Expert Fat Loss Guide: Learn To Lose Fat With Diet & Training
Too many people view fat loss like it is a secret VIP party that requires you to do or say the right thing to get invited. In one sense this is true. Those that are lean understand what must be done to lose fat without gimmicks or quick fixes.
Fat loss is a biological process that does not need to be shrouded in mystery. It is not as easy as some of the gimmicks would have you believe but an understanding of the processes that lead to fat loss will allow you to make the correct decisions to get you where you want to be.
This guide contains everything you need to achieve real, dependable fat loss. There are no quick fixes here. This is only for those that are willing to put in the work and reap the benefits of that work. So read up, because this is your formal invitation to the party.
Before you even get started on a fat loss plan the first thing you want to do is to set goals for yourself. This goal could be to lose 30 lbs. or it could be to see your abs. Whether your goal is to lose a certain number of pounds or to just achieve a certain look you will need to set a reasonable time frame to achieve this. If you do not set a time frame there will be no sense of urgency when trying to make progress.
Rate of Progress
When it comes to the rate at which progress can be made fat loss is far different from muscle growth. Whereas building muscle is a slow process, fat loss can take place at a pretty rapid pace. We have all seen the commercials that promise to help you lose 10-20 lbs. in a few weeks. While it is entirely possible to lose huge amounts of weight in short periods of time, this is not what we are aiming for.
Losing weight too quickly will lead to muscle loss. Losing muscle on a fat loss plan will only result in a slower metabolism, a less attractive physique, compromised health, and ultimately a higher chance that the weight lost will be put back on.
On any fat loss plan, you should strive to lose 1-2 lbs. per week. This rate of loss will ensure that all weight losses will be fat and not muscle tissue. This will also make sure that progress will continue without a metabolism stall.
One common theme you will see as you read this guide is that fat loss is best maximized with an individual approach. To get the best possible results a cookie-cutter plan will not do. Many things must be taken into account when putting together an effective plan. This guide will show you how to make adjustments based on your individual body type.
Fat Loss Definitions and Common Terms
Calories – Calories are a unit of measurement used to describe how much energy value is in food. Excess calories that are not used as energy are stored as fatty tissue within the body.
Micronutrients – Micronutrients are nutrients that the body only needs in trace amounts. Examples of micronutrients are most vitamins and minerals.
Amino Acids – Amino acids are the compounds that makeup proteins. They are commonly referred to as the building blocks of protein. Different types of proteins vary in the types and amounts of amino acids that they contain.
Glycogen – Glycogen is a carbohydrate stored within the human body. When carbohydrates are ingested they are stored within muscle tissue and the liver as glycogen. Glycogen is a primary energy source for the body.
Metabolic Rate – Metabolic rate refers to the rate at which a person’s body uses energy. A higher metabolic rate will use energy more quickly, leading to a leaner physique.
Protein Synthesis – The process through which amino acids are arranged into proteins. Protein synthesis is the process of muscle growth.
Anabolic (Anabolism) – Anabolic is the state of muscle growth. If you are building muscle you are in an anabolic state.
Catabolic (Catabolism) – Catabolic is the state of muscle breakdown. If you are losing muscle you are in a catabolic state.
Aerobic – Aerobic exercise is an exercise that requires the presence of oxygen.
Anaerobic – Anaerobic exercise is an exercise that does not require the presence of oxygen.
Substrate – A substrate is any material or substance upon which an enzyme acts.
Determining Your Body Type
Role of Body Type in Fat Loss
When trying to lose fat body type is very important to both diet and training. Different body types will require varying levels of calories, macronutrients, and training volumes. Before you can determine how much to eat and how much to train you must know your body type.
Ectomorphs (or ectos for short) are categorized by one word, THIN. The bone structure of an ectomorph is very narrow. This means that ectos usually have a small rib cage, narrow shoulders, and long thinner limbs. An ectomorph will struggle to add both muscle and fat, so adding body weight is usually a slow process.
Even though ectomorphs will have difficulty getting bigger and stronger their typically fast metabolisms give them a huge advantage when trying to get lean. When trying to get lean muscle loss will always be a concern for the ectomorph.
Mesomorphs (or mesos for short) are the genetic lottery winners. They are typically athletic-looking even with little to no training. Mesomorphs usually have wide shoulders and somewhat thinner waists. One of the main characteristics of a mesomorph is that they add muscle AND lose fat easily.
Although mesomorphs have genetic advantages they are not immune to getting out of shape. If they wish to maintain or improve their physiques, a proper training routine and diet must be employed.
Endomorphs (or endos for short) are somewhat the opposite of an ectomorph. They have a wide bone structure. This means that an endo’s rib cage, shoulders, and waist are usually wide. An endomorph will gain both muscle and fat very easily. Because of this most endomorphs struggle to maintain a lean physique.
Although it is harder for an endomorph to get lean, it is not impossible. Also, their body’s ability to add and maintain muscle tissue gives them a big advantage when losing fat.
Calories and the Macronutrients
The three macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Get to know them well. The ins and outs of these nutrients are vital to losing fat. Each of these serves a particular function within the body, so it is essential that they be supplied in the correct amounts.
Body type also plays a huge role in how your body reacts to these nutrients as well. Different body types will have different recommendations for each nutrient and calorie intake.
