In Part I of this post, I talked about how losing ‘weight’ wasn’t necessarily a good thing. If you missed it, you can read that HERE.
When it comes to losing ‘weight’, we’ve already covered that when you lose muscle along with fat, you have the potential to see success but it won’t quite be optimal like you’d hope.
The first step towards success is shifting your mindset from wanting to ‘lose weight’ to wanting to ‘burn fat’. And the difference will be remarkable.
Since muscle is metabolically active tissue, meaning it burns calories to just exist, we want to preserve it as best we can. But certain exercise modalities and diet restrictions can actually allow for muscle to burn along with fat. This is what we need to change. So first let’s first address what you shovel into your mouth.
Calorie restriction is absolutely necessary when it comes to fat loss because when you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll likely burn fat. But restricting calories just for the sake of restricting them is a half-hearted approach to burning fat. If you’re not consuming adequate amounts of protein or eating an appropriate ratio of carbs to fats, your fat loss efforts are gonna be like Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII… yeah, you played amazing and threw for over 500 yards… but you still lost.
Did I mention I’m an Eagles fan? 🙂
So here are some calorie restricting guidelines to follow to help ensure you burn FAT and preserve all your lovely, precious muscle. I’m purposely not going to get too detailed with these because I want to present them in a (hopefully) simple, easy to comprehend way.
- Even when restricting calories, aim to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of your ideal weight per day. (Ex: I weigh about 175, so I need 175 grams of protein every day to ensure I maintain this). Chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, lean ground beef… basically any type of dead animal flesh is a great choice here for accomplishing this.
- Carbs are not evil. They help fuel higher intensity exercise as well as keep your brain functioning like it should. Do not fear carbs, just be aware there is a time and place to eat them.
- Try and consume most of your carbs around your workout (about an hour prior to or after your training session). This will help ensure those ingested carbs 1) help fuel your body for working out, or 2) help your body recover properly by replenishing your body’s glycogen stores (stored carbohydrates within bodily tissues).
- Keep your carb intake lower on days where you aren’t that physically active and a bit higher on days that you are. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours followed by no exercise once you get home = no need for a lot of carbs. Manual labor jobs followed by a training session when you get home = totally fine to eat some carbs.
- Try to ensure carb and fat consumption have an inverse relationship. If you eat less carbs, it’s ok to eat more fats. If it’s a day where carb intake is higher, try to keep your fat intake in check. Continuously combining high carb intake with a high fat intake (at meals) is a recipe for big, fluffy love handles. (Fun fact: there is no natural food (something that can be grown, picked, or hunted) that is high in both fats and carbs. This is only found in man made foods. It’s like we weren’t meant to eat them together. Go figure. Nature just be crazy like that).
- Sedentary individuals, or folks who aren’t all that physically active (desk jobs), usually need anywhere from 10-12 calories per lb of their ideal weight per day. This is the crowd where low carb diets will likely work wonders.
- Active individuals, or folks who exercise regularly, need anywhere from 10-15 calories per lb of their ideal weight per day. These guys don’t need to shy away from carbs, as they’ll need them to help fuel workouts, especially if the intensity of the workouts is high.
- Drink water. Then drink more water.
- Fill up on meat and vegetables at every meal. Meat and veggies. This might be the greatest thing you can do for fat loss in terms of diet.
- At the end of the day, these tips are excellent to follow, but remember, total calories matter most. A low carb diet doesn’t mean jack if you’re consuming 4,000 calories per day of healthy fats and protein.
And there are so many more than that, but in fear of turning this into a dissertation, I’ll stop here. There are literally thousands of books about nutrition and different methods will work for different people. But, I’m confident if you use these ‘rules’ to help guide your food choices, you’ll start to see the fat melt right off.
Once you’ve got the diet in check, now it’s time to address exercising. In Part I of this post, I explained that many gym ‘rookies’ tend to rely on intense and frequent cardio to help shed weight. However endless cardio has the potential to unfortunately burn off some muscle along with your fat. So what’s a person to do?
It’s time to start prioritizing strength training instead of cardio. I’ve written before about why strength training is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it still doesn’t seem to be widely accepted as the go-to method when it comes to fat loss, which is just a straight up travesty. Make the commitment to strength train regularly and something crazy will happen. You’ll burn fat!
And just like diet, here are some guidelines to follow for your strength training.
- Compound movements (movements that simultaneously move multiple joints) reign supreme. These include squats, deadlifts, rows, pushups, chin-ups, presses, lunges, hip thrusts, sled pushes, and loaded carries among other things. Here’s a short list of exercises that will help you start burning fat in no time.
- Form and technique come first. Don’t push the intensity if what you’re doing looks awful. If you don’t know what you’re doing, make an investment, hire a coach and learn something. Your ‘purchase’ will be a long term investment, truuuust me.
- Once form and technique are adequate, push yourself! A huge reason why people (women in particular) don’t see results from strength training is because, well, they’re not strength training! They work with loads that are relatively easy to move, and there’s no challenge to the movement. Without an appropriate load or intensity, there just won’t be any stimulus to your muscles, which means they won’t adapt to get stronger, which means your fat loss stalls, which means you won’t look any different.
- 2-4x per week seems to be the ideal frequency when it comes to strength training. If done 2-3x per week, full body routines will probably be best. Anymore than that and you can split your sessions into lower and upper body routines to allow for optimal recovery.
- Place a large focus on lower body lifts as the lower body houses a looooot of muscle compared to the upper body. Giving priority to these larger muscles will result in a larger calorie burn. Plus, a lot of “lower body” lifts are really full body lifts anyway (ex: squats and deadlifts).
Now does this mean you can’t or shouldn’t perform cardio? Of course not you silly nanny. Just make sure it takes a backseat to more dedicated strength training and doesn’t get out of hand in terms of duration mixed with intensity (meaning don’t try and break world records for a half marathon every time you partake in a bout of cardio). Something like a daily walk (which I highly encourage everyone to do) or tempo runs 2-4x week will suffice just fine.