The one health and fitness goal that we hear from our clients more than any other is “fat loss”. Many people will say they are pursuing “weight loss” but the focus should be to improve one’s body composition by losing body fat while maintaining (or increasing) muscle tissue, rather than only looking at the number on your scale.

FatLossHypeRegardless, with such a strong interest in “battling the bulge”, fat loss has become a huge industry in North America, with new fad diets, weight loss plans, abdominal toning products, and fat burning supplements popping up on the market every day!

Unfortunately, despite all of the interest, attention, investment, and energy directed at this subject, obesity is still on the rise.  In fact, if you are a lean, fit and healthy individual in the U.S. you are a minority!

Because weight loss is such big business, some marketers are willing to tell you anything to sell you their products or services! There is so much misinformation out there on this subject that it’s hard to know what to believe or where to start. The purpose of this article and the video included here is to outline some basic and effective principles for attaining permanent “fat loss” and a transformation of your physique.

First you need to identify and correct the causes of excess body fat, including:

  • Excessive calorie intake
  • Poor nutrition choices
  • Inactivity
  • Unhealthy lifestyle habits

Genetics may play a small role in body composition, but the factors that you can control have a much greater affect than those that are out of your control. So for the sake of this article we will not be focusing on the “bad genetics” excuse.

The following basic principles will help you achieve your fat loss goals.

Principle #1: Maintain a Modest Caloric Deficit

Don’t believe the diet books that claim “calories don’t count” or say you “can eat as much as you want and still lose weight.”  To get leaner you need to control your portion size and learn to balance your calories in versus calories out.  A good start is to simply cut out pop, sugary snacks, and junk food. We also strongly suggest that you keep a Food Journal of some kind to track your meals. This will create more awareness of your eating habits and give you an idea of how many calories you’re consuming, as well as how much protein, fat, and carbohydrate (your macronutrients). A great free app you can get for your mobile phone is called www.MyFitnessPal.com.

Your caloric intake will need to be adjusted based on your activity level, age, and gender as well.  Don’t trust a diet plan that recommends the same calories for everyone.  For example, if you are more active you will need more energy. You need to create a caloric deficit to lose body fat, but this should be done gradually as progressively. Cutting too many calories to quickly may cause the body to conserve energy by slowing down your metabolism slightly.

Principle #2: Consume Enough Protein

Succulent Grilled SalmonWhile in a caloric deficit you still want to consume enough protein to maintain your lean muscle tissue. Eating protein also has a thermic effect, which means it requires energy to break down, digest, and use protein in your body. So consuming protein can actually increase your metabolism slightly. A good amount of protein to aim for is about 1 gram per pound of your lean body weight per day. Good sources of protein include: poultry, fish, beef (and other meat), eggs, dairy, nuts, and whey protein powder as a supplement.

In a weight loss study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2005, researchers found that the group with the higher protein intake was less likely to regain the weight they lost, and any weight gained in the protein group was from lean tissue. The results were attributed to higher thermic effect and a decrease in appetite.

Principle #3: Intense Resistance Training

Crossfit to FightYour physical activity plan for fat loss should focus primarily on resistance training with weights.  This may be different from what you had previously assumed, as many people still believe that cardiovascular exercise is the best way to shed unwanted pounds. Resistance training (high intensity strength training exercise) will not only metabolize body fat during your workout, but it will stimulate your body to continue eating up your fat stores after exercise as well.

This is sometimes referred to as the After-Burn (or double-reducing) Effect. Essentially, weight training boosts your metabolism! If your goal is permanent fat loss, then you want to maintain or increase your lean tissue by consuming enough protein and following an intense strength training program. This way you are helping your metabolism to burn more calories and fat even while you rest. You will build a damn sexy body once you shed that excess fat!

Given two people of the same size, a lean, toned physique will actually weigh more than a soft, flabby body. So think about “reshaping” your body, rather than just shrinking it. Two forms of ‘metabolic’ resistance training we recommend include circuit training and super-setting.

