Slimming down can be both challenging and confusing. There are thousands of articles and dietary programs which claim to be the optimal way of losing weight, most of which confuse the reader and really don’t deliver a solution to this problem. However, below is mine complete guide to losing fat the right way.
And yes, the goal is to lose fat. Most people say they want to “lose weight”; this is not the right approach. Losing weight can mean a lot of things, not drinking enough water will lose you some weight, inadequate eating and a lack of exercise can also induce weight loss. But we want to do things the right way, so just continue reading to find out how!
Diet – Eat to Lose Fat
Our body can be compared to a car. If we put the wrong fuel in a car it won’t drive well. The same principal can be applied in our case. You simply cannot out-train a bad diet.
Besides a healthy eating plan, one also must create a calorie deficit. Studies conclude that the number one driver of fat loss/gain is a person’s calorie intake (1).
First, we need to find your maintenance calories, or in other words the number of calories you would need to eat to maintain your current bodyweight.
The easiest and most effective way to do this is to take your bodyweight and multiply it by 13 or 14. If you are an active individual you can use the number 14, and if you aren’t very active, use 13.
For example, let’s say you are an active person that weighs 215 pounds. Take 215 x 14, and you’ll get your daily maintenance level of 3010 calories.
Various calorie calculators are also available online, so you can use those as well.
Setting a Calorie Deficit
Now, in order to lose weight, you’re going to have to set a calorie deficit.
The deficit you choose largely depends on how much fat you have, and the amount you would like to lose. More fat equals a larger deficit.
Percentages are the easiest way to find the correct deficit.
Here is what I would recommend:
Slow fat loss: 10-20% below maintenance
Moderate fat loss: 20-25% below maintenance
Rapid fat loss: >25% below maintenance
Unless you are very obese, a small or moderate deficit will probably work best for most people. This deficit will ensure a sufficient rate of fat loss while preserving lean muscle mass and physical performance. Smaller deficits are also easier to maintain.
You now know how many calories you need to eat each day to lose fat. But you also need a way to track them.
The best option when it comes to tracking calories are apps like MyFitnessPal. All you need to do is input your details and log your meals each day to stay on track.
Studies also show that the simple act of tracking your food intake helps one consume less calories. Apps like these are very easy to use, and once you get into the habit of it, it will take less than 5 minutes of your time per day.
Creating a Nutrition Plan
The base of your nutrition plan should be high quality food. Your best bet are whole, minimally processed foods, lean protein, healthy fats, high-fiber carbs, and veggies.
Protein – Chicken or turkey breast, lean beef, flank steak, tuna, eggs and egg whites, tilapia, trout, Greek yogurt, tofu, edamame, and protein powder.
Fat – Avocados, nuts and seeds, butter, cheeses, whole milk.
Carbs – Whole wheat grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown or white rice, fruits, veggies like broccoli, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and others.
Note that these are only suggestions. Other healthy options are also widely available.
However, having some calories come from comfort food is not forbidden. Try to stick to the 80/20 rule. So basically 80% of your calories should come from whole, low-processed foods, while the rest can be from whatever you want, as long as you are hitting your macro target.
By allowing yourself to enjoy the food you love in moderation, you greatly reduce cravings and binging. This also aids with long-term dieting success, which is the key to reaching your goals.
Exercise – Fat-Burning Activities
Exercising not only burns valuable calories, but it also maintains and promotes muscular development. Strength training is the form of exercise you should mostly engage in.
When it comes to strength training you don’t want to believe the light weight/high reps myth. No, you want to lift heavy. This weight will challenge the body, forcing you to not only preserve but possibly build more muscle tissue (2).
Sample Strength Workouts
1. Barbell Bench Press 5x6, rest 2-3 minutes between sets
2. Barbell Squat 5x6, rest 2-3 minutes between sets
3. Bent-Over Barbell Row 5x6, rest 2 minutes between sets
1. Dumbbell Squats 5x6, rest 2-3 minutes between sets
2. Barbell Deadlift 3x5, rest 3 minutes between sets
3. Barbell Overhead Press 5x8, rest 2 minutes between sets
Keep in mind that these are only beginner strength training workouts. If you’re an experienced lifter, more volume and intensity will be needed.
