The human body is a remarkably adaptable machine. Even if years and years of neglect have allowed pound after pound of fat to fill out your frame, you can rid yourself of that lard at a much faster rate than you brought it on board. In that sense, time is your side!
Take these nine easy-to-implement tips to heart, and progress will come in a hurry!
1 Stay off the scale
That you can gain muscle and lose fat is one of the reasons I stress to people not to follow the scale. Body composition and how you look in the mirror matters more than what the scale says.
You could train hard and eat right and build five pounds of muscle and lose five pounds of fat, and what will the scale say? That you still weigh the same.
Frustrating, even though you've made good progress. Use the scale as a guide, but how you look in the mirror, how you feel, and how your clothes fit are much better indicators of your progress.
2 Reduce your calories gradually
If you're looking to lose fat, don't make huge calorie cuts. This will kick your body into starvation mode, reducing your metabolism and making it more difficult to burn off the fat.
To prevent this metabolic slowdown and allow your body to burn fat at an optimal rate, make smaller calorie reductions every week or two.
3 Vary your caloric intake
This is another way to outsmart your body and continue to lose body fat without lowering your metabolism.
By varying your caloric intake every few days instead of eating the exact same amount of calories every day, keep the starvation mechanism in check and continue to burn fat.
Says Jim Stoppani, Ph.D:
"Although in today's society food tends to be accessible and abundant, our bodies are designed to store as much energy as possible to prepare for times of scarcity. One way the body does this is by adjusting its metabolic rate based on calorie intake.
If you stick with the same calories every single day while dieting, your body will adjust by lowering metabolic rate to prevent you from burning off too much body fat. It's all about hormones.
When leptin levels are high, your metabolic rate stays high; when leptin levels drop, so does your metabolic rate.
When calories are low and steady, leptin levels fall and so does metabolic rate. Eating higher calories on some days and lower calories on others helps to keep leptin levels up."
4 Train with weights
Resistance training helps with fat loss in a number of ways. Weight training itself burns calories. Studies also show that, unlike aerobic exercise, weight training increases the calories you burn at rest for up to 39 hours after your workout.
Plus, the more muscle your body has, the more calories you burn each day.
Even if your goal is solely to lose body fat, you need to train with weights. This will help prevent any of the weight you lose from being muscle.
Were that to happen, your metabolism would slow, stalling your fat-loss efforts and turning you into a skinny-fat person.
Yes, even someone with anorexia can have a high body fat percentage.
5 Do high-intensity intervals (HIIT)
This means alternating a brief period of high-intensity exercise with brief rest periods.
The result: better results in less time.
One of my favorite interval methods is jumping rope. You may need to practice a bit on this one. After a brief warmup, I'll jump rope as fast as I can for 10-20 seconds, followed by a half a minute at a slower cadence.
Always warm up before intervals, by the way. If you're not in the best shape, start with cardio of low or moderate intensity. You might also want to check with your doctor.
6 Eat More Fat
Consuming enough of the good fats will help you lose fat, build muscle, and recover faster from your workouts. Healthy fats also have myriad health benefits, including being good for your heart.
So which fats are "good" fats? The polyunsaturated ones (especially omega-3s), such as those from fish and nuts, and the monounsaturated kind, such as those from peanut butter, olive oil, egg yolks, and fish oil.
7 Cut carbs
The attention focused on low-carb diets has divided many people into "pro" and "anti" low-carb camps. Whichever side you're on, the bottom line is that reducing your carb intake—especially sugar and starches—when trying to lose fat will help.
Those carbs you do consume should come from sources such as oatmeal and vegetables.
The timing of your carb intake also affects fat-burning. "I recommend tapering down carbohydrates by 3 p.m.," says Team Bodybuilding.com member Ashley Johns, also known by the BodySpace handle Hottie-I-Am. "Consume most of your carbs in the morning and around your workouts."
8 Increase your protein
Increasing protein intake will increase your metabolism and help to maintain your muscle mass, all of which helps with fat-burning. In fact, your body burns more calories when you eat protein than when you digest either fats or carbs.
This may explain why the fat-burning effects of eating more protein were confirmed in a study published in the American Journal of Physiology. One group was fed a high-protein diet (just over 1 gram per pound of body weight per day) while the second group consumed an amount closer to the lower recommendation of the RDA (recommended dietary allowance). The group eating the higher-protein diet burned the most fat.
"Numerous current studies show that dieters who follow high-protein/low-carb strategies—even plans with higher fat intake—lose more fat and maintain or gain more muscle mass than dieters who rely on higher-carb diets." - Jim Stoppani
Yes, you read that right, Grasshopper: Many dieters actually gained muscle mass without working out, simply by eating a high-protein diet.
This will ensure that you supply your body with the nutrients necessary to build muscle and burn fat.
Bonus: Your resting metabolic rate increases. It will also prevent your body from kicking into "starvation" mode, which can happen when too much time elapses between meals.
If this happens, your body will start burning muscle for energy and increasing your body-fat stores, as well as slowing down your metabolism. This is the exact opposite of what you want to happen.
Don't be the kind of person who complains about your situation but never does anything to improve it. Don't become "happy" with the status quo of being miserable. Now use this knowledge to take action!