Studio 2 Pilates Nutrition Getting serious about fat loss – Step 2: letting go of legumes

Getting serious about fat loss – Step 2: letting go of legumes

Variety of legumesIn our previous post on fat loss, we explained how significantly reducing your grain intake can reignite your fat loss efforts if you’ve hit a plateau. In this post, we’ll explain how you can take this even further by cutting out legumes.

Recap: carbohydrates can stall your fat loss efforts

In previous posts, we’ve recommended reducing your sugar, grain and fruit intake all with one goal in mind: reducing the amount of carbs in your diet. After a certain point, burning body fat becomes difficult when you’re ingesting a lot of carbs. This is because when you’ve eaten a lot of carbs, you will have higher insulin levels. This puts your body into “storage mode” and makes it more difficult to mobilise your fat stores. For a more detailed explanations on these mechanisms, read the post about grains or our older post about sugar.

If you’ve already cut grains out, you will no doubt have seen some pretty profound results because grains are the primary source of carbs in most people’s diets. Unfortunately, at some point, even this measure may stop yielding results. It’s worth clarifying here that this should only happen when you’re within a couple of kilos of your target weight. In fact, for many people cutting grains out of their diet will be enough to get those abs showing (if maintained for a sufficient amount of time). However, for others, it may be that there is a little bit of stubborn body fat that still won’t budge.

So what do you do if you’re within striking distance of your body composition goal and you need an extra boost? You go after the next biggest source of carbs: legumes.

What is a legume anyway?

You may be understandably uncertain about what a legume is. Memories of french classes in the distant past may be telling you that a legume is a vegetable. But vegetables are not what we’re talking about in this instance.

A legume is actually the fruit or seed of a plant in the Leguminosae family or what we generally refer to as beans, peas, lentils and sometimes pulses. We come across a variety of different legumes in our foods: red, green & brown lentils, green peas, chickpeas, peanuts (yup – they’re not nuts) and kidney beans to name a few.

Legumes are actually among the best plant-based sources of protein so if you’re a vegetarian, you should be eating a lot of them. Unfortunately, many legumes are also reasonably high in carbohydrates. They aren’t as high in carbs as grains and are generally lower on the glycemic index. However, if you’ve already removed grains from your diet and your fat loss efforts need a boost, this is going to be your next biggest source of carbs.

Here are some indicative carb counts (per 100g cooked) for legumes you might eat:

  • Green peas – 14g
  • Lentils – 20g
  • Kidney beans – 23g
  • Chickpeas – 26g

How to remove legumes from your diet

Admittedly, legumes aren’t as common in the typical South African diet as grains are. The unfortunate reality is that you may have only started eating lots of legumes when you started to reduce your grain intake. That doesn’t mean that this was a bad move! Substituting legumes for grains is a great place to start. In fact, as a way to maintain your weight and a healthy body, replacing grains with legumes is a fantastic idea. However, when you’re trying to lose that last bit of body fat, legumes may stand in the way.

If you do eat a lot of legumes and you start to phase them out, it’s critically important that you replace them with large quantities of vegetables, particularly of the green variety (broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale and many others). The main reason for this is that legumes are full of fibre which is important for your digestion and overall health. If you reduce your fibre intake drastically, your body will suffer.

What’s left?

After making this change, your diet will mostly be comprised of two types of food: proteins (meat, poultry, fish, eggs & some dairy) and vegetables (all kinds). Sure, you may throw in some nuts and seeds as well, but most of what you eat will be protein and veg. Skimping on the latter is a bad idea as that is where you will get your fibre and many of your vitamins and minerals.

You may find this limiting at first but some people find the simplicity actually makes meal planning easier. Ultimately there are just two types of ingredients that you can mix and match in an infinite number of ways. If you do find it challenging, this is not something you need to maintain forever. Once you are at the body composition levels you want, re-introducing legumes should not make you gain fat provided you are staying active. Having said that, many people live very happy and healthy lives without grains or legumes in their diets (such as practitioners of the famous Paleo Diet).

Reducing legumes can be a powerful weapon in your arsenal as you try to beat stubborn body fat. But, as always, try to introduce changes to your diet slowly and consult your doctor if you have any concerns.


Read our previous posts on fat loss:
Eating for fat loss – Step 1: Cut out sugar
Eating for fat loss – Step 2: Choosing your carbs
Eating for fat loss – Step 3: Booze & your belly
Eating for fat loss – Step 4: Take it Easy on the fruit
Getting serious about fat loss – Step 1: Reconsidering grains