With New Year resolutions still holding strong and summer closing in, I’ve been getting countless emails and messages from people asking me how to lose fat….FAST. So, im writing this article to address your concerns showing you how to avoid plateaus, lose up to 1 lb. of fat in one day and accelerate your fat loss by 25% throughout your dieting week.
We have all, undoubtedly at one point decided to shed a few pounds or strived to get a ripped physique for the summer. Some have had this as their only goal since owning their first pair of running shoes. Despite the latter, many have failed and even more, those who succeeded were disappointed with the results.
While most people know what it takes to lose the bulge, seldom are able to incorporate all the factors into one training program not to mention, consistently sticking to them in the long run. And many overlook other factors, thinking that all you need is diet and exercise. Don’t get me wrong…Diet and exercise are critical; however they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to losing fat.
Before I outline the 5 pillars of fat loss, y’all (yes I just said y’all) need to understand how we lose fat. For fat loss to take place, four things need to happen:
- STOP EATING!
Lipolysis is the breakdown and release of Triglycerides aka. Adipose tissue (storage form of fat)
For this to happen you need an influx of lipolysis inducing hormones; epinephrine, norepinephrine, ghrelin, growth hormone, testosterone, and cortisol.
And wouldn’t you know?! All these hormones increase as a result of weight training? (for all you cardio bunnies out there)
- Partitioning of fatty acids into the muscles in favor of fat. (THIS IS NOT FAT TURNING INTO MUSCLE!!)
When we consume food, your body breaks it down into simpler form; protein to amino acids, carbs to glycogen and lastly, fat into fatty acids. Our goal is to channel these nutrients to our muscles and glycogen stores instead of storing them as fat.
This is achieved via nutrition and hormonal balance by being in a healthy mental state. supplementing with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and specific training systems to create and maximize nutrient demands in muscles. By doing so, the food you consume in will be channeled into your muscles and glycogen stores instead of fat (yes, that’s a good thing)
- Fatty acid oxidation (fat burning). The technical term is beta-oxidation
This is mainly achieved through exercise – more specifically the kind of exercise in addition to diet tweaks to maximize fat oxidation. Additionally, the amount of muscle : weight ratio is an influential factor affecting fat oxidation. There are other factors which will maximize this – for example, green tea increases fat oxidation.
- Increased basal metabolic rate (BMR)
A factor of all the above
While this is the process of fat loss, there are a number of factors that allow this phenomenon to take place efficiently and effectively. Note however that the scope of the process is far beyond the content of this article and will be one I touch on very soon in another article. Now! Without further a due, here are my five pillars of fat loss
- Diet Is King
Let’s start with the one we all know but love to ignore.
Its funny but for some reason despite repeatedly hearing it all the time from your friends, fellow trainers and your best friend’s cousin’s personal trainer – you still for some reason think that it still doesn’t apply to you
If I could choose one reason as to why people fail to lose weight, I’d pick diet to be the main culprit. Energy balance is key when targeting fat loss (HAVING all other factors in tune of course). In order to initiate the process of lipolysis and fat oxidation (outlined above) we need to be in a caloric deficit.
Many things go into diet and calorie restriction such as nutrients,portion restriction, protein levels, carb and fat ratios, no. of cals per day etc.
I will not comment on those as I have done so in my previous articles. If you haven’t read them, I strongly suggest you do:
Point is you need to restrict your energy intake through food to force your body to salvage it elsewhere (this elsewhere, would be your fat stores). Without this deficit, you’ll be spinning your wheels in the air no matter how hard you train. Especially those of you who sprint to starbucks right after a workout to get yourself a mini-cooper sized skinny caramel nut frappuccino. Caloric restriction is half of the battle since your body will happily convert muscle to energy before resorting to its fat stores, and we want to avoid that. To prevent this, you want to create an environment where your body will avoid muscle and tap into your fat for energy – and ill tell you exactly how to do that later in the article
- Combine Diet & Exercise to Synergistically Achieve your Deficit
Whenever someone tells me they’re on a diet to lose weight but they’re not exercising, I know for a fact they won’t make it and to be frank, they really don’t. Not one person. And for those that do succeed end up hitting a wall down the line or losing way too much muscle along the way – Skinny fat anyone? I didn’t think so.
