Dear Lea

Dear Lea: I have been trying to cut body fat since summer is coming up. One of the main tips I got from online is weight training burns more fat than cardio exercises due to muscle building. As a vegetarian, what snacks do you recommend that would help me get to my goal?  –GL.

Dear GL,

A varied diet that contains carbs, protein, fat and adequate water is important. Muscle burns more calories than other tissue in your body such as fat. And a balanced approach to exercise is what is called for–weight training to build that calorie burning muscle and cardio to not only burn calories but also for circulation and heart health.

When you eat carbs, the body breaks them down into glucose which is stored in the muscle. During exercise (especially endurance type), it is used for energy and stamina. Both carbs and fat are important to include in your diet. They provide fuel for the body and are “protein sparing”. In other words, if your body can use fat and carbs for energy, then protein can be spared and used for building lean mass. The best carbs are whole grains, fruits, vegetables versus refined white carbs. Remember, calories still count. The way to lower your calorie intake is to eat low fat proteins and not too many carbs.

Timing and amounts of protein matter. For the average “athlete”, the protein needed is .6-.8 g protein per lb. of body weight per day. If you are trying to lose fat mass or increase lean mass and muscle, increase the protein to .9g per lb. So an average male “athlete” should consume about 85-160g protein per day.

To maximize muscle growth and repair, consume a carb and 20-30g protein after your workout. Consume a protein source every 4 hours. Distribute your protein evenly throughout the day. You may want to check out our new high protein, low carb products available in June to add variety to your day.

The best sources of vegetarian protein are ones that have the best variety of essential amino acids. These are soy, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat. However, other legumes, grains, nuts and seeds also provide protein. If you eat eggs or consume dairy, milk, low fat cheese and cottage cheese are great sources of protein. Egg whites are the protein part of the egg.

Some great snack ideas to fuel muscle growth include milk, soy milk, nuts and nut butters, egg white chips, meat or fish jerky, edamame, soy nuts, fruit and cheese, granola with milk or soy milk, greek yogurt and bars that contain soy or whey protein isolates. Some sports protein bars provide more protein and less carbs, but watch out for synthetic additives.


DSC01005Lea Basch is a registered dietitian and has been in the nutrition industry for over 30 years, most of which she spent at Longmont United Hospital in Boulder, Colorado, where she was one of the founders of the facility’s nutrition program. Longmont’s Planetree philosophy of caring for the body, mind and spirit of patients is very much in line with Lea’s interest in both traditional and alternative therapies for treating chronic illnesses. Gluten-intolerant herself, Lea now focuses much of her time on the latest research and issues relating to gluten-free diets and other food intolerances. She is a diabetes educator and is a Registered Dietitian with the American Dietetic Association. Lea’s lifelong passion has been combining the science of nutrition with the heart that it takes to change lifelong habits.

Lea received her BS and MS in Nutrition and Dietetics at Florida International University and BA in Education at University of Florida. Ask Lea your nutrition questions at

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