Losing body fat is a goal we all want to achieve at some point in time.
After all, as active weight trainers, we train our muscles day in and day out with the expectation of building larger and stronger muscles. However, as we lift heavier and heavier weights, we must consume more and more calories to sustain heavier workouts.
As we get stronger and larger in size, body fat inevitably comes into play. This is not a bad thing if body fat levels are monitored and kept under control.
However, a lot of times, body fat levels go unchecked and before you know it, you’re fat!
As the author and owner of Building Muscle 101, I get a lot of questions on how to build muscle and size. I also get a lot of questions on losing body fat. There is no doubt why a person would want to have a well defined and muscular body because muscle simply looks so much better than fat. Whether you are just starting out or you are a seasoned veteran, losing body fat is a goal we can all achieve using some simple rules and common sense.
The information in this article will give you a general idea of how you can plan your program that is targeted to burning fat.
Before we begin, allow me to say this – Diets don’t work. Before you throw you arms up in total confusion, allow me to explain. By definition, a diet is any severe restriction of food or calories that’s temporary.
Most conventional diets call for severe calorie restrictions. This is my take on the conventional diets. They suck! They essentially starve the body of necessary nutrients by severely limiting the amount of calories you consume.
So if you want to lose weight no matter what, or don’t care where the weight comes from, you could say that all “conventional diets” work but there are two major problems associated with traditional dieting.
Firstly, the weight loss from a calorie restrictive diet almost never lasts. It has been shown that 95% of the people who lose weight on conventional diets can’t keep it off. The second problem with conventional dieting is that most of the weight you lose comes from lean muscle tissue and bone density.
Why would anyone want to lose muscle tissue and bone density? Why would you want to shrink your body instead of growing it? The secret to successful weight loss is to lose the body fat and bring out the muscle underneath. I believe this is the secret to attaining a sleek and sexy body.
Here are some reasons why you should stay away from traditional calorie restrictive diets:
Traditional diets promote weight loss but do not promote muscle growth
With traditional diets, your body is basically starved of nutrients, basically putting it in starvation mode. Once your body is in starvation mode, it will draw it’s energy from other sources such as muscle (protein energy source).
Since muscle is an active tissue, the body is decreasing the amount of energy it expends by getting rid of it. This is something you definitely don’t want.
Traditional diets increases the chance that you will gain the weight back.
We all know this, and if you’ve ever dieted before, I’m going to guess that you’ve gained most of the weight back. Numerous studies have been done and almost all show that everyone who goes on a traditional, calorie restrictive diet gains the weight back.
Here’s what happens, once you start up with a traditional diet (such as a calorie restricted diet), you will initially lose weight but the body will realize that it should be conserving energy and not expending it. What happens? The body basically stocks up on stores of fat to preserve energy. Not Good!
Traditional diets slow down your metabolism.
Traditional diets will actually slow down your metabolism. Studies have shown that your metabolism can decrease by as much as 20% when on a calorie restrictive diet.
By decreasing the amount of calories you consume, the body will adjust the amount work it does. When you eat less, the body burns less calories. The thermal effect of food is not taken into account when you are following a traditional, calorie restrictive diet.
Traditional diets increase food cravings and your appetite
Let’s face it, the less you eat the more your body will crave food. It’s called going hungry from the lack of food. If you’ve ever been on a calorie restrictive diet, you know that the hunger pangs can drive you to eat everything in sight!
Hunger pangs are a sign that your body needs nourishment. By not satisfying your bodies hunger, it will interpret that as a warning sign and go into protective mode, which may be starvation mode which actually slows down your metabolism. You definitely don’t want this.
Traditional, calorie restrictive diets will actually decreases your energy levels.
The body needs a certain amount of calories to use as energy. By severely restricting the amount of calories you ingest, you simply don’t keep the bodies fuel tank filled. You will be unable to sustain high levels of activity of intense workouts.
If you want to lose those unwanted pounds of body fat, you need to give up on the concept of the traditional calorie restrictive diets. You will never lose weight and keep it off with low calorie diets. Remember, the definition of diet is any severe restriction of food or calories that’s temporary. Temporary dieting will only have temporary results. In order to lose unwanted pounds of body fat for any sustained periods of time, you will need to look at more effective and alternative paths.
Any diet that doesn’t provide your body with the basic nutrient levels to function, as with diets that recommend 1,200 calories or less, you simply will not have enough fuel to make it through the day. You open your body up to injuries and sickness.
Here are some proven strategies that you can use to lose fat permanently.
The first and the most important strategy to effective fat loss is to change your mind set of temporary weight loss to permanent fat loss.
Think about all the times you’ve heard people around you saying they were “going on a diet to lose weight”.
The very phrase “going on a diet” implies a temporary solution at which point they will have to “go off the diet”. This will not work.
Losing fat and keeping it off can only be achieved by adopting new exercise and good nutritional habits that will stay with you for the rest of your life. By replacing bad habits with good habits and not trying to overcome the bad habits by going “cold turkey” will yield the most desirable results.
At first, new habits will seem a little strange and uncomfortable but after a few weeks they’ll become second nature and you’ll be kicking yourself for not starting sooner.
Adopting new eating and exercise habits will be the number one factor in your success at weight loss.
In order to lose body fat, your body must be in a state of negative calories. That is, you must be consuming less calories needed to sustain your current body weight. You can do this in one of two ways;
• Eat below you current calorie base (amount of calories needed to sustain your current body weight);
• Increase the amount of activity you do that burns up more calories;
• For the best results, a combination of both. By increasing the amount of activity you do, you won’t have to reduce all that much calories.
