Table of Contents
Tip 1 – Exit The Couch And Get Moving
Tip 2 – Cross Training Is Important
Tip 3 – Weight Training To Firm And Tone
Tip 4 – Ignore The “Fat Burning” Zone
Tip 5 – Recovery And Sleep
Tip 6 – Always Always Eat Breakfast
Tip 7 – Getting The Nutrient Timing Right
Tip 8 – Energy Sources (Carbs, Fats And Protein)
Tip 9 – Staying Hydrated
Tip 10 – The Magical Cheat Day
Breaking News – Diets Make You Fat!
I thought that might get your attention. But whereas the more traditional attention-grabbing headlines bear little resemblance to the truth, my statement that ‘diets make you fat’ is pretty much a scientifically demonstrable fact.
This article will show you ten things you can do to help reduce your body fat and weight in a sensible and sustainable way – rather than just cutting down your calories and continuing to spend your time watching TV or playing on the PSP or XBox.
Disclaimer: If you are trying to lose weight, always make sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise regime, to make sure you are up to it physically. You might have no choice but to start off with dietary options, and then to include more physical activity once you have lost some of the easy pounds.
The Calorie Paradox
Are you losing weight but gaining fat? The reason I said above that diets make people fat, is that often these people will simply continue their usual lifestyle, but adjust their calorie intake downwards. And this will undoubtedly help them to lose weight in the short term. What happens then is that many dieters become obsessive about calories, and try to find ways to cut even more calories out of their diet, so they can lose even more weight as quickly as possible.
The main problem with this approach is that our bodies are very complex. Weight management is generally not a simple function of calories in versus calories out. For example, if you suddenly reduce your calorie intake by a large amount, your body will rapidly adjust your basal metabolic rate (BMR) downwards, to match the dietary decrease in calorie consumption. This is the body’s natural mechanism for staying alive during a period of starvation.
Even worse, when our bodies think they are going to starve, they start storing body fat more readily. In other words, any successes you get during an exclusively ‘food-based’ weight loss program are likely to be the result of water loss and loss of lean muscle. And since lean muscle mass is one of the only tissues in the human body that can burn off fat, this is a very counterproductive way to get to a healthy weight in a sustainable way.
What Did You Achieve? Okay, so you went on a calorie-controlled diet and did nothing other than adjusting your food intake. You lost a load of weight – it was mainly water weight and lean muscle mass that was lost. Your metabolism slowed down. And then you got bored with the diet because you were hungry all the time. Sound familiar? Started eating “properly” again, and put all that weight back on – and more! That’s because your metabolism is now much lower, and because you have less muscle mass to burn off excess fat. In other words, you are in a worse position than when you started your diet!
Solution To Sustainable Weight Loss
Here’s how to break the yoyo diet vicious cycle. Although you will lose weight in the short term by simply adjusting diet, there are other things you must consider if you wish to lose weight – and more importantly lose body fat – for the long term. I should say, at this point, if your doctor puts you on a calorie-controlled diet, you should do exactly as instructed. There will be times when you need that fast weight loss, perhaps to get to a target weight for an operation in the hospital for example; or if you are classified as clinically obese and have become immobile because of it. You’ll need to use common sense, and listen both to your own body, and to the medical professionals.
I shall also disclose that I’m not a medical professional; I am into sports, and spend a lot of time reading and researching in the areas of sports nutrition and attaining optimal racing weight – and I have tried out many experiments myself, to see how my weight and percentage body fat were affected.
The methods I will describe here have produced benefits for me, and might also do so for you, but of course I cannot offer any guarantees – after all, we are all different, and our bodies are very complicated machines, like I mentioned above. But I hope this article and the 10 Tips For Fat Loss will give you some food for thought – rather than food for fat-storage – so that you can begin to make changes, and see benefits to your body shape, and to your long-term health.
The hard work starts here – don’t be lazy about it! Good luck!
Exercise To Burn Off Fat
While it is every lazy person’s dream to lose weight and get a perfect body by messing about with their diet and doing nothing else, the sad truth is that you will always need to get that body moving, if you want to shift the fat. Moving about will mean your muscles have to start doing some work, and the good news – if you are overweight – is that there can be some heavy lifting involved. That means you’ll burn more calories.
