Achieving fast and effective fat loss requires the combined effects of several different methods which, when used correctly to directly and indirectly target unwanted weight, will help one to maintain their fat loss efforts to keep the pounds off. Quick fire approaches such as the "lose 10 pounds in ten days" type strategies we so often see blazoned across our television sets seldom work, and if they do are not sustainable as they are essentially quick fixes designed to rapidly drop the fat through extreme dietary and training approaches, which may cause harm if continued longer than recommended.
By targeting fat loss through depriving yourself of certain nutrients or working a particular part of your body/focusing on only one training approach you could be compromising your health in several ways: a full spectrum of nutrients is needed to address the many functions our body has and a balanced training regime incorporating resistance training (which focuses on working all of our muscles) and cardiovascular work is both workable over the long term and effective for establishing a healthy, optimally functioning and good looking body. Those who have achieved body transformation success typically have made their health and fitness a priority, one that, through the benefits reaped and ease with which it can be maintained, has quickly become a lifestyle.
And therein lays the key to long term body transformation success: plan effectively and weave your training goals into your day to day life. What follows are 12 key factors that have proven for many to provide effective, attainable and sustainable foundations for continued fat loss success. Use them and you, too, will enjoy great health and enviable physical development for many years to come.
Foundation 1 Set Goals
Without a solid plan in place very little, regardless of what health and fitness goals one hopes to achieve, will be accomplished. So before setting foot inside the gym and eating the first of your power meals as you embark on your body transformation, set aside some time to evaluate where you are now and contrast this with where you would like to be in, say, one year from now. Be specific with timeframes and have a defined picture of what you would like to look like and how you wish to feel at the end of your transformation (be aware, however, that once you have achieved your health and fitness goals you will need to have further objectives in place so as to maintain, or build upon, what you have already accomplished).
Document your goals and have them easily accessible - you will need to review them to check your progress. Further, these goals will need to be realistic and attainable: building muscles to rival Mr. Olympia, complete with three percent body fat levels, probably will not happen, ever, at least in this lifetime. Assess the body type you have and design your goals accordingly. If you are seriously overweight, be happy with steady weight loss and do not become discouraged if you appear not to be losing fat fast enough.
If you follow the guidelines provided below the results you want will come. Design your goals with them in mind and do not stop until you have attained your ideal physique.
Foundation 2 Train With Weights
This one seems pretty obvious but it is surprising how many people, when attempting to lose weight, will focus primarily on aerobic activities while relegating weights to supplementary status. To lose body fat one should never use cardiovascular training methods at the expense of resistance training. Given the mere presence of muscle tissue significantly raises the metabolic rate - including while we are resting - it is smart to build as much of it as possible so as to stimulate metabolic activity as frequently as possible. By encouraging our metabolic rate - how fast our bodies burn energy - to work faster while we are at rest (a complete state of inactivity where only our vital organs require the release of energy) we can continue the fat burning process long after completing our workouts.
It has been shown through the results gathered from many transformation success stories that anaerobic training - one form being weight training - is by far superior to aerobic training for increasing our basal metabolic rate (or the rate at which we burn energy when completely rested). While aerobic training will target fat while it is used, weight training will increase metabolic rate during and after its use, and build muscle to further enhance our metabolic rate. Muscle being a metabolically active tissue requires more energy to maintain compared with fat, which, in excess, is useless.
Foundation 3 Do Cardio
Although weight training is essential for increasing one's metabolic rate, cardiovascular activity is also, when used in conjunction with weights, will further assist fat loss efforts. The major problem with cardio, it appears, is that it is often overused. Those desperate for fat loss will readily associated aerobic training with weight loss. If you look at the physiques of those who exclusively train aerobically, although they are generally slim, they have a soft appearance with very little tone.
Contrast these 'athletes' with bodybuilders and generally you will see a vast difference in physical appearance: the bodybuilder will usually have lower body fat levels and, almost always, better muscle development. The reason for such a difference is that the bodybuilder will balance out his cardio work with weight training, which will be prioritized ahead of aerobic activity. For body transformation success it is important to include cardio at levels which will target body fat without interfering with recovery from weight training workouts and muscle growth.
Three 45 minute moderate intensity output (around 70 percent of maximal heart rate) cardio sessions per week - first thing in the morning on an empty stomach - is a good start. Be sure to monitor your progress to determine whether this level is suitable for your individual needs - you may need to increase or decrease this amount accordingly. So long as your body fat levels are falling and your body is looking tighter with no apparent muscle loss you will be on the right path.
Foundation 4 Maintain A Well Balanced Diet
Steady, consistent fat loss probably results more from sensible eating than any other variable. As mentioned, to elevate one's metabolic rate to encourage an around-the-clock fat burning effect, we need to build muscle and train with weights to stimulate this and, directly, the metabolic process. However, to achieve the energy levels needed to maintain sufficient training intensity and to recover from our intensive workouts and grow we need enough high quality nutrients interspersed throughout the day. Protein, carbohydrates and fats along with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals are to be consumed and a good balance of each is to be planned for.
