Summer is quickly approaching and many of us are now in the final stages of our push to get lean for beach season. Exercise is important to obtaining this look, but if your diet isn’t right, it’s going to be almost impossible to realize that ripped physique.

Reducing your total calorie intake is the first step to losing fat, but which specific food groups should be cut back? Protein is essential for repairing muscle tissue and maintaining or growing lean muscle. However, carbohydrates and fats are the two main macronutrients that supply energy. Cutting back on one of these will result in reduced body fat.

Many people feel that you have to follow a strict low-carb diet to lose fat. That’s not necessarily true. Fats and carbs are both energy sources and, if you consume more than what’s needed, both can be stored as excess fat. So can too much protein. If one is cut back, the other macronutrient does not have to be reduced.

Think you might have a hard time giving up complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice and Ezekiel bread? Try following a reduced fat diet and keep those carbs in your daily eating plan. Fats contain 9 calories per gram while carbs and proteins each contain only 4 calories per gram. Reducing your total fat intake will also dramatically reduce your caloric intake.

Think about it this way: Active adults who’ve been consuming 40 grams of total fats per day might be able to increase their carbohydrate consumption and still lose flab by cutting dietary fat. Keep the protein intake moderately high (approximately 1.25 grams for each pound of body weight), increase your carbs slightly and cut the fat in half.

If you decide to eat more carbs while reducing your overall fat intake, be sure to stick with complex carbohydrates like the ones mentioned above. Keep working your muscles in the gym and watch those abs develop.

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