Exercise is a very important element to maintain muscle while on a restrictive diet. If you’ve read my previous articles, I have explained how muscle is a live tissue compared to fat. The latter means that every cubic centimeter of muscle requires oxygen and nutrients, round the clock. This upkeep means that the more muscle you have, the more your body will be working (round the clock) to feed the muscles – resulting in an elevated metabolism, even when at rest. For those with attention spans of a gold-fish, more muscle = faster metabolism. Now you can see why this is important to elevate your BMR and to favor partitioning nutrients to muscles over fat. Among the advantages of exercise, resistance training has many more benefits (ill stick to the ones that relate to this context) that aid in fat loss;
– For one, resistance training helps bridge the gap to achieve the caloric deficit I mentioned in the first pillar, without crashing your metabolism by severely restricting calories with diet.
– All while keeping your metabolism elevated throughout the day through post exercise oxygen consumption demands (read here).
– This is important since as we need an increased BMR to create the caloric deficit and incite fat loss.
– Over and above, exercise is required for the release of essential hormones required to oxidize fat (also mentioned above).
– Makes you look great, NAKED!
So you see, exercise is pretty important.
- The Right Training Method with a Strength Focused Bias
This one is a double whammy. Choosing the right training method and focusing on strength will result in
– Increased muscle mass (yes, even when on a diet)
– Higher caloric expenditure
– Increased release of essential hormones to induce and aid in fat loss
– Preserve hard-earned muscle
Many people will keep training unchanged regardless of their goals. While I can see their reasoning to some extent, other training methods would be far more optimal for fat loss. For example, higher rep hypertrophy training is not an ideal approach; neither is full-on strength training due to extended rest periods. Hypertrophy training calls for higher reps and higher volume with many sets carried out to failure. Another problem is that some folks tend to reduce training load and switch to nothing but circuits and intervals. This is a good way to lose fat, but even better to lose muscle, which no one really wants on a diet. When dieting, your body is in a vulnerable sate and will burn muscle away if pushed too hard. To avoid this, you need to focus on lower rep training aka. Strength training (1-6 reps) while incorporating lactic acid training protocols in the mix.
Check out my previous article on lactic acid training here for a sample workout.
Using this kind of training, you should NOT lose strength; actually you may see an increase in strength levels as well as increased muscle mass! Pretty sweet huh?!
Note: while it’s a common myth to assume that losing strength on a diet is a given, incorporating the right method of training can elicit strength gains, even on the most restrictive diet. Remember, strength is not only muscular but 30% of strength is neurological.
- Scheduled Refeeds – Lose 1lb of Fat in One Day!!
A large number of fitness and bodybuilding gurus will tell you that cheat days are BS,and provide no benefit to the dieter. The rest of them will tell you that they are important for psychological reasons. While I agree with that statement, I favor cheat days (when earned) for their ability to replenish and stabilize hormones (and its scientifically proven) that plummet during a dieting phase. One of those hormones would be what I like to call the Chief of fat loss – Leptin. I wrote a two-part article on just this hormone because, well, it’s that important and unfortunately unknown to many people. Simply put, Leptin dictates whether you store or lose fat; and if you ask me, that’s a big deal.
If you’re into the science bit of things (you really should be), take a whack at this study
Scheduling a reefed meal / day allows hormone levels to surge after a week-long low. This creates the perfect scenario to lose up to 1 pound of fat the following day (Yes, I have the numbers right) and increase your fat loss rate by 25% the following week! You can stop dancing now because this doesn’t happen all by itself. In order to lean out even more after a reefed day, you need to set up a few things;
– Train one or all major muscle groups on the reefed day (legs, back, chest, etc.)
