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If you have missed my previous two articles Beginner Nutrition and Fine Tuning You Physique: Beyond Beginner Nutrition then I suggest that you go back and read them so that you are up to speed. In this article we are going to build on the information from those two articles to hopefully allow you to achieve your ideal physique.
By now you should know your maximum baseline caloric needs. This is the starting point for any change you want to make in your physique whether it be weight loss or muscle growth. Because Spring is on the way and most people are looking to shed their "winter coat" I am going to focus on fat loss.
Shedding Body Fat - The Smart Way
If you are following the guidelines from Beginner Nutrition then you already have a great start but let's take it to another level. The first step that you should take towards weight loss is to increase your energy expenditure NOT decrease your caloric intake. Here are some ways to go about this:
1. Get A Pedometer:
Wear a pedometer to get an idea of how much you walk during the day. The pedometer will measure the number of steps you take. It is a crude measurement but it will help you get a general idea about your level of Non-Exercise Physical Activity (NEPA).
NEPA is basically how much you move around during the day. Studies have shown that lean people have a much higher level of NEPA than overweight people. A good goal is to shoot for is 10,000 steps each day. If your lifestyle is not initially set up to have you walk 10,000 steps then aim to add 1000-2000 steps each week until you can get up to 10,000.
You may be thinking that this won't burn a ton of calories and it may not initially but it definitely adds up and over the long run it can make a big difference on your body fat levels.
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2. Add Cardio:
While your calories are still up near your maximum baseline needs I recommend high intensity cardio workouts three times a week. These workouts can be right after your weight training (not leg training though) or separate sessions - just make sure that you are exercising 6 days a week. As you reduce your calories low intensity cardio on an empty stomach gives great results.
3. Decrease The Rest Between Sets:
Slowly reducing the downtime between sets is a great way to increase the intensity of your workout, keep your heart rate elevated, and burn more calories. If you are aggressively decreasing your time between sets don't worry if you aren't lifting heavier weights each week, the two aren't compatible.
Reduce your rest by 5 seconds every week (the shorter the rest period the longer it may take you body to adapt, hence every 2 workouts) until you are down to 60 seconds for big movements (squats, deadlifts, etc) and 45 seconds for other movements.
Now that we've maximized your energy expenditure here are some nutritional techniques that you can use to assure you're progress is maximized.
1. Natural Carb/Calorie Cycling:
You can call it what you want - the Zig Zag diet, carb cycling, or modulating calorie diet. It basically comes down to the same principle. On days that you lift weight you should eat more calories than on days that you don't lift weights.
Initially some people think this is too complicated because who has time to make up TWO different diets (lower calorie and higher calorie). But this can be easier than you think.
On training days you will have a post workout shake (350 calories) and starches with your next meal (1.5 cup rice = 255 calories). On non workout days when you don't have your post workout shake, don't replace the meal. You will also skip the starches at the next meal but replace them with 2 times the vegetables (3 cups broccoli = 49 calories).
This will give you a 556 calorie deficient on non-workout days. If you are worried about filling the post workout meal time slot just have a small protein rich snack (1 scoop of protein + 1 TBSP Flaxmeal for example) and reduce the size of your last meal of the day. This simple calories cycling plan that I've outlined is extremely effective and EASY, anyone can do it without much thought or preparation.
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2. Calorie Reduction:
Notice that I have put this as the LAST thing you should do when trying to lose weight. This is counter to most of the information out there today. But think about it for a minute. When you reduce your calorie intake your body has an automatic mechanism that concordantly will reduce your basal metabolic rate.
So instead of eating less food and burning the same number of calories you are eating less food and burning fewer calories!!! You've gained little ground in the war against fat and you're hungrier. Now this is a very simplified explanation of what happens and I am not trying to argue that reducing your calories won't cause you to lose weight. I am saying that reducing your calories isn't what it's all cracked up to be.
But once you've done all the above steps and your weight loss has slowed yet again, reducing your caloric intake is the next step. The key is being smart about it. Most people will want to reduce your daily caloric intake by 250 calories. Keep it that way for 2 weeks and see what happens.
Did you lose 1-2 lbs? If so keep your intake at the same 250 calorie deficient and give it another two weeks. What happed? If your weight loss stopped then drop another 250 calories. If you're still losing weight then keep your eating the same.
Reading this you're probably thinking "Yeah, that's common sense." But trust me, when you are trying to lose weight the first thing you lose isn't body fat it is common sense. Stick with this methodical plan your progress will be consistent and your results... amazing!
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