Fat loss made simple!
Fat Loss made simple!
All you need to know to burn through fat fast!
Fat loss is made to seem pretty complex now. With the hundreds of “must do’s” we see weekly on social media, it’s easy to be confused about how to drop fat and get in great shape. The latest juice cleanse, detox diets, and the extreme nutrition protocols have all led to some awesome results, so which one is right for you?
Luckily, here at FX, we have you covered. Any fat loss plan works by underlying mechanisms, such as creating an energy deficit, to get results. This is the reason completely different “diets” appear to work, even though they may be conflicting in the approach. Think keto sally from the office who will explode if she touches a carb, and bodybuilding debs who takes the macros approach. How do they both get results, surely one must be right and one wrong? Nope, both a little right. Both a little wrong. But let’s get into that later.
It’s more than weight loss!
When getting in shape, it’s important to consider that “fat loss” is not our only consideration. If it was, the “just don’t each” approach would work a treat.
We need to keep muscle mass and health. Particularly if you’re looking to get “lean” or achieve sustainable fat loss. Health and sustainability shouldn’t be sacrificed during the diet, and this includes being able to continue to work out hard, stick to the diet without being a d*** with everyone you speak too, and keep decent energy levels and metabolism. So, you need to get the right amount of food, get the right nutrients, stay healthy, train to match your goals, and enjoy it. Simple, if you know what you’re doing.
Here are the real “must do’s” and key points to help you get (and stay!) in great shape.
1. Create a Calorie Deficit for fat loss….
The overarching rule of fat loss is this. You MUST burn off more energy than you take in, and you MUST sustain this for a long enough period to see a change. We can use several different equations to estimate what we are taking in and burning off, but the proof will be in the “less of a pudding” on the scales. Hundreds of online calculators do this for you, but the accuracy of these are not absolute. This is where consistency comes in. The initial weeks are some of the most difficult for two reasons. Firstly, we are making an educated guess at energy intake and expenditure. Keeping a food diary (we use fitbit, cronometer or my fitness pal regularly with clients) and tracking your exercise can give us a reasonable idea of energy intake and output, but only the actual outcome will tell us what’s happening with regards to fat loss.
Notes on the very low calorie diets
Before moving on, let me address an issue. I’m well aware that a 500 calories juice diet will drop weight off you. I’m not denying that, but here’s the problem. This will lead to a large amount of that weight being water and lean mass, leading to a lighter body weight, but feeling a little like you’re already dead by the end of it. Of course, it’s context dependent, maybe a juice diet is right for you- maybe you’ve no teeth, love being hungry AF and have no desire to get actual results providing you can tell others about the extreme methods you used to legally become a vegetable?
Consistency every day, not just days that don’t start with S..
We need to stay consistent with this deficit to achieve fat loss, regardless of whether you could drop more weight short term using another method. This means sticking to your targets as much as possible, every day. Doing 5 perfect days, with the weekends doing what you want won’t work. It could, providing that what you want is within the overall targets, but if you want to GUARANTEE results, consistency and honesty is the key. Even if you stray a little, pretending it didn’t happen, or not tracking so you feel better isn’t a great idea. All this will do is hide the true numbers, meaning we’re still guessing at how you lose weight. Be honest, be consistent, and it stops being guesswork.
Be honest, you want to be feeling in better shape, stronger, fitter and healthier throughout. With this in mind, it’s important to be consistent with the plan for two reasons. Reason 1, is to understand what you’re body is doing. How many calories are you REALLY burning? Not only this, but how many calories are you REALLY consuming over a long enough period to see what’s going on based on the metrics you’re using. And Reason 2, so that you are ALWAYS able to make progress towards your goal.
Motivation during this phase.
For some people, this period of working out the intake and expenditure accurately can take around 2 weeks, meaning we may or may not really know whats going on for a few weeks. Be OK with that. These first few weeks are the LEAST important when it comes to results, and only serve as a guide to getting you on the right track for your journey. That means every week moving forward from this point will be getting results, providing you made the right adjustments. The opposite (huge results in weeks 1, 2 and 3) often can act as a warning sign that results will plateau due to changes in metabolism and lean mass, or the diet simply being unsustainable.
How many calories to start with?
As a general rule, a calorie deficit of around 15% is a good starting point for leaner individuals, but for those with particularly high levels of bodyfat initially, a far more aggressive approach may be appropriate, along with higher initial rates of fat loss.
So, for this one, track your food intake accurately, every day (a meal plan followed exactly can have the same effect), monitor your activity levels accurately, every day, weigh at the start (with any other relevant measures), weigh regularly and consistently throughout, weigh 2 weeks in, review, make any necessary adjustments to nutrition, and then weigh at week 4, expecting results. From here, you’re ready to thrive, and there should be no reason to not continue to see rapid changes in body composition for the coming months.
2. Preserve lean mass as much as possible
Another key element of a successful diet which we mentioned earlier is keeping lean mass. Different approaches will be necessary depending on their current body composition and other factors, but the two general rules with regards to preservation of lean mass are as follows:
Firstly, keep resistance training, and do it often enough, heavy enough and for long enough to maintain lean mass. If you don’t already do some form of resistance training, start– it will improve your results. We recommend a minimum of 3x per week lifting weights with a good training programme to ensure you are giving your body a reason to hold on to that muscle mass. If you’re already lean and training, you don’t need to make big changes to the type of lifting your doing. This will still generally make up the highest % of training, and 5-6 times per week may be more appropriate for those looking to get “super lean”, AKA cereal lean, AKA sheddies.
