Losing fat is almost certainly the most common goal most people have for their bodies. Its very easy to get confused with the myriad of diets out there, many seeming to contradict each other. Dieting is really simple for 99% of people. Unless you are a competitive bodybuilder looking to get to sub 6% body fat, you don't need any drastic measures in your diet. Here are 5 key things you must have in your mind when losing fat is the goal.
1. Calories are the most important factor.
Everyone knows (or at least has an idea) what calories are, its the energy you get from food and everyone knows that too much of these pesky calories = fat! However most people don't have a full understanding of the macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) that calories are made up of. Bodybuilders and athletes know that the amount of each macronutrient we get has a huge affect on the proper functioning of our bodies hormones and the amount of muscle we have (and whether weight lost is fat and not muscle!!)
Knowing the importance of macronurtients cannot however make us forget they take second place to total calories! The total number of calories consumed (and burned) is what ultimately leads to fat loss. Even if you are consuming enough protein (for muscle growth) carbs (for fuel for training) and fat (for hormones) you won't gain muscle if you are eating less calories than you burn. The reverse is true as well, you will not lose fat if your total calories consumed are more than what you burn, even if your macronutrient numbers and 'ratios' are perfect. Now getting the right amount of macronutirents is very important to make sure weight lost is fat and not muscle, but don't forget...CALORIES IN AND CALORIES OUT!!
2. Train like your trying to build muscle.
Dieting isn't about losing weight. Dieting is bout losing fat! during your fat loss period you must try your hardest to retain all the muscle you have on your body, after all, for every pound of muscle you have your body burns an extra 50-60 calories in order to preserve that muscle. That means someone with 10 lbs more muscle than you burns 600 calories more than you by doing nothing! To keep muscle you have to train like your trying to gain muscle, that means training hard and training heavy. The high reps for fat loss and 'toning' line of thought is one of the biggest myths in training. High reps won't help you lose fat, all its going to do is make you get weaker and lose muscle. Stick with the methods that put slabs of muscle on your body in the first place and give your body reason to hold onto all your muscle! Diet and cardio/conditioning is how you peel fat off your body.
3. Keep your bodies hormones in working order.
As said already total calories is the main factor leading to weight loss and gain. However if your macronutrient numbers are way off (say only 5% of your daily intake coming from fat) you are going to seriously mess up your hormones! Not getting enough vital nutrients like protein and fat will totally screw up the natural production of testosterone, growth hormone, insulin etc in your body. All this means is muscle loss and not fat!
4. Slow and steady wins the race.
A big problem people have fueled by their desire for results NOW is to get super aggressive with their weight loss program right at the start. On day 1 they will cut their calorie intake by half, do hours and hours of cardio a day and generally make themselves miserable. This will lead to two things: 1. The sudden change will be too much for your psyche and motivation and you will end up quitting. A better idea is to increment changes in your routine slowly i.e slowly taking away bad foods you eat and slowly adding the amount of conditioning you are doing. 2. Eventually your fat loss will plateau, this is where you add something (or take away) to your routine to kick start it again e.g cutting 200 calories out or adding an interval training session 2*per week. Now if you started the diet with all guns blazing and used every trick in the book from the get go, what tools are left to kick start fat loss again?
5. Do more, eat more (in moderation)
While you can lose fat simply with a controlled diet, the results will eventually slow down. If you want further results and get really lean (or as an athlete need a good conditioning level) you are going to need to do GPP - general physical preparedness work (fitness training/conditioning). Adding conditioning sessions will increase your metabolism (if you do intense interval style training -which is what you should be doing!) and allow you to eat more calories (as you are burning more). Look at it this way, Person A burns 2500 calories a day and does no conditioning. So to lose fat this person eats 2000 calories a day (so 500 calories burned a day). Person B decides to add conditioning and so burns 3500 calories a day, he can now eat 3000 calories a day (so same calories burned per day as person A) BUT he has consumed 1000 more calories, which means - more protein to repair and protect his muscles from disappearing, more fat for good hormonal levels and more carbs which = more energy = harder training = more calories burned! Which person A or B do you think will be able to train harder and keep more muscle?! So don't go on a anorexic diet and become a zombie, train hard and eat to fuel your training.
6. Conditioning not cardio.
DO NOT DO TRADITIONAL LONG DURATION, SLOW CARDIO SESSIONS! They increase cortisol in the body, burn muscle and are sub par in both fat loss and getting fit when compared to intense interval training. If you want to get in great shape and lose fat then ditch the cross trainer! get sprinting, do barbell, kettlebell and dumbbell complexes, pull some sleds, flip some tires. Intense interval training is the way to go, its been proven time and time again in the lab and in the gym.
-Eat the right things but don't overeat
-Lift weights like your trying to put on muscle
-Gradually increase the level of dieting and conditioning
-Instead of starving yourself, fuel yourself to become a fat burning machine
-Do something hard and awesome for conditioning