Most people are familiar with calories but few know exactly what they are. Calories are units of measure assigned to foods to show how much energy it contains. Your body expends a certain number of calories as energy every day. If you consume more calories than you expend, the excess will be stored as body fat. If you consume less than you expend every day your body will have to use stored body fat to meet energy needs.
Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates all have calories. One gram of protein contains 4 calories, one gram of fat contains 9 calories, and one gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories. These are the calorie recommendations based on each particular body type.
- Ectomorph – Body weight x 16-18 = daily caloric intake
- Mesomorph – Body weight x 14-17 = daily caloric intake
- Endomorph – Body weight x 12-15 = daily caloric intake
This is not the whole story though. Not all calories are created equal. Calories consumed from protein, carbs, and fat will not all be processed the same way within the body. Keep reading to find out why.
Proteins are unbelievably important molecules to the human body. Different proteins have different functions depending on the type. Some are used as contractile proteins which allow muscles to contract and lift the weight. Other proteins are enzymes that cause chemical reactions within the body, and some proteins can be used for energy.
On any fat loss plan, protein is absolutely essential to maintaining muscle tissue. When protein is ingested the body breaks it down into amino acids and sends it into the bloodstream. Once these amino acids are in the bloodstream they will be taken up by cells within the body.
The body prefers to use protein for storage as muscle tissue rather than to use it for energy. Proteins can be broken down and used for energy if the body needs it though. This process of synthesizing glucose is called glucogenesis. Glucogenesis as a result of protein breakdown is not preferred when trying to maintain muscle mass.
Not only does this process result in the breakdown of muscle tissue but protein also yields less energy per unit than carbohydrates or fat. So protein is best used as a substrate or building block of sorts, rather than being used for energy.
How Much Protein for Fat Loss?
When trying to lose fat, protein intake should be set as follows:
- Ectomorph – Body weight X 1.0 – 1.2 grams
- Mesomorph – Body weight X 1.1 – 1.3 grams
- Endomorph – Body weight X 1.1 – 1.4 grams
Dietary fats are essential molecules that cannot be ignored in a fat loss plan because of the important roles they play in many different bodily processes. Fat is the most energy-dense nutrient. Whereas protein and carbs both contain 4 calories per gram, fat contains 9 calories per gram. The downside to fat is that it is easily stored as adipose tissue (fat).
An important function of fat is its role in the production of testosterone. One thing must be understood about a fat loss diet: testosterone will be lower when calories are restricted. This is just a natural response. The body senses that energy is in short supply and decides that less energy can be “spent” on muscle growth.
Fat acids are a substrate for cholesterol, meaning that fatty acids must be available to create cholesterol. This is important because cholesterol is eventually converted to testosterone. If fat intake is too low there will not be enough fatty acids available for optimal testosterone productions. This will lead to an even lower level of testosterone.
When on a diet, fats do not serve as many functions as protein and carbs once a certain intake is reached. Since fats are much more calorie-dense than protein and carbs they also are the easiest choice to cut once it is time to get serious about fat loss.
The important thing is to cut fat intake when attempting to lean out, at the same time making sure daily intake does not drop so low that testosterone levels are negatively affected.
How Much Fat for Fat Loss?
Ectomorph Bodyweight and Intake
- 100-150 lbs = 45-50 grams per day
- 150-200 lbs = 50-55 grams per day
- 200 lbs. and over = 55-60 grams per day
Mesomorph Bodyweight and Intake
- 100-150 lbs = 40-45 grams per day
- 150-200 lbs = 45-50 grams per day
- 200 lbs. and over = 50-55 grams per day
Endomorph Bodyweight and Intake
- 100-150 lbs = 50-55 grams per day
- 150-200 lbs = 55-60 grams per day
- 200 lbs. and over = 60-65 grams per day
Carbohydrates (or carbs for short) are broken down into sugars within the body to produce glucose. Glucose is a primary energy source that fuels the brain, muscle tissue, and organs. Glucose is converted into glycogen and stored within muscle tissue where it is held until it is ready to be used, such as during training.
Carbohydrates are extremely important to training since they are the primary fuel source for working muscles. During weight training, the body uses ATP for energy. ATP is replenished through something called the glycolytic pathway. This pathway converts glucose into ATP. Glucose (carbohydrate) is obtained from the bloodstream or from carbs stored in the muscle tissue as glycogen.
In the absence of sufficient carbs, your body will have to convert amino acids to glucose for energy. These amino acids may normally be stored as proteins, so you could say that carbs are anti-catabolic because they are “protein sparing”.
Carbohydrates are essential to keeping a fast metabolism. Leptin and other fat-burning hormones are directly related to carbohydrate intake and body fat levels. Leptin is a fat-burning hormone that serves many functions. One of the most important functions is the control of energy expenditure. When food intake and most notably carb intake is high, leptin levels will be high. This sends signals to your body that it is in a fed state and this can cause your metabolism to remain high.
When food intake and carbs are low, leptin levels will lower. This will send signals to the body that energy intake is low and the metabolism must be lowered to compensate for the lack of incoming energy. When carbs are kept in the diet it will help keep elevated levels of leptin and other fat-burning hormones even when total calorie intake is low.
