What Can You Eat on the Paleo Diet?

March 22nd, 2010

According to Loren Cordain, author of the Paleo Diet, DNA evidence shows that human beings have hardly changed, genetically speaking, in the last 40,000 years. Therefore, says Cordain, the genetic makeup of paleolithic people is almost identical to our own today.

Sadly, continues Cordain, we have strayed from the nutritional path that was intended for us by nature. The answer, claims Cordain, is to return to our roots by eating a paleolithic (aka paleo) diet.

So what can we eat on a paleo diet?

Essentially we eat only what our ancestors ate, which included what he could hunt and gather: meat, fish, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. No cereal grains are allowed. No dairy products are allowed. No processed foods are allowed.

Is this a healthy way to eat? Can it help you lose fat? Arguably yes to both, although it’s not without it’s detractors.  Some critics say the paleo diet is “just another low carb diet.” According to Cordain, however, a Paleo diet consists of 22% to as much as 40% carbohydrate.

The difference between a paleo diet and popular low carb diets such as the Atkins diet is that Atkins puts greater restrictions on carbs, especially during the initial induction phase, while the paleo diet allows large amounts of fruits and vegetables.

For more information, look up Loren Cordain.

To see a review of the Paleo diet, including its potential flaws see:

1 Flaw of the Paleo Diet, By Tom Venuto

Liquid Diets Versus Whole Foods

March 9th, 2010

Real food should make up the bulk of your caloric intake every day. Unrefined whole foods contain naturally-occuring vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and bioactive compounds. They provide bulk and satisfaction and they improve your metabolic functioning.

Meal replacement drinks, protein shakes and liquid diet formulas are nothing more than “powdered food” (or “liquid food”). They’re useful for convenience when you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to prepare and eat whole food and some product can be very helpful for post-workout nutrition… but they’re not better than food.

To learn more about all the pros and cons of liquid diets, check out this article on the Burn The Fat website:



Is Hot Pepper Really a Fat-Burning Food?

June 27th, 2009

Hot and spicy foods have long held a reputation as fat-burning foods. But is there really any truth to this belief or is this just an old wives tale or diet myth?

To get the real answer, the only logical place to look is at the published, peer-reviewed, scientific research (since “fat  burner” advertisements are notorious for stretching the truth or “lying with statistics”).

Scientists have known for some time that  capsaicin, the main ingredient of pungent red pepper, could stimulate energy expenditure through activation of the central nervous system.

However,  many foods or supplements which have been reported to be “thermogenic” turned out to barely stimulate metabolism enough to be statistically significant and most of the research was done on rodents.

Furthermore, the pungency of the the red pepper and other thermogenic compounds made it difficult for humans to practially match the dosages necessary to get any effect at all.

To test whether capsaicin, the bioactive ingredient in red pepper really increased thermogenesis in overweight humans enough to actually result in a decrease in body fat, researchers from Denmark gave 80 overweight subjects either a placebo or a supplement containing capsaicin.

The thermogenic effect of the bioactive supplement exceed that of placebo by almost 90 kj in 4 hours and after 8 weeks the effect was sustained. After 8 weeks, there was a slight reduction in fat mass.

Writing in the International Journal of Obesity, the researchers concluded, “these bioactive components may support weight maintenance after a hypocaloric diet.”

It sounds pretty good at first, and you often see studies like this quoted in fat burner ads or in programs which claim that eating certain fat burning foods will increase your fat loss.

 But hold on a minute. If the result were 90 kiloCALORIES increase, every day, that would be small, but significant enough to create a measureable fat loss if sustained over time.

However, this study showed a 90 kiloJOULE increase in energy expenditure. I kilojoule is 0.239 kilocalories. Therefore, the increase in calorie burn was only 21.5 calories, which is so low, it would hardly make a dent in your fat stores.

So, here we have the answer about whether hot pepper is really a bona fide fat burning food…

 YES! It is really true. The bioactive component of red pepper increases metabolism. However, it increases fat burning by so little, it would hardly add up to any noticeable fat loss.

