Thursday, May 6, 2010

Foods That Burn Fat: The Top 10 Lists

You know, there are some days where I just don't feel like writing all that much. Whether I have writers block and feeling a little under the weather, or my DVR is completely backed up and I need to catch up on my re-runs of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, or simply because I need my daily dose of Oprah announcing her guest's name... "John Traaaaaaaaaavolta!" Another reason is that even though I enjoy and pride myself on researching topics and articles on things I think my readers will be interested in, I'm not a certified personal trainer or nutritionist, and therefore am restricted with my knowledge and the advice that I should give my readers on certain topics.

So I have enlisted the help of one of my 'gurus' Tom Venuto. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and a certified personal trainer. Not only that but he has penned a book that is a best seller, and has written some awesome articles that I have read over the years, so I'm going to post the ones I think are relevant to this blog on a weekly basis. 

Below is an article Tom wrote, detailing his diet. And we should listen. The guy has single digit body fat, biceps that would put any bodybuilder to shame, and has done it all naturally - with no steroids or large amount of supplement use. You also don't need to be a fitness junkie, even people who are just starting on their weight loss journey will benefit greatly from his advice.

Enjoy x

Foods That Burn Fat: The Top 10 Lists
By Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS

Anytime the topic of discussion in my blogs, 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 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:


  1. i usually have a big salad for dinner from the local grocery store. it consists of an array of veggies including grilled peppers, asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, grape tomatoes, red onion, mushrooms, cucumber and mushrooms. i have it topped off with balsamic vinegar. wondering if the carb intake here is too high for dinner? i try to allow for 3 hours of digestion before bed. also, whats your take on protein right before bed - i.e. a lean shake w/water right before sleep after a hard AM workout....

  2. Your dinner is very lean and has very little carbs at all. Just make sure you throw some protein in with all those great veggies. Balsamic Vinegar is a great low calorie salad dressing also, so it sounds like you are on the right track.
    Some say protein before bed is good for muscle growth, others say you shouldn't eat or drink 3 hours before bed. If you are looking for more fat loss than, I would advise not eating so close to bed, and if you are having a shake, just make sure it is high protein with little (if any) carbs or sugar.

    Healthy Boy x


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