Carbohydrates also regulate muscle cell volume. You will notice that when carb intake is low your muscles will appear flat and smaller because cell volume is diminished when carbs are restricted. This is because carbs are stored in muscle tissue as glycogen. Every gram of glycogen is stored with 2.7 grams of water. This can drastically affect the size of muscle cells.
When muscle cells are depleted this tells your body that food is in short supply and it will take action by lowering fat-burning hormones. On the other hand, when carbs are kept in the diet they will cause muscle cells to have more volume which will signal a fed state and result in a higher metabolism.
Cell volume is also a primary determinant of protein synthesis for many of the same reasons. When muscle cells are full and appear to be in a “fed state” protein synthesis will be higher than if muscles are depleted and are starved for glycogen. As you see, carbohydrates must remain in the diet for both muscle retention as well as optimal fat loss.
Carbohydrates and Performance
Carbohydrates are a primary fuel source during training. Since glucose and stored glycogen are used for energy they are absolutely necessary for optimal performance. When glycogen is not available due to carb restriction the body will turn to alternative sources such as amino acids for energy. This will lead to muscle tissue breakdown, but since amino acids are not converted to energy as efficiently as carbs performance will be hindered.
This results in lifting less weight for fewer reps while you’re in the gym. If you are not able to train as heavy due to energy needs this will surely lead to even greater muscle tissue loss. So if carbs are not available it will have a double whammy effect on muscle loss. Muscle tissue will be sacrificed to meet energy demands as well as muscle losses due to decreased training demands. You work hard for your muscle so don’t let it all go to waste.
Insulin is another very important reason to keep carbohydrates in your diet. Carb consumption causes the body to release the hormone insulin. Insulin has gotten a bad reputation as of late because it inhibits fat loss by preventing fat from being used as an energy source. I know what you are thinking, “Why would I want high insulin levels if it inhibits fat loss?”. While this may sound like a bad thing the benefits of insulin far outweigh the drawbacks.
First off, insulin is one of the most anabolic/anti-catabolic hormones in the human body. Insulin binds with the muscle cell membrane that triggers an onslaught of reactions that lead to growth. From an anti-catabolic standpoint, insulin keeps the catabolic hormone cortisol at bay. One of cortisol’s functions is to break down proteins (muscle tissue) and convert them to energy. When insulin levels are high cortisol levels are lower. This is the primary anti-catabolic power of insulin.
For the best results, insulin levels must be kept in check to optimize fat loss, but must not be totally shunned because of all the benefits of muscle retention.
Ketogenic Diets (Low Carb Diets)
Low carb diets or ketogenic diets have received a lot of attention in recent years. A ketogenic diet typically involves lowering carbs to nearly zero per day and raising protein and fat levels to reach calorie needs.
With the body not able to use carbohydrates for energy it will begin producing ketones. Ketones are a by-product of fat oxidation and can be used as an energy source instead of carbs. With fewer carbs coming in insulin levels will be lower which leads to a greater rate of fat burning. As we now know, lower insulin levels are not always a good thing though.
Ketogenic diets may sound like a pretty good option at this point which is why low-carb diets have become so popular as of late. The problem is that when carbohydrates are in short supply, the body will use amino acids from the diet as well as from muscle tissue and convert them to glucose for energy.
This means a greater amount of muscle loss. We all work hard for every ounce of muscle that we put on, so while ketogenic diets will allow you to lose a greater amount of fat in a short amount of time, the end result of your physique will leave something to be desired.
How Many Carbohydrates for Fat Loss?
You have already calculated how much protein and fat you will be consuming every day. The only thing left to do is figure out how many carbs you will be eating on a daily basis. This one is simple. Whatever calories are left over after you calculate your protein and fat should be used for carbohydrates. Just take the total calories that are leftover and divide by 4. This will tell you how many carbs you should eat every day.
Food Choices for Your Diet
Now that you know exactly how much to eat every day you will now need to figure out which foods to eat. Contrary to popular belief, the type of foods you choose to eat is far less important than how much you eat every day. This does not mean that choosing foods for your diet doesn’t matter though. Some foods are still better than others for certain purposes.
Food choices do not make as much of a difference when it comes to fat loss and muscle growth goals, but it definitely helps optimize total health. We all train and diet to look good, be strong, and improve health. Do not neglect the health aspects of a clean diet since a healthy body will be much more likely to perform better during training.
When trying to build and maintain muscle mass, adequate protein intake is a must. The best choices for protein are lean animal proteins. Protein that is not derived from an animal source is that it is considered an incomplete protein. This means that it lacks certain essential amino acids necessary to build muscle. Here are some of the best choices for protein:
- Chicken Breast
- Turkey Breast
- Fish (Salmon also contains healthy fats)
- Milk (especially low fat or no fat)
- Cheese (low fat or no fat)
- Cottage Cheese
- Greek Yogurt
- Lean Pork
- Lean Beef
- Whole Eggs and Egg Whites
- Whey Protein
- Casein Protein
Fats play many different roles within the body. Some fatty acids must be provided through diet since they cannot be produced within the body. These are referred to as essential fatty acids. It is wise to choose fat sources that contain high amounts of essential fatty acids. Here are some excellent choices:
- Fish Oil
- Flax Seed Oil
- Olive Oil
- Peanut Butter (without hydrogenated oils)
- Almond Butter
- Borage Oil
- Primrose Oil
- Salmon (also a great choice for protein)
- Egg Yolks (also a great choice for protein)
One final note about choosing fat sources. Saturated fats have gotten a poor reputation but they still have a purpose within the body, and therefore should be included in the diet. Problems only arise from saturated fat intake when excessive amounts are consumed.
