie!).
So for 8-pack abdominals, it’s absolutely critical that you reverse or avoid the condition of starvation alert by making sure the largest meal is breakfast, the meals only get smaller and lighter in calories after that, and you are finished eating early in the day well in advance of nightfall. Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be forever, but while you are pursuing 8-pack abdominal carving, it’s a must.
Optimal eating for 8-pack abdominals requires a basic understanding of the ill effects of the macronutrient called “carbohydrates”. Anything containing predominantly sugar, regardless of the type or source (i.e., simple vs. complex, low glycemic index vs. high glycemic index, etc.) falls into the macronutrient category of a carbohydrate. This is a broad category ranging from the obvious sources like table sugar, candy, cakes, and pies, to the less obvious sources of bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes, all the way to the surprising examples of fruit, fruit juices, and beans and corn. Keep in mind that all of these can lead to major weight and health problems when taken in excess quantity. The major concept to realize, however, is that it doesn’t take much in the way of any of these carbohydrates to cause problems, and just because a carbohydrate source is “natural” certainly doesn’t make it any less problematic in the diet. For example, the American Pediatric Association now believes that, due to the staggering rise in childhood diabetes and obesity, even natural fruit juice is now contraindicated for children under six years old!
We are just now beginning to understand that perhaps the greatest dietary mistake of the twentieth century has been man’s overemphasis on carbohydrates. Everywhere you turn you can find carbohydrates. It’s no wonder that they dominate the diet of overweight Americans. In fact, as a clinician, I believe that diabetes, which is at an all-time high, is a direct result of the easy accessibility to sugars of all kinds. If conventional diet theories were on target, heart disease would not be at an all-time high as well. Cancer is also at an all-time high that I believe is linked to excess body fat, which in turn has its roots in sugar overindulgence.
We have done this to ourselves. We have misbranded carbohydrates as an energy source when it was not mean it to be. Remember that we measure energy units in kilocalories (Kcal) and 1 gram of carbohydrates is equal to only 4 Kcal, whereas, 1 gram of fat at 9 Kcal equals more then double the energy! Check any nutrition textbook and you’ll see that this is correct. Yet why does the so-called modern nutrition expert ignore this fact? The answer is that they’ve been brainwashed as well, along with nearly all of humanity. It’s a frightening thing.
Here’s the shocker—carbohydrates are no more a source of energy than an amphetamine or a line of cocaine! If you are trying to put fat burning into overdrive, carbohydrates are like a drug. The more you use, the more it seems your body becomes dependent on them. Take them away from someone who is used to high blood sugar levels, and they have a clear withdrawal reaction. They believe they are hypoglycemic, when in fact, as I’ve demonstrated so many times in my practice, their blood sugar is still in the normal range despite symptoms of being light-headed, having sweats and tremors. So what’s going on? Well, it seems that most people have poisoned their bodies with such a steady influx of carbohydrates day-in and day-out, that the so-called “normal” range of blood sugar for them is actually abnormally high. The result is that, as soon as you stop the flow of sugar, they start to get symptoms of hypoglycemia without actually having a significantly low blood sugar. Furthermore, as evidence of this occurrence, when continued on for years though bad habits of carbohydrate dependence, the result is fat gain and diabetes
So what people fail to realize and what you must be conscious of is that carbohydrate-based foods are simply unnecessary and harmful in even slight excess. When it comes to feeling good and looking good, relative to the other macronutrients like protein and fat, carbohydrates serve no purpose other than occasionally pacifying “sinful” desires. Unless you are starving in a third-world nation and you need them to stay alive, carbohydrates are pretty much worthless. This is in sharp contrast to the proteins and healthy fats, which have absolutely been proven to be essential. Without eating complete protein and healthy fat, you will get sick and die because your body cannot produce them and must get them from the diet. The same does not hold true for carbohydrates. Dietary carbohydrates have no essential character. If your body needs them, it will produce them from the fat and/or protein you take in.
Furthermore, so-called modern nutritionists still focus on the overall caloric value of carbohydrates and trying to find ways to offset this number. They completely overlook the fact that the real damage done by carbohydrates has nothing to do with the caloric value and everything to do with the hormonal influence of sugar. All sugars increase insulin. Some do it to a lesser degree, while some do it to a greater degree. The dark secret about insulin is that it not only causes blood sugar to be taken up into the cells, but also turns on body fat production. It’s logical when you think about it. Turning blood sugar into stored fat is a logical dumping path for the body to utilize.
