The simple rules of fat loss! All you need to know to burn through fat fast!
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 (for example high-fat and low-fat diets can both be an effective way to drop bodyfat). However, when getting in shape, it’s important to consider that “fat loss” is not our only consideration. We also care just as much about preserving lean mass, and maintaining the quality of training as much as possible.
In addition to experience of getting great results, I’ve referenced two review papers at the end of this post if you would like more detail with regards to understanding fat loss. So here are the real “must do’s” and key points to help you get (and stay!) in great shape.
1. Create a Calorie Deficit, Consistently
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. 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 or my fitness pal regularly with clients) and tracking your exercise can give us a reasonable idea of these, but only the actual outcome will tell us what’s happening with regards to fat loss.
Secondly, we need to stay consistent with this, regardless of whether you could drop more weight short term using another method. A 500 calories juice diet will drop weight, but will lead to a large amount of that weight being water and lean mass, leading to a lighter bodyweight, but not feeling in better shape, and no stronger, fitter and healthier. On this note, it’s important to keep motivated regardless of the initial results- consistency with the plan is crucial. Just one off day a week is enough to dramatically slow your progress, so make sure you stick to the agreed plan.
For some people, this period of working out the intake and expenditure accurately can take around 2 weeks, meaning we may or may not see huge results until around week 4. Be ok with that. That means every week moving forward will be getting results. The opposite (huge results in weeks 1, 2 and 3) often suggests the deficit is too much, and results will plateau due to changes in metabolism and lean mass.
How many calories should I 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 2 weeks in, 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.
2. Preserve lean mass as much as possible
The second element of a successful diet for fat loss is the preservation of lean mass. Different approaches for each individual 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 with sufficient volume and appropriate intensity 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. However, for leaner individuals, aim to keep resistance training frequency similar to any other general routine- 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 very lean.
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!). 2.3-3g per kg/ bodyweight has benefits on a calorie deficit via an increased thermic effect of food, increased satiety, and a higher preservation of lean mass in those continuing resistance training throughout the calories deficit.
3. Achieving Long term 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, far longer durations may be necessary.
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 selecting 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.
However, the key point is adherence. Whatever approach you take, stick to it (7 days a week) for long enough to see real results. You can try different approaches in the future.
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 eaily 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. In addition, 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. Limitations in measurement techniques.
A key limitation in observing the success of any diet is the methods we are using to monitor it. Advanced yet accurate equipment is available, but at huge expense, and is generally not accessible for the general population. 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, and is most effective 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 ideally.
For individuals looking to drop bodyfat but not weight, 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 for bodybuilding contest preparation.
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 will not be discussed.
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, an amount of 2.3g-3g/ kg bodyweight may have additional beneficial effects.
· 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 bodyweight per week.
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? Join us at out fat loss seminar later this October! Click the link below to register for FREE!October Fat Loss Seminar!
This post was written by Josh Kennedy, MSc. For more help achieving your ideal physique, contact email@example.com for 1-1 or online coaching assistance.
Aragon, A., Schoenfeld, B., et al, ISSN Position Stand: Diets and Body Composition, Journal ISSN, 2017, 14:16
Helms, E., Aragon, A., Fitschen, P. Evidence Based Recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation, Journal ISSN, 2014, 11:20