5 Essential Tips: How to Lose Body Fat and Reclaim Your Sanity
As a fitness writer and coach, I must remind myself that my purpose is to solve problems. Similar to training, I aim to see progress in my work as time passes. One of the main ways I do this is by noticing what people struggle with and then provide devastating simple ways fix that problem.
From what I gather, I can tell that many people are trying at the game of fat loss. They show incredible promise with enthusiasm akin to a young child visiting Disneyland for the first time.
But similar to that same child who jumps from line to line with gushing excitement but never gets on a ride, these people too, unsettle themselves trying too many methods and skipping from one diet to another.
This type of restlessness is the hallmark of perturbed mind.
It leads to anxiousness, fear, and frustration. Then, the most powerful blessing a human being possesses – foresight – is transformed into a curse. They start to feel and vision that it’s not possible.
From my perspective, it’s once a person arrives at this state – on the brink of hopelessness – is the moment they are ready to cut through the noise and try their hand at simple, boring, but effective fat loss strategies. They’re done getting slapped around like a pinball on their journey to a strong, lean physique – they’re to employ strategies that work so they can get results faster.
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Maybe you can relate – have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, “Damn, I do all this work to improve my body, and this is what I have to show for? There’s got to be a better way.”
These are the type of people I write for. The ones who want advice that works and is easily to follow.
I’ve wrapped myself up in the past with flexing my own ego by making things complex and flaunting what I know. But all that does is feed my selfish desires. It doesn’t help YOU – the most important subject in this equation.
So I’ve learned by putting the reader first, that simplicity works. Simple doesn’t mean not as effective, it just means it makes it easier to digest and uncomplicated to execute.
I want to be clear with you however. These fat loss strategies aren’t revolutionary. They don’t have the glamour that you see in mainstream fitness media. You won’t find things like six-pack abs in 21 days or a bikini body overnight in this article.
Those are great headlines and potent marketing tactics, but I’m sure you’d agree that a lot of that stuff only leads to more disappointment and frustration right? I’m giving you a list of things that work.
None of them are speedy. None of them are ground-breaking. But when you combine these strategies and execute them consistently over time, they will get the job done. You will lose fat by simplifying your approach.
Before you go on, let me warn you.
You’ll be faced with a decision at the end of this piece – something like a fork in the road.
One route will take you down the same path you’ve been traveling. The other path, offers some discomfort. Nothing life threatening. But it’s something like giving your first public speech – anxious, but oddly excited at the same time.
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How to Lose Body Fat and Stay Sane
Tip 1. Build your meals around protein
When it comes to fat loss there are additive strategies. Things like adding exercise is one example. There are also essential adjustments when it comes to fat loss. An essential adjustment is tweaking something that you’re already doing in order to produce a better result.
One essential adjustment that is a pillar to fat loss is building each of your meals around high quality protein. If you have a pulse and you’re reading this article, you’re alive. That also tells me that you eat food.
But what I also can assumingly deduce is that you’re not currently happy with your fat loss progress – even though you’re executing a necessary life habit in eating food regularly. Adopting the habit of building your meal around protein can reverse this result.
Every time you eat a meal without protein, you’re boosting the chances that you’ll remain hungry, your blood sugar levels are vulnerable to run-a-muck, and you’ll burn less calories overall. Additionally, protein helps you keep the all important lean body mass on your frame (which is the stuff that makes you look great naked when you strip the fat away).
If you prefer to count and track your intake, here are some general starting points:
- Eat 0.8-1.0g of protein per pound of bodyweight. For example, a 200 pound man would have a target of 160-200g of protein per day. If you’re not accustomed to eating this much protein, start at the lower end of 0.8 and adjust as needed.
- Per meal, a target of 20-40g is a sound general prescription.
If you’d rather watch paint dry then track or count your intake, here are some general recommendations:
- For men, eat 5-7 palms full of protein each day (1-2 scoops of protein powder is equal to one palm).
