When most people think about fat loss, they automatically go to cardio. And in fact, not doing strength training is one of the things that can hold you back from fat loss.
I generally recommend strength training from two to five times per week. This can be weight training where you’re actually lifting heavier loads or dumbbell training, and it can also be body weight training as well. Although you have to be a bit more careful there so that you can still achieve progressive overload and start pushing your muscles for further growth.
Benefits Of Weight Training
Weight training helps you to preserve and build muscle mass. And that’s actually highly effective for fat loss, particularly in the long term.
While you’re not burning tons of calories when you’re doing most weight training workouts, although maybe circuit training workouts are a bit of an exception, you’re gonna be burning more calories at the time. What really matters is that you’re managing to put on more muscle mass, which makes your body slightly. And I do emphasize slightly more metabolically active. Often people overestimate the amount of calories that you are burning off when you add muscle.
It isn’t really that much more. However, if you are simultaneously losing fat as well, so you’ve lost 30 pounds.
I mean, if you’ve done that really great job, because that’s awesome!
That means that instead of carrying 30 pounds of extra fat, which is an inactive tissue, now you’ve got extra muscle to move a slightly lighter body and think about how much energy that’s going to give you.
Anyone that I’ve worked with that has lost a significant amount of weight. What they talk about the most is how much energy they have, how much easier it is to move around. And the more you move around, the more calories that you burn off. I remember the difference even being 30 pounds heavier than I am now, I just felt more sluggish.
How Putting On Muscle Helps Fat Loss
It’s not just that your body is a little bit more metabolically active.
Realistically, if you put on 10 pounds of muscle mass, you may be burning off an extra 50 calories.
So that’s not really a lot in the grand scheme of things. But when you put that together with perhaps increased insulin sensitivity (so you respond better to carbs). You’re carrying less fat. You’ve got more active tissue and you put that all together. FAT LOSS!
Benefits Of Added Lean Mass
There’s evidence that having more lean mass reduces your cardio metabolic risk and it also improves your mobility in terms of lifestyle intervention, strength training is one of the most effective things.
And I often get asked if someone is obese, is it better to start with cardio first and then move on to strength training?
I say, no. I think you should start strength training right from the beginning.
What Type Of Strength Training Can Help Beginners With Fat Loss?
And it doesn’t need to be anything serious. So even if it’s simple, single joint exercises, lateral raises basic step up a half squat, it’s perfectly fine to start like that. It doesn’t need to be a full deadlift.
When I say strength training, it really just means focusing on getting stronger. So if right now you’re very sedentary then just basic exercises can be a great start.
Don’t be intimidated by strength training or weight training. It has so many benefits for fat loss.
Fat Loss Benefits From Protein
Getting enough protein is also really important.
Protein helps you build and maintain the muscle that you’re building with the strength training.
And it’s been shown that protein can help you maintain your muscle mass when you’re in a caloric deficit, because there is the danger as you’re losing weight, that you’re also going to lose muscle mass. That’s definitely not something that we want for long term benefits.
You wanna maintain as much of your muscle mass as possible while losing fat and protein helps you do that.
Protein is the most thermogenic nutrient. So your body takes the most calories in order to burn that protein off.
It also helps reduce your appetite and increase your feeling of fullness with a meal.
Managing Your Appetite With Protein For Fat Loss
This is super key because if you’re looking to lose fat to lose weight, then controlling your appetite, being able to manage it is really what’s going to make the biggest difference. There’s only so long you can say, “I’m not gonna eat it. I’m not gonna eat it. I’m not gonna eat it.” Because eventually your appetite takes over and you eat it.
So protein is gonna play a big part in being able to manage your appetite. That makes it easier for you to keep your calories lower naturally. So you’re not starving yourself. You’re simply experiencing a decrease in your appetite. And as a result, you naturally eat less.
How Protein Made A Difference For Me
Protein really turned things around for me. After over a decade of yo-yo dieting, the same 15 pounds up and down, sometimes a little higher.
It was basically about how long I could be disciplined and try to eat just clean foods and not enjoy any foods that I like. When my self discipline ran out, then I would binge and head to the other side.