Running is one of the best fat-burning activities you can ever get involved in. If done correctly, it is a full-body workout, which helps build lean muscle mass and get that metabolic rate nice and high. The fact that you need to carry all your weight around with you as you run means that your muscles have to work extra hard.
Your aim should be to start gradually with just walking if you are obese. As you build up your fitness, you can incorporate a little jogging, and create an alternating jog-walk workout. Eventually, as the fat disappears and your cardio fitness improves, you will find that you can go out and run for thirty minutes without needing to stop or walk.
But at the beginning, find something you enjoy doing, just to get you off the couch and start moving! That could mean gardening, dancing, whatever. There are some nice circuit routines over on Sarah’s site, My Fitness Today, which are ideal to get you moving about (try the routine here: http://myfitnesstoday.com/2012/06/monday-morning-circuit-banana-yummyness).
Don’t Let Your Body Slack Off
Our bodies are extremely clever things, you know! If you pick out a running route, and dutifully do your runs three times a week, but never change the route or challenge yourself, your weight loss will plateau. Your body will get accustomed to that particular activity and find ways to become more efficient at it. Really cheeky, huh? So now you’re doing the same run, and your sneaky body is using less calories to get you through it.
So do some cross-training. You can burn off extra calories by varying your workout routine. For me personally, I do three runs a week: one is a long, slow run; another is a speed training session or a time trial or a race; and the other is some kind of strength session, for example hill repeats. But on days when I don’t run, I have an exercise bike at home, so I can spin out a few miles for 45-60 minutes while I watch something on TV!
For you, why not get out on your bike, or do some swimming, or even an exercise class if you want to do something to help your fitness, but which is a little more sociable. Ideally, you should aim for cross-training which uses different muscles, and takes some of the pressure off those joints – so you get a little rest from running, which can be a pretty tough high-impact activity. Swimming is particularly beneficial if you are very overweight, as the water will help to support your body weight, enabling you to do some – rather than no – exercise.
We’re Not Trying To Be The Next Arnie!
Okay, this one will probably be a little scary for women who are looking to ditch the body fat. So let’s be clear, I’m not talking about hitting the gym seven days a week and pumping iron until you’ve got biceps that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud of. Remember that the main body tissue that burns away fat is lean muscle. You need this stuff if you are going to burn fat. The great thing is that, rather than turning into some muscle-bound female body-builder who all the men run away from, you will be losing the flabby, ‘hangy’ bits on your arms and elsewhere, and replacing them with firm and toned muscle. You should ideally look the same size, but just look so much better.
You don’t need an expensive gym membership, or even really spend a fortune on equipment to do some pretty effective weight training. I like to do the old tried and tested exercises, like air squats for my legs, and push-ups, which are free, and use my own body weight. I’m also a big fan of kettlebells, which are reasonably cheap, and are extremely versatile. You can use them for a variety of different routines, each giving a good workout to the different muscle groups.
If you are a guy, and actually want to build larger muscles, then you can either opt for the gym membership, or buy your own free weights – just make sure you have a training buddy to spot for you if you train at home, in case you get into difficulty.
Ditch The Maximum Calories During And After Exercise
Okay, so I said earlier that weight management wasn’t as simple as just calories in versus calories out. But it does play a role. If, on a daily basis, you walk at a gentle pace around your block, and then pile ten thousand calories worth of cream cakes down your gullet, then obviously you will get seriously fat. It is a matter of being sensible about the calories, optimizing the amount of muscle you build to burn body fat, and keeping that metabolism fired up. So hopefully, you can see difference between 1. a completely sedentary lifestyle while on a calorie-controlled diet (metabolism slows and muscle wastes away); and 2. plenty of exercise and sensible, balanced eating habits (metabolism stays high, plenty of lean muscle).
One of the phrases that people talk a lot about, especially when trying to lose weight – and assuming they made the first step, to begin exercising – is The Fat Burning Zone. This is a good concept and there is a lot of evidence that low-intensity activity indeed helps to optimize fat burning. However, there is also research which shows that fat-burning does not occur until after the first 20-30 minutes of exercise in a session.