Trans fats, on the other hand, serve absolutely no function within the body are incredibly detrimental to health. Trans fats (also know as hydrogenated oils) should be avoided as much as possible because of their negative side effects.
Carbohydrates offer more practical food choices than both protein and fats. There are really two main types of carbs to choose from: complex carbs and sugars. Complex carbs will result in a slower and more steady rise in blood sugar, while sugars will tend to cause a more rapid spike in blood sugar.
Many people have come to believe that sugar is one of the main culprits behind weight gain but this is not necessarily true. Sugar will raise insulin levels higher than complex carbohydrates which can be useful particularly around workout time. Raising insulin levels during training will decrease muscle tissue breakdown. For health reasons, complex carbs are recommended for other times of the day. Here are some excellent food choices for carbohydrates:
- Brown Rice
- Sweet Potatoes
- Red Potatoes
- Whole Grain Cereals
- Whole Wheat Pasta
- Whole Wheat Bread
- Dextrose (a sugar great for post-training)
- Maltodextrin (a complex carb that spikes insulin, like sugar, great for post-training)
The Importance of Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are often left out of most diets. Even people that are health conscience and serious training enthusiasts tend to leave fruits and veggies out of their diets. Most people avoid fruits and vegetables because they either don’t like the taste or think that they don’t serve a purpose. This is simply not true. Both fruits and veggies are loaded with fiber and healthy phytochemicals.
Fiber will promote regularity and help keep a healthy digestive system. This may not seem like it is important to fat loss and muscle growth, but keep in mind that eating the proper amounts of protein, carbs, and fat won’t matter if they are not being digested and assimilated properly.
Phytochemicals are biologically active compounds that are found in fruits and vegetables. They give fruits and veggies their disease-fighting power. In fact, many phytochemicals are currently in clinical testing as a cure for many different diseases. Once again I know you are thinking,”what effect does this have on fat loss?”. A sickly body will not be willing to give up any of its fat reserves so health should always be a concern.
The sugar contained in fruit is called fructose. Many people have come to believe that fructose is bad for you and will promote fat gain. This is simply not true. Fructose metabolizes differently than other types of sugar but it is still a great choice for carbohydrates. Fructose will restore liver glycogen levels quickly and muscle glycogen stores slowly. Although fructose is technically a sugar it does not cause a spike in blood sugar like many other sugars. This makes fruit an excellent choice for daily consumption.
You have never heard someone say, “I used to be in great shape but then I started to eat fruit and I got fat!”. You will never hear anyone say this because fruit provides natural sugar that will not interfere with fat loss.
The Essential Eating Times (Meal Timing)
Meal timing plays a crucial role in the preservation of muscle tissue and creating peak performance. Certain times of the day require certain nutrients to make sure that amino acid requirements are being met and energy levels are being optimized during training. To get the most out of your fat loss diet 3 square meals a day will not cut it. When looking for the best possible results we can and must do better.
The Importance of Breakfast
More people skip breakfast than any other meal of the day. This is mostly due to convenience since it is too tempting to sleep in a little longer and run out of the house in the morning without eating. This is a huge mistake. After a whole night of not eating your body is starved for amino acids so protein is a must upon waking.
Although carbs are not 100% necessary at this meal, research has shown that people that eat a substantial breakfast are less hungry throughout the day. If you have a tendency to cheat on your diet I highly suggest putting a large number of your daily carbs at breakfast. Breakfast is also a good time to include some of your daily fats.
Don’t let laziness hold you back from getting results. If you are serious about fat loss and muscle growth you will prioritize breakfast and set that alarm clock a little earlier.
The pre-training meal may just be the most important meal of the day. This is the meal that will fuel your workout. For this meal, it is important to get protein and carbs which will make their way into the bloodstream around the time your training session is getting underway. The glucose in the bloodstream from the carbs will be used for energy, while the amino acids from the protein will spare stored amino acids from being catabolized during training.
Many people fail to realize that the act of working out is very catabolic. In fact, this is the most catabolic time of the day. A proper pre-training meal will help minimize the spike of catabolic hormones that is typical during training. This meal should be consumed 1.5-3 hours before your workout.
Even with a proper pre-training meal the flood of catabolic hormones during training is inevitable. Cortisol levels will remain elevated long after training has ceased if nothing is done to bring it down. The best way to stop this muscle-wasting dead in its tracks is to consume protein with high glycemic carbohydrates.
Protein is an absolute must-have after training since it is the only thing that can immediately shift your body from a catabolic state to an anabolic state. The period right after training is commonly referred to as the anabolic window because the body is ultra-sensitive to nutrients for 2 hours after training. This is prime time for muscle growth.
