Running shoes teach us a very important lesson: No single shoe can be a one-size-fits-all. Sure, you could jam your feet into a pair of ill-fitting runners, but ultimately those shoes will give you nasty blisters and discomfort. The same can be said of strategies for becoming leaner—minus the blisters, of course.
While training, nutrition, and supplementation together form the primary forces behind chiseling and shaping a lean and mean-looking physique, no two people will respond exactly the same way to the same training and nutrition protocols. Not to mention that some folks may have different physique goals or ideals altogether. Still, to determine what works best for you and your goals, it's helpful to arm yourself with an array of different approaches.
So, who better to ask than an elite roster of shredded Grenade athletes to assemble a robust fat-slaying arsenal? With these seven tips, you'll have multiple strategies at the ready to melt even the most stubborn fat!
1. Fat Loss Depends On a Deficit
It sounds obvious, but creating a caloric deficit—either through diet, training, or both—is the key to shedding fat. While certain factors like high protein and fiber intake can facilitate fat loss, the key to cutting unwanted pounds is creating a calorie deficit. However, you don't necessarily want to cut 1,000 calories from your diet right off the bat. You'll have better long-term progress and retain more muscle if you diet gradually.
Once he's begun a dedicated cutting phase, cover model Melih Cologlu prefers to slowly reduce his calories a little each week depending on how he responds and feels. "My protein intake stays high, and I even boost it a little higher for the fat-burning phase. I usually reduce my fat and carb intake, especially during the last 2-3 weeks before a show," says Cologlu. Over the years, this method has gotten easier for him, since he's been able to develop a sturdy, muscular foundation from continuous training.
In fact, as he's built more muscle, Cologlu hasn't had to diet quite so strictly, since muscle is metabolically active tissue and uses more calories than fat on a daily basis. Adding muscle "makes it mentally easier knowing that I can eat more this time around than I did in previous cutting cycles," Cologlu explains.
2. Manipulate Macronutrients
While your overall calorie intake is the primary driver of fat loss, the next important thing to consider is the macronutrient breakdown of your individual intake. Grenade athlete Jamie Alderton likes to play with his macronutrient ratios to achieve a specific body composition, rather than simply slashing calories.
"Yes, it's important to be in a caloric deficit to burn fat, but not so much that you also burn muscle," he notes. "In the offseason, my calories go up to 4,000 per day, and when cutting body fat, I slowly reduce that down to 3,600. This reduction will either be from dropping 11 grams of fat or 25 grams of carbs. I like to keep my protein as high as possible and will always first manipulate my fat intake to help lose body fat."
Some of Jamie's favorite food sources include filet steak, chicken, ostrich, and Greek yogurt for protein; plus basmati rice, white potatoes, chocolate rice cakes, oatmeal, and Skittles for carbs. For fats, he likes to nosh on cashews, cashew butter, dark chocolate, avocados, and butter. With this food flexibility, Jamie is able to stick to his diet without issue.
Determining your own macronutrient breakdown isn't always an easy task, but a few simple places to start are 35/45/20 or 40/40/20. These numbers correlate to protein, carbs, and fat. In other words, if you wanted to try 35/45/20, 35 percent of your diet would come from protein, 45 from carbs, and 20 from fats.
There are several ways to arrange your macronutrient composition, but in general you should prioritize protein and keep your protein high on a cut to maintain muscle and promote satiety.
3. Eat (Specific) Whole Foods
Minimize processed foods and focus on whole foods, experts say. Of course, that's always easier said than done because whole foods still span a mile-long list of potential things you could eat. Athlete and personal trainer Vincent Russo has a few favorite foods to recommend that can help you drop fat:
- Kale is loaded with beneficial compounds including vitamins A, K, and C, and for only 33 calories per cup, you get 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. Diets higher in fiber and protein have been shown to suppress appetite and keep you fuller for longer periods of time.
- Avocados are great because they come packed with 7 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and 15 grams of healthy fats per 100-gram serving. They make for a tasty low-carb addition to diet staples like salad, chicken breast, and eggs.
- Chia seeds are loaded with protein, fiber, and omega-3s, all important nutrients essential for fat loss. Despite their tiny size, they are packed full of powerful antioxidants and bone-strengthening calcium.
