Get LEAN for the Summer – How To Lose Belly Fat Fast While Maintaining Muscle Mass

This post is for my Youtube subscribers, readers of The Healthy Gamer, and users on the various forums(especially reddit and bodybuilding.com) that have helped to share the healthy gaming message. Thank you for helping me reach 10,000 Youtube subscribers. I am deeply appreciative of the wonderful support you have bestowed upon me and the healthy gaming ideal. I’ve created this comprehensive guide to help you lose stubborn belly fat while maintaining lean muscle mass as a token of my appreciation.

Understand Hormone Signaling to Understand Why You’re Packing on the Fat

“We are the masters of our fate, the captains of our soul.” – Winston Churchill

Insulin – Insulin is a hormone. It signals to your body that glucose needs to be stored. Insulin is released in response to glucose entering the blood stream. ALL carbohydrates(sugar, whole grain, complex, and simple) are broken down into glucose. Your body releases insulin in direct proportion to the volume of glucose in your blood. Glucose needs to be either burned as fuel, stored in the liver and muscles, or stored as fat. High levels of glucose in the bloodstream is toxic to the body.

Insulin stops the use of fat as an energy source by inhibiting the release of glucagon. With the exception of the metabolic disorder diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome, insulin is provided within the body in a constant proportion to remove excess glucose from the blood, which otherwise would be toxic. – Wiki

Low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet are the gold-standard for losing fat. Low-carb diets by definition limit the amount of glucose entering your bloodstream thereby eliminate blood sugar(glucose) spikes. This mediation of blood glucose then eliminates large insulin spikes.

With our new understanding of insulin it is easy to see why the average person eating a standard Western diet has weight issues. Most of their meals consist at least 100g of fast-digesting carbohydrates made up of breads, pastas, and flours: pizza, burger buns, sandwiches(subway is a terrible choice for weight loss), pasta sides, sugary cereal, and sugary soft-drinks.

MMmmm... pizza.

MMmmm… pizza.

These processed carbohydrates are easier for our digestive system to break down and thus introduce glucose into our bloodstream faster and at higher volumes than carbohydrate rich vegetables and fruits. It requires nine cups of strawberries to equal the sugar content of one 20 oz soda. As we learned earlier, high levels of glucose is toxic to the body, so our bodies must do something with it. Glucose stored in the liver and muscles are used during exercise. If these stores are depleted then blood glucose is shuttled to these stores(muscle and liver) before it is stored in fat- this is good. This explains why nutrition and fitness experts recommend eating your large portions of carbohydrates only after exercise.

The problem for most Westerners is that their carbohydrate consumption is completely out of balance with their physical activity level. I am a very active man and I only need an average of 150g of carbohydrates per day to keep my muscle and liver glycogen levels full. The average westerner consumes on average 300g of carbohydrates per day. And they don’t exercise. With every meal they are storing glucose as fat. With every meal they are releasing a hormone into their body that inhibits their body’s ability to use fat as energy. And then you get to listen to them whine about how hard it is to lose weight.

Type 2 Diabetes is a direct result of our standard Western diet’s effect on insulin.

When you have type 2 diabetes, your fat, liver, and muscle cells do not respond correctly to insulin. This is called insulin resistance. As a result, blood sugar does not get into these cells to be stored for energy. – PubMed

If you have eaten a high carbohydrate diet for all of your life it is likely that you are insulin resistant to some degree. Insulin resistance causes lethargy, fat gain, and will eventually lead to type two diabetes. I’ll show you how you can easily reverse all of this with a few simple steps later in this article.

The final piece of the insulin puzzle are its effects on your hunger and energy levels. Think “sugar crash.” You eat something high in sugar, feel manic and are filled with frenetic energy for half an hour, and then your energy levels plummet. You’re left feeling lethargic and moody. Your brain personified would look like a foggy night in London. This is because the high carbohydrate meal you just ate flooded your blood with glucose. Your body responded accordingly by releasing high levels of insulin. While the glucose was still in your blood-stream you had high levels of energy but insulin is a very efficient hormone and quickly transports the glucose to your liver, muscles, and fat cells. Insulin is so efficient infact that large insulin responses will leave you with too-little glucose in your bloodstream. This then signals to your body that you need immediate energy and you will feel sharp cravings for more high carbohydrate foods. A vicious cycle.