Some studies have shown that a protein shake consumed immediately after training can produce up to 25 times higher levels of protein synthesis when compared to a protein shake that is consumed 3 hours post-workout. This shows how important it is to get this shake in right away. Since timing is so important in the post-workout state it is important to choose a protein that is quickly digested.
Research has shown that a large rush of amino acids into the bloodstream post-training will increase protein synthesis far greater than a steady flow of amino acids. This simply means that a fast-digesting protein builds more muscle in the post-workout state than a more slowly digested protein. For this purpose, nothing beats whey protein. Whey protein is the fastest digesting protein there is, this should be your protein of choice for your post-training shake.
Carbohydrates are almost as important as protein in the post-workout shake. Carbs cause insulin release, and there is nothing better to lower cortisol levels than insulin. Insulin has an antagonist relationship with cortisol, meaning when insulin levels are high cortisol levels must be low. Also, since insulin is a storing hormone it will shuttle the amino acids from the whey protein directly into the muscle tissue.
Although insulin is anti-lipolytic, meaning it blunts fat burning, the goal post-training is to spike insulin levels for the sake of muscle growth. The best way to cause an insulin spike is by using high glycemic carbs such as dextrose, glucose, or maltodextrin. These carbs cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and will therefore cause the greatest insulin response.
Post Training Meal
After training, you need a rapidly digested protein shake to drive cortisol levels down and flip muscle growth into overdrive. Since this shake is so fast acting it will not keep protein synthesis sustained at a high level for long. To sustain protein synthesis you will need to consume a post-training meal 1-2 hours after training. This should be a whole food meal with protein and carbs while minimizing fat intake. This will maximize muscle growth by keeping protein synthesis levels high and reducing catabolism.
Another crucial time for protein is before bed. While sleeping the body releases a flood of anabolic hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone. This is yet another time when steps can be taken to preserve muscle while dieting. During the night we typically go several hours without eating. For this reason, a slowly digesting protein would be best. This will allow a longer steady flow of amino acids that will continue to feed muscle tissue for hours.
Two great options before bed are casein protein and cottage cheese. Beef would be a viable option as well. The most important thing is to ingest some sort of protein before bed. Fats are also a great way to slow the digestion of protein before bed. So adding some healthy fats to your bedtime meal is a good idea.
One area of confusion regarding nighttime eating involves the consumption of carbs. Many people are under the assumption that eating carbs at night will cause them to be stored as fat since they will not be used. This is simply not true. Carbohydrates are obviously not necessary before bed from a performance standpoint but their consumption late at night will not translate into fat gain.
The human body will process carbohydrates the same way first thing in the morning as it does right before bed. So feel free to eat some carbs before bed. It will not hinder your fat loss one bit. In fact, newer studies have even shown that consuming carbs before bed may even lead to a slightly higher metabolism, but further research is still needed on this subject.
Putting the Plan Together
Protein. Deciding how much protein to eat at each meal is simple. Take the total protein you are supposed to consume during the day and divide it evenly among the essential eating times. Let’s say, for example, you are supposed to be eating 200 grams of protein per day. Since there 5 essential eating times you just need to divide 200 by 5. This means that you will need to take in 40 grams of protein at each meal.
Carbs. Carbs cause insulin release which, as we now know, is a double-edged sword. The important thing is to consume carbs at times of the day where they will be most useful and will be less likely to inhibit fat loss. The three times of the day where carbs must be consumed are the pre-training meal, post-training shake, and post-training meal. Here is how you should distribute your carbs among these meals.
- Pre-Training Meal – 35% of daily carbs (complex carbs)
- Post-Training Shake – 20% of daily carbs (sugars or high glycemic carbs)
- Post-Training Meal – 25% of daily carbs (complex carbs)
This leaves 20% of your daily carbs that are free to be eaten whenever you prefer. If it is your preference to eat a bigger meal first thing in the morning then you can put these carbs with breakfast. If you feel you sleep better with some food in your stomach then you can eat these carbs with your bedtime meal. You could even split these carbs up into two meals. The choice is yours.
Fats. Timing of fat intake allows for a little more freedom as far as meal timing is concerned. The only times you need to keep fat intake low are for your post-training shake and your post-training meal. This ensures that the fat does not slow the digestion of the carbs and protein since the rate of digestion is very important for these meals.
The rest of the meals throughout the day are fair game. You may distribute fat intake throughout the day however you prefer. You can spread it evenly among meals or eat most of it in one meal. It is recommended that you eat 10-15 grams of fat with your bedtime meal. This will be enough to slow digestion of your nighttime protein and preserve muscle tissue throughout the night while not having any effect on fat loss.
High Carb Days
Anyone who has ever been on any kind of diet or fat loss program knows how a typical diet progresses. The weight comes off fast and easy during the first few weeks of any diet, then it starts to slow down a bit. After a few more weeks go by fat loss slows down a little more or stops altogether. The reason this happens is that the body senses that body fat levels are dropping and food is in short supply.
To avoid starvation the body will lower leptin levels and lower energy expenditure in an attempt to slow down the rate of fat loss. As stated before, leptin is a primary fat-burning hormone, low levels of it will spell disaster for any fat loss plan. There is a way to keep leptin levels elevated though. This can be accomplished through controlled high-carb days. High carb days will keep leptin levels high and the metabolism running efficiently.
How Many Carbs?
