You'll never reach your destination if you don't know your starting point. A great place to begin is calculating your body-fat percentage.
This will allow you to set accurate goals and measure progress. The most accurate (and available) method of measuring body fat percent is the skin-fold method.
This is a simple process that only requires a scale, a body-fat caliper, and an equation. If you don't have body-fat calipers, then take girth measurements—waist, hips, chest, arms, etc. Don't just rely on the scale. The more information you have about your body, the better you will be able to see and analyze your progress.
Eat 5-6 Meals Each Day
You've probably heard this countless times before but it just can't be stressed enough. Eating 5-6 meals containing protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fat each day is key, regardless of your training goals.
To begin, if you are looking to drop some body fat, then eating more often allows you to better manage your insulin levels for increased fat-burning. Controlling insulin levels when dieting is critical, as insulin is the body's most potent blocker of lipolysis (i.e., liberation of stored fat to be used as energy).
Another added benefit of controlling insulin levels is consistent energy levels; your blood sugar won't rise and crash throughout the day. Purposefully spreading the traditional "three square meals" into 5-6 smaller meals will allow you to increase your fat-burning ability, while at the same time providing your body with nutrients required to build muscle.
Train With Weights 3-4 Times A Week
Lifting weights is an essential part of developing a lean physique. Not only will weight-training boost you metabolic rate for extended periods of time, it will help you build muscle (which will allow you to burn more calories just sitting around).
Let's say you love lifting weights. You might ask, "Why just 3-4 times a week? Professional bodybuilders lift 5-6 days a week, double sessions!"
When you are dieting, you are in a calorie-deficient state. This will put your body in a compromised position where you will have limited recovery capabilities. Doing 3-4 sessions of intense training is perfect for most people to stimulate their muscles and metabolism without beating themselves into the ground (or worse, a state of overtraining).
Don't Overdue The Cardio
A lot of people go cardio-crazy when trying to lose body fat. The days of getting on the bike or treadmill for 40-60 minutes 5-6 times per week are done! If burning body fat and building muscle is your goal, then shorter, intense, interval-based cardio sessions are the way to go.
Cardiovascular activity performed in a high-intensity interval fashion (high intensity is a term relative to your personal fitness level) has been shown to burn more calories than the old-school 40-minute cardio sessions.
This means you'll burn more fat, in less time. If you have been doing longer cardio, don't quickly jump into this higher-intensity cardio.
Give your body time to adjust over several weeks by slowly replacing the longer sessions with interval sessions. Most people find that 3-4 interval sessions give them better results than 6 or more traditional longer cardio sessions.
Plan Your Meals The Night Before
This one has made all the difference in my personal fitness journey. Not only does it make eating multiple meals per day easier, but it changes your focus during the day from creating a nutrition plan to executing one.
You have enough going on during the day that you don't need to be worrying about where your next meal will come from and how you can make it fit perfectly into your plan. Eliminate the added stress, plan the night before, and just follow your road map during the day.
Drink Green Tea
Ever since the FDA put the clamps down on ephedra, supplement companies have been searching for a replacement. The winner is ... green tea extract. While it is not as effective as ephedra, it is the best thing most companies have to work with.
The compound within green tea that contains the metabolic-enhancing effects is a polyphenol called EGCG. To make a long story short, scientific studies have shown EGCG to produce a thermogenic effect (increased rate at which calories are burned as heat) in the body.
Another interesting feature that makes green tea more attractive to dieters comes from a 2004 study published in Life Science. Researchers found that green tea was a potent inhibitor of fatty acid synthase (FAS). As you may be able to deduce by the name, this is an enzyme in your body responsible for synthesizing fatty acids. The last thing you want your body to do when you are trying to lose fat is to synthesize fat.
You don't have to supplement with green tea extract, either. You can get the same result by simply drinking a pot of green tea each day (3-5 cups). In addition, green tea is a great substitute and much better for you than diet soft drinks.
But remember, green tea is naturally caffeinated which is perfect (Mother Nature knows best right?) because the combination of EGCG and caffeine is best for eliciting fat-loss.
Get Rid Of Bad Friends And Bad Food
Don't let your environment sabotage your weight-loss efforts. If you are trying to eat healthy foods, you can't have the freezer stocked with Ben & Jerry's and the cupboards full of barbecue potato chips.
As it gets to be later at night, you know you'll be tempted. Don't set yourself up for temptation and failure; create an environment where you can't fail! It's simple: If the food isn't in your house, you won't eat it. So, throw out the high-sugar, over-processed, high-fat junk foods!
The same goes for your friends. If you are constantly being scoffed at and joked about because you choose to have a grilled salmon salad instead of buffalo wings, or because you asked the waiter to bring you steamed broccoli instead of french fries—get new friends! Find people that are supportive of your fitness goals and the behaviors that they require.
Drink Lots Of Water
Water is essential to life and a healthy body. Dehydration will wreak havoc on you and your fitness goals. If you're dehydrated, your body cannot function at its optimal level. For example, your muscles will lose strength, you won't burn fat as quickly, and you'll feel tired and fatigued.
A 2003 study entitled "Water-Induced Thermogenesis" was published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. It claimed that drinking two liters of water, spread throughout the day, burned up to 100 extra calories (the equivalent of running a mile).
Take Time Off To Rest And Recover
Fat-loss training and dieting is mentally draining. That is why you need to take extra care of yourself. Extra stretching and foam rolling, epsom-salt baths, going to bed an hour earlier, or taking a magnesium supplement prior to bed are all simple ways you can help accelerate your recovery (and progress).
One of my favorite sayings is: "Physiology trumps diet." This means that if your body chemistry and physiology are off, you won't be able to maximize your fat loss. Trying to lose weight is no excuse for being unhealthy, and it will actually hinder your progress. Rest and recover, and you'll lose more weight.
Apply The Previous Nine Rules
It is important you realize that the statement "Knowledge is Power" is false! Applied knowledge with passion and consistent persistence is power! The chances are that you know everything you have to do to achieve your best body, but you're not applying your knowledge.
Why? I don't know; we all have our reasons. What's your reason? Whatever it is ... get over it! Dare to be amazing! Achieve your best body!
Now take a second and look at the list. Do you actively embrace all the guidelines on the list? What is your body-fat situation? I can guarantee that there is a direct correlation between how many things on the list you don't do and the amount of excess body fat you carry around every day. Am I right? Your body-fat percentage reflects your lifestyle.
You may also look at the list and think, "Mike, I've heard all these things before. I wanted you to write about the secret to reducing body fat." I'm sorry to say there is no secret, and you've probably heard about each of my top 10 concepts before.
The key is application! Don't pick and choose which of the 10 things you are going to apply to your life, and then complain when you don't receive the results you want.