Despite all these reasons, and the popularity of the many low-carb diets out there, our society fails to recognize the true lack of utility and inherent danger of an excess of carbohydrate-based foods. Instead, society has given the word “fat” a bad rap and given carbohydrates the untrue moniker of a “source of energy”. Taken to an extreme, there are so-called “low fat” sections in the grocery store that stock pastries, cookies, and the like with less fat but double the sugar! The food labels brag about eliminating the fat, yet say little or nothing about the enormous carbohydrate content.
But it’s not just society that is so mislead about carbohydrates. Nutritionists and scientists also perpetuate the myth that your body needs to eat carbohydrate-based foods. If one looks back to the early cavemen, one finds that he foraged for food by killing animals and eating their meat as well as gathering leaves, shrubbery, and only occasionally introducing fruits, nuts and berries. They didn’t process cane sugar, make bread, or boil potatoes or rice. All of these were developed much later by “modern” man as a way to fill the diet and feed the masses. Note that meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and milk, as well as fresh vegetables do not store well. These are the healthy foods. This is in sharp contrast to such things as sugar, wheat, and rice, can last for very extended periods of time. Surprisingly, these types of foods are actually the result of an unnatural processing. Since our bodies have been basically poisoned by sugars over time, the key to weight-loss success and health is to detoxify our bodies from the ravages of carbohydrate-based foods. In so doing, we nurture the primordial metabolic pathways that our bodies once lived by. These pathways, when awakened and challenged, are actually extremely efficient energy producers.
All this being said, you need keep in mind that one must not be obsessive about avoiding every trace of carbohydrates especially at breakfast where something like oatmeal is a very healthy adjunct to your eggs. So small amounts carefully placed are okay. Some carbohydrates occur naturally in trace amounts in what I call “fiber-based foods” like vegetables. These foods are essential to good health and form a major component of a healthy diet. It is only when carbohydrates form predominate the makeup of the food that it should be avoided or at least minimized. So you don’t need to, nor should you, eliminate carbs completely for 8-pack abdominals, except in the second half of the day.
Dietary fat has received perhaps the most severe criticism of any food component. But the “rap” isn’t fair since most of the legitimate criticism centers on the unhealthy “saturated” fat. Saturated fat is almost always derived from an animal source and is usually solid at room temperature. Examples include the white trimmings from the edge of a steak or the grease from the bottom of the pan after you fry sausage. Excessive saturated fat content in our diet has been linked closely to some of the most serious diseases, namely heart disease, stroke, and cancer. We’ve been fed a steady diet of false propaganda that says that all fat is bad. We’ve been told to completely avoid fat in the diet. But this information couldn’t be further from the truth, which is that fat is essential. Without the proper fat in your diet, you will be a very sick person.
It is rare these days to have not heard of the recommendations to decrease the intake of saturated fat. Many of us are making efforts to cut down on our consumption of things like bacon, cold cuts, heavy cheeses, butter, cream, and whole milk products. For 8-pack abdominals, you must cut the amount of saturated fat and so-called “trans” fat in your diet. For 8-pack abdominals a total ban on fat in the diet is a big mistake because of the efficient energy fat provides. As with carbohydrates, early on in the day it is okay and actually helpful as with something like coconut oil, but in the second half of the day, it’s out.
If the idea of fasting scares you, well, you are not alone. We are all naturally creatures that take comfort in the fed state and achieve a peaceful feeling from knowing that we have just gorged. Yet, when performed correctly, 8-pack fasting can be one of the most powerful tools to put fat burning into overdrive. While I have gone to great lengths to convince you that you must avoid a condition of starvation alert, by suggesting fasting I am not contradicting myself. Remember that the fat gaining consequence of being in a temporary state of starvation alert only occurs at the nighttime re-feeding. If one forgoes the night re-feeding, then one harnesses the power of fasting.
To put it another way, though avoiding starvation alert should generally rule nearly every day, on occasion, very short term and structured caloric deprivation has its place because it not only burns off body fat at hyper-speed, but it resets your metabolic ability to burn fat at a steadier state when you return to your regular eating. Fasting has been an important purification fixture of many religions and cultures throughout the history of man. Someone way back realized the power of fasting.