I suggest you reduce your caloric intake slowly at first and monitor your progress. Start out by cutting about 300 to 500 calories per day below your base caloric intake. For those of you who don’t know what your base caloric intake is per day, try using this simple formula. It’s pretty simple and not 100% accurate but it will give you an indication of what your calorie base should be.
Simply take your body weight and multiply it by 16. So if you weight 140 pounds, you base caloric intake should be around 2,240 calories.
There is about 3,500 calories in one pound of fat so in order to lose one pound of fat you need to consume 3,500 calories per week or 500 less calories per day. If you base caloric intake is 2,240 calories per day, you will need to cut out 500 calories per day (1,740 calories) in order to lose one pound of body fat per week. Remember, this is a rough estimate and exercise has a great deal of influence over how much weight you lose.
It’s important to note that you want to keep lean muscle tissue. Keep your weight loss to about 1 to 1 ½ pounds per week and you should be fine. Remember a small calorie deficit is the key to successful weight loss.
Always start your fat loss program with a small calorie deficit. Go for 300 to 500 calories below your calorie base and monitor your progress on a weekly basis.
There is one thing you need to remember about going into a negative calorie state;
Determine your minimal calorie requirements and never drop below that point. This is to ensure your body never starts to cannibalize itself. If the body thinks it’s not getting the necessary nutrients to maintain energy levels from your diet, it will start taking those nutrients by breaking down lean muscle tissue. Stay away from this at all costs! I suggest you set your minimum calorie requirements to 750 to 1,000 calories below your calorie base. Never go below this level.
In order to burn fat, your body must be is a state of calorie shortage. That is, a calorie deficit. If you recall from strategy 2, there are basically two ways to cause a calorie deficit;
1) Consuming less calories than your base caloric intake and;
2) Increasing the amount of activity or exercise you do that burns up more calories.
Which method is better? Burning calories through exercise will always be the best way to go. Exercise, mainly aerobic exercise (I don’t mean aerobics classes!) will burn the optimal amount of calories.
You see, fat is only used as fuel so long as oxygen in present in the body. The only way to get oxygen into your body is through continuous exercise. By doing cardiovascular exercise for 20 minutes or more, you are filling your body up with oxygen. This in turn, will trigger the body to start using it’s body fat as a source of energy.
However, using a combination of the two will yield the best results for effective fat loss. By using a slight calorie deficit and increasing the amount of activity or exercise you do is your one-two punch against fat loss. You simply can’t go wrong if these two elements are in place.
Adding weight training to a fat loss program is a very, very potent weapon against ridding the body of unwanted fat. When performed in conjunction with aerobics, this combination is the ultimate fat killer. Both exercises use up a tremendous amounts of calories while weight training sculpts the body. See the tip below. See our beginners guide to fat loss for menus and exercise program.
Always keep the lean muscle tissue. Muscle will always be your number one metabolic fat burning machine. Your goal is to build and maintain as much lean muscle tissue as possible.
Since muscle is a very active tissue, it will aid in burning fat because it will always be used in just about any activity or exercise you do. The more of it you have, the more fat you will burn.
This is why it is so important to include resistance exercises such as weight training into your program. Firstly, weight training stimulates the muscles so that it can grow and aid in burning fat. Secondly, when you grow your muscle, you essentially firm up so that when you lose the fat, you end up with a nice, sleek and healthy body.
Have you ever noticed the physiques of people who go on a calorie restrictive diet and do nothing but aerobics. They simply end up with a smaller version of what they had before they started their program. If you start out with a pear shaped physique before your program and do nothing to stimulate your muscles, chanced are you’ll end up with a just a smaller pear shaped body after your program.
On the other hand, if you include weight training into your program and started to build the muscle instead of shrinking it, your body would slowly change shape and take on that healthy and sleek look. And no, you won’t become big and bulky.
Always try and eat every three hours. Keep your meals moderate and never gorge yourself with food. Try and establish scheduled eating times and make sure you stick to them.
By eating more frequently and in smaller portions, you’ll be able eat more food without starving yourself.
In order to ensure that you effectively lose fat and keep your lean muscle tissue is to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. Generally, you can only lose about 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week. Once you go above this threshold, you not only lose the 1 or 2 pounds of fat, you start losing muscle and bone density. Remember, you don’t want this. You want to keep lean tissue, not lose it.
The more slowly you lose weight, the easier it is to keep lean muscle tissue and keep the fat off. Your focus should be on exercise rather than cutting a huge amount of calories from your diet. Be patient and keep the focus on burning fat through exercise. Before you know it, your body will start to change and grow instead of shrinking.
The traditional low calorie diet has never worked and it looks like it will never will. In order to effectively lose fat and keep it off, you have to change the way you look at fat loss. The traditional definition of dieting implies a temporary solution. This will only give you temporary results. You don’t want that.
In order to effectively combat fat, you need to push bad habits aside and add more good habits into your lifestyle. The new lifestyle is a term that is more appropriate than “dieting”. By adapting new exercise and healthier eating habits into your lifestyle, you are ensuring an effective fat loss strategy.
Remember, be patient when you adopt the fat loss lifestyle. It may seem confusing and awkward at first but after a few weeks, you will begin to form these new habits and soon they will be second nature. Stick with it and don’t give up. I can gaurantee this, you will feel 100% better, even after a week of following this type of regime.
I highly recommend you read our “Beginners Guide to Fat Loss” to get a complete understanding of the fat loss process. It’s designed specifically for the beginner and includes a basic menu and a fat burning weight training routine.
I sincerely hope that this article has been of help to you. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to send me an email at:
All the best
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.