In my years of training, I've learned that there are factors that are absolutely critical when it comes to fat loss. And I've also learned there are many 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 WON'T break your fat loss routine that can throw people off!
In this article, I’m going to give a quick rundown on BOTH.
What will MAKE Your Fat Loss
- Eating less - duh. 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.
- WHAT you eat - if you eat crap foods, it'll be harder to lose fat. 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.
- Training properly - continue to train hard with heavy weights. Add in 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!
What Will BREAK Your Fat Loss
- Eating too many calories - this is a simple one. If you eat too much, you're not going to lose fat.
- Not eating ENOUGH calories - your metabolism needs fuel. Simple as that. 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. 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.
- Training wrong - using nothing but light weights, high reps and slow cardio. There are exceptions to the rule, but overall, you have to train hard and heavy. This is the one thing with fat loss that really seems to throw a lot of people off. Granted, you CAN results by training this way…just not very GOOD results.
What Doesn't Really Matter!!
- Doing cardio first thing in the morning - honestly, you can do your cardio any time! 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 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!
- Eating 6 meals a day - it's nice if you can do it. It'll certainly help somewhat with your fat loss. But if you can't eat 6 times a day, it's not going to break your fat loss results. Don't fret if you can only eat 3 meals a day. I do it all the time, even when training for fat loss. I keep my muscle and my metabolism is raging because of the training that I do. Just make sure you’re eating quality food and keeping the caloric deficit going.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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. Heck, I find the occasional cheat to be quite helpful by giving my body a shock! A quick trick to make it think it's not on a diet anymore :)
- Waiting an hour after training to eat - if anything, this will actually HURT your progress. That "afterburn" that some people talk about - when they refer to the body continuing to burn fat after a workout, goes on REGARDLESS of what you eat. Even if you eat carbs, which you would think would stop fat burning in its tracks, your body will continue to burn fat post-workout. Why? The post-workout recovery process is FUELED BY FAT. It doesn't matter what you eat (naturally, don't eat crap), fat will be burned. So why not take advantage of this primetime for recovery by eating protein and carbs to help your body out! It'll help keep your metabolism from shutting down sooner.
Many of these things I talked about are pretty straightforward, especially what’ll make or break your fat loss. I hope it opened up your eyes about what WON’T make or break you, though! 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.
Written by Nick Nilsson