I'm sure everyone has that one friend who is so genetically blessed that he can blink an eye and magically drop to sub-10-percent body fat. Everyone else has to dial in their diet and tweak their training.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, fat doesn't evacuate from your body as quickly as you'd like. The first instinct might be to dramatically increase calorie deficit and caloric expenditure, but that can bring about detrimental long-term effects on your body.
Instead, try weaving in one or more of these techniques to tell that final layer of fat to take a hike. Not all techniques are meant to work for everyone, but finding one that works for you should help you see the changes and progress you desire.
1. Utilize Intermittent Fasting
Many folks, particularly men, have seen great success with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting allows only a small feeding window—typically, eight hours— before and after which you don't eat anything. The idea is that the practice would force your body to subsist on body fat storage for fuel during the fasting window, improve insulin sensitivity, and allow you to eat more diverse foods during your feeding window.
BPI co-founder, James Grage, reveals this to be one of his top strategies when he's preparing for a show. "I make sure to eat my last meal of the day at 6:30 pm. Then I wake up in the morning and do my cardio in a semi-fasted state, after thirteen and a half hours have taken place. Only after that do I eat my breakfast—the first meal I'll have consumed since the night before."
You may not want to do this all the time since its long-term effects on hormones, especially in women, are somewhat dubious at this point. However, for a period of one or two weeks, it can speed things along.
2. Carb Cycle
Carb cycling means you'll eat your target carbs on training days and approximately 50 percent of your normal carb intake on non-training or light cardio days. This strategy helps blunt fat storage on resting days and restores muscle glycogen in a supercompensated fashion. It also combats the metabolic crash associated with conventional low-calorie diets and keeps a strong satiety signal throughout the body.
If you find yourself at a loss for what to eat on training days, whey protein is a great way to keep up with your protein macros. The fiber will also keep you full, decreasing the likelihood you'll binge on empty carb-loaded calories when a craving hits. Choose a whey that's low in carbs on your training days, and reserve the mass-gainer protein for days when you want to carb load.
3. Do Dropsets
Dropsets can also be an effective way to turn up your metabolic furnace. To perform a dropset, you simply perform an exercise at a heavy weight until failure, then immediately drop the weight and bang out more reps until failure.
Continue this pattern until your muscles scream in agony. When incorporated correctly, dropsets will tear into your muscle glycogen, which will then create a greater post-exercise metabolic response from the intensity and will need to restore your body's sapped glycogen.
Just be wary that too many dropsets can make Timmy a dull boy, too. This is especially true if you don't get enough carbs throughout the day; use this technique wisely.
4. Make Your Meal Plan Mindless
You need to ditch your habits of weighing your food to the gram at your desk and crunching numbers throughout the day. The less you stress about eating, the better are your chances to stick with your eating plan and avoid making decisions that could set you back. After all, it just takes one giant binge to completely erase a week's worth of effort, so make every bite count.
Just take one day of the week—say, Sunday—and spend all day in the kitchen, preparing and portioning out all your food among towers of Tupperware. While your friends and family may snort at the sight, you know a week's worth of muscle-fueling, fat-bashing food will be within arm's reach.
5. Supplement With L-Carnitine
L-carnitine might just be one of the hottest fat loss supplements around. I don't recommend you put all your eggs in this fat-loss basket, but supplementing with carnitine if you practice vegetarianism, veganism, or otherwise have a low dietary carnitine intake from meats might help you with fat loss.
When paired with exercise, carnitine supplementation can boost activity of the beta-oxidation pathway when paired with exercise. Basically, you could be increasing the body's fat-burning potential.
James likes to pair 1.5 grams of carnitine with a capsule of the fat burner, B4, which helps further stimulate fat loss while increasing energy levels and focus.
6. Perform Compound Supersets
Many people default to a full-body workout program to include intense compound exercises and make workouts more efficient. Why not add compound supersets?
By pairing two major exercises back-to-back like this—the squat and bench press, for example—you end up recruiting many more muscle fibers over a shorter period of time. You'll not only burn more calories during your workout, but you'll continue to burn more once it's over.
7. Master The Energy Balance Equation
Fat loss responds best to the most reductive nature of this calorie balance equation: Calories consumed must be less than calories burned. In order to hit that deficit, James Grage uses cardio to achieve proper balance in his routine.
"My steady-state cardio in the morning is the first layer of the foundation, and I'll do anywhere from 25-35 minutes on the elliptical, five days a week," he explains. It doesn't stop there.
James doubles up his workout with a resistance training session later and squeezes in 90 seconds of high intensity cardio between his sets. He prefers the jump rope; he can carry it around from exercise to exercise. If he does 18-20 sets in a session, this adds up to an additional 30 minutes of cardio training. Cardio does not need to be performed continuously on a machine for it to be "cardio."
8. Get Your Omegas In Order
Using fish oil supplements isn't unique to weight loss. Studies have shown the benefits of omega fatty acid supplementation regardless of your physique goal. A good omega 3/6/9 blend containing CLA is part of James Grage's not-so-secret arsenal, as part of his daily supplement stack. He pairs 1000 mg of CLA with the omegas for maximum results.
"CLA is not only helpful for reducing body fat," he explains, "but omega fats are also crucial for enhancing your overall health."
Remember, even though fat loss may be your primary short-term goal, health optimization should never take a back seat.
9. Dial In Form
As you move closer and closer toward your ideal body fat count, your energy levels may start to waver from the accumulated energy deficit. You might not be able to sustain as much volume in the gym as you're used to since you're not eating as much and your muscle glycogen is never fully saturated. Overall, you've just seen better days.
This isn't permission to allow some slack. Rather than cheating every rep, concentrate harder on perfecting your form. By focusing on each muscle contraction and isolating the working muscle group, you can maximize the training benefits you get from each working set. This makes a lower volume workout that much more effective.
10. Skip A Day
While you definitely don't want to get into the habit of regularly skipping workout sessions, you might benefit greatly great from taking a full rest day. Listen to your body. If it's bludgeoning you over the head with various aches and discomfort, let your body rest, for crying out loud.
No matter if you're trying to get lean or strong, an adequate rest is an integral part of the process for results.
If your gym session isn't going to be productive because you're not feeling great, you'll only do more harm than good by unnecessarily pushing yourself. Rest up and go harder the next day!