So how many carbs should you eat on your high-carb day? This is highly dependent on individual metabolism. The increase should be 55%-115% of what you consume on your typical diet. I realize that this is a pretty wide range but it can be narrowed down through body type. If you have a fast metabolism (ectomorphs) then you should stay closer to the higher end of the carb range. If you have a slow metabolism (endomorphs) then you will want to stick closer towards the low end of the carbohydrate range. Lastly, mesomorphs should stay within the mid-range on their high-carb days.
For example, let’s say we take an endomorph with a slow metabolism who normally eats 200 grams of carbs per day. A 55% increase in carbs would mean that he should eat 310 grams of carbs on his high-carb day. These carbs should be distributed throughout the day just as a regular day.
Adjusting Total Calories
Since carb intake will be higher on your high carb days this will cause total calories to be raised as well. A slight calorie increase on high carb days is not a problem but if calories go too high this can hinder fat loss. The way to prevent this from happening is to lower protein intake a little.
On high carb days, protein intake should be lowered to 0.95 grams per pound of body weight. To calculate this you must multiply your body weight by 0.95. This means if you weigh 180 lbs. then on your high-carb days, you should eat 180 grams of protein. Don’t worry about losing any muscle mass as a result of lowering protein. The higher insulin levels from the extra carbs will be more than enough to preserve muscle.
High Carb Day Frequency
High carb days need to be inserted into your fat loss plan regularly to prevent a metabolism stall, but high carb days cannot be taken too frequently without slowing progress. The frequency with which to take high-carb days will depend on how fast your metabolism is and how lean you are. Below is the guide for determining the frequency of high carbs days based on body type.
Over 10% bodyfat
- Ectomorph – once every 7-8 days
- Mesomorph – once every 8-9 days
- Endomorph – once every 9-10 days
Under 10% bodyfat (once abs are visible)
- Ectomorph – once every 4-6 days
- Mesomorph – once every 5-7 days
- Endomorph – once every 6-7 days
Some people truly love doing cardio while others absolutely despise it. No matter which side you are on the only that matters is that you have to do cardio if you are serious about getting lean. When I say cardio I am not talking about taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work. Low-intensity cardio is not going to give you the real results you are after. For serious fat loss, you need serious cardio.
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
Just as the name suggests, HIIT is performed by doing intervals of very high-intensity work alternated with periods of rest or low intensity. A great example of this is sprints. When performing sprints you will give an all-out effort for a short period followed by a rest. Then this action is repeated over and over again.
There are those that claim HIIT is less effective than low-intensity longer duration cardio. Their reasoning is that most of the calories burned during HIIT come from stored muscle glycogen (carbs) rather than coming from stored adipose tissue. This is true but this is not a bad thing. Research has absolutely proven that it does not make any difference whether stored carbohydrates or stored fats are used as the fuel source. The only thing that matters is how many total calories are burned and more total calories are expended through HIIT as opposed to low-intensity low duration cardio.
Another reason HIIT is so effective is that the post-exercise lipid (fat) utilization is far greater with HIIT than any other type of cardio. This essentially means that even after your workout is over, your metabolism will keep running like a blast furnace. This is the amazing fat-burning power of HIIT.
Another misconception about HIIT is that it will cause muscle loss. This is just not true either. This myth got started because a higher amount of calories burned during HIIT will come from stored amino acids (muscle tissue) when compared to lower intensity cardio. As long as HIIT sessions are kept to a short duration muscle loss not be a problem. In fact, muscle growth and muscle retention are increased due to the effects HIIT has on anabolic hormones. Just one 10-15 minute session of HIIT can increase testosterone and growth hormone levels for hours after the workout has ended.
Since growth hormone is a potent fat-burning hormone this will further increase fat burning in the post-exercise state. Short duration sessions simply preserve muscle tissue far better than long drawn-out cardio sessions. Compare the difference in physiques between a sprinter and a marathon runner. They are both runners but they have drastically different looks to their bodies.
The only downside to HIIT is that it cannot be performed too many times per week without having an overtraining effect. Since HIIT has many of the same effects as a weight training session it can strain the central nervous system. For this reason, you will want to keep HIIT to two 10-20 minute sessions per week. These two sessions should be performed on your non-weight training days and should be treated just like your weight training sessions as far as nutrition is concerned.
MISS (Moderate Intensity Steady State)
Since only two HIIT sessions should be performed per week another type of cardio will be needed for the rest of the cardio sessions throughout the week. MISS (Moderate Intensity Steady State) cardio is the perfect type of cardio to fill in any remaining cardio that needs to be performed during the week. This will burn a great number of calories while sacrificing very little muscle tissue and burning fat through different pathways from the HIIT.
MISS cardio should be performed at a moderate pace for a moderate duration. The type of cardio performed doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you pick one moderate intensity and keep that pace throughout the entire cardio session. If you are unable to keep that pace throughout the entire session then the pace was too intense and needs to be lowered the next time. 65%-70% of max intensity is best for creating the optimal calorie burn without reaching the point where the work has become too intense and begins to be more anaerobic than aerobic.
The simple act of performing cardio is extremely catabolic, because of this MISS sessions should be kept to moderate duration. While HIIT sessions should be 10-20 minutes, MISS sessions should be in the range of 20-35 minutes. Once sessions go beyond this duration the cumulative effect of muscle tissue breakdown starts to become a serious concern.