Secondly, eat high levels of protein (vegan/ vegetarian sources are still appropriate, but if you choose this take your time to learn the best way to put your diet together!). Initially, adding a solid protein serving to each meal will be useful (25-40g of high quality protein). As you get leaner or more advanced, 2.3-3g per kg/ bodyweight per day (split into multiple meals) has benefits on a calorie deficit via an increased thermic effect of food, increased satiety, and a higher preservation of lean mass during the deficit.
Remember, keeping muscle will be dependent on factors such as current training, stress management, and what level you’re currently at (or indeed looking to achieve).
3. Achieving Long term fat loss success
The long-term success of a plan is dependent on two primary areas.
Firstly (the coach’s job) is to minimise the impact of anything that can reduce the effectiveness of the diet (for example, a reduced energy output) such as a slowing metabolism via poor nutrition planning, or reduced outputs via training.
Secondly (your job) is to stick to the plan, consistently, over whatever period the plan is designed for. Usually, anywhere between 8-16 weeks are appropriate for short term intensive plans (although some may be longer), but for lifestyle changes, a far longer duration may be necessary.
With this, it’s important to remember that you can get results and make comprimises. Maybe you can’t go 100% for 12 weeks, but you can with the exception of maintenance days, refeeds, diet breaks etc. In this case, a loss that is possible in 8-12 weeks may take around 20 weeks to achieve. AND THAT’S OK! Just know what you’re expecting based on your commitment. Often, this is a more realistic approach, and can lead to far better results long term.
What if “ALL or NOTHING” keeps leading you to nothing? Mind. Blown.
4. So it doesn’t matter what diet I select?
Not exactly. One diet will probably be best for you (providing it covers the key points stated above). Dietary approaches may work off the same underlying mechanisms, but there are clear differences which can have a positive interaction with genetics, lifestyle factors and enjoyment. For example, intermittent fasting may be an appropriate approach for someone working shifts who has no access to food during certain times. This is a lifestyle benefit.
Another example may be someone going for a higher fat and lower carbohydrate approach, as they find it increases satiety and enjoyment. This may also have additional benefits on body composition due to genetic factors, but primarily the enjoyment and satiety increase is enough to increase adherence, and long term success.
I’m too hungry…..
Another point here, is food volume. Often, we get hungry on diets. It’s part of it. But One thing that we tend to do is neglect foods that will help with this. Foods with high nutrient density, and low calorie density, can be great options here to help you to feel more full. That, along with drinking enough water, and eating more protein, will go a long way to helping you feel less hungry on the diet, at least early on!
The diet should feel ok to do, you should be able to work out, and regular illness/ sickness isn’t a normal part of dieting. Sure you may feel a little hungry, and certainly will have cravings for certain foods, but make it work for you based on these overall rules. That said, don’t assume being hungry is making you too stressed, spend a week eating pizza and being surprised at the lack of fat loss. I’ve been there, and for some crazy reason it’s NOT the solution. More on this when I figure out why that didn’t work either…
Adherence. What can you do now. Can you stick to it? What’s right now doesn’t need to be what was right last time, or what will be right next time, it needs to allow you to make progress right now.
5. A mention of fat loss supplements
Supplements are commonplace, but most “fat loss” supplements are, at best, unnecessary. However, some supplements can have a beneficial effect. To achieve the protein levels required easily and without increases in other macronutrients, a simple whey protein is advisable. In addition, if you are looking to maintain training quality on an energy deficit, caffeine pre-workout may be a useful tool. Also Creatine has regularly shown to have beneficial effects on strength and muscle size.
For wellness, multi vitamins, omega 3 and vitamin D3 can be useful additions. All other supplements should be viewed individually.
6. Measuring Fat Loss
Sure, advanced, accurate equipment to is available, but at huge expense, and is generally not accessible for the general population. So, what can we use? Do the scales really tell all?
All methods of monitoring (including a simple weigh in) have limitations. Using several methods to get an overall picture may be the best way. In addition, standardisation the the weigh in protocol is key (eg. early morning after water only). However, providing that the time of day and pre-weigh routine is standardised, we can be relatively confident in results. For those with more weight to lose, weigh in and measurements may be an appropriate tool. Leaner individuals may use a combination of weight, skinfolds and photos, but again, consistent approaches to monitoring is key.
For individuals looking for fat loss but not weight loss, changes in weight may be minimal as body composition adaptations happen. Understanding this, and continuing the programme is essential. Measures used for these individuals should reflect the fact that weight may change minimally. For this reason, multiple measures will be necessary.
7. A Note on bodybuilding contest prep…
The rules stated above apply to every level. However, leaner individuals will need to be patient, with calories set at a level producing an expected loss of around 0.5-1% bodyweight per week. Again, preservation of lean mass is critical, so the 2.3-3.1g of protein per kg bodyweight is recommended here. The practice of water manipulation here has not been discussed.
That’s that. Some simple, but key points for fat loss. So, for an effective fat loss strategy, we need to following:
· Create a calorie deficit (start at around 15-20% for leaner individuals, with more aggressive deficits for those with high initial bodyfat).
· Be consistent. Stick to the plan 7 days a week (even if this includes calorie cycling). Aim to sustain it over a long enough duration to achieve results.
· Include resistance training 3-6x per week.
· Eat high protein, drink water, and include plenty of veg.
· Whatever diet you choose, stick to it. Select a diet that fits around your lifestyle. Adherence is key to success
· Select appropriate measurements to accurately monitor your progress.
· For bodybuilding contest prep, select a calorie amount leading to a 0.5%-1% reduction in body weight per week.
You got here!
Awesome. Contact me here and let me know your biggest challenge when it comes to fat loss? I’d love to help you get started on the right lines!
Diets are simple, not easy. Getting a plan that you can stick to is essential, and making subtle changes throughout will be key to success.
Want to learn more? Get our FREE Fat loss guide HERE!
Josh Kennedy, MSc, ASCC, CSCS
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