In today's society it's not hard to spot a commercial, newspaper, magazine, poster, flyer, or TV infomercial that's explaining or touting the latest truth on weight loss, toning up, building muscle, getting stronger or feeling better, or maybe it touts all of the above!
We are bombarded with messages and claims of what to do and how to do it every day. It can be daunting to try and decipher what is truth, what works and what's for real from what's false, ineffective and unsafe.
Without doing hours of your own personal research and education it can be near impossible to ever get to the bottom of the surplus of information that's thrown at us.
It is this obstacle that I hope to remove in this article by giving you the "what to do and why" version of weight loss. This is almost the spark notes version of what all that other mumbo-jumbo says in some form or another.
I have compiled the traditional science and research along with the newest findings in supplementation/diet and weight training to synthesize a more condensed version of what is truth, what does work, what has worked all along, and what has now been proven not to work as it may have once done before.
This article will offer you a list of critical suggestions of what to do and why you need to do it to lose weight (fat) and build or retain muscle mass. You won't need a PhD in exercise physiology or chemistry to understand it either. I am a strong believer in that if you know why and how something works you will actually do it versus just being told to do it at face value.
This article makes it clear why you should do the things I have listed and how to implement them into your own training and dieting program. Here are a few things to consider when weight loss (fat) is your primary goal while retaining muscle.
1. Cardio Before Breakfast
Fasted cardio in the morning is optimal because insulin levels are bottomed out, hormone sensitive lipase (the fat cell releasing enzyme) is fully active while lipoprotein lipase (the fat storage enzyme) is dormant. GH is still coming off its overnight high, a major fat burning hormone.
At this time there is less glucose in your blood stream to be burned, vs. after having just ate a meal, leaving fats as the go-to substrate. Keep the session under 60 minutes long, 45 minutes is ample, too long and you eat up muscle tissue when your body perceives starvation.
2. Be Aware Of Your Carbohydrates
Do not consume carbs when you don't need them! The best times to give yourself larger portions of carbs is when you first wake up and before and after workouts, as you can be sure it will be put to use and be burned off, not stored as fat.
Consume no more than 25-35 grams in other meals if you must have more carbs based on your job and or lifestyle and even then, make them high fiber vegetable based carbs.
Give yourself the proper carbohydrate fuel to get the day started, get through a workout and the carbs to recover from the workout, that's it! Any other carbs taken in should be trace carbs or sources that are not true carb sources like starches and sugars.
3. Don't Get Hungry
Letting yourself get hungry causes loops to enter the diet; you get impatient and look for anything to eat. It's human nature when you feel starved.
Even if it's the right thing to eat, you end up eating way too much of it. Eat often enough to stay full even if it's lots of veggies and water.
4. Do Not Consume Large Amounts Of Fat And Carbs Together
This is a controversy in many fitness circle-numbers right now, but it is my belief based on human metabolism and peoples over-reliance on carbs. Carbs of any kind will release insulin (high GI more so then low GI) which acts to store anything in your blood stream.
Fats normally get booted to storage since they don't need chemical processing or active transport to become body fat. Plus the body prefers to use carbs (glucose) as energy.
So my message is don't eat them together in huge amounts. A few grams of healthy fat with complex carbs are ok (about 15g fat for every 50 grams carbs eaten at a sitting). Assuming you always eat a protein at every meal of course!
5. Take Your Fish Oil
They increase your sensitivity to carbs (allowing you to use more vs store more) and they assist with fat loss via PPAR-delta stimulation (a mitochondrial activator found in muscle).
6. Use Thermogenics Correctly
Taken at the right time with the right ingredients and you can gain an edge with such products. Look for supplements to take before cardio that are known to assist with fat burning. Ingredients to look for are:
- Caffeine: PDE inhibitor, beta 1,2,3 adrenergic agonist, acetylcholine antagonist.
- Yohimbine HCL: Alpha 2 adrenergic antagonist.
- Aspirin: Inhibits alpha-glycerol-phosphate, the re-esterification enzyme of free fatty acids.
- Green Tea Extract: Iinhibits the breakdown of norepinephrine.
- Synephrine: Known as bitter orange, this plant extract works much like caffeine without the jittery side effects.
- L-Carnitine: Acts a fatty acid transporter to get fats into the mitochondria where they get burned as energy.
- Forskolin: Helps activate hormone sensitive lipase.
- Capsaicin: Chemical in chili peppers that supports the metabolic rate.
- Guggulsterones: Thyroid stimulator that helps this gland pick up iodine from bloodstream.
My personal favorite fat loss product is VPX Meltdown as it is one of the only supplements to have been tested in a well controlled university study where the supplement itself, not the ingredients in the supplement were given to the subjects in which they lost significantly more fat weight than those not taking the supplement.
That's right, the actual pills right from the bottle were used in the study, not parts of the supplement as in most studies.
7. Protein Before Bed
45 to 60 minutes before bed eat 1-1.5 cups cottage cheese (2% fat or less) or casein protein powder to fight late night hunger cravings and give your body some slow digesting casein protein to breakdown and use during the night; it's void of sugar, low carb (lactose) and high protein, plus it's got calcium which can help you sleep. No, it won't get stored as fat!
Your body does not just turn off your digestive system at night people! If calories are controlled during the day and exercise is intense enough, you will process and use foods like this even at night.
8. Eat Citrus Fruits
Eat citrus fruits if you must eat fruits as they are acidic and raise insulin less than most typical fruits (exception of pineapple). Plus they contain flavonoids such as naringin, found in oranges and more so in grapefruit which also help with fat loss by extending caffeine's effects.
Do not eat grapefruit with prescription meds as it may have negative side effects. Kiwi, mango and strawberries also fit the bill as good citrus fruits.
9. Weight Train To Hold Lean Muscle
Maintain some form of weight training at least 3 times a week or your body won't have a single reason to hold lean muscle, it will burn muscle faster than the recession is burning away at the stock market, even more so if you're doing substantial amounts of cardio each week. Too much cardio and no weights means a soft skeleton body in no time.
10. Interval Train To Burst Through Plateaus
If long duration steady state cardio (45+ minute session) stops working, throw in a shorter 30-minute interval (hard/easy work rest periods), 1-2 times a week and go with that as a plateau buster. Works every time for most!
11. Refeed Rather Than Cheat
Lastly, when you really feel like you're hungry all the time and weight loss is not keeping up, "refeeds" are far more effective then cheat meals or cheat days at kick starting your metabolism.
Refeed's are just 1 single very-high carb meal of slow and medium digesting carbs. Eaten before bed (yes 2-3 hours before bed) it tricks your body into sucking up all these carbs all night long causing it to blunt any hint of starvation or metabolic slow down.
T3, leptin, and a couple other hormones related to hunger and metabolic rate go through the roof because of the overnight presence of insulin (you won't store much at all if your diet has been spot on over the week). This does have a limit however. The amount and type of carbs needs to be titrated to your bodyweight.
These rules only work when adhered to in the strictest sense. If you give the rules 100% compliance you will get 100% of the effect.
If you give a sad effort then you get sad results. I don't mean to be blunt but I do mean to be honest and straight forward. Results only come to those who do what it takes to get them, not to those who look for short cuts and magic pills.