4. Spice Things Up
In addition to making good foods even better, specific spices can actually support your fat-loss goals. Fitness model and Grenade athlete Preston Noble is a big fan of cayenne pepper, which has been suggested to increase metabolism and may even help you burn fat. "My favorite fat-burning meal is lean ground beef (95 percent or leaner) with lots of taco seasoning, raw green beans, spinach or broccoli, and steamed rice," notes Preston.
Russo also turns up the heat in his food for added fat-burning potential with chili powder and cayenne. While spice tolerance can vary, Russo lauds the benefits of capsaicin—the compound responsible for giving peppers their kick—for its ability to increase your metabolism. Even if spicy food isn't your favorite, it may be worth including on your plate for these reasons.
Russo also loves green tea when he's on a fat-fighting mission. "Green tea extract is also a product I firmly believe in for cutting up. Green tea extract contains active polyphenols that have been shown to have a significant effect on fat loss."
5. Time Your Meals
Once you have your nutrition and training basics nailed down, you can get into the nitty-gritty of timing your meals around workouts. Russo likes to break his daily caloric intake into 4-6 meals a day to keep from getting hungry and to spur protein synthesis—the pathway your body uses to make new muscle tissue—every few hours.
Eating 4-6 times per day is by no means a hard-and-fast rule, of course. If this sort of schedule doesn't seem to work for you, having 2-3 large meals a day—so long as you hit your target calories and macronutrients—won't destroy your results. Just be sure to get a solid meal before and after your workouts—or a pre-workout meal and post-workout protein shake—so you don't train without fuel or compromise your recovery.
6. HIIT It Hard
Short for high-intensity interval training, HIIT is a great way to tackle your cardio quickly and burn more fat than traditional slow-paced cardio. In fact, HIIT is one of Noble's go-to strategies for burning more fat. Check out his favorite HIIT session on a stationary bike:
- Pedal 2 minutes at a medium pace at the lowest resistance.
- Increase the resistance and pedal as fast as possible for 30 seconds. Be sure to choose a hard enough resistance so that about 15-20 seconds in you're not able to maintain your pace and begin to slow down (even though you're giving it your all).
- Lower the resistance back to the easiest setting and pedal slower, taking 1-1/2 to 2 minutes to recover and steady your heart rate.
- Repeat this cycle 3-5 times for a total of 9-14 minutes.
If you really hate jumping on the treadmill or bike—-even for a few minutes of HIIT—then don't feel bound to those machines. With just a few pieces of equipment and a hankering for adventure, you can make your cardio fun and effective.
Take Cologlu's typical cardio session as an example. It's only 10 minutes long, and he gets to have fun burning fat by tossing a tire around.
Cologlu adds, "I will also go for some low-intensity jogs for 10 minutes three times per week between my last meal and pre-bed snack. This helps me burn a few extra calories and elevate my metabolism, but more importantly it gets me better connected to my goals mentally."
On the other hand, Alderton relies on both steady-state cardio and HIIT training to really deny fat a chance to stick around. "Being an ex-soldier, I am used to getting up early, so I do a 45- to 60-minute walk on the beach near where I live first thing in the morning. At the gym, I typically do my HIIT on a treadmill."
7. Turn Up Your Training Intensity
It's easy to feel bored—or worse, hamper your progress—by repeatedly doing the same exercises, same tempo, same rep scheme, and same everything. If you want to crank up your fat loss, you have to crank up the intensity of your workouts with new training techniques.
Supersets—doing two exercises back-to-back without rest—are a great way to rip through calories, because they reduce the rest time in your workout and increase your training density, or the amount of work you do in a given time frame.
Cologlu is even a fan of trisets—three exercises performed back-to-back without programmed rest. "I like to alternate between heavy, low-rep workouts and high-volume, plateau-breaking training systems such as trisets and dropsets," Cologlu says. "During cutting cycles, I modify my low-rep workouts to be a little lighter with a little more volume, which prevents injury while contributing to greater caloric expenditure."
If you want to try Cologlu's calorie-torching techniques for yourself, he's an example of his triset chest day. Use it in place of your regular chest workout the next time you train for a real burner!