theSwole has moved!
Find us on Facebook
Fat loss is one of the easiest things you can do, problem is people take the hardest road that has a 99% failure rate. Instead of picking the highway that goes around the mountain, they pick the off-road and head straight up, quickly getting lost and giving up. When comparing fat loss to muscle or strength gain you will quickly realize that fat loss will give you most striking results in the shortest amount of time. So here’s a comprehensive approach to those who want to either lose fat or control it.
Number one rule of a program is how realistically it can be followed, after all, a plan is only as good as how much you can implement it. I’ll outline here a slow and steady approach that will pay dividends every week, help your immune system, regulate your hormonal levels, and shed fat while maintaining or even increasing strength and muscle, and all with minimal impact on the rest of your life.
On the other hand a crash diet approach is going to rip apart your muscles and strength, devastate your immune system, shut down your hormonal levels, simply make you feel like hell. I really want to emphasize the point that there is no rapid fat loss. When I started I was stubborn and followed a crash diet which did exactly what was described above. I lost a lot of weight but looked marginally the same and within weeks gained it all back, so do NOT do this.
The huge majority of people associate losing weight with low calorie diets and eating tiny amounts. If fat loss is your goal and leanness your aim, you must bear in mind that the quality of the food you eat is often more important than the quantity.
Let me illustrate what happens when you eat 200 calories from a chicken breast versus the same amount from French fries lets say. With the chicken breast it will take a longer time for the food to digest, which means a steady release of energy to the body, which will in turn will take those calories and split them into amino acids which will be either used for essential nutrients for the body or they will be converted into glucose which takes even more time and actual calories to do.
The French fries, on the other hand, will be digested very quickly. Once absorbed they will be broken down into glucose, this is your body’s main caloric currency, from here some of it will go to fuel your body but the majority will simply be stored away.
A good example here is giving a kid 30 dollars or giving them a dollar a day for a month. A dollar a day will give him a steady source of income for a long time while a big payment in the beginning of the month might be spent immediately.
A good diet is one that understands hormones and their impact on the body. First off, insulin management is key to fat loss, and to manage insulin you must manage carbohydrates. “Manage” does not mean “cut out completely”. This will throw off the balance of other hormones, and guess what, insulin is not the only hormone that needs to be managed! So, the best way to keep the balance is to avoid processed and high glycemic carbs (except in a post-training meal), and follow a balanced macronutrient plan, like the one I’ll outline below.
Quality foods are those closest to food found in nature. For example organic vegetables and fruits, fresh meats, eggs, fish, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes. On top of that cooking can have an impact on a food’s quality. For example, French fries are one of the worst things you can eat, while on the other hand a baked potato, although not the best thing to eat, is still not bad. Frying in all forms is bad, you want to stick to sautéing, grilling, boiling or steaming. Buy your food as basic ingredients and combine them together in a meal, stay away from any refined foods. Obvious examples of refined foods are sugar and processed meats, but this category of foods to avoid also includes juice, white bread, skippy (or any non-natural) peanut butter, most breakfast cereals, soymilk and nut milks (unless it is unsweetened/you made it yourself), packaged snack foods and crackers, jam, and many other foods masquerading as “all natural” or “made with whole grains.”
Eat veggies with most of your meals. Vegetables, even though they are made up mostly from carbs, are low in calorie, high in fiber, and very nutrient dense. This is going to curb your appetite and nourish your body with vitamins and minerals. On top of that, vegetables will balance the acidity that is associated with high protein diets.
You should eat whenever you are truly hungry, which generally translates into 4-6 small meals spread out throughout the day. Why so many meals? Well, think of your metabolism as a small fire: you want to throw in small pieces of wood every once in a while so you end up with a big fire and the wood gets consumed nicely. Otherwise, throw a huge log into your tiny fire and you snuff it out, your body tries to use it but it’s too much to be burned and the body ends up storing it. A rule of thumb is the smaller you can split up your meals the more likely your body can utilize it versus store it.
When it comes to burning fat compound exercises are king. I say that without exaggeration. Exercises like the squat and deadlift will burn more fat than anything else. The reason is not only that they require a lot of calories to fuel all the muscles that are working but also the aftermath they create–you end up with millions of cells sending distress signals that they must be repaired and re-built. Tendons, bones, and muscles all start to consume calories to fortify themselves. This is great for you as you burn fat but also end up stronger, faster and more shapely.
This doesn’t mean cardio isn’t important. Cardio is a great way to burn calories and in general improve conditioning. It increases blood flow which is going distribute nutrients to the body allowing you to recover faster and put those calories to use.
High Intensity training has become really popular and rightly so as it works in the same way weight training does. One or two interval training sessions a week will compound the increases in metabolic rate you are already experiencing from weight training. One example of HIT would be alternating sprints for 30 seconds then walking for another 30 seconds. Some people alternate sprints and running. That’s another type of interval training, but unless you are already in great shape, you will see better results from HIT. This is because unless you are in great shape already, running in between “sprints” will prevent you from actually sprinting at enough intensity. Walking will allow you to recover so that you can really push yourself on the sprints.
What about steady state cardio? Depending on whom you ask, this form of cardio is either the worst or the best and only thing you can do to lose fat. Thing is, many people find that intense work greatly increases appetite, thus it can be difficult to impossible to fill the week with HIT and lifting and still survive enough of a deficit to see results. Furthermore, HIT and lifting both require recovery, so what do you do when you’re recovering, sit home and hope the calories figure out how to burn themselves? Rest is key in any training program, but cardio can be a great way to burn calories when you can’t train or sprint. Many successful bodybuilders and figure competitors use steady state cardio for the benefits of decreased appetite, increased calorie burn, aid in muscle recovery, and even the mood uplift this type of workout can bring.
Whether it’s cardio, diet, or training , the best tip I can give you is to find what works for you. It’s a cliché, but everyone is different, people have different metabolisms, glucose tolerance, etc so if you feel part of what is being preached is holding you back, by all means go with your instincts.
Well time to stick with it. Fat loss takes a long time but shorter than you think. Remember no one gets lean overnight, but the best success you will achieve is by following a plan and making actual change, not by crash diets or jogging once a month.
You can also check this thread by our resident chef!