Leptin – Leptin a hormone that tells your body that you are full. It counteracts other hormones which tell your body to feed. Leptin is released in large quantities when you eat fats and proteins and in lesser quantities when you eat carbohydrates.

Leptin acts on receptors in the hypothalamus of the brain, where it inhibits appetite

  1. counteracting the effects of neuropeptide Y (a potent feeding stimulant secreted by cells in the gut and in the hypothalamus)
  2. counteracting the effects of anandamide (another potent feeding stimulant that binds to the same receptors as THC)
  3. promoting the synthesis of α-MSH, an appetite suppressant. – Wiki
Mmm... bacon

Mmm… bacon

Fats and proteins cause significantly more leptin to be released than carbohydrates. Just think about a typical standard breakfast. You can eat pancakes all day. But how many plates of bacon and sausage could you eat before you started to feel sick?

The added satiety afforded by fats and proteins because of leptin is an essential weapon in your war against fat. You can “diet” without feeling starved all day. You can shed fat effortlessly while eating your favorite foods- like bacon!

When we don’t have blood sugar crashes that are caused by insulin spikes we won’t crave sugars and carbohydrates. When we eat meals that are high in fat and protein we stay satiated all day.

Cortisol – Cortisol is a hormone that tells your body to release energy(stored in fat cells). Cortisol is naturally highest in the morning, but is also release when the body is under stress- mental or physical.

Cortisol is very beneficial when it is in balance. However, most of us do not have healthy levels of cortisol due to our high-stress modern lifestyle. Elevated cortisol, like insulin, can wreak havoc in your body. Elevated levels of cortisol actually leads to weight gain and a resistance to fat-loss(especially visceral and belly fat).

If you have a layer of belly fat that you just can’t seem to lose no matter what you try then it is almost certain that you have chronically elevated cortisol.

Sustained high cortisol levels are dangerous because they:

  • Slow down healing and normal cell regeneration.
  • Co-opt parent molecules needed to make other vital hormones
  • Impair digestion, metabolism and mental function
  • Interfere with healthy endocrine function
  • Weaken your immune system – Source

Cortisol also counteracts the effects of insulin and conversely insulin counteracts the effects of cortisol. Therefore we want to minimize our insulin levels in the morning to take full advantage of the enhanced fat metabolism caused by our naturally high cortisol levels.

When we eat we want our cortisol to be at a low point so our bodies can efficiently store our nutrients in our muscles(because some insulin is good, without it we could never put on any mass, and bodybuilders have for years been injecting themselves with insulin before meals in order to gain weight faster).

So then it makes sense to eat our big meals later in the day when our cortisol have dropped off naturally. In following this regime we take advantage of the high fat burning power of cortisol in the mornings and let our bodies repair and replenish in the afternoon/evenings.

HGH – HGH or human growth hormone is vital to the repair of our bodies. Studies show that fasting greatly enhances our body’s natural production of HGH.

“Fasting causes hunger or stress. In response, the body releases more cholesterol, allowing it to utilize fat as a source of fuel, instead of glucose. This decreases the number of fat cells in the body,” says Dr. Horne. “This is important because the fewer fat cells a body has, the less likely it will experience insulin resistance, or diabetes.”

This recent study also confirmed earlier findings about the effects of fasting on human growth hormone (HGH), a metabolic protein. HGH works to protect lean muscle and metabolic balance, a response triggered and accelerated by fasting. During the 24-hour fasting periods, HGH increased an average of 1,300 percent in women, and nearly 2,000 percent in men. - ScienceDaily

Increasing our body’s natural output of growth hormone will help you shed fat AND gain muscle. You’ll even wake up feeling more refreshed after a night’s sleep.

A side-note about growth hormone and alcohol: Never go to bed with alcohol in your system. Alcohol deprives your body of the restorative properties of HGH. Alcohol can decrease the secretion of HGH during sleep by as much as 70%.

To Recap the Hormones

  • Insulin – Released when you eat carbohydrates. Too much insulin causes fat gain.
  • Leptin – Tells your brain that you’re full. Proteins and fats release more leptin than carbohydrates.
  • Cortisol – Your body’s “stress hormone.” Naturally highest in the morning. Excessive cortisol causes metabolic problems and stubborn belly and visceral fat.
  • HGH – Repairs the body. Fasting causes increased HGH production. Alcohol inhibits HGH production.