Having more protein in my diet and having a focus of protein with every meal that helped me to manage my appetite and break some of those habits. I had particularly late night eating and binging on foods that are calorically dense, things like ice cream and chocolate.
My Lifelong Love Of Carbs
And just so you know, I do eat those things now, but I’m able to have smaller portion sizes. Where before, if there was a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, I ate the whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s. And sometimes went and bought a second pint of Ben and Jerry’s and if there was chocolate, I would have to have the entire family size bar.
I’ve always been a complete carb junkie, whether it’s the healthier stuff like the sweet potatoes and potatoes. I’ve always loved those. But also the other hyper palatable, delicious foods like the aforementioned chocolate and ice cream.
Focusing on protein really changed the way that I ate and it made it much more satisfying so that I didn’t feel like I needed so many treats all the time. And as I said, my appetite decreased as well.
I’ve always considered myself to have a very healthy appetite. I could eat an entire loaf of crusty Irish bread in one sitting with a whole bunch of olive oil. That’s gotta be more than a thousand calories when I’ve started to focus on having protein with each meal and eating protein first in that meal. So that sometimes I didn’t have as much appetite for carbs at the end, I really saw a difference.
My Protein Sources And Recommendations For Fat Loss
My primary protein sources are chicken, turkey, eggs, and dairy sources like yogurt and higher protein milk.
I usually recommend 0.7 to one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.
If you’re more than 20 pounds over your target weight. So if you have at least 20 pounds to lose, I generally recommend going with your target weight as your protein goal. And if you’re not much of a protein person (I wasn’t at first!) you can stay on the lower side of that. That’s 0.7 or even 0.6. It’s not a strict number.
Protein And Appetite Management
The idea is just to get in protein regularly with most meals. And that helps you manage your appetite and naturally reduce your calories that leads to fat loss.
Walk More For Fat Loss
My next tip is to walk more daily movement is really important, not just for the fat burn that you get and you will get some, although the calories that you’re burning off are not that high, I think it really pays off and that you just feel more energetic, more likely to make healthier choices.
You start to see yourself as that healthier person who moves around a lot. And that person is less likely to be lying on the couch, stuffing themselves with food mindlessly all the time.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis And It’s Impact On Fat Loss
And when we look at our total daily energy expenditure. So that’s the amount of calories that you burn in a day.
Something called neat non-exercise activity thermogenesis is 10 to 15% of that. So that includes activities like shopping or cleaning or those regular short walks.
There’s also difference whether you’re sitting or standing. So try to stand more often as well for a little bit of extra calorie burn.
For me, I found that when I make an effort to walk more, to get up from my desk, when I’m working from home, then I just feel better. I’m more energetic, more likely to kind of keep moving throughout the day. And I don’t feel as stiff because we’re not really designed to stare at computer screens or at phones hours and hours at a day, but a lot of us have to.
So it’s just one way of kind of getting around that sort of sedentary society that we’re in. Just try to move a little bit more. I actually set up a timer. So every 25 minutes, I at least get up and go to the bathroom or have a cup of tea or some water or something like that. Regular movement can add up over the course of the day.
Get More Sleep For More Fat Loss
Another way to get more fat loss is to get more sleep. I cannot over emphasize the importance of sleep. It really makes such a difference for everything in your life. Really your ability to make choices when it comes to food. So when I’m not sleeping well, I’m much less likely to make the right choices. I will get to the end of the day and I’ll be like, um, okay, I can’t be bothered to make this. Maybe I’m gonna order this or I’m gonna lie here a little bit longer and let’s have another treat.
And that happens to most people. We get tired and we don’t wanna do anything, but sit around and eat.
How Not Sleeping Can Affect Your Life
So getting enough sleep definitely affects your energy levels, your mood.
If you’re not in the best mood, you may also be turning to food. Most of us do that. It also affects your immune system, your digestion and your willingness to exercise or prepare healthy meals. So a lot of things that can affect your fat loss.