How Many Sessions Per Week?
It has already been established that 2 HIIT sessions of 10-20 minutes should be performed every week. These sessions should start closer to 10 minutes and increase as needed.
The amount and duration of MISS sessions added per week will be on an as-needed basis. If fat loss is not progressing fast enough with only the two HIIT sessions per week then 1-2 MISS sessions need to be added to the weekly cardio. Start with only 1-2 sessions of MISS per week but this can be increased up to 4 sessions per week. Simply increase the amount and duration of the MISS sessions as needed to keep fat loss moving along. Do not allow MISS sessions to exceed 35 minutes in duration though.
Over the years fasted cardio has become an incredibly popular method used to shed fat. Fasted cardio means waking up in the morning and performing cardio on an empty stomach before breakfast. The reason this has become a popular fat loss method is that fasted cardio increases the percentage of calories derived from fat during cardio while minimizing the amount of glycogen used for energy. As discussed earlier, it doesn’t matter if the energy comes from carbs or from fat the fat loss will be the same no matter the substrate.
Not only is fasted cardio not beneficial but it is actually detrimental to results. Fasted cardio may result in higher fat utilization but it also results in higher amino acid utilization which means more muscle tissue breakdown. As if that wasn’t enough, research has also proven that fasted cardio leads to far fewer total calories being expended per session. This means that there is simply less fat loss from fasted cardio when compared to cardio performed in a fed state. So make sure you get some food in your system before you head out to perform your cardio.
Weight training can sometimes seem like an afterthought in many fat loss plans. This is a huge mistake since weight training burns an incredible amount of calories and raises the metabolism for hours after training. Many people mistakenly believe that the best way to lose fat is to stop lifting weights and focus on cardio. This will cause you to lose weight but most of it will not be fat.
On any fat loss plan, the distinction must be made that the goal is not just weight loss but fat loss. Stopping all weight training will set you up to burn fewer calories, have a lower metabolism, and have less muscle tissue. This is not the ideal recipe for a good-looking body.
Importance of Muscle for Fat Loss
On any fat loss plan, it is important to keep and build as much muscle tissue as possible. There are many people that think that lifting weights will make them look too “bulky”. For a natural lifter, this is very uncommon. Often when someone looks bulky it is too much fat that is the culprit, not too much muscle.
Muscle tissue is a biologically active tissue, this means that it needs and uses calories just to continue being. Some studies have shown that 1 pound of muscle can burn up to 50 calories per day by simply existing. This means that if you gain 10 lbs of muscle you can eat 500 more calories per day and still lose fat. This is just one of many reasons why it is so important to preserve muscle tissue while cutting fat.
Weight Training for Fat Loss
Now that it has been established that weight training is essential for optimal fat loss, we need to make sure we are doing it right. Somehow it is become considered “common knowledge” that when trying to burn fat you must lift with high reps and lighter weight. This is yet another myth that is simply not true.
Lifting heavy weights is just as important when trying to preserve muscle mass as it is when trying to gain muscle mass. Think of it this way, the best way to put on muscle is also the best way to keep it. Lightening up the weights will do nothing but lower your metabolism and sacrifice Muscle & Strength.
The best approach to training is to focus on heavy compound movements and training EVERY body part 1-2 times per week. Neglecting any part of your body is just a missed opportunity for extra calories to be burned, both during training and in the post-exercise state.
A well-balanced weight training routine should include both heavy weights for low reps and light weights for high reps. Both methods build muscle but through different pathways so for this reason it is important to include both styles of training into your routine.
Walk into any gym and you will no doubt see dozens of people doing endless sets and reps of various abdominal exercises. If you really look you will probably notice that none of them have visible abs. The reason for this is because NO AMOUNT OF AB TRAINING WILL ALLOW YOU TO SEE YOUR ABS!
Ab training does not burn fat around the midsection. Ab training will only train the abdominal muscles that are underneath the layer of fat that covers them. The only way to see these muscles is to lose the layer of fat that covers them through proper diet, cardio, and weight training.
Ab training will create a muscular abdominal area that will make your midsection much more attractive once the fat that covers them is gone. Treat abs just like every muscle group and train them 1-2 times per week. Doing this along with proper diet and cardio will put you on the road toward getting that coveted six-pack.
Whey protein is best known for its ability to increase muscle growth and recovery which becomes vitally important on any fat loss plan. Many of the benefits of whey are due to its fast digestion rate and high concentration of the amino acid leucine. It is important to remember that anything that is used to build muscle will also maintain muscle while dieting.
While the muscle growth benefits of whey protein are well known, the fat loss applications of whey protein are not known to many people. Studies have shown that subjects lose more fat and retain more muscle while consuming whey protein when compared to subjects with an equal calorie intake but do not consume whey in their diet. Whey protein improves metabolic function and boosts insulin sensitivity.
All of these benefits make whey protein a must while dieting. Whey should be taken immediately after training because of its fast digestion. Whey may also be used at other times of the day to meet protein needs at meals.