- For women eat 3-5 palms full of protein each day (1 scoop of protein powder is equal to one palm).
Tip #2. The 100/125 strategy
Before you write this off as low-carb advice, let me chime in with a few thoughts.
A fat loss diet should be as high in carbs as possible in regards to the individual’s ability to handle them. However, the low-carb cults have swindled the nation with a method that induces sudden amounts of weight loss (it’s mostly water). And before you know it, BOOM. Thousands of participants jump on the wagon blindly.
Instead of arbitrarily removing carbs from one’s diet, the aim should be to figure out how to improve body composition AND improve the client or athletes’ ability to use them. Carbs are not evil. But they must be managed well, especially if you’re aim is to melt fat like ice on the sun.
So with that said, the 100/125 strategy one for a particularly group of people. The ones who are overweight, and insulin resistant.
The 100/125 strategy is simple – women eat 100g of carbs per day and men eat 125g of carbs per day. This doesn’t make your life miserable by aiming to eat ZERO carbs per day, but it does restrain you from slamming down two sprinkle donuts with a strawberry yahoo milk on your lunch break.
The 100/125 strategy provides enough energy to fuel cognition, stabilize mood and drive intense workouts – all while effectively adapting the body to burn fat for energy (that’s a good thing if fat loss is your goal). With the parameters of 100-125g of carbs per day, you must make them count. Choose high quality carbs that are nutrient dense and packed with fiber.
Oats, brown, rice, sweet potatoes, and quinoa are all great options. Fruit is also game. Any citrus fruit, any berries and apples are all solid choices.
Tip #3. Don’t fear the fat
If your personal trainer or “trusted” source is advising that you don’t eat any dietary fat, and you follow that suggestion, you’re are doing it wrong. Over the last decade if there has been any breakthrough discovery in fat loss it’s been this: Fat doesn’t make you fat.
Interestingly, it helps assists your fat burning efforts.
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The institute of Medicine recommends that fat make up 20-35% of your total daily intake. But, the key is to source these fats from the right places. Sorry, but getting all of your fats from double-decker tacos isn’t going to work.
“Good” fats come from unrefined animal fat, fat from fish, eggs and fats from plants like avocados, nuts, olives and coconuts. These fat sources include a dense but healthy amounts of saturated, monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids.
The MUFA’s (monounsaturated fats) have shown some interesting effects through research. One study took a group of overweight men who followed two types of diets over four weeks to determine if whether substitution of saturated fat with monounsaturated fat affects bodyweight and composition.
At the end of four weeks, the men who followed the MUFA rich diet had a lower weight and less fat mass. The fascinating part was that there was no difference in energy intake or physical activity between the two groups.
If you’re one who likes to track and count your intake a good jump-off point for fat intake is 30%. For example, if you’re caloric need (use this calculator to find your TDEE) is at 2,700 per day, then it would look like this:
- 2,700 (calories) x .30 (30% fat) = 810 calories / 9 (9 calories per gram of fat) = 90g of fat per day.
If you don’t care to count or track your intake, here is a suggestion:
If most of your meals contain animal protein rich in fat (egg yolk, beef, salmon) then you probably don’t need to add much fat into your diet. Having a coconut oil in your coffee and having a handful of nuts with a protein shake as a snack is all good.
If you prefer to source protein that is on the lower side in fat (chicken breast, turkey, egg whites, white fish, pork tenderloin) then you’ll want to add fats to each of your meals. Olive oil on top of salads, a handful of nuts with breakfast, two tablespoons of almond butter in your protein shakes, and avocado with your scramble are all ways to get fats into your diet.
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Tip #4. Craft a nightly routine and get regular sleep
I know, this feels a little soft in the bull-headed, testosterone-filled world of fitness. The consensus reality follows something like this:
Wake up after a sub-par night of sleep, get buzzed on stimulants, run through every-wall at work for 10 hours, guzzle another 400mg of caffeine, pound our bodies at the gym, pick up take-out, watch Netflix for too long, hop in bed scroll Instagram for 42 minutes, and then pass out for 3 to four hours to wake up and do it again.
