Author and Fat Loss Expert, Nate Miyaki, just recently published a book which is now available on Amazon called the Samurai Diet. I asked him to give us his Top 5 Lessons from his brand new book and he graciously gave us a detailed preview on the science behind his program.
5 Fat Loss Lessons from the Samurai Diet
1. Fat loss is more about what you DON’T eat than about what you DO eat.
Through natural bodybuilding competitions and fitness photo shoots, I have had the opportunity to be around some of the fittest people in the world. And since I’m as curious as George, I tend to ask a lot of questions along the way.
What have I learned from over ten years in this industry as an athlete, educator, and coach?
There is no one, universal, single way to peel off body fat. Many different diets have worked for many different athletes. High-carb, low-carb, carb cycling, traditional bodybuilding nutrition, intermittent fasting, etc., they all can work if the program is appropriately matched to a person’s specific metabolic condition, training status, psychological tendencies, and physique goals.
Despite different calorie calculations and macronutrient ratios, however, there seems to be a commonality amongst the most effective plans. The fittest people in the world just DON’T eat certain things.
At the top of that list would be modern, man-made food compounds including concentrated sources of fructose (high fructose corn syrup, sugar = one molecule of glucose plus one molecule of fructose), trans fats/hydrogenated oils (most packaged snack foods), and refined vegetable oils (corn oil, safflower oil, etc.).
If you did nothing else other than cut out concentrated sources of fructose and trans fats from your diet, you would lose weight and improve your physique. How do I know? A client of mine did just that, and lost 25lbs in preparation for her wedding.
That’s the anecdotal evidence. For the geeks (like me), here is the science:
Fructose is the primary nutrient mediator of sucrose-induced insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. (1)
Under controlled feeding conditions, long-term TFA (trans fatty acid) consumption was an independent factor in weight gain. TFAs enhanced intra-abdominal deposition of fat, even in the absence of caloric excess, and were associated with insulin resistance. (2)
2. Be Aware of Food Sensitivities
Stubborn body fat — it’s the worst isn’t it? You’ve been hitting the weights, doing your cardio, and consistently sticking to your diet, but you just aren’t as lean as you think you should be, given all of that effort. You can still pinch more than an inch.
Assuming you are in an appropriate calorie deficit and you are being consistent with your plan (two big assumptions), there can be other, less obvious reasons for your losing battle with the bulge. In my work with physique enhancement clients, one of the most common culprits is food sensitivity.
If you are allergic to a certain food, you’ll know it — huge GI distress, running to the bathroom every five minutes, etc.
But food sensitivity is a little harder to pinpoint, and often goes undiagnosed. People may not be experiencing the extreme symptoms of a chronic disease, but they may “not feel right” due to other troubling side effects. Common symptoms include: chronic fatigue, water retention, bloating, excessive gas, cortisol elevation, impaired immune system functioning, abdominal pain/cramping, and abdominal fat deposition.
If any of this sounds familiar, I would experiment with cutting three food compounds well-known to be associated with food sensitivity issues: artificial sweeteners, gluten (wheat, rye, barley), and dairy products (3). You can go one at a time, or boot camp-style on them all.
Some of my clients have been shocked by the positive results — both with their physical appearance and with their overall health and wellness.
3. Total Calories Are Still King
In the Great Macro Debate, the most important step in the fat loss process seems to have been completely lost amongst physique dieters everywhere – total calories. No miracle combination or drastic cutting of any macronutrient can circumvent the law of thermodynamics.
Did we not learn this lessen in the Low Fat era? You can cut your fat intake to zero, but if you’re eating above your total calorie limits with refined carbs, you’re going to get fat.
Today’s low-carbers are making a similar mistake. I don’t care if you haven’t touched a carb since Brigitte Nielsen was hot, if you overshoot calories by eating unlimited fat, you won’t get lean.
This brings me to something every “low-carber” needs to understand: being in a state of ketosis itself does not ensure fat loss.
Ketosis is simply an altered physiological state in the human body. When carbs are extremely low, glycogen becomes depleted. The body will then use a greater percentage of fatty acids to fuel the body and use ketones to fuel the brain. It’s merely a shift in fuel dynamics. The body is running on fat metabolism, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to burn more body fat, although that’s what you might infer.
The other rules of body fat loss still apply, not just the metabolic condition your body is in. Ensuring you’re in a relative calorie deficit is still the most important step in winning the fat loss war.
In low carb, unlimited fat and protein diets, you can still enter a state of caloric excess. And even though your body has shifted to burning a greater percentage of fatty acids as fuel, it will simply obtain fatty acids and ketones from the abundance of dietary fat you’re taking in. It will not be forced to tap into internal body fat stores as a reserve fuel. That’s an extra step, and your body prefers the more efficient route.
If you’ve banished carbs to the Underworld, yet are still struggling with fat loss and are looking for answers, now you have one – controlling calories is still king.
As the great natural bodybuilder and researcher Layne Norton once wrote:
For those who have given themselves ample time to prepare, I do not suggest using a ketogenic diet. Instead, I recommend reducing carbohydrates, but keeping them high enough to possess the muscle sparing benefits of carbohydrates while still losing body fat. (4)
4. Calculated Eating vs. Instinctual Eating
There are many diet plans out right now that promise you don’t have to track calories or count macronutrient grams in order to lose fat. This is only half-truth.
I agree that for the majority of our overweight population, most just need to start making better food choices. If people cut out refined, processed, and packaged food, and started eating real foods from our evolutionary past, they would improve biomarkers of health and reach a much more natural body weight.
But there is a big difference between reaching a natural bodyweight and getting photo-shoot-ready ripped. That is an athletic endeavor that requires the discipline and detail of an athlete’s approach.
