Limit refined sugar, losing love handles, Glycemic Index, carb counting, creatine

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Q: Hello. I am a 16-year-old guy and I am in okay shape, but the problem is, I can't seem to get rid of the fat around the side of my Abs (love handles). And it's really annoying because I can't seem to find any workouts or any techniques to burn it off. I workout regularly and do cardio exercises, but can you give me some tips on how I can burn these off? Thank you for your time, I sure hope I can get some help, because your other tips on working out helped me a lot, too!

Ben Kim

A: Ben,
Thanks for taking the time to write. Your plight is a common one. Love handles are a problem area for most men due to genetics and hormones. To get you started on your path to a leaner body, let me start by stating a fact based on physiology: There is no such thing as spot reduction. Did you get that? There is no such thing as spot reduction. No matter what you see on TV or what somebody in the gym says, doing ab work has nothing to do with the amount of fat deposition around your lower torso. You could perform the most extensive ab workout everyday and if you don't follow two basic lifestyle components, it won't make a bit of difference in your appearance.

Ben, I put quite a bit of information in this response, so I want you to really pay attention.

The first component to a leaner body is eating right.

Many doctors, dieticians and other health care professionals would have you believe that in order to lead a healthy life, 70% of your diet needs to come from fruits, cereals, bread, etc. If the American so called vitamin- and mineral-enriched balanced diet, as touted by the American Medical Association and the American Dietetics Association, is so healthy, why is diabetes and obesity increasing at such an exponential rate? Why is obesity reaching epidemic proportions among our children? This, despite the fact that we have refrigeration, improved packaging technology, vitamin and mineral supplements and better, more nutritious food. We also have a huge variety of food available to us all year round. So what gives, Ben?

When you eat carbs, the body breaks them down into a simple, more absorbable sugar called glucose. The glucose is then transported to the blood stream. As your blood glucose levels rise, this sends a signal to your body to release insulin. Insulin governs the processing of glucose. Glucose is processed by insulin in two different ways. As glucose levels rise, insulin converts a portion of it to glycogen, which is stored in the muscle cells and the liver. Once all the storage space is taken up, and it doesn’t take much, insulin will convert the rest to triglycerides and store it as adipose tissue, or FAT. Insulin is a facilitator of fat storage and a deterrent to fat breakdown. Even low levels of circulating insulin have been shown to prevent the breakdown of fat to be used as energy. This is why insulin is called the fat storage hormone.

So what is the answer? Cut carbs out of your diet? Absolutely not. It is almost impossible for most people to eat a no carbohydrate diet and not cheat or fall off the wagon entirely. The only people I know that can remain on a protein diet are those that have a life-threatening situation like heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. A life threatening illness can be a strong motivator. What most have to do, including myself, is fit the diet to your lifestyle and goals.

Further along in this article. you'll find a list of approved and banned foods. Use this list to help you choose what foods to incorporate in your daily diet. Be concerned more about what you eat rather than how much you eat.

Make sure you are getting enough quality protein. Protein -- just the mere mention of it gives most doctors and dieticians an anxiety attack. They’ll tell you all kinds of crap like too much protein can lead to kidney and liver problems, an average person can only absorb 30-40 grams of protein at one sitting, vegetable protein is just as good as meat or fish protein, and on and on. I cannot tell you how tired I am of dealing with this unfounded garbage. Yes, you heard it Ben, unfounded. There is not one study to support any of these previous statements. I defy anyone to show one study that proves a diet high in protein will harm the liver or the kidneys of a healthy individual. You will find, however, a mountain of evidence supporting the benefits of higher protein diets. Protein has a whole host of positive effects.

Protein repairs and maintains everything in our bodies from hormones to muscles. Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are eight essential amino acids, ‘essential’ meaning we have to ingest these for survival because our bodies cannot manufacture them. If your protein intake is low, your body will get the essential aminos it needs from your muscle tissue. This is a big reason why strict wacko vegetarians have a much lower percentage of muscle than meat and fish eating humans. And they also have a harder time gaining muscle in the gym, most likely due to lower testosterone levels, as a few studies have shown vege males have 7 – 10 % less testosterone than their meat-eating counterparts.

Why anyone would consciously eat a diet low in protein is beyond me. There are two things that begin with the letter ‘P’ that I would never cut back on. One of them is protein. So having said that, how much protein should you consume? I, along with many experts in the field, recommend 1g/lb of body weight. However, if you train intensely (which is how you should train), you need upwards of 1.5 to 2 g/lb.

Protein and fat, in and of themselves, have little to do with getting fat. You see, a calorie is not a calorie. A calorie of a carbohydrate does not equate to a calorie of protein when being metabolized in our bodies. Protein calories are not likely to be stored as fat when compared to carbs. This is mainly due to the fact that proteins require a lot of energy to metabolize and assimilate. It takes about five to six times more energy to process protein than it does carbs. And as an added bonus, protein helps stimulate the secretion of glucagon, which helps stop the fat storage effects of insulin.