Sorry, no magic fat burning bullet here!

For more information on fat burning foods such as red pepper, take a look at this excellent article on fat burning foods.

- The editors of Burn The Fat

Is Pasta a Good Fat Burning Food?

September 15th, 2008

Is pasta a good fat burning food? Does it have any place on the food shopping list for a fat burning diet? The answer is both yes and no.

 There is nothing inherently fattening about pasta. 200 calories of pasta is no more fattening than 200 calories of any other starchy carbobohydrate. What IS fattening is too many calories and pasta happens to be very calorie dense.

 The problem is that you’re much more likely to to eat 800 to 1000 calories of pasta than a normal-sized serving which is about 350-400 calories for women and 400-500 calories for men. In fact, if you look at what 350 calories of pasta looks like, it would barely fill up the palm of your hand and would probably not leave you feeling very satisfied. Could you eat it? Certainly, especially if you are highly active, but there might be better ways to spend a limited calorie budget.

For example:

8 ounces of pasta = 840 calories

8 ounces of potato = 170 calories

8 ounces of broccoli = 70 calories

The reason some carbohydrates are more calorie dense is because of the food refining process.  Although whole grain types of pasta can be an excellent source of complex carbohydrate, pasta is a refined food.  The milling, refining and enriching of the whole grain removes much of the fiber while “concentrating” the calories.

Because pasta is very calorie-dense (more calories per ounce) than other carbohydrates, it is very easy to eat too many calories of pasta. The average restaurant sized serving of pasta has about 800 - 1000 calories (not counting appetizers, drinks or dessert!)

So it’s not the pasta per se that is fattening, but too many calories of pasta that is fattening.  Too much of anything, even ‘healthy” low fat foods, will be stored as body fat. 

When you’re trying to lose fat it is better to choose carbohydrates that are less calorie dense.  For example, vegetables, due to their high fiber content, have a very low calorie density.  Can you imagine over-eating green beans, broccoli, asparagus or lettuce?  It would be almost impossible because you’d get tired of chewing before you ate too much.   But it’s easy to eat too much pasta without realizing it. 

So is pasta recommended? Yes, if you eat the less processed whole grain varieites and you eat it in small.  A serving of pasta suitable for a fat loss program is so small, however, that some people might prefer to just pass on the skimpy portion and eat something more filling.

10 Foods That Burn Fat

September 11th, 2008

Anytime the topic of discussion in my fat loss blog, articles or newsletters has turned to my own personal grocery shopping list, there has always been a spike in interest. It seems that many people are not only curious about what foods a natural bodybuilder eats to maintain single digit body fat, but they also want to be taken by the hand and told exactly what foods to eat themselves while on fat-burning or muscle building programs. That’s why I decided to put together four separate “top 10” lists of healthy foods that burn fat and build muscle.

Exact quantities and menus are not listed, just the individual foods, and of course my food intake does vary. I aim to get as many different varieties of fruits and vegetables as possible over the course of every week and there are a lot of substitutions made, so you are not seeing the full list of everything I eat, only what foods I eat most of the time.

I also want to point out that while I don’t believe that extreme low carbs are necessary or most effective when you look at the long term, research has shown that there are some definite advantages to a low to moderate carb and higher protein diet for fat loss purposes. These include reduced appetite, higher thermic effect of food and “automatic” calorie control.

Personally, I reduce my carb intake moderately and temporarily prior to bodybuilding competitions. Specifically, it’s the foods that are on the starchy carbs and grains list that go down during the brief pre-competition period when I’m working on that really “ripped” look. I keep the green and fibrous veggie intake very high however, along with large amounts of lean protein, small amounts of fruit, and adequate amounts of essential fats.

This list reflects my personal preferences, so this is not a prescription to all readers to eat as I do. It’s very important for compliance to choose foods you enjoy and to have the option for a wide variety of choices. In the past several years, nutrition and obesity research - in studying ALL types of diets - has continued to conclude that almost any hypocaloric diet that is not completely “moronic” can work, at least in the short term.