EFAs stand for Essential Fatty Acids. Just as the name implies EFAs are essential to the human body because play a role in many different biological processes. Essential fatty acids differ from others fats in that they cannot be synthesized within the human body. This means that EFAs must be consumed through the diet. If not enough EFAs are consumed the body will sense that it does not have the nutrients that it needs to function properly. As a result, it will essentially “hold on to” body fat. This is just one of the reasons EFAs are so important though.
EFA’s have a wide range of applications including:
- Decreasing body fat mass
- Increasing amino acid uptake
- Reducing cholesterol and blood pressure
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Increase insulin sensitivity
- Decreases inflammation
- Improving joint health
- Necessary for proper functioning of the brain
- Repair damaged cell membranes
- Increases cell membrane ability to transport nutrients into and out
- Serve as substrate for signaling molecules (Eicosanoids)
These applications go far beyond, as well as include, fat loss. Some of these benefits may seem like they are of little or no consequence to your fat loss efforts, but it is important to note that a body that is functioning properly will also have a metabolism that is running at full capacity.
A great way to get EFA’s is by supplementing with Fish Oil and Flax Seed Oil. 5-10 grams per day will meet bodily requirements.
Creatine phosphate is stored within muscle tissue and is a source of stored energy used during short bouts of high-intensity exercise. The creatine phosphate stored in your muscle tissue assists your body’s main energy source used during the first few seconds of performing any type of exercise, called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. Your body uses ATP for energy during the first five seconds of any exercise, such as lifting a weight, and stored creatine phosphate is then oxidized to produce an additional five to eight seconds of energy. This entire process lasts for about 15 seconds. Creatine supplements help increase the amount of creatine phosphate stored in your muscle tissue allowing you to lift more weight for more reps.
Creatine may be the most scientifically proven supplement on the market. It has been proven to lead to significant muscle growth over time. Although creatine doesn’t directly increase fat utilization within the body it will lead to a higher metabolism indirectly. Creatine intake boosts muscle growth and retention. That extra muscle tissue will, in turn, create a higher metabolic rate. This is why creatine supplementation is a good choice for any fat loss plan.
To get the most out of your creatine simply take 5-10 grams on training days.
Using Caffeine Properly
Caffeine and products that contain caffeine are great fat-burning tools. This is simply because of caffeine’s stimulant effect. This stimulant effect increases thermogenesis, which is the production of heat by the body. This leads to a higher resting metabolic rate and higher total calorie usage throughout the day.
Caffeine and other stimulants do have a downside though. Since stimulants act upon the central nervous system if used too often or for too long of a time period they can begin to cause overtraining effects. These effects would be much the same as if you were working out too long and too often. This can lead to decreased energy, muscle loss, and ultimately, a lowered metabolism since your body will be trying to preserve energy.
Caffeine also has a dramatic effect on the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands regulate hormone levels within the body. Most notably of these hormones are the “fight or flight” hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. Caffeine causes a release of these hormones which will give a short-term energy burst. The problem is when there is chronic stimulation of the adrenal glands. This will lead to adrenal burnout which can negatively affect energy levels, metabolism, and digestion.
Although caffeine is a great tool it is best to be used in moderation. Suggested use is to have 100-200 mg. of caffeine 1-2 times per day for 1-2 weeks followed by 1-2 weeks completely off all products and foods containing caffeine. One great way to ingest caffeine before training is through the use of a pre-training supplement. These supplements often include a stimulant to increase metabolism and enhance energy. Then they are often coupled with other ingredients that are designed to increase muscle growth. Just be sure you don’t consume additional caffeine when taking a pre-training product.
Green Tea is an excellent fat loss supplement and as an added bonus, it contains potent polyphenol antioxidants. The power of green tea comes from the polyphenols contained within. The most potent metabolism booster of these is called epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG for short. This polyphenol has the ability to increase thermogenesis much like caffeine but without the stimulant effect or taxing of the nervous system.
Since the fat-burning power of green tea is derived from the EGCG it is best to take a green tea extract product. Drinking green tea will produce minimal effects since it is rather low in EGCG, only containing around 6%-10%. Some extracts can contain 30%-50% so it is wise to look for a green tea product with the highest concentration of EGCG.
BCAAs Not Just for Muscle Growth
The 3 branched-chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. It has long been known that these three amino acids are great for preventing muscle tissue breakdown and building new muscle tissue. What most people do not know is that BCAA supplementation can increase fatty acid utilization for energy by decreasing protein breakdown for energy use.
BCAA’s work with a double-sided attack on fat loss. First by increasing muscle growth which will eventually lead to increased metabolism, secondly by increasing fat utilization within the body. This makes BCAA’s one of the most effective supplements on the market. To get the most benefit out of your BCAA supplementation it is best to consume 8-12 grams during training and another 10-20 grams throughout the day in between meals. This will optimize both muscle retention and fat loss.
As you lose weight you may come to a point where your weight loss will stall. If this happens just recalculate your diet plan with your new body weight. As you progress you will lose weight and your numbers will need to be adjusted for your new lean self.
Losing fat means something different to everyone. Some are just trying to lose a few pounds, some want to get a six-pack, and some want to get absolutely shredded. The goals may be different but the principles that will achieve these results remain the same. Follow this guide and your future will be filled with smaller belts, better abs, and many more excuses to take your shirt off in public.