How to lose fat and get lean once and for all.A simple 3-step guide, backed by science.
As a Personal Trainer/Coach & avid gym-attendee, I’m surrounded by individuals motivated to get in shape and lose some fat this year. New year new you, hey?
The motivation to be fitter & healthier – I like that, it makes me happy.
However, juice diets, not eating after 6pm, endless cardio, Slimming World, bashing your head against the wall…
This isn’t necessary. This industry is full of total BS.
Here’s a 3-step guide based around current research in to weight management so that you can actually make some quality progress this year without hating every second of it.
STEP 1 – THE CALORIE DEFICIT
You literally can NOT lose fat unless you are in a calorie deficit.
It doesn’t matter about the times you eat, what you eat, how you eat them IF you are not in a calorie deficit.
Consider this to be the condition that needs to be satisfied before anything else.
What does a calorie deficit mean?
Over a given period (let’s say 24hours) – you must consume LESS calories than you burn.
Calories in < Calories out = Weight loss.
If you don’t get your head around this, you’re in for a bumpy ride.
If you DO get your head around this, well then we’re going to have some fun and successful fat loss in store for you this year, my friend.
Just think of it this way:
When you eat something, your body doesn’t recognise the food itself, it recognises the nutrients it provides (or doesn’t provide).
Whats the crucial takeaway from this?
Food choice, food timing – it’s not relevant IF you are in a calorie deficit.
In other words, you could essentially eat whatever, whenever, and lost fat if your calories are low enough.
Obviously, theres a more intelligent way to create a diet than starving yourself all day and then just eating a few chicken nuggets at night, but hopefully you understand that:
Calories = Key.
Calculate how many calories you need per day using our FREE calculator HERE
This step alone is pivotal and potentially even life-changing (seriously).
You can stop worrying about all of the little nuances associated with dieting and just focus on increasing your expenditure/reducing your intake.
Energy Balance: Where energy (calories) IN = energy (calories) OUT.
During energy balance, weight will remain constant.
Therefore, to reduce our bodyweight, we must enter an energy DEFICIT, where energy in is less than energy out.
We do this via either reducing our intake or increasing our expenditure (or both)!
STEP 2 – ACTIVITY (get them steps up)
That we either need to decrease our calorie intake OR increase our calorie burn (or both)!
Hopefully step 1 has gotten you realising you need to cut down on some calories you needlessly consume, so now let’s increase your calorie burn.
I’m not going to bore you with science in this article, it’s designed to be simple. However there’s a lot of research into NEAT (non-exercise associated thermogenesis) and its’ MAJOR role in weight loss/weight maintenance.
The long and short of it:
Just being active can account for nearly an extra 2,000 calories burned per day.
But seeing as you can’t necessarily change what you do for a living, you need to focus on what you can change.
How many do you do per day?
Realistically aiming for 10,000 steps per day is a brilliant goal to have, which will translate into a fantastic lifestyle habit for maintaining a healthier weight.
However, maybe you currently only do 3-4000 per day? That’s cool, increase it to 5,000 next week.
Then 6,000, then 7,000 etc.
Park further away at work and at the shops, get up for a walk every hour, take the stairs every time, have a short walk after dinner.
This stuff adds up so much, and if combined with a reduction in calories – your energy balance is going to be looking so much more favourable for weight loss.
STEP 3 – EXERCISE (let’s lift some weights)
What exercise though?
I’m going to propose you begin lifting weights with a focus on getting stronger…
Again, let’s not make this boring – but you have something called your BMR (your basal metabolic rate).
Basically the amount of calories you burn at rest.
This is largely unchangeable, however building muscle does actually increase this (in fact weight gain in general does, but muscle tissue is a far better bet than fat tissue).
Basically, build more muscle, burn more calories every day.
There’s also a ton of unique health benefits to resistance training (we genuinely should all do some form of “lifting”, not just gym-bros) that we won’t discuss here in the interest of time.
Exercise in general is favourable for fat loss, due to the caloric burn contributing to the overall calorie deficit.
However, once again – we focus firstly on some level of resistance training because we do not want to lose muscle mass over the course of a fat-loss period.
If muscle is lost (very likely without resistance training), BMR will reduce even moreso alongside weight loss – making it considerably easier to re-gain any lost weight.
Plus, a “toned” physique (applies to both men and women) cannot be achieved without the growth of muscle tissue. The idea that weight lifting immediately = big and bulky, is very false.
The long and short of it is: I’d go as far as to say 99% of the population can’t achieve the body image they aspire to in their minds without resistance training.
Cardiovascular work just does not stress the muscular system enough from the standpoint of hypertrophy (gaining muscle).
What about cardio then?
Because you want to be healthier/fitter (exercising your actual heart) – a great reason.
Because you want to increase your weekly calorie burn.
Cardio isn’t a magic tool for fat loss, it contributes to an overall calorie deficit.
It’s the same as increasing activity/doing more steps in terms of actually losing fat – the difference is that it’s quicker and will cause a greater adaptation in aerobic fitness.
But you can’t just to endless amounts of cardio – you’ll feel like crap and you’ll run the risk of muscle loss if extreme.
The risk of muscle loss is massively overlooked by people – you do not want this to happen (that’s why we consider resistance training first).
So simply add cardio around your resistance training as a tool to burn more calories.
Pick a comibation of low intensity cardio and high intensity cardio as you see fit (a debate for another time), just don’t let this interfere with your resistance training if possible.
SUMMARY/ACTION PLAN (and 2 bonus tips):
1. You need to be in a calorie deficit. Calculate how many calories you need for free here.
Don’t worry about meal timing/carbs/fats/sugar etc. Keep it simple.
2. You need to become more active.
Rather than winging it, start tracking your steps and gradually get yourself up to 10,000 per day.
3. Resistance training allows you to build and retain muscle, which is crucial during weight loss else you will lose muscle mass (which lowers your metabolic rate and results in an “skinny-fat” end result).
Find a free program I created here.
Add cardio in as a tool to burn more calories on top of your resistance training – pick a type of cardio you enjoy.
1. Increase your protein intake. Have more of your calories coming from protein to help increase feelings of fullness, better retain/build muscle & to increase thermic effect of food.
Aim for a min of 1.2g protein per kg bodyweight, and scale up over time.
2. Sounds silly – but I want you to eat foods you enjoy every single day. So if you like bread, if you like cheese, if you like pizza – you can eat these foods. They are just calories that add-up to your total calorie budget.
Just consume these foods in moderation otherwise you’ll be low on micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), protein and fibre. Eat the good stuff first, then add the treats on within your daily budget to help you stick to the diet.