Principle #4: Use Cardiovascular Exercise as a Tool

Although your focus will be on nutrition and strength training, cardiovascular exercise still has a role in a fat loss program. Even an occasional long slow steady cardio workout is acceptable, however excessive cardiovascular exercise can be counter-productive. It can make it difficult to maintain muscle tissue and can lead to more stress hormone production. A much more effective way to incorporate cardiovascular exercise into your exercise plan is called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

barry-firstapp

Interval Training

HIIT involves alternating periods of low intensity cardiovascular activity with higher intensity sprint intervals.  This not only burns more calories in a shorter amount of time, but it will help to stimulate and preserve your hard-earned lean muscle tissue. It can even have a positive affect on fat-burning hormones like Growth Hormone. An example of an interval training workout could be alternating periods of jogging for 1 minute and running hard for 30 seconds, repeating these intervals for a short (but challenging) 20 minute workout.

Principle #5: Stay Well Hydrated

iStock_000004282990SmallWater is the most important nutrient for overall health, especially when you’re trying to lose weight. It helps you feel full when you’re trying to control your appetite. You need it to flush the waste products your body makes when it breaks down fat for energy, or when it processes protein. You need it to transport nutrients to your muscles. You need it to help digest food and to stimulate your metabolism. Water also helps keep you from overheating during workouts on hot days.

To stay well hydrated, let water be your main beverages.  Fruit juices, sodas, and sports drinks contain calories (mainly from sugar), so focus on drinking mostly plain water instead. Green tea is also a good choice.  A decent guideline for water intake is to drink one liter for every fifty pounds of your bodyweight per day.

 Principle #6: Get Enough Sleep

Try to get more rest and go to bed earlier. Sleep deprivation makes it harder to shed body fat and keep it off. Lack of sleep increases your hormone cortisol, which is a stress hormone that stores fat and burns muscle.  Also, the probability of succumbing to late night cravings increases exponentially for every hour of the evening that you stay awake.

Researchers found that healthy men who slept for only 4 to 6 hours a night for 6 nights in a row had higher glucose and insulin levels in their blood. This is a very poor state of metabolism for someone trying to lose weight, because surplus insulin boosts body-fat storage.

Sleep

Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each and every night, and try to keep a regular routine where you have the same bedtime and waking hour. Pick the time you have to wake up on most days, and make sure you’re in bed at least 8 hours before.

Principle #7: Lifestyle Changes

In order to maximize fat loss, maintain your lean tissue, elevate your metabolism, and keep your energy levels up, you will need to make some other changes to your lifestyle.  In fact, even with a sound diet and exercise plan, fat loss may be minimal if you do not include some of the following guidelines:

Reduce Drug and Alcohol Use

Drugs and alcohol can negatively affect your metabolism, reduce your ability to recover from exercise, and otherwise interfere with fat loss. If your goal is to get lean, keep the drug and alcohol use to a minimum.

Make Healthier Food Choices

Most people have more energy, better health, and generally feel better when they eat healthier food. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a variety of delicious foods (as long as you meet your calorie and macronutrient goals), but focus on eating more whole, natural foods and less processed foods when possible.

Chill Out

A high stress lifestyle can lead to adrenal fatigue and can also elevate your cortisol levels, which causes the body to retain fat.  Some healthy ways to deal with the stress in your life include exercising, getting more rest, and a eating a well balanced diet.  Sound familiar?  Also try to reduce the stressful activities that you have control over.  If you can’t eliminate the stress, adopt healthy coping mechanisms such as positive thinking and relaxation techniques.  Whatever you do, avoid using alcohol or other drugs to cope with the symptoms of stress… this will not resolve the problem and may contribute to other health issues.

In conclusion, to maximize fat loss and get the shredded physique you want, you need to regulate your calorie intake (use an app like MyFitnessPal), eat enough protein, include strength training and interval training cardio exercise, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and make some changes to your lifestyle and eating habits.  To be successful you also need to be patient and focus on reaching your goals the “right” way, rather than “right away”.

For a complete training and nutrition plan be sure to check out our fat loss ebook, Get Lean: Permanent Physique Transformation.

GET-LEAN-coverStay Lean,

Your Gym Trainers