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Incorporating a balance of amino acids into your diet helps build lean muscle mass to speed metabolism and blast off belly fat, promises weight-loss expert Fred Pescatore, M.D., in his new book, The A-List
Diet (BenBella, 2017; Hardcover $25, Kindle $24, Nook $14). It also delivers perks including greater energy, better moods and younger-looking skin.
The key to Dr. Pescatore’s plan: rotating your protein sources. “When you vary proteins, you vary your amino acids,” he explains. This provides the body with a vast number and variety of amino acids that the body uses to build and repair lean muscle. “That’s how you crank up metabolism and shed dangerous belly fat.” Plus, Dr. Pescatore adds, getting a variety of amino acids keeps you fuller longer, which makes sticking to the plan a breeze. In one study at the Harvard School of Public Health, consuming the optimal amino-acid ratio triggered an 81 percent drop in betweenmeal snacking and a 50 percent increase in energy in just 48 hours.
To get the benefits, aim to enjoy fish and shellfish at least five times each week; turkey, eggs and beef at least twice a week; lamb and chicken at least once a week; and pork and duck sparingly.
When selecting your fish options, Dr. Pescatore notes that it’s important to fill your plate with different types of fish. In addition to salmon and tuna, he recommends halibut, swordfish, clams and bluefish. And he says that pike and shellfish are rich in amino acids that help combat hormonal weight gain for women who are in or past menopause.
If you aren’t a fan of fish and would prefer to have chicken multiple times each week, Dr. Pescatore recommends switching up your cuts to keep those amino acids varied—chicken breast, for example, is rich in a key muscle-building amino acid while the thighs are rich in a different amino acid that dampens hunger.
Butter, cream and cheese are also packed with amino acids that power slimming while preventing feelings of deprivation. “Dairy does a great job at preserving and building lean muscle mass,” Dr. Pescatore explains. He suggests reaching for fresh dairy options, including soft cheeses (like brie and queso fresco), hard cheeses (like Gouda and Parmesan), cottage cheese, sour cream and cream cheese. One caveat: Because these foods are high in fat, limit yourself to 2 Tbs. of butter, 2 Tbs. of cream and 2 oz. of cheese per day.
In addition to enjoying plenty of protein, Dr. Pescatore recommends following a low-carb, Mediterraneanstyle food formula. That calls for limiting bread, pasta and other grain- or sugar-based foods. Instead, fill your plate with as much low-starch vegetables (like eggplant, peppers and mushrooms) and antioxidant-rich monounsaturated fats (like avocado and extra-virgin olive oil) as you need to feel comfortably full. And for even speedier slimming, try these powerful success strategies:
Portion protein right. According to researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the body can only absorb and utilize 30 grams of protein at each meal— that’s the amount found in a 4 oz. piece of meat, which is approximately the size of a smartphone. If you eat much more than that, the scientists say your body stores the additional as fat. That’s why you should aim to get 30 grams of protein at each of your three main meals, then another 30 grams from snacks or shakes throughout the day. This strategy will provide a steady stream of diverse amino acids to help ensure your metabolism is firing on all cylinders.
Green up your water. Protein keeps metabolism humming, but it comes with one downside: “Metabolizing animal protein and dairy creates acidic by-products,” notes Dr. Pescatore. Left unchecked, these compounds can damage slimming glands like the thyroid and liver. To prevent this, he advises flooding the body with alkalinizing minerals. To do, stir a green powder (like Purely Inspired Organic Greens, $15 for 20 servings, Walgreens.com) into one glass of water daily.
Cook with this oil. Macadamia nut oil (like Vitacost MacNut Oil, $12 for 8.5 oz., Vitacost.com) has 10 percent
more monounsaturated fatty acids than high-quality olive oil—which is beneficial because these dietary fats cut stores of belly flab by 20 percent.
Sip a super-shake. Dr. Pescatore recommends a shake with a targeted blend of amino acids for women. To make: In a blender, combine 1 tsp. of glutamine (like Twinlab Glutamine Fuel Powder, $13 for 60 servings,
iHerb.com), a scoop of branched-chain amino acid powder (like True Athlete BCAA Powder, $18 for 30 servings,
VitaminShoppe.com), 1 Tbs. of macadamia nut oil, 1 Tbs. of ground flaxseed and 3⁄4 cup of unsweetened coconut milk. Have as a snack or meal replacement for fast fat loss.