Fat loss is one of the major aims of any bodybuilder. Once muscle size has been established and weak points are addressed, the logical conclusion, if one wants to demonstrate their physique in its best light, is to lose as much body-fat as humanly possible.
Body-fat is unsightly and obscures muscle definition, thus destroying any possibility of succeeding on the bodybuilding stage. However, in order to build muscle in the first place, the gaining of a certain percentage of body-fat is often advised.
In fact, many bodybuilders have an off-season whereby they focus on gaining size, often at the expense of cuts. However, it is probably not advisable to gain to much body-fat, as the pre-contest refining process will be harder and longer and one will not look at their best in the off-season, thus negating their marketability if they seek to promote themselves at this time.
Therefore, year round fat loss (to a greater or lesser degree depending on which stage the athlete is at) is probably desirable if one wants to succeed in bodybuilding over the longer term.
Losing body-fat can often be exceedingly hard and will frustrate many into giving up completely. This doesn't need to be the case. Through following sensible guidelines, fat can be lost, and fat loss can be maintained without having to resort to extreme measures such as starvation diets and training mythology.
This article will explore the myths surrounding fat-loss and provided the sensible guidelines needed to achieve ones weight reduction objectives.
Why Stay In Shape Year Round?
Although gaining some fat is advantageous in that it may allow the lifter to power through heavier workouts, and gain more muscle as a result, it is probably not wise to pile on too much.
Staying in shape on a continual basis (at least within striking distance of contest shape) will not only enhance the look of ones physique but will allow for a greater number of promotional opportunities (selling oneself as a personal trainer or promoting a fitness product for example).
A personal trainer with 25% body-fat and a 40-inch waistline is probably not a terribly convincing promulgator of the merits of weight-loss for health or the latest muscle-building supplement.
A lower percentage of body-fat will also make for an easier transition from off-season to pre-contest. For example, losing a large amount of weight initially takes quite some time, so it makes sense to maintain a reasonable body-fat percentage (10% for example) so one can focus on muscle building in the months leading up to a contest, rather than overburdening themselves with the stresses associated with rapid weight loss.
If one is able to maintain a lower body-fat percentage, they can conceivably compete in more contests, and if they are a professional, can impress any promoter wanting an 'in shape' guest poser.
There are certain myths which serve to confuse the fat-loss aspirant. These myths have been debunked over the years, but still have a following, particularly among beginning bodybuilders.
Use High Repetitions To Burn Fat
Research has shown that moderate repetitions (8-12), rather than higher repetitions (20-25) are more effective in terms of fat-loss. To burn fat it requires, on average, 30-40 minutes of continuous aerobic exercise. Tacking on an extra 10 or so repetitions, and thus increasing the set from 30-seconds to 40 seconds will, on this basis, obviously not enhance the fat-burning process.
On the other hand, training with heavy weights and lower reps will build a larger degree of muscle mass and, as a result, stimulate the metabolism and burn more fat over the long term as muscle is a metabolically active tissue.
Higher reps will help during the refining stage (before a contest) but will do very little to actually build the muscle necessary to transform ones body into a fat-burning machine.
Spot reduction has been shown to be a fallacy as fat-loss from certain areas of the body is largely dependant on ones genetic predisposition.
Indeed, genetics dictate exactly where fat is lost and how much will be lost over a certain period of time. In general it seems the last area to lose fat is the first area to gain it. Men tend to store fat on the abdominal region whereas women accumulate it around the hips and thighs.
Training either of these areas exclusively (attempting to spot reduce) in the hope of losing fat will simply not work. Fat should instead be lost evenly. Training every body-part with equal intensity coupled with aerobic training remains the most effective means of losing fat.
Starving oneself over a short period of time will not enhance fat-burning. Depriving the body of calories will, in fact, have the opposite effect: muscle degradation and fat-gain.
Smaller servings of quality calories (clean food such as chicken, rice, turkey and vegetables) frequently, will more effectively boost the metabolism and contribute to muscle gain (which will also boost the metabolism). Crash diets will lead to frustration and curtail any chance of fat-loss.
The Sensible Approach
Rather than subject oneself to any of the above erroneous practices it would be much wiser to concentrate on a sensible, balanced, approach. By keeping body-fat to a manageable level and losing excess weight over the long-term, greater, more lasting, gains can be made. Employ the following principals for successful fat-loss.
Eat Smaller, Frequently Spaced, Meals
Protein has a positive affect on the metabolism while fat and carbohydrates can impede weight loss if they are eaten in larger amounts. Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice and kumara (sweet potato) are to be chosen in favour of those higher on the glycemic index (sugary foods and carrots for example).
Be sure to limit carbohydrates as the day progresses as they may converted into fat if unused. Six nutritionally dense meals per day, spaced every 2-3 hours, should be the aim. Eating smaller meals on a frequent basis will also ensure one will not go hungry, thus preventing a potential binge.
Train With Low-Intensity Longer-Duration Aerobics 3-4 Times-Per-Week
Low intensity aerobic training (brisk walking for example) directly burns body-fat and stimulates the metabolism to assist weight loss during inactivity.
Aerobic training in the morning seems to work best as this tends to target body-fat directly, due to low carbohydrate stores at that time of the day.
Train With Weights
Weight training will build muscle and this will, in turn, indirectly contribute to fat loss. The body will use energy in the form of fat to maintain muscle mass, given the fact that muscle tissue is highly metabolically active.
In theory, the greater the degree of muscle mass one has, the higher their metabolism will be and the easier it will be to lose fat.
Set Realistic, Short Term, Fat-Loss Goals
It is very important to plan for fat-loss. Failure to do so will result in inferior results. One should buy their groceries, set their training schedule and conduct their life with the goal of fat-loss in mind.
Important variables to remember are the achievability and feasibility of the goal. For example, someone a 100-pounds overweight would not plan to lose this weight in several weeks. It would be more effective to plan over the long-term and make steady improvements.
Going hand in hand with goal-setting is progress charting.
As smaller goals are reached, a detailed description of exactly what has been achieved is noted. Body-fat tests (there are a variety of these tests with caliper testing being most common) weighing and subjective appraisals (looking in the mirror basically) will serve to both inspire one to continue with their efforts and ensure one is on track to achieving their goals.
Excess body-fat (we do need a certain amount of fat) is unnecessary, and unsightly. People in general, and bodybuilders in particular, aspire to lose fat for a variety of reasons.
The general population aim to lose fat primarily for health reasons, while bodybuilders are concerned mainly with aesthetics - although there is some crossover.
Losing fat remains one of the most worthwhile, and often hardest, things to do, but upon achieving weight loss there is no better feeling. The easiest way to lose fat is to focus on the what has proven to have worked, while avoiding senseless myths. This article has shed light on the most effective ways to do this.