So you need to be realistic about fat-burning, particularly in relation to how long your workouts last. If you are unfit and just starting out, you might only be working out for 20 minutes. If this is the case, it makes more sense to really get stuck in. For short sessions, just go for it at a high intensity in order to burn the most fat. If your fitness becomes quite good down the line, then aim for moderate-to-high intensity because that will enable you to keep on going; you don’t want to train at so high an intensity that you can only keep it up for 15 minutes. Once again, balance is the key.
The reason to aim for intensities higher than the so-called Fat Burning Zone is that you simply burn off more calories faster. And more importantly, you will continue to burn more calories after exercise because you will have raised your metabolic rate by pushing yourself.
Often Overlooked But Do So At Your Peril
I mentioned earlier than when people see weight falling off during a calorie-restricted diet, they have a tendency to continue cutting down on their food intake, and this can be harmful because it slows down the metabolic rate. Similarly, when you begin to see improvements due to exercise, it can become almost addictive. You just want to train more and more, and watch that body fat dissolve away. But be careful! One of the reasons for cross-training is to balance muscles and protect yourself from overuse injuries – which are similar to repetitive strain injuries you might get if you work in an office using a keyboard incorrectly.
Recovery is as important as the exercise itself. Rest between sessions allows the muscles to rebuild and recover, and allows you to recharge your energy levels ready for your next session. This is why I only run three times a week instead of every day. Sleep is a similar activity that enables your body to function at its peak. Getting enough sleep and allowing yourself enough recovery time are key factors in enabling you to keep on building momentum in your weight loss routines. Imagine if you trained seven days a week and then got injured and needed to take three months off. This would kill your momentum and would be a real downer psychologically. It’s far better to train three times a week, and just keep going relentlessly for twelve months a year!
Don’t Miss Out On The Main Meal Of The Day
This is one of the most important tips to remember, and I could easily have put this one first in my list. It is also very important to get moving, though, so here it is at number six.
Do not skip breakfast. This is really critical. There is an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest that people who do skip breakfast are the ones who usually end up having weight problems. They also tend to have less healthy diets than people who fastidiously prepare themselves for the day with a meal as soon as they wake up. You will need to eat within an hour of waking up, and it is best to eat roughly 25% of your day’s calories at breakfast. This will ensure you don’t get hungry by mid-morning and start snacking; but will also ensure you don’t end up so ravenous by lunchtime that you massively overeat – this is often the case for breakfast skippers.
So maybe that’s not a big deal; you can handle breakfast even though you are not normally a breakfast-person. But that’s not the end of the matter. You should also make sure you take in enough protein in your first meal of the day. In the West, we are all used to toast and cereal, which is a monster carbohydrate overload! It took me a long time to start enjoying things like eggs and spinach for breakfast, or lentils with tuna. That all sounds like ‘lunchtime stuff’ doesn’t it. The thing is, it will keep you full until lunchtime, so you can avoid snacking. I’ll talk more about the carbs, proteins and fats below.
Timing Is Everything, Even With Eating
When you eat is generally as important as what you eat. This is a concept which has always created debate, because of the predominant view that it’s all about that famous “calories in versus calories out” school of thought. Yes, the total calorie balance is important, but remember the human body is clever. It partitions fuel in different ways according to what it sees as key requirements. For example, if you are starving yourself on a diet, your body tries to convert all that food into fat, and stores it to get you through the hard times of famine.
On the other hand, if you have just done a seriously high intensity workout and burned up all your muscle glycogen stores, your body’s next aim is to replenish the fuel in those muscles. If need be, it will grab fat and convert it to glycogen – and this is why you can still burn fat even if you are training in the high intensity zone, rather than the fat burning zone. And so timing is everything.
Try to eat your meals within one hour of your workouts. This will persuade your body to take the energy from your food and store it as glycogen in the muscles, rather than simply dropping it onto your belly and thighs as fat. You will want to be eating a mixture of protein and carbohydrate to get the maximum benefits, as this will allow you to recover faster from a hard workout, and some research claims that it will help to prevents delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after exercise. The amount of carbohydrate will depend on how much training you are doing in each session, and what your ideal weight and body fat should be. If you are very overweight with high percentage body fat, you will probably not need to consume much carbohydrate at all. (It should be noted that carbohydrates will spike insulin levels, which reduces fat-burning ability, so if you want to maximize fat-burning post-exercise, just have a protein shake, and eat some slowly-digested carbs in a meal later on.)
The reason that nutrient timing is important is because it takes advantage of hormonal responses to stress, which is a result of your workouts.