It’s not so much about the high carb - low carb argument or any other debate as much as it is about calorie control and compliance. The trouble is, restricted diets and staying in a calorie deficit is difficult, so most people can’t stick with any program and they fall off the wagon, whichever wagon that may be.

I believe that a lot of our attention needs to shift away from pointless debates (for example, low carb vs. high carb is getting really old… so like… get over it everyone, its a calorie deficit that makes you lose weight, not the amount of carbs).

Instead, our focus should shift towards these questions:

* How can we build an eating program that we can enjoy while still getting us leaner and healthier?

* How can we build an eating program that helps us control calories?

* How can we build an eating program that improves compliance?

Here’s one good answer: Eat a wide variety of high nutrient density, low calorie density foods that you enjoy which still fit within healthy, fat-burning, muscle-building guidelines!

Here are the lists of foods I choose to achieve these three outcomes. This eating plan is not difficult to stick with at all, by the way. I enjoy eating like this and it feels almost weird not to eat like this after doing it for so long.

Remember, habits work in both directions, and as motivational speaker Jim Rohn has said, “Bad habits are easy to form and hard to live with and good habits are hard to form but easy to live with.”

These are listed in the order I frequently consume them. So for example, if oatmeal is on the top of the list, it means that is the food I am most likely to eat every single day.

My 10 top natural starchy carb and whole grains

1. Oatmeal (old fashioned)
2. Yams
3. Brown rice (a favorite is basmati, a long grain aromatic rice)
4. Sweet potatoes (almost same as yams)
5. Multi grain hot cereal (mix or barley, oats, rye. titricale and a few others)
6. White potatoes
7. 100% whole wheat bread
8. 100% whole wheat pasta
9. Beans (great for healthy chili recipes)
10. Cream of rice hot cereal

My Top 10 top vegetables

1. Broccoli
2. Asparagus
3. Spinach
4. Salad greens
5. Tomatoes
6. Peppers (green, red or yellow)
7. Onions
8. Mushrooms
9. Cucumbers
10. Zucchini

My top 10 lean proteins

1. Egg whites (whole eggs in limited quantities)
2. Whey or Casein protein (protein powder supplements)
3. Chicken Breast
4. Salmon (wild Alaskan)
5. Turkey Breast
6. Top round steak (grass fed beef)
7. Flank Steak (grass fed beef)
8. Lean Ground Turkey
9. Bison/Buffalo
10. Trout

My top 10 fruits

1. Grapefruit
2. Apples
3. Blueberries
4. Canteloupe
5. Oranges
6. Bananas
7. Peaches
8. Grapes
9. Strawberries
10. Pineapple

Note: I DO include healthy fats as well, such as walnuts, almonds, extra virgin olive oil, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil (supplement - not to cook with), avocado and a few others.

Also, I do eat dairy products and have nothing against them, nor am I lactose intolerant. I simply don’t eat as much dairy as the rest of the stuff on my lists. When I eat dairy, its usually skim milk, low or non fat cottage cheese, low or non fat yogurt and low or non fat cheese (great for omelettes).

Last but not least, I usually follow a compliance rate of about 95%, which means I take two or three meals per week of whatever I want (stuff that is NOT on these lists - like pizza, sushi, big fatty restaurant steaks, etc)

I hope you found this list of foods that burn fat helpful and interesting. Keep in mind, this is MY food list, and although you probably couldn’t go wrong to emulate it, you need to choose natural foods you enjoy in order to develop habits you can stick with long term. In the fruits and vegetables categories alone, there are hundreds of other choices out there, so enjoy them all!

About the Author:

Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilder, certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and a certified personal trainer (CPT). Tom is the author of “Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle,” which teaches you how to get lean without drugs or supplements using methods of the world’s best bodybuilders and fitness models. Learn how to get rid of stubborn fat and increase your metabolism by visiting: www.burnthefat.com

What Color Is Your Diet?

