This is one of the busiest times of year at the gym. Many put their health and fitness on hold during the Christmas season. But now we’ve flipped the calendar to a new year, and decade, and we’re ready to get started.
Normally fat loss is the number one goal of those going to the gym. After a few weeks of egg nog, short bread and late nights this is worse than it normally would be.
With that in mind I want to share with you some of our top fat loss tips. This will give the best chance to shed the holiday pounds and then some. Plus when you put these habits to practice you’ll be able to not only lose the weight but keep it off.
In no particular order here are our Top Fat Loss Tips for 20202.
1. Sleep 7+ Hours per Night – When we are sleep deprived a couple of hormones get disrupted. Ghrelin, which tells us we are starving, gets amplified. We tend to eat when we aren’t needing nutrition. Leptin tells us we are full and we miss this message. So we end up overeating.
And if you’re someone that struggles with cravings, sleep will help you win this battle. When you are sleep deprived a part of the brain, the amygdala, is stimulated. This is the part of the brain that tells you to have a treat or reward. Additionally the insular cortex which is your will power is suppressed and makes it harder to say no.
Lastly, when you’re sleep deprived you’ll be less likely to pop out of bed for a training session. You won’t be able to train as intensely when you’re tired. And when you do push it will take you longer to recover.
2. Journal – Maybe you’re familiar with the quote from Peter Drucker, ‘What gets measured, gets managed’. It’s pretty hard to improve on something if you don’t know what it is. It hard to know if something is improving if it’s not being measured.
In order to start journalling write down what goes in your mouth. If we just said to write down what you eat or drink a lot of supplements and prescriptions would get ignored. And these play a role in your fat loss efforts. So write down what goes in your mouth, the amounts and times.
Once you’ve gotten in the habit of doing this for a while you will begin to notice