High Intensity Interval Training can also be a great addition to you workouts. Different from most training methods, HIIT is a popular fat burning and muscle building tool. One of the reasons is HIIT’s ability to boost growth hormone production in the body. HGH helps with muscle building, fat burning, energy, among other things.
A recent study published in the Journal of Sports Science found a 530% increase in human growth hormone from a 30-second sprint interval group versus six-second sprints (3).
Sample HIIT Workouts
1. Sprint 30 seconds
2. Rest 2 minutes (Complete 8-10 rounds)
If you dislike running, substitute it with cycling, rope jumping, etc.
Low or moderator intensity cardio can be implemented to your program as well. You can ensure great cardiovascular health with LISS cardio. Nevertheless, your main focus should not be on this method of training simply because it doesn’t do enough to stimulate muscle the way resistance training does.
The best fat burning program will contain a mix of resistance training, with some cardio on the side.
What About Supplements?
Let’s make things clear, supplements are not necessary for weight loss or fat burning. A proper training and nutrition plan can deliver desired results without a single supplement.
However, because of the convenience they offer supplements can come in handy. Sometimes it is easier to drink a shake instead of eating another turkey breast, or popping a simple pill rather than eating a bunch of veggies repetitively.
Here are some supplements that are worth your time:
Protein Powder – As mentioned, protein is an essential part of your diet if you’re looking to lose fat and preserve muscle. But sometimes it can be difficult to eat a large amount of protein from whole food sources. This is where adding a protein shake once or twice can be useful.
Creatine – The most scientifically researched supplement of all time. Creatine works by providing the body with excess energy when it demands it. Since glucose is the body’s preferred source of energy, it takes a little while for your body to turn it into usable energy. This is where creatine comes into play, providing the body the energy boost it needs. Creatine has also been shown to improve aerobic performance and cognition (4).
Multivitamin – Although a balanced diet provides the necessary vitamins and minerals we need, sometimes it can be boring to eat clean and nutrient dense foods. That is where a multivitamin supplement can help tremendously.
Fish Oil – Omega-3 and Omega-6 are essential fatty acids, which means that our body needs them to function properly. And unfortunately, we are not able to produce them. So if you dislike eating fish, this supplement is the way to go.
Greens – Eating loads of fruits and vegetables every day, for several months is simply boring. A good greens supplement can give you all the benefits whole foods provide. Just one serving contains the nutrients equivalent to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables.
Additional Fat Loss Tips
We have covered the basics so far, and that may be a lot to digest right now. Nevertheless, here are some bonus tips that you can also use daily in order to achieve better fat loss results.
Skip breakfast – Breakfast may have been preached as the most important meal of the day, however studies have busted this myth. Instead of eating first thing in the morning, try a method called Intermittent Fasting (IF). IF restricts the amount of time each day where you consume your calories. So, push your first meal back until 12 am, or noon. By reducing you eating window daily, the body will naturally restrict your calorie intake as well (5).
Eat protein and veggies at every meal – The combination of high-fiber veggies and protein ensures low cravings, meaning they take longer to digest keeping your stomach full.
Drink more water – The feeling of hunger is often associated with dehydration. Drinking more water can help combat feelings of hunger, while providing the hydration needed.
Track your training – Like nutrition, keeping track of your training is critical. You should remember how many sets, reps, and weight you should perform each workout.
Sleep more – Even if you’re not dieting, sleeping needs to be a priority. Not only can a lack of sleep hurt your fat loss progress, but it can also cause a loss of muscle mass, strength, energy, etc. Try to sleep at least 8 hours every night.
Lose stress – Too much stress can hinder your progress. When you’re stressed out, cortisol levels are elevated and the body doesn’t function properly. The best way to combat stress is to avoid situations that may lead to it. Go for walks, stretch, read, listen to music, and enjoy life.