To lose body fat it is important to ensure that we do not eat too many of the wrong types of nutrients. People often become caught up in limiting overall calories when the real problem lies with the types of calories we consume. One of the major barriers to maintaining low body fat levels is the craving for carbohydrates many people have. A nutrient that is comforting - due to the positive effect it has on specific brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine - necessary for energy production and easily stored as body fat if over-consumed it is often hard to strike the correct balance between eating enough carbohydrates to fuel our workouts and to support day to day living, while discouraging its transformation into body fat.
Whenever we eat too many carbohydrates - especially those that cause a rapid output of energy such as the simple variety which include cakes, sweets and some fruits - we cause insulin to be released, which, in turn, transforms these carbohydrates into glycogen to be stored for future use. The problem is, if we already have sufficient glycogen stores then any excess will be transformed into body fat and stored as such. And this is one reason why bodybuilders - and those who wish to success with their body transformation - often include almost as much protein as they do carbohydrates in their diet.
As a nutrient that requires more energy to process and which is instrumental in building the muscle mass needed to increase metabolic rate, protein is important for fat loss success. A good diet, therefore, might include around 40 percent protein calories, 45 percent carbohydrates with the remaining coming from essential fats such as specific oils (including olive and Omega three fish oils), avocado and nuts. Eat around six meals per day comprised of the above nutritional profile and avoid carbohydrate consumption after 6.00pm to further accentuate fat loss success.
Foundation 5 Stay Hydrated
As well as being essential for overall physical performance and health, staying hydrated through sufficient water consumption (around 15 glasses per day for the exercise enthusiast) is a great way to encourage the fat burning process. At a fundamental level, fat burning can only really be achieved when the body is running optimally; if any of our metabolic processes are not functioning to their fullest the body will place its resources into compensating for such a problem, leaving other processes - such as fat burning - to function less effectively. By drinking enough water, we prime our bodies for fat burning by supporting all of our body's biological functions.
Muscle, for example, is comprised of around 75 percent water. Without enough water to support the proper functioning of this tissue muscle is unlikely to exert is positive metabolic effects to burn fat. Further, another problem people tend to have when aiming to transform their physiques is that of water retention. Though not related to fat storage (but just as unsightly when excessively produced), water retention often results from insufficient hydration; the more water we drink the more efficiently our kidneys will work and the faster any subcutaneous water can be eliminated from beneath our skin. So, by drinking enough clean, fresh water we can help to eliminate water retention while creating the conditions necessary for ongoing fat loss.
Foundation 6 Make Health And Fitness A Lifestyle
To truly experience long-term weight loss success, health and fitness must become a firmly entrenched part of one's lifestyle. In fact, all of the planning and goal setting in the world along with perfectly developed training and nutritional programs will account for very little if you cannot incorporate into your daily schedule the fundamental principals - such as those outlined in this article - needed to achieve ongoing results. For example, waking in the morning to complete your cardio should eventually come as naturally as eating your breakfast and brushing your teeth.
Do not view your transformation goals as something to be specially considered outside of the normal course of your daily life. To make it work long term it is best to structure your goals into a lifestyle that is both sustainable over the long term and which will ultimately define who you are as a person. In essence, your health and fitness program will become an inextricable part of who you are.
Foundation 7 Measure Your Progress And take Notes
Take time to regularly weigh yourself, measure your body fat levels and, if appropriate and relevant, assess any changes in muscle growth. Doing so will give you important data from which to re-evaluate your existing programs and to plan for even greater success. Although the mirror is often considered a bodybuilder's best friend, as this will provide an indication of the degree of progress that has been achieved, more objective measures such as those mentioned above will provide concrete information to gauge a program's true effectiveness.
If, for example, your body fat levels are only marginally less than they were four months prior then it is time to change one or several of your program's variables: perhaps you will need to increase cardio, weights, or both. Maybe your lack of success could be nutritionally related. And this is why maintaining training and nutrition journals is critical to body transformation success: they allow you to assess exactly what you have done, where you might have slacked off and the kind of responses you experienced from a particular workout. Be sure to note any progress in your journals - however large or small - and extensively record all workouts and meals.
Eventually you may not need to use a training journal, but while you are adjusting to your new lifestyle it remains an effective way to learn what works for you, and what does not.
Foundation 8 Be Consistent
Closely related to the importance of making health and fitness a lifestyle is consistency. As a rule, it is important to never miss a scheduled workout or meal. So long as you have planned your meals and training in accordance with your individual requirements and in such a way as to elicit the best results possible, it is wise to stay on track. While instinctive training methods are used successfully by experienced athletes to stimulate further results, and may even work for you sometime in the future, it is best, during these early stages, to consistently do what you have, during your initial goal setting, established will work best for you.