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  • alex

    hey you’re right this did answer a bunch of my questions , although i’m skeptical on one thing , from what i’ve read calories burned are not determined by how fast you get from point a to point b , it’s all about distance , so in terms of losing weight i can walk 1 mile , and sprint it , i’ll lose the same amount of calories. other than that , when i hit my goal weight and decide to cut i”ll defintly do more HIT and keto diet , today in the gym i did back and for the longest time i just cant seem to get my lats sore , i ‘ve read that yeah soreness doesnt mean it’s not working , but im just curious how i can target my lats more . for example when im doing seated rows , my biceps and inner forearms seem to tire faster , although i tweaked my form a bit , so i’ll see how i feel in the morning , but do you have any methods to help concentrate the lats so i feel that burn like i do with other muscles , thanks man , awesome article:)

    • alex

      btw, i don’t see chicken in the keto diet! the diet sounds great but alarming for the fact of the amount of cholesterol you’re taking in , and in the long run that hurts the body , but i did see you mentioned good fats , but when eating meat , the only good fats are in fish ,

      • alex

        i can’t believer you do all this for free, you truly are a selfless man , i hate signing up for emails for things that say totally free only to find out that they are trying to sell me something :p it’s refreshing to see somebody as nice as you

        • alex

          and 1 more thing , i don’t have the voice like you to spread this , but last year i learned how olive oil is being used wrong by a lot of people , including myself, olive oil is not intended to be used in high heating , it changes the structure of it creating carcinogenic fumes and oil, the rule of thumb is to add olive oil after cooking never before , so people nowadays think that they are being healthy by using it when in fact it’s worse than say canola oil , get the word out if you can , i don’t have specific articles , but i did read about this in the news and hear about it from my biochemistry professor

    • The_Healthy_Gamer

      Lats – wide-grip pullups are the best to develop these. Wide-grip lat pulldowns are also good. You need to create that mind-muscle connection where when you lift you are focusing on the effort of contracting your lats and back muscles. Seated rows target your biceps much more than wide-grip pullups. Basically, the wider your grip, the more it targets lats.

  • Tony

    Been waiting for something like this! :D Glad I come here to read your articles. I really hope your channel grows and become much more popular!

    • The_Healthy_Gamer

      Thanks Tony, glad you found it to be useful. Shoot me an e-mail update when you’ve made some awesome progress.

  • BigB02Z28

    Alex, your post about distance = calories is completely wrong. Calories are basically your fuel. This can be put into an analogy such as cars, Do you think 2 cars traveling a 5 mile distance will burn the same amount of fuel if one is putting along at 20mph, and the other is full throttle doing 180mph? It’s the same for humans. You will always burn more calories when working at a higher intensity for the same distance.

    • The_Healthy_Gamer

      This is a great analogy.

  • TheLocoLifter

    Great post!
    Jack you are definitely growing as an online presence in the health and fitness world!

    • The_Healthy_Gamer

      Thanks! Glad to see the hard work is paying off.

  • Jim Nariel

    Jack – this post is packed full of super content – brilliant!

    I agree that a diet full of nutrition beats is the real deal and exercise is a great help but cannot replace a diet.

    However I would like to add that it is better to exercise in a shorter time but higher intensity. For example our bodies react completely differently if we went for a long jog rather than a fast sprint. For Fat Loss I pick the fast sprint any day!

    My exercise is swimming and I see people do 50-60 lenghts at a time – where as I do 20-30 and each one is packed full with intensity (the fastest I can go)

    cheers

    Jim

  • Alt

    This is great help for a newbie like me. I’m not going to lie, I want to look good naked, but I’m not sure how to structure my workouts when you listed all those compound workouts. I’ve just been doing Starting Strength so far and it seems like I have to start pretty low (I’m 5’6 and the only thing I can bench in sets of 5 is 85 pounds). Should I stick with starting strength or change it up so it can fit into two days instead of three, if so do you have any suggestions? Thanks a bunch!

    • The_Healthy_Gamer

      Starting strength is still a good program to do.

  • TheLocoLifter

    Quick question Jack, while doing your outlined program do you still use a “keto” type diet? Or is it a low fat + cyclical carb approach?

    • The_Healthy_Gamer

      I use keto or carb cycling, or low carb. You should never eat a low fat diet- not when you’re trying to lose fat, not when you’re trying to put on muscle. Carbs are the macro that you want to manipulate.

  • Da_RoCk

    Hi Jack, thanks for the info here. Really appreciate on what you have done. You have no idea how much hope it gives me after reading your posts. However, i am in a struggle now and i just want to ask you some questions regarding the keto diet.