And then we wonder why our workouts feel like we’re trekking though quicksand and the tire around the waist won’t disappear. If you’re trying to get lean, you need to develop a regular sleep cycle because sleep and fat loss are connected primarily by two hormones: Ghrelin and leptin.
Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep and the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Ariz., sums up the sleep-diet connection in regards to hormones this way:
“The two hormones that are key in this process are ghrelin and leptin. “Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin. More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain.”
In other words, shorting yourself on sleep is making the uphill climb of fat loss even steeper for you. You could argue that it almost makes it impossible to lose fat when you don’t sleep.
When you don’t get enough sleep, it’s not a matter of willpower anymore – you’re malfunctioning at a hormonal level that causes you to eat more often (less ghrelin) and while overeating at each sitting (less leptin). This cocktail of hormones will beat willpower every time.
Luckily, you can reverse this environment with some simple fixes:
- Establish a nightly routine. Set an alarm to go to bed. Even better, you may want to create a trigger that reminds you it’s time to wind down and get ready for slumber. A spot of tea, reading a physical book, sitting on your porch for a few minutes, taking a warm shower are all examples of bedtime triggers. This will help prepare your body for rest and get you in the habit of producing melatonin – the hormone that makes you feel relaxed.
- Keep your room cool.
- Keep the bedroom as a place for two activities. One of them is for sleep.
- Assess your caffeine intake. Some people can shoulder caffeine better than others. The key takeaway is that caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours. Meaning, if you take in 400mg of caffeine, 5-6 hours later 200mg will still be floating in your bloodstream. This can disrupt deep sleep, which happens to be the most important.
- Six hours of nightly sleep is good, eight is even better. Aim for this range.
Tip #5. Strength training and cardio
I would be that you already know this though, right? To build your best body, exercising is going to be in the equation.
The question lies in the decision of what kind of exercising to do. The answer is combination of both: strength training and cardio.
As far as strength training, here is the reality: Unfortunately there are people at each others throat about which program is best – arguing till their blue in the face about which methodology is superior.
But unless you’re a high level athlete or a veteran requiring advanced methods, most basic strength training programs will work for you. You don’t need anything fancy. A program that is built with strength as the foundation that augments the big lifts with hypertrophy work will do you just fine.
Strength training helps you build and/or maintain muscle mass while you’re in a calorie deficit, it boosts your metabolism helping you burn more calories throughout the day, and it improves glucose tolerance. Just do it – stop dancing around the facts.
Even though cardio has gotten a bad rap over the last few years, it’s something to include into your fat loss approach. Steady state cardio (also known as “zone 2” done at 65-70% of max heart rate) helps you burn extra calories, increases capillary density, which can enhance delivery of oxygen, nutrients and hormones to the muscle cells.
Lastly, the increased capillary density assists with the removal of waste products from working muscle tissue, thus helping you recover faster. Two to four cardio sessions per week at 65-70% of max heart rate for 30 minutes should suffice – start with two sessions and adjust frequency based on progress.
You’ve got a back pocket of tools in your repertoire now. They aren’t fancy and they won’t show up on any infomercial.
If you execute these strategies as a cohesive unit consistently, you have the keys to sustainable fat loss. It’s simple. It’s boring. But it’s effective at getting the job done.
And when it comes to fat loss, if the method doesn’t produce results, it doesn’t matter how beautiful or complex the approach is.
You’ve got a plan that will work. Now, work the plan.
1) “Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids – Institute of Medicine.” IOM Home – Institute of Medicine. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
2) “Impact of Sleep and Sleep Loss on Glucose Homeostasis and Appetite Regulation.” PubMed Central (PMC). N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
3) “Substitution of Saturated with Monounsaturated Fat in a 4-week Diet Affects Body Weight and Composition of Overweight and Obese Men. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.