The number one reason why people fail to achieve their fitness goals is the lack of consistency they are often proven to show; applying high intensity during one session only to take a mental and physical break from working all-out during the next workout will usually only lead to half-hearted results. Combined over the course of a six to 12 week program, such average workouts will be reflected in the results one sees. Usually they will then blame their program, when, in fact, it is more a case of not properly applying what was expected, from the outset, to work.
If you fail to achieve your training goals, rather than resorting to changing your program based on the misguided assumption that there are problems with its design, try to determine whether you have been consistent with the application of your training and nutrition guidelines and the effort you have applied to both.
Foundation 9 Be Confident
Lacking confidence in your ability to lose weight will surely negate any fat loss efforts. After extensive goal setting and planning it is time to work towards building the body of your dreams. But how many people, after experiencing a setback, decide to fall back into old habits, a process which often inevitably results in the quitting of one's program? Losing weight, while achievable for those with a sound plan of attack, can be difficult. Having confidence in your ability to overcome any setback - and there will be more than a few when faced with the complex task of transforming your physique - is a key requirement when working towards achieving long term fitness goals.
Approach your goals as if their realization is a foregone conclusion; know in your heart that you will achieve all outcomes and do not get discouraged if things do not go exactly to plan. Most importantly, do not let anyone discourage you from achieving fat loss success. Do not listen to negative people, those who might even be happy to see you fail. The greatest victory comes from proving to yourself that you can achieve something of lasting significance. So, only listen to those who wish to encourage you and be confident that you will complete all of the challenges that stand in your way.
Foundation 10 Supplement Your Diet
Regardless of how perfect your diet may appear, your results may be compromised through various nutritional deficiencies. With the quality of the soil used to grow much of our food being deficient in life giving minerals combined with various cooking methods, which also serve to destroy naturally occurring nutrients, along with the sheer volume of food necessary to provide an adequate supply of certain nutrients, it is wise to supplement. For the health and fitness minded, supplementing is especially important as the training we do dictates special nutritional requirements that would be almost impossible to fulfill through a whole foods diet alone.
Along with essential vitamins and minerals needed for proper cellular function and health maintenance are products such as whey protein for muscular repair and glutamine which serves the same purpose but also enhances immune function, both of which are, in my view, necessary for optimal fat loss. Being low in fat, whey protein allows one to rapidly replenish the protein stores without the excess calories that might be ingested from other sources. Though whole foods should remain the cornerstone of one's fat loss plan, supplementing with certain products will increase one's chances of success.
The supplements I personally use and recommend for fat loss are:
- Whey protein.
- Omega three fish oils.
- A broad spectrum multi vitamin and mineral product.
- Additional vitamin C.
Foundation 11 Stay Motivated
Training success and one's motivation levels share a symbiotic relationship in that to achieve our training outcomes requires high motivation levels yet to maintain the motivation levels needed to continue succeeding often demands further success. One seems to support the other. But to first begin the training process we require a certain degree of motivation and it will either, depending on individual characteristics and various other factors including, as mentioned, training success, gradually build or decline over the course of one's training progression.
The key here is to - regardless of the degree of success we achieve - sustain high motivation levels throughout the duration of our body transformation. The weight loss process can be enormously frustrating. At a certain stage in our program we may reach a plateau where excess weight may refuse to be budged. This is exactly the time when our motivation levels need to be highest. One way to remain positive in such a situation is to review what you have accomplished and note from this that success can be attained. Talk to others who have experienced similar problems and issues and draw strength from them.
Ideally you would be well advised to read the many testimonials from and stories of those who have achieved fat loss success despite tremendous odds. Many can be read right here on Bodybuilding.com. Motivation can be gained from many sources. A kind comment or an inspiring word from a fellow gym member or the smallest of gains recorded in your training journal can boost motivation levels. Of all the foundations mentioned in this article, motivation and consistency underpin fat loss success.
Foundation 12 Find A Suitable Training Partner
If you do not already have one, a training partner can make a tremendous difference to the quality of your workouts through the motivation they offer - by encouraging you to push further than you may otherwise be motivated to - and the mutual goals they might have (they may face the same obstacles your do; by working together you can both find solutions to overcome your training challenges). To train alone and make the kind of progress they might when working with a training partner one has to be supremely confident and motivated. Though most of us who train regularly are, compared to most, willing to do whatever it takes to achieve our goals, very few people are entirely sure of themselves all of the time.
Training with a like-minded person who shares your passion for health and fitness will help to motivate you to not only give your best each time you workout, but will also inspire you to further progress through the achievements they are able to make. Even great champions like Arnold Schwarzenegger had training partners to offer support and encouragement.
As outlined in the above foundations, transforming one's body takes a multifaceted approach encompassing many related factors, all of which support and encourage ongoing progress. To lose fat specifically requires an attitude shift whereby one must feel that what they are embarking upon is achievable. They must at all times have the confidence needed to remain focused and consistently pushing forward, motivated to achieve all of their goals. No one single foundation mentioned above will work in isolation; they must all be used simultaneously as part of a training plan geared for success. If you can successfully incorporate these into your lifestyle there is nothing stopping you from creating your own fat loss transformation success story.