Choosing the Right Diet Foods

When you follow the guidelines of TNT, low-carb foods will form foundation of your diet. That's because they won't raise your levels of insulin (a hormone that tells your body to store fat) or glycogen (the carbohydrates stored in your muscles, referred to as your "carb bucket" below). This tactic also regulates your appetite, allowing you to eat as much as you desire, without overeating.

Keeping high amounts of carbs out of your diet lets your body burn fat at its highest potential, while protecting metabolism-boosting muscle. The TNT Diet also helps to stabilize your blood sugar and reduce your body's internal production of saturated fat. Both of these results are extremely effective for decreasing your risk for heart disease. Even better: The guidelines in are simple; just follow the five nutrition tactics below.

The Nutrition Tactics

1. Choose liberally from the low-carb foods below. Feel free to eat any combination of these foods—along with the approved condiments and beverages—until you feel satisfied, but not stuffed. These "restrictions" sound too easy to work, but study after study has shown that eating this way promises more dramatic fat loss than any other approach—and without the need to count calories.

2. Try to consume high-quality protein at every meal. Eating protein ensures that your body always has the raw material available to build and maintain your muscle, even while you lose fat. Protein also helps to keep your metabolism stoked. That's because your body uses more calories to digest and process protein than both carbohydrates and fat combined.

3. Don't fear fat. Fat is a crucial factor in helping you control the total number of calories your body craves. That's because fat is very effective at helping you feel satisfied. Remember, your body is designed to burn fat. And you control the fat-burning trigger by eating foods—specifically, the foods below—that keep your insulin and glycogen (the stored carbohydrates in your muscles) levels low.

4. Indulge on vegetables. When our friend and colleague, Richard Feinman, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at SUNY Downstate medical center, in New York City, polled more than 2,000 low-carbohydrate dieters, he found that, on average, those who were most successful consumed at least 4 servings of low-starch vegetables a day. That's a list comprised of almost any vegetable other than potatoes.

5. Avoid sugar and starch. The list of foods to avoid includes bread, pasta, potatoes, beans, rice, fruit, milk, candy, regular soda, and baked goods—as well any other foods that contain grains, flour or sugar. The reason? These are the foods that either raise blood sugar and insulin levels, or replenish glycogen—all of which inhibit your body's ability to burn fat for energy. You might be surprised to see fruit and milk on this list, but it's not because either is unhealthy—they simply provide too many glycogen-replenishing carbs, in the form of natural sugars.

Low-Carb Foods

High-Quality Protein:

Whey and Casein Protein

Low-Starch Vegetables*

Brussels Sprouts

Natural Fats

Nuts and Seeds**
Olives, Olive oil, and Canola Oil
Sour Cream

*These are just a few common examples of low-starch vegetables; the full list includes just about any vegetable you can think of, although potatoes should be limited and only eaten in small portions.

**Limit to 2 servings a day.

HOW TO CUSTOMIZE THE DIET We recommend thinking strategically. If you want to maximize fat loss as well as keep hunger at bay, stick with low-carb foods as your habitual diet. No doubt you'll have an occasion—say, Bunco night with the girls or poker night with the guys—to indulge on high-carb foods, and that's OK. But the key is what you do most of the time.

Think of it this way: Imagine that the carbs you eat go into a bucket. When the bucket is full, the carbs overflow and are converted to fat. This is how it works in your body. But by eating lower carb most of the time, your bucket is always about half full. This not only keeps your body burning fat, but when you do eat lots of carbs—as long as you have them when your bucket isn't full—they don't end up on your hips and waist.

So you can stick with straight low-carb all the time, or choose one of these options to learn how to strategically eat high-carb foods. (Keep in mind the best choices are fruit, milk, yogurt, beans, and 100 percent whole grain products, but this is also the best time to "cheat.")

1. Only eat high-carb foods right before or just after your workout. Since you're burning calories with exercise, you'll be burning down your "carb bucket."

2. Only eat high-carb foods one day a week. Consider it a "planned" cheat day. Your "carb bucket" is reduced since you've eaten low-carb the rest of the week.

3. Only eat high-carb foods for breakfast. (Think: cereal). Since you haven't eaten all night, your carb bucket is lowered, making it an opportune time to enjoy them.

4. Only eat high-carb foods for breakfast and around (before/after) your workout.

These are just a few of the possibilities with TNT. But all are quite effective. One caveat: The more frequently you eat high-carb foods, the less likely that the diet will automatically control your hunger. So if these strategies don't get the scale moving--and they often do--you may need to watch your calories a little closer, in order to ensure you're not overeating.

Here's an easy way to calculate your calories. Multiply your target bodyweight (the amount you want to weigh!) by 14. So if you're a woman who wants to weigh 125 pounds, you'd eat about 1750 calories a day. If you're a 220-pound guy who wants to be 180, you'd eat about 2500 calories a day.

Adam Campbell is the Fitness Director for Men's Health, and co-author of the "TNT Diet." A National Magazine Award-winning journalist, Adam also holds a master's degree in exercise physiology from the University of Kansas, and is a NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.