To put it quite simply, if you do not consume enough protein you will not only put a halt to your efforts to have a leaner, more muscular body, you can actually lose some of the muscle you’re working so hard to get.

What isn’t true is the theory that many health professionals espouse: In order to lose weight, you must reduce the number of calories you take in. Some go as far as to say that it doesn’t matter what you eat -- you could eat candy bars all day, but as long as you take in fewer calories than you expend, you’ll drop weight. Not only are the diets that are based on this theory ineffective, with a 95% to 97% failure rate across the board, but they’re simply not based on fact.

In the first part of this response, I discussed how eating carbs affects insulin levels. Carbohydrates are rated by the amount of insulin they produce after being ingested. This system of rating carbs is called the Glycemic Index. The following is a list of foods that are acceptable to eat if you want to lose those love handles. This is not a complete list but it’s a very good start. The glycemic index of the carbs listed is low to moderate. Although these carbs are listed as acceptable, eating multiple servings per meal isn’t. Choose your carbs carefully and only have at the most one serving each of veges and carbs per meal, although most vegetables can be eaten in large quantities because of the low carb content.

Proteins Carbohydrates Vegetables
-Orange roughy
-Low-fat cottage cheese
-Chicken breast
-Turkey breast
-Lean ground meat
-Maverick beef
-Top round steak
-Top sirloin steak
-Eggs (Sparingly)
-Egg whites
-Egg substitutes
-Protein powders
-Meal replacement packs
-Oat bran
-Nonfat yogurt
(Artificially sweetened)
-Nonfat yogurt
(fruit sugar sweetened)
-Sweet Potatoes
-Whole grain brown rice
-Whole grain bread
-Whole grain pasta
-Green beans
-Green peppers
-Bell peppers
-Collard greens
-Brussels sprouts
-Dill pickles

The following is a list of foods that, for the most part, are off limits. If you want to get lean to see your abs or if you just want to cut some weight, stay away from these foods. As discussed earlier, the typical diet ends in failure 95% of the time. Sure, you can go to a place like Jenny Craig and lose weight on a calorie-restricted diet while still “eating your favorite foods,” but it won’t work for the long haul. One of the main reasons for the failure of these diets is sheer hunger. Eating the right foods in the right amounts without starving yourself will help to ensure long term success.

All refined sugar. Use artificial sweeteners.
All refined products such as cookies, cakes, pie etc.
Potatoes. Try sweet potatoes
White rice. Use whole grain rice
White bread. Use whole grain w/o added sugar
White pasta. Try whole grain pasta

Also be aware of products like catsup, barbecue sauces and salad dressings. Use them sparingly because they are loaded with one or more types of sugar. Especially watch out for fat free salad dressings. You are much better off using regular dressings. Just make sure you don’t load it on.

Remember FAT FREE does not mean FAT FREE on you.

The second basic principle you need to be aware of is progressive resistance.

For this part, I'm going to refer you to my three-part series, "A no-nonsense guide to designing your workouts." Remember when reading these articles that your goal should be to gain as much muscle as possible. Three to five pounds of muscle will raise your metabolism 7%-10%. This, along with eating right, will help you reach your goal.

And please be patient. This isn't going to happen overnight. When Thomas Edison was asked what it was like failing 2,000 times before finally inventing the light bulb, he said, “I didn’t fail 2,000 times. It was a 2,000-step procedure.” Ben, very few people have been successful on their first try. They failed, and then tried again. Each small setback is a learning process. If you fall off the wagon, use it as a learning experience and hop right back on. Don’t be discouraged and don’t give up.


Q: Hey Mike:

I read your articles like gospel, and I was wondering if you could recommend a marinade for grilling the food on your "Authorized Food List." I don't want to screw anything up by putting junk on it.

Thanks a bunch


A: One of the best overall marinades is Italian dressing. I also like McCormick's Fajita and Caribbean Jerk seasonings. For beef, I'll also use various herb rubs from a local butcher shop.

Q: Hi,

I'm 15 years old and my height is about 6-1 and I weigh about 247. I am a defensive lineman. Because of that I don't want to become skinny or slim, but I don't want to be fat. I want to have as much muscle without loosing any size by losing fat. I got creatine the other day and they are in the pill form. What is the best way to measure my dosage?

A: First of all, it's much more cost effective to use the powder form of creatine. You need to take 20 grams/day for seven days then back down to 10 grams a day for five more weeks. Weighing a lean 247 pounds at 6-1 is achievable but it's going to take years -- and I mean several, not two -- to achieve. And that’s assuming you are willing to work your ass off, never miss a workout and never miss meals. And hopefully you have the genetics that allow you to achieve that level of muscle mass. I not trying to discourage you, but people just don’t understand what is involved with gaining large amounts of muscle. You are going to need to be patient while training smart and intensely. You will also need to eat correctly. Make sure you get around 200 grams a day. I would normally suggest 250 to 400gm/day for someone who weighs 250 pounds; however, you're not a lean 250. You also need several servings of vegetables and whole-grain products each day. Keep the junk food and overall sugar consumption to a minimum. 

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