Fasting is perhaps the most powerful and ancient dietary method to burn fat quickly. Many easterners still believe that fasting not only purifies the body, but it heightens the senses and makes one more aware of ones surroundings. It seems the Roman Empire ruled over most of the modern world for thousands of years and accomplished this on the backs of their legions of soldiers. These Roman warriors would periodically come upon periods of forced fasting and re-feeding simply due to the conquest at hand and the availability (or lack thereof) of food. This habitual fasting was followed by either no evening re-feeding or at most an evening re-feed, the content of which was mostly protein and water. It seemed to make them the smartest, strongest and most fearsome soldiers. Unlike sumo wrestlers who regularly live with daily starvation alert followed by uncontrolled evening re-feeding resulting in fat gain, the opposite way of the Roman warrior was at the core of each soldiers leanness and physical and mental fortitude.
Scientific research also suggests a longevity component to some degree of caloric deprivation. The overfed state, which nearly all Americans are used to, appears to cultivate premature illness and death.
If I’ve sold you on the effectiveness of this important 8-pack tool for fat loss, the real challenge then becomes how you overcome the fear and apply this tool. You can periodically use short-term fasts to realize the massive fat burning advantage of brief bouts of intense caloric restriction without an evening re-feed. Again, don’t confuse this with going into starvation alert. Recall starvation alert is a condition fostered by a lifestyle of daily food deprivation and heavy nighttime re-feeding. This builds fat and is in sharp contrast to proper fasting.
Actually my 8-pack version of fasting is not a true complete deprivation of all sustenance. My favorite method is what I call a “structured fast”. By that I mean that I like a small early morning pure protein intake of either eggs or meat source prior to the all-on fast. This takes the edge off the first hit of hunger and I actually believe helps the fat burning process because it gives you just enough get-up-and-go to not sit around thinking off food. Of course, the more active you are, the more calories you burn. Without the morning feed, we have found in clinic that fasting compliance tends to be much lower because of the first hit of mid morning hunger drives a huge and almost insurmountable temptation to eat. Also a small amount of morning protein gets you off to work and about your day. It not only counteracts this effect by delaying and softening the first hit, it also results in a higher degree of body fat loss because of the higher level of physical exertion the body is tricked into pursuing.
Since re-feeding obviously does occur at night, when exactly do you re-feed? The next morning after the fast is when it happens. That’s because you will be burning fat while you sleep! It’s a rare state of being, but when you wake up the next day having survived, look at how flat your belly is and check out the scale. The results are astounding and well worth the temporary period discomfort when you finally see that etched 8-pack.
A great source of protein is a good whey protein isolate. I recommend Proteinfactory.com’ whey isolate. It can be purchased here.
One of the most powerful things you can do to assist the diet in etching the 8-pack is to drink more water. Water is the most common substance on the planet and perhaps the most neglected of any essential nutrient. Without enough water, our physiology simply does not operate properly. Our bodily form flattens and quickly fades. So it’s not surprising that water happens to be the most abundant substance in the body. An average adult is nearly 70 percent water (corresponding to ~12 gallons). Of course, this percentage varies depending on body composition, age, gender, among other factors, but the point remains the same—water is as essential to 8-pack abdominal etching as it is to the health of every living organism.
When we are sick, we don’t have enough fluid in our bodies (hypohydration). This simple fact is something that far too many doctors fail to acknowledge despite the fact that the first thing we do with nearly every patient that enters the emergency room or is admitted to the hospital is to insert an intravenous line and hydrate the body!
If we look at the composition of our body (what we are made up of) as a model for what we consume, we find that water is the predominant substance. Following a distant second to water is muscle (hopefully), then fat and other constituents. As such, using our body composition as a guide to tell us what our body needs, one finds that we should correspondingly take sizable amounts of water. Following water, we need generous portions of protein and some fat. Notice that carbohydrates are almost insignificant if one truly analyzes the “clay” from which we are made. Water has no calories and no conventional nutritive component, yet every cell, tissue, and organ, and almost every life-sustaining body process needs water to function. It transports nutrients and oxygen to your body cells and carries waste products out of the cells, lubricates body tissues, and moistens the mouth, eyes, and nose. Water makes up the tissues that cushion your joints and protect your body organs and is also the main constituent of all body fluids. These life- sustaining fluids include everything from blood, to gastric (stomach) juice, saliva, spinal fluid, and amniotic fluid (for a developing fetus).