October 4th, 2007

An excellent article by Tom Venuto: 

Q: Dear Tom: I’ve seen quite a few diet books lately that are based on the color of the foods you eat, including the rainbow diet, the color diet and the “color code” (sounds like the Da Vinci code, LOL!). Anyway, I’ve been reading your newsletters for a long time and I know how you feel about diet pills, books and gimmicks and I was wondering what you thought about these programs. Is it just another gimmick?

A: Based on the clever titles, it might be tempting to dismiss these programs as gimmicks, and in fact when your weekly menus are l iterally “color coded,” it might seem that the diet book authors are just scrambling for a new hook or premise on which to base an entire eating program.

I have not read any of those books you mentioned yet, so I can’t comment on any of them specifically. However, as “gimmicky” as eating from every color in the rainbow may sound at first, there is some very legitimate and scientific evidence that this is a great idea.

We are often given the advice to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables (which have a variety of different colors). Good advice of course; even common sense would tell us that. However, “eat a lot of fruits and vegetables”is vague advice because it could mean eating only apples and broccoli (red and green), and nothing else, but eating “a lot” of them. To take that advice to the next level, a better recommendation would be to eat a WIDE VARIETY of fruits and vegetables (not just “a lot”).

Even “wide variety” is not really defined. What is a wide variety? Did you know that there are hundreds of different types of fruits and veggies? To make an even greater distinction, you could begin to sort your fruits and vegetables by color and eat a wide variety every day (at least 5 to 9 servings, including several different colors), and an even wider variety spread over the span of each week.

Why would you go to all the trouble? Well, each various food color is indicative of the phytonutrients and other healthful nutritional compounds found within these foods. According to the textbook Sports & Exercise Nutrition by Katch, Katch & McArdle), over 4000 phytochemicals have been identified, and 150 of them have been studied in detail.

By definition, phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals) are naturally occurring, health promoting compounds found in the plant kingdom. There has been much research on the functional properties of these compounds, proving that they play important and diverse roles in maintaining your health and protecting you from disease.

Foods such as tomatoes (red), carrots (orange), broccoli (green), blueberries (blue) all contain important phytochemicals that play specific roles in health and disease prevention. Onions, whole grains, herbs, spices and other foods also contain their own special types of protective phytochemicals.

Here are some of the phytochemicals and naturally health-promoting compounds and the foods they correspond to:

FLAVONOIDS (quercitin, kaempferol, myricetin, catechins)
Citrus fruits
Purple grapes

CAROTENOIDS (luten, lycopene, zeaxanthin, a-carotene, b-carotene)

GLUCOSINOLATES (glucobrassicin, isothiocyanates, indoles)
Cruciferous vegetables
Brussel sprouts

SULFIDES (allium compounds, dithiolthiones)

Each of these compounds has a health promoting role in the body ranging from antioxidant activity to cancer protection. There is much more going on here than just building muscle and shedding body fat. Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and other natural foods has major health and quality of life implications.

It’s great news to know how much control we can take over our health and physical fitness simply with proper food choices (and proper exercise). The only thing about these discoveries that saddens and disappoints me is that it seems each time our scientists discover something, such as lycopene in tomatoes for example, someone wants to put it in a bottle and sell it to us. (Why not just go to the source and eat the tomatoes?????)

I believe in an intelligent creator, and I believe that the creator of our bodies and this universe we live in, knew exactly what he was doing when he created the marvelous diversity of plants and animals that comprise our food supply. Although it is probably prudent in this modern industrial age to take a multi vitamin/mineral supplement and maybe an essential fatty acid supplement for “nutritional insurance,” everything you need can be found in your food.

If you think about what the discovery of all these naturally occurring compounds really means, you will have to agree that food truly is the most powerful drug. Combine that with recent discoveries in physiology and psychoneoruoimmunology proving that our bodies are their own self-regulating natural pharmacies, and you also have to agree that the natural way is the best way.

In any case, it’s definitely not enough to think only in terms of calories and macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats). Energy needs and macronutrient needs are important, but also think about your nutrition in terms of a wide variety of natural foods, and that includes a wide variety of colors.

For more information about the all natural way to fat loss and better health, read about the Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle program at www..burnthefat.com