– Focus on depletion workouts
– Have minimal calories up to the reefed (having the reefed close to training is preferred)
– Stay hydrated (consume 2 – 3 ltrs of water on the day)
– This will only work if you are beat the 80/20 rule, more of 90/10 in terms of hitting your cals / macros throughout the rest of the week.
Before I tell you how you can lose up to a pound of pure fat following your cheat day, you need to know that this will only work if:
– Your body’s glycogen stores are depleted and energy restricted to benefit from the surge of hormones and thyroid production after a cheat day.
– If you have a high caloric deficit. If you’re merely cutting downy by 300-400 cals per week, this isn’t for you and definitely won’t work.
– You EARN your cheat day and not cruise around week long having a “bit” of this and a “bite” of that.
– You have less than 25 pounds to lose. For those of you that do, a cheat meal every 10 days would suffice.
Conversely, if you have a dysfunctional relationship with food where you have wet pizza dreams and fantasize about making love to a Mcflurry on a hot summer night, then this is also not for you.
Now the juice!! Lose up to 1 lb of fat following a cheat day, incorporate HIIT drills, coupled with weighted complexes in the morning (preferably a pyramid scheme). Later in the day, schedule a 1 to 1.5 hour light walk sometime in the afternoon and try to increase your NEPA throughout the entire day, while keeping cals as low as possible. For those that have strong will power, going the entire day fasted with amino pulses will do wonders!
What’s NEPA? NEPA simply means moving more. It isnt related to exercise as it should not be tiring. Just by moving more we will expend more energy. Think of it as it as additional daily activities done with the purpose of staying more active throughout the day to create a greater calorie deficit and make up for all those hours when we are sedentary.
Important note: This isn’t for everyone. After writing my Binge eating Disorder article, I have received over 20 personal emails from people who have a constant battle with food and struggle to break their vicious binge eating cycles. If this is you, this isn’t for you – you’re better off sticking to a moderate diet and skipping this one.
- Progression & Periodization is Essential
The last pillar is essential to avoid hitting plateaus. Plateaus are responsible for 60% of failed diets. If you can avoid stalling, then you’re more likely to stay motivated and on track with your fat loss journey. More often than none, most people will jump in to a diet phase at full throttle. While I can understand the excitement, it’s important to think about the bigger picture rather than most bang for your buck at every workout.
There are two main goals for everyone and anyone who goes on to a diet (with lifting experience):
– Lose as much fat as possible within a given time
– Maintain (or even increase) as much muscle mass as possible
With that said most people starting out a fat loss phase will be hitting the cardio machines at least every other day and continuing their current workout routine while adding some intervals here and there. While that will give you results, and give you them fast, the progress wont last. Doing so, you will plateau in 2 weeks, 3 if you’re lucky with the first week’s weight loss attributable to water and some fat / muscle.
If you want to lose weight while maintaining muscle mass throughout, you need to focus on progression and periodization. Here’s an article i wrote about just that.
When it comes to your weight training, try to add weight every 2 weeks to your main lifts. Periodize your weights as you usually would in a bulk or maintenance period.
By using the two methods above, you can almost guarantee that you will avoid plateaus and continue to see progress throughout your dieting time frame.
And there you have it. I have just armed you with the tools you need to acquire a chiseled physique. It’s now up to you to take matters in your own hands. On a closing note, remember! Fat loss is not linear so don’t throw in the towel too soon if things aren’t going your way. Make sure that your weight loss is following a downward trend and let fat loss take its natural course. Otherwise you’ll end up de-motivating yourself and disrupting the natural course of things.
Understanding the process of fat loss is important to tackle fat loss without hitting plateaus
Caloric restriction is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fat loss
Hormonal balance is essential to tap into fat stores
Strict hypertrophy and strength training is not ideal for fat loss – Lactic acid training can do wonders
Cheat meals can allow you lose up to 1lb of fat loss in one day and accelerate your fat loss by 25% through the week
Progression and periodization is key to keep seeing results