When comparing muscle to fat, lean muscle contains much more water compared with body fat. Again, if water intake is too low, your tone and shape will suffer. Thus, the more lean muscle you have relative to fat, the higher proportion of water in your body. As I have come to learn from all the athletes I’ve worked with, the leaner, more muscular body tends to hydrate easier than the fatter physique. The fatter body has more difficulty holding on to water. As a result, I have found that the heavier the patient (in terms of body fat), the more poorly hydrated they are, and as a result they are usually more sickly and unhealthy. From my clinical practice, I have also come to believe that this model can also be forcibly reversed. In other words, in this way liberal amounts of fluid can cultivate a fit looking physique.
The amount of water your body needs each day does depend on the amount of energy your body uses. But it suffices to say that the more stress you are subjected to, be it physical, mental, or emotional, the more water you need. The fatter you are, the more water you need to drink to achieve a healthier state. But ironically, the fatter you are, the less you feel the urge to drink more water. Thus, to keep your fat burning processes functioning normally and to avoid hypohydration or full-blown dehydration, your body needs a continuous water supply. During exercise the need for water is particularly magnified. Obviously, climate also affects the need for water. For example, your body uses more water to maintain its normal temperature when exposed to hot weather. So it can be said that, perhaps one of the greatest physical demands you could subject your body to would be to undergo intense exercise while in extreme heat. Neglecting fluid requirements in this setting is simply stupid and deadly. Even though it seems difficult and almost inconceivable at times to stop what you are doing in the middle of a busy day to satisfy your bodily need for water, you do need to try your best.
In your quest for the 8-pack, remember that water is perhaps your best aide in helping to get you through calorically empty later portion of the day and the structure fast each week. Water fills the stomach and creates a wonderful sensation of satiation, albeit temporary. One of the tricks I also use is to squeeze fresh lemon into my daily liter water bottles. That subtle lemon taste adds just enough profile to magnify the sense that I’ve consumed something substantive.
8-Pack Eating Routine
What follows is sample full week of 8-pack eating along with a single day (Monday) of structured fasting. You’ll notice it contains all the elements discussed including sample food choices as well as optimal meal times. Just remember that this is a sample adjusted for an average size male. If you are larger or smaller in stature, or a woman, you’ll naturally have to make some adjustments in terms of the amount of calories at each meal. In addition, I’ve selected some fairly standard food choices. If you have a food allergy or intolerance to a particular food listed, or if you just prefer something else, as long as it is about the same in terms of health and calorie density, just switch it out. Again, just use the sample as a general guideline for yourself in order to construct your 8-pack eating routine.
|7:30am||3 whole eggs any style, 1 cup oatmeal with 1tbsp coconut oil and ½tsp cinnamon, 8oz. lowfat milk.||Structured Fast (begins with two whole eggs cooked any style and ample water)||3 whole eggs any style, 1 cup oatmeal with 1tbsp coconut oil and ½tsp cinnamon, 8oz. lowfat milk.||3 whole eggs any style, 1 cup oatmeal with 1tbsp coconut oil and ½tsp cinnamon, 8oz. lowfat milk.||3 whole eggs any style, 1 cup oatmeal with 1tbsp coconut oil and ½tsp cinnamon, 8oz. lowfat milk.||3 whole eggs any style, 1 cup oatmeal with 1tbsp coconut oil and ½tsp cinnamon, 8oz. lowfat milk.||3 whole eggs any style, 1 cup oatmeal with 1tbsp coconut oil and ½tsp cinnamon, 8oz. lowfat milk.|
|10:00am||8oz. plain greek yogurt or low calorie protein shake in water||8oz. plain greek yogurt or low calorie protein shake in water||8oz. plain greek yogurt or low calorie protein shake in water||8oz. plain greek yogurt or low calorie protein shake in water||8oz. plain greek yogurt or low calorie protein shake in water||8oz. plain greek yogurt or low calorie protein shake in water|
|12:30am||Tuna salad or chicken in light wrap w/ avocado||Tuna salad or chicken in light wrap w/ avocado||Tuna salad or chicken in light wrap w/ avocado||Tuna salad or chicken in light wrap w/ avocado||Tuna salad or chicken in light wrap w/ avocado||Tuna salad or chicken in light wrap w/ avocado|
|3:00am||Grilled chicken over green salad w/ balsamic vinegar||Grilled chicken over green salad w/ balsamic vinegar||Grilled chicken over green salad w/ balsamic vinegar||Grilled chicken over green salad w/ balsamic vinegar||Grilled chicken over green salad w/ balsamic vinegar||Grilled chicken over green salad w/ balsamic vinegar|