Getting Carbohydrates Right For Optimum Fat Burning
For endurance athletes, and people who have made the effort and lost a lot of their weight, reintroducing carbohydrate post-exercise can be very important for replenishing glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. A balance has to be found between optimizing fat loss for people who need to lose fat, and those people training hard who are already fairly lean but who want to recharge effectively for their next training session.
Fat Does Not Make You Fat!
Carbohydrates – With carbohydrates, enough is enough. You just need enough to support the training you are doing while also maintaining the right level of total calories. As we’ll see, it doesn’t matter where these other total calories come from and even a diet containing 40% fat is fine. As mentioned above, overdoing the calories can cause weight and fat to increase. If you are seriously looking to maximize fat loss then you should be consuming carbs at the lower level, and also eating slowly-digested carbs, for example green beans, peas, broccoli, spinach etc, together with protein and good fats.
It is imperative to the success of this entire Top 10 Tips that you do completely ditch ALL the refined “white” carbohydrates, and try to ditch the starchy stuff. So no white bread, or potatoes, or pasta or white rice. The good thing is that you will need to eat much larger meals to get enough calories once you are replacing these nasty white carbs. You might even think you are eating too much; in reality, you probably are not.
Protein – Your protein intake will also ramp up, and this doesn’t necessarily mean jumping into the Atkins Diet. You can use lentils, and all sorts of beans (kidney beans, black beans, etc) as well as meat proteins like chicken, beef or fish. Western diets already have a lot of protein, so this is not a deliberate ploy to ‘grow’ or strengthen muscle or anything like that. It is simply to help prevent increases in body fat. Protein simply helps us reduce appetite and fat storage, and so can be helpful in weight loss.
Fats – Fat is something you really do not need to worry about too much. Just make sure you use healthy fats such as olive oil and avoid those saturated fats. Fat is our fuel source for low intensity activity, and we have enough of it to keep us going for a very long time. The problem that usually bugs athletes is the fact that carbohydrates are the fuel source for higher intensity activity, so if you end up racing, you could end up ‘running out of fuel’ unless you can top up your carbs at regular intervals.
There is also a school of thought which suggests that in order to burn fat, our bodies need to practise doing it, and the best way of doing so is to consume fat in our diets. This seems a little odd, but it is a fact that people who try to cut fat completely out of their diets are generally the ones who tend to do badly on the diet. Whether this is to do with nurturing the right hormonal responses, or because of eventual lack of will-power is probably a key question in these cases.
Keep Drinking The Water To Keep Going
As we all know, we can all exist for a fairly long time without food, especially if we started out overweight with lots of fat stores. But living for too long without any water is impossible. We are all told to drink plenty of water to ensure we stay healthy, and there is a direct correlation between dehydration and loss of concentration (for example in school children), or loss of performance in sports.
In order to keep going when you decide it’s time to go for a workout, try to drink some water an hour beforehand. This will top up your levels and make sure you don’t fatigue during your run or cycling session. There’s nothing worse than planning a run and finding you simply cannot finish it due to fatigue. Very often, that tiredness will be a result of dehydration. So this one is important if you want to keep burning off those calories and ditching the body fat.
Everything In Moderation – Even Pastries!
One of the things I really liked when I was following Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Body plan was getting to have a day off. Most of the week involved ditching all those white carbs, and living off a diet of beans, veg, chicken or fish, and lentils. There’s no question about it – I definitely lost weight. But the thing about diets is that we either carry on with them forever or we fall off the wagon and pile the weight back on in double quick time. If you want to keep the weight off, it means permanent calorie-counting, and missing out forever on things you might love to eat.
Well, with the 4-Hour Body plan, a “Cheat Day” was compulsory, in order to spike up the metabolism to make sure the body hadn’t inadvertently slipped into starvation mode. So if you are one of those people who just loves cakes or donuts or chocolate, you can have it! You just need to have the will-power to reach your next cheat day, that’s all.
There are rules to this, which involves having a regular protein-rich first meal of the day. There is also a lot of exercise involved to ensure those extra calories are shuttled towards muscle storage rather than fat storage. But if this sounds like something worth trying, maybe you should grab Ferriss’s book and see what he suggests. Just don’t completely destroy yourself on cheat day, huh!