    For the past year, i have tried to stay consistent in both of my workout (3-5 times a day) and food intake (bulk cooking of Chicken breast + brown Rice). It did help me drop from 102 (40%) to 87kg (the most)(28%). However, i am at a point that instead of loosing weight, now im starting to gain back (back to 92kg), even though i still try to keep up with my routines.

    Your explanation for the keto diet does make a lot of sense and really want to try it, however, i do see one problem personally if i were to get into it and i hope you can advise me on such. Every time i starve myself (specially when i started), it does trigger myself to have really bad headaches and at times migranes for a few hours which hinders myself to function. In response to this, i always seek shelter in food. So in response to the headaches i go for the 5-6 small meals a day route. But now, i am stagnating and not getting any results. Have you encountered anything like this before? or anyone that went through this? Is there any advice you can suggest?

    Cheers and Thanks again Jack!

  • G

    On a traditional cutting diet, do you lower only carbs?( or everything and remain about 40/40/20 ratio?)

  • Devin Price

    Hi Jack, you mention under “how to look good naked” that you shouldn’t do HIIT training the day before you lift. But that means if you lift 2 days a week you can squeeze in 2/3 HIIT days, but if you lift 3 times a week then there is only one day each week you can do HIIT without having a lifting day following. If I want to lift 3 days a week, lets say Sun/Tues/Thurs, when would I work my HIIT into that?

    • http://www.facebook.com/ERK.29 Erik Briggs

      Basically it would go like this…

      Workout Monday

      HIIT Tuesday

      Break Wednesday

      Workout Thursday

      HIIT Friday

      Break Saturday

      Workout Sunday…?

      Obviously working out two days in a row can seem non-ideal but this is the only way I see it working. You can also push this schedule over to any day but the order has to stay the same.

  • Ketogenic Intermittent Faster

    Okay so I’m just wondering, If i fast from 8pm to 12 noon the next day, If following a ketogenic diet and Intermittent fasting are you supposed to have carbs as soon as you break your fast (12 noon) the next day? I’m confused here.. I do skipping in the mornings before I break my fast is this too much stress on the body? can somebody help me out

  • Ketogenic Intermittent Faster

    And mate, how many carbs is low on a ketogenic diet or just a low carb diet?

    because I have strictly been following this having about 30 – 80 grams of carbs a day and the rest fats/proteins, I once thought I was diabetic type 1 because I had all the symptom signs and it’s hereditary in my genes but I think I was just overthinking things,
    I eat twice a day, breakfast (after my fast) and a small pre workout shake before gym and after gym i’ll have a big meal consisting of 1k calories +. All in all, I have about 2.5k calories a day, keeping in mind i’m 5 foot 9, 60kgs and 8% bodyfat (very strong for my weight) I can do countless pull ups and bench my weight easily.

    I would like to know If cardio before breaking my fast is okay or is that too much stress and If having hardly any sugar is that endangering my cortisol levels? =/ I’m kinda lost hope I make sense to you healthy gamer.

  • Ketogenic Intermittent Faster

    Could you give me your e-mail i would like to ask you a bunch of questions if that’s okay =/

    P.S One dedicated non cheating faster

  • Wolfgang Schmidt

    Hy Jack! I’ve got a little question to intermitted fasting. It is the only diet i can imagine to go on, because i haven’t got my cravings for carbs under control ^^. Do sleepinghours count as fastinghours? I’m planing on feasting from 8:00 pm until noon the next day. workout is at 17:30 with a meal afterwards. Could this work out in your opinion?
    Thx for your effort – it is very much appreciated =)

    • The_Healthy_Gamer

      Hi Wolfgang, yep yep sleeping hours sure do count for fasting hours. Your schedule sounds perfect. Keep me updated on your progress :)

      • Wolfgang Schmidt

        I surley will ;) Looking forward to some cooking vids from your kitchen!
        Thx a lot for your help =)

  • Shams

    Hey! Thanks for the detailed post! IF I stick to keto and don’t workout. Will I get fat?

    • The_Healthy_Gamer

      You’re very welcome, no you should definitely still lose fat. Exercise is more about cardiovascular health, body composition, and muscle volume more than fat loss. Fat loss is almost entirely dependent upon you controlling your insulin response and calories – which IF + Keto do fantastically. Good luck!

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