Hormonal Impact Of Not Sleeping Enough
There are also hormonal impact. Not sleeping enough can also increase your grin levels and decrease your leptin levels. So grin is the thing that turns you into a gremlin. So it makes you eat a lot, not necessarily even after midnight. And then leptin is what contributes to that feeling that you’re full and you’re gonna stop eating. So you’re gonna get an increase in grin and you’re gonna get a decrease in leptin.
And that’s obviously not a good thing.
What If You Can’t Get Enough Sleep?
Now I recognize that there are times when you won’t be able to get good, consistent sleep.
You may be a shift worker or have young children.
I certainly remember those first two to three years of my son’s life, where he was waking up and I definitely was not getting good, consistent sleep. And there’s really not a lot you can do about that. I’m assuming you wanna keep your kids despite them causing this problem with your sleep. But the idea is to just get as much sleep as you possibly can, try to go to bed earlier. If it’s possible, it’s not impossible to lose fat. If you’re not sleeping enough, I still manage to maintain my weight while waking up two or three times a night and never getting consistent sleep. So there are other things that come into it as well.
I don’t want you to panic if for some reason you’re not getting consistent sleep, but if you have some control over it, it can definitely make an impact.
Reduce Alcohol And Highly Processed Foods
Another thing you can do to increase fat loss is to reduce alcohol and processed foods. Now I wanna be very careful here and say, it doesn’t mean you need to eliminate alcohol or eliminate processed foods.
It all depends on how much you’re consuming and what impact it has on you. I even created a video about how you can drink alcohol and still lose fat. So it is possible, but you do want to limit your intake. Part of it is just how much you’re consuming.
How Alcohol Could Be Impacting Your Fat Loss
So how many calories in alcohol are you taking in over the course of the week? Is it making it hard for you to stay in a calorie deficit and lose fat? The other impact of alcohol comes from when you drink a little bit too much alcohol, perhaps you’re eating a bit late at night while you’re still drinking the alcohol or you’re eating more the next day.
And also the next day, you might not be feeling all that chipper. You might not move around as much. You’re not burning off as many calories. So you’re losing some calorie expenditure and you might be increasing some calories as well.
If you take alcohol out of that equation, or you only have smaller amounts and less frequently, then you can definitely get more fat loss.
Alcohol can also interfere with your sleep. And we’ve just talked about how that can be a problem.
How Highly Processed Food Makes Fat Loss Harder
When it comes to processed food, I’m very careful to say or reduce your processed food rather than eliminating it completely. It’s almost impossible to have completely unprocessed food. Anyway, most of us are not eating just whole fruits and vegetables all the time. And that’s not really something to aim for. There is balance in terms of protein, fats and carbs, and it’s okay to include processed foods, even on a regular basis in smaller quantities or in larger quantities, but not that frequently.
So it’s kind of up to you how you wanna work. That I tend to do smaller quantities of things that I really enjoy. So chocolate and ice cream, and I have those fairly regularly, most days, but smaller amounts than perhaps I would’ve in the past.
The Thermic Effect Of Food
When we talk about daily calorie consumption, there’s something called the thermic effect of food. And that’s the calorie burn that you get from your body digesting, the food that you take in.
Protein is higher in TEF, carbohydrates, less, and then fat, almost not at all.
Highly Processed Foods And Calorie Density
Processed food compared to whole foods that are very fibrous is lower in TEF as well. So it’s not a huge effect, but that can also contribute. What’s most important about processed foods and these highly delicious hyperpalatable foods they’re called is that they’re very calorie dense. So it’s very easy to consume a large quantity of calories at a sitting.
Iff you try to consume 500 calories in apples or 500 calories in broccoli, you’re gonna have a really hard time. But that tub of ice cream is more than 500 calories.
And believe me, I can eat that all!
So while I don’t believe in the term “clean eating”. And I don’t think you should judge food as good or bad. Highly processed refined foods that are very calorie dense should make up a smaller part of your diet than the whole foods that are going to give you more micronutrients and have a better macronutrient spread. So higher amounts of protein, a balanced amount of fat and some carbs as well.