Fat loss is one of those things that’s relatively simple…it’s just not easy to do.
If you do the right amount and type of regular exercise and eat the right quantity and quality of food, you’ll lose fat.
No problem, right?
But how does it actually work in practice?
You may have a perfectly good plan and it gets messed up because you’re really busy at work and can’t get to the gym.
Maybe you end up eating on-the-go more than you expected and you don’t know how to make the right choices.
Life doesn’t go according to plan and your fat loss might not happen as quickly as you want it to.
After years of yo-yo dieting, I’ve finally gotten to the point when I’m lean year-round, without depriving myself or feeling like it’s all “soooo hard”.
I eat what I choose to eat.
I exercise when I choose to exercise.
After a lot of trial and error, I’ve come to a comfortable place where I manage my leanness without too much effort.
How do I do that?
My fat loss principles aren’t complicated, and they’re the guidelines I try to get my Online Coaching clients to understand first.
I made a fun little infographic to break them down for you:
Let’s look at my fat loss principles one at a time:
1) Eat Protein With Each Meal
Protein makes it easier to manage your appetite, provides support for muscle repair and growth, and helps make important enzymes and hormones in your body. If you eat protein with each meal, it’s easier to meet your protein goal for the day. I normally recommend 0.8-1.0g of protein per lb of body weight per day (slight modifications should be made for those people who are very overweight or obese).
If you’re a 170 pound person, that means 136-170 grams of protein per day.
If you’re eating four times a day, that’s about 35 grams of protein per meal/snack.
If you eat five times a day, you would be about 28 grams of protein each time you have a meal/snack.
2) Train For Muscle And Strength
Build muscle and you’ll be more likely to have the shape you want. Muscle is slightly more metabolically-active than fat, so you’ll burn more calories.
As you get stronger, you’ll also build bone density for a healthy, mobile, active long life.
Building and maintaining muscle is especially important for those of us over 35, when you won’t be able to hold onto it quite so easily.
3) Be Active
Walk a lot.
Run around and play tag with your kids.
Cycle instead of drive when the weather’s nice.
I’m also a fan of roller blading and I often replace my gym sessions with a blading session.
Keeping yourself active means that you’re burning more calories throughout the day, you’re less likely to have aches and pains from sitting around, and you’ll keep your energy up.
And now for the 3 things you should avoid:
1) Don’t Ban Your Favourite Foods
I have frequently banned chocolate from my diet for weeks, even though I LOVE it.
It doesn’t last, and saying, “I’ll never had that again!” to a food you love isn’t realistic.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not an ideal way to eat long-term.
Keep your favourite foods in your nutrition plan…just adjust the quantity and frequency to fall in line with your goals.
2) Don’t Fall For Fitness Trends.
Trends for fitness and nutrition come and go.
The Keto Diet.
Spinning…then Soul Cycle.
Some of those trends might have some validity for some people at some time, but they’re not the long-term solution for everyone.
The most successful nutrition plan is the one you can stick to.
Ditto for exercise.
Weight training will give you ongoing benefits and it works progressively, so you get stronger and more coordinated and can move up to more challenging exercises.
Whatever other exercise you do, make sure that strength training forms the backbone of your fitness routine.
3) Don’t Be A Slave To Cardio.
I was recently quoted in a Sparkpeople article about why running isn’t the best choice for weight loss.
And I stay lean year-round with no running and almost no traditional “cardio”.
That means you won’t see me logging hours on the treadmill or stairmaster or elliptical.
It’s not necessary or productive to spend tons of time on cardio machines in the gym, especially if you hate it.
After a while, your body adapts to the activity and you won’t be burning as many calories as you were before.
And the repetitive and joint-pounding movement of running can cause injuries and imbalances that keep you from training consistently.
Full disclosure: I walk as much as I can, run around with my 4-year-old son (sometimes playing tag with him and his friends), and cycle and rollerblade in the summer.
Physical activity is important and you want to move as much as you can.
Keeping the focus on weight training when you’re in the gym is much more likely to get you the results you want.
Those fat loss principles are a good start, but there are a couple of other things I think make a big difference to fat loss success: sleep and stress management.
As all parents of young children know, sleep can impact every aspect of your life.
Your mood sucks, you don’t feel like eating well or exercising.
You don’t care (at least in that moment) that you finished an entire bag of chips or a tub of ice cream.
The situation is similar with stress.
It kills your motivation to eat well and can lead to food binges (I’ve been there more times than I care to count!).
Let’s also not forget that sleep and stress impact each other.
When you’re stressed you don’t sleep well, which leads to more stress.
So get more sleep and find ways of coping with stress (exercise is a great start!).
With those fat loss principles in place you’ll be heading in the right direction to your goals.