By Nick Nilsson
Author of Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss
In my years of training, I've learned that there are factors that are absolutely critical when it comes to fat loss..things you absolutely CANNOT screw up on if you want to have a hope of losing fat.
I've also learned there are also some typical things that people often DO screw up on.
And I've also learned there are a number of factors that would SEEM to be critical but actually AREN'T.
The critical factors for fat loss are actually pretty simple - you probably know them already. It's the things that don't matter at all about your fat loss routine that can throw you off.
The 3 Things You CAN'T Screw Up On...
1. Eating Less...Just Not TOO Much Less...
You've got to eat less than your maintenance level of calories to see fat loss. If you don't eat less than your maintenance than your body doesn't really have a reason to burn fat.
Here's the thing, though...your metabolism needs fuel. And if you don't eat ENOUGH calories, your body will desperately hang onto whatever fat it's got and start burning up muscle tissue.
But here's the kicker - you CAN go VERY low calorie for short periods of time and get really good results. I'm talking 800 to 1000 calories per day (even fasting for short periods will work).
It'll be tough to do and it's hard to train hard at that level but it CAN give your fat loss a kick in the pants. Just be sure not to stay at this level for too long - a few days at the most, then bring your caloric intake back up.
2. Eating Better Quality Food
If you eat crap foods, it'll be harder to lose fat. Simple as that.
All calories are NOT created equal. If you eat junk food but still stay below your maintenance levels, your body won't give up its fat as easily. 1,500 calories worth of greasy pizza isn't really the same nutritionally as 1,500 calories worth of lean, wholesome, natural foods. Eating less is important but eating quality is important, too.
Also consider this...when you eat lower calorie, you're also eating fewer nutrients (like vitamins and minerals). If you eat nutrient-poor garbage, your body is going to do everything it can to try and force you to eat more food and to conserve what it has already.
In addition, your body's HORMONAL reaction to this crappy food is something you have to think about. The insulin response you get from a 30 grams of sugar/carbs in a candy bar is a lot different than the insulin response you get from 30 grams of sugar/carbs in a carrot.
And when your insulin levels go up, your body is in fat STORAGE mode...not fat BURNING mode.
3. Training Properly
You need to train hard with relatively heavy weights and use interval training for cardio (not the long, slow stuff - it's gotta be challenging).
Your body needs heavy weight while training for fat loss. Think about it this way…what do you think is going to burn more calories and boost your metabolism more strongly…lifting a light, easy weight or lifting a heavy weight that's a challenge to your body.
Not only is the heavier weight going to burn more calories, it's also going to tell your body it needs to hold onto muscle mass to deal with the heavy loads being placed on it.
If you don't lift heavy, your body will do it's best to get rid of the most metabolically-costly tissue it has...aka. muscle tissue. Your body WANTS to keep the fat. You have to give it a reason to want to keep the MUSCLE instead.
And 5 Things That Really DON'T Matter...
1. Doing Cardio First Thing in the Morning
Honestly, you can do your cardio any time, IF you even decide to do cardio (it's not 100% necessary for fat loss). You may see a bit more fat loss if you do it first thing in the morning but here's my take...if you're doing interval training (like you should for losing fat) and you can't drum up a lot of intensity first thing in the morning (I know I can't), it's not going to do much good to train first thing in the morning.
Personally, I get more out of it doing cardio later in the day. I'm more awake and I can train harder. If you can train hard first thing, totally fine! That'll work too.
Bottom line - it doesn't matter when you do your cardio as long as you actually do it and do it hard.
2. Eating 6 Meals a Day
Ironically enough, even though this one of the most commonly-preached tips about fat-loss, there is hardly a shred of actual research that supports it. Studies have shown a slight increase in metabolism when you eat food...which then led people to believe that eating more frequently would give you a substantial increase in calories burned during the day.
The ACTUAL research doesn't support it. It's a sacred cow of fat-loss training yet it's based on faulty logic that isn't borne out by actual studies.
I NEVER eat 6 meals a day, whether doing fat-loss training or muscle-building training and that was even before I looked into the research on this.
If you can't eat 6 times a day, it's NOT going to break your fat loss results. If you can and DO want to eat 6 meals a day, that's totally fine, though, just don't think you HAVE to do it.
3. Letting Yourself Get Hungry
Oh, the horror! Hungry...while on a diet!!
Think of it this way, hunger is a sign from your body that it doesn't have food in the stomach and it has to work on STORED FUEL to function. That sounds like fat to me. Certainly muscle may be broken down a little as well, but it's not a big a problem as some people make it out to be.
When you train with weights, it's a HUGE stimulus for your body to hang onto that muscle. Eat enough protein during the day, train hard, and you won't lose muscle.
Honestly, I like to let myself get hungry while dieting, especially before training. If you train on an empty stomach, your GH response to training increased (which helps burn fat and build muscle). You'll get better results.
If you're on a muscle-building program, you don't really want to go hungry. You WANT your body to have a constant supply of nutrients so that it think it can start storing everything. When you're losing fat, you're using up stored nutrients.
4. Taking Fat-Burner Supplements
Contrary to all the ads in the magazines, fat burners don't give you THAT much in the way of results. Your own metabolism and training (and nutrition) do a FAR better job of it. Some of those pills can help (not many are any good at all) but only by about 5% or so. You can't just take pills and get shredded. Doesn't work that way. You've gotta work for it.
If you think about it, your Basal Metabolic Rate is up in the thousands of calories per day. Fat loss pills can't burn THAT many calories! So fine-tuning your eating and training is definitely the way to go.
5. Eating Some Junk Food Once in Awhile
It's what you eat 90% of the time that gets you the results. It's tough to be absolutely perfect all the time when dieting and trying to be perfect is a surefire way to disappoint yourself when you DO break it.
So why not accept that and PLAN it into your diet? It's not going to throw off your entire program if you eat some pizza one day. Or somebody gives you a piece of birthday cake. Digest it and move on! You can be strict again on your next meal. It's only when you cheat CONSTANTLY that it'll affect your results.
Many of these things I talked about are pretty straightforward, especially what'll make or break your fat loss. As long as you're doing the BIG things right, the small things like training on an empty stomach first thing in the morning won't be a big deal.
"The Best Way to Get Into Your Best Shape Ever is to STOP Dieting." - Shawna Kaminski
"I'm all for that BUT we all know that your abs are made in the kitchen (and not just during your workout) so, how can I be saying to STOP dieting?"
"This was the birth of 'The 21 Day Challenge Diet'."
"Honestly, it hasn't been really 'challenging' for me to maintain the eating habits I share with you over the long haul. And with some direction, it won't be for you either when you follow my simple guidelines."
"That's the main point with this plan. The nutrition part of it is basically a cinch. In fact, beta testers of the plan couldn't eat all that I suggested on some days. Hunger wasn't an issue. Energy levels weren't an issue."
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