Look at the diet plans of the fittest people in the world. They know exactly what they are eating. They measure and track everything: ½ cup of this, 4oz of that, etc.
Once you develop the habit, it is not as difficult or life altering as you would think.
Here are some tips:
• Use measuring cups (1 cup, ½ cup, etc.) as serving spoons instead of traditional serving utensils, particularly for starch foods and added fats like nuts.
• There is no need to weigh your meats, poultry, and fish on a scale. Simply buy these foods one pound (16oz) at a time and cut them up according to your dietary needs. If you are supposed to be eating 3oz servings cut into 5 pieces, 4oz servings = 4 pieces, 5-6oz servings = 3 pieces, 8oz servings = 2 pieces. It doesn’t have to be exact; we just want the right range. Food scales seem a bit excessive to me.
• Pour oils, dressings, and condiments into teaspoon or tablespoon measures before cooking or topping food.
• No need to measure non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, lettuce, spinach, onions, etc.) UNLESS they are cooked in butter or oil. Plain vegetables are pretty much free foods that can be eaten in unlimited amounts.
5. Look beyond just 12 weeks.
Is the average max fat loss/pre-contest/pre-photo shoot plan sustainable?
The answer for the majority is no, even for the most hardcore of athletes. Many competitors can attest to this fact firsthand: post-contest bingeing, weight rebound, and the negative hormonal feedback loop associated with extreme training/nutrition approaches and/or drug protocols.
Anyone can eat a certain way when motivation is high: for a contest, modeling gig, or even just for a new photo for your Facebook page.
But what are you going to do after that 8-12 week period? Just get fat again? I know you want to look great for that one day, but what is the preparation for that big day doing to your long-term metabolic and hormonal health? Do you want the only way you can get into shape to have to be no carbs for weeks at a time, 3 hours of cardio a day, with the personality of a snail, and the libido of a corpse? No six-pack is worth that.
I’ve watched a female friend go from ripped to the bone to waddling like a penguin in a six-week time frame. One of my buddies looks like Ronnie Coleman one weekend a year, but the rest of the year, he looks more like Ron Jeremy.
Some will justify it as bulking and cutting cycles, but for many it ends up as just a classic yo-yo scenario, despite it being part of an athletic realm. That’s not sustainable. That’s not good for your long-term physique goals, let alone overall health. I’ve seen former competitors and models yo-yo themselves right into obesity, type II diabetes, and a lifetime of health and body composition struggles.
If that route sounds appealing to you — great — go for it man, to each their own.
I’m more interested in finding a plan that is sustainable for the rest of my life, and allows me to be in shape year-round. Sure, there will off-seasons and on-seasons, periods of adding mass and periods of cutting up. But it shouldn’t be extreme Biggest Loser (Gainer)-type swings. Maybe that sounds interesting to you, or maybe you think I’m just not hardcore enough. I’m cool with that either way.
But Crash Dieters Beware: in the long run, yo-yo’ing makes the body less efficient at burning fat and more efficient at storing it with each successive cycle. According to Dr. Joe Klemczewski:
The importance of small changes can be shown clearly by contrasting the negative results of yo-yo dieting. Going on and off diets repeatedly makes it more difficult to lose weight. Remember, the negative effects are short-term, and your metabolism can be corrected, but the damage (weight regain) can be done so fast that you regain more weight than you lost. One study took subjects through two cycles of weight loss and weight regain. The rate of loss was only half during the second cycle compared to the first and the rate of regain was increased by 300%. That means when you diet and then binge and then diet again, you are only 50% as effective metabolically than the first round, and when your metabolism is suppressed from the dieting, you regain weight back three times faster than if you hadn’t dieted at all. (5)
I can guarantee you this, if the above scenario sounds like something you’ve experienced, you won’t be posting any photo updates of yourself on any social media sites two years from now. There is a healthy and an unhealthy approach to physique enhancement. The choice is yours — which one would you rather pursue?
For more fat loss lessons (112 of them to be accurate) you can check out Nate Miyaki’s book The Samurai Diet: The Science & Strategy of Winning the Fat Loss War available at Amazon.com. Here’s the link:
1. Thresher et al. 2000. Comparison of the effects of sucrose and fructose on insulin action and glucose tolerance. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol Oct;279(4):R1334-40.
2. Kavanagh et al. 2007. Trans fat diet induces abdominal obesity and changes in insulin in monkeys. Obesity (Silver Spring) Jul; 15(7): 1675-84.
3. Bernardo et al. 2007. Is gliadin really safe for non-coeliac individuals? Production of interleukin 15 in biopsy culture from non-coeliac individuals challenged with gliadin peptides. International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 56:889-890.
4. Norton, L. 2005. A unique combination of science & experience based pre-contest advice. Bodybuilding.com. www.bodybuilding.com.
5. Klemczewski, Joe. The Diet Docs’ Guide to Permanent Weight Loss: Secrets to Metabolic Transformation. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.
Check out my three-part interview with Nate and his wife Kalai Diamond:
About Nate Miyaki
Nate Miyaki is a fitness author, fitness model, Certified Specialist in Fitness & Sports Nutrition and has 10+ years practice in private personal training & nutrition consulting. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley and post baccalaureate studies in Kinesiology at San Francisco State University.
Nate is also a contributing writer to top bodybuilding sites such as T-Nation, Bodybuilding.com and Musclemania.com. He won 1st place (Bantam Weight Division) in 2009 Musclemania America & World Natural Bodybuilding Championships and 1st place, (Light Weight Division) in 2004 NPC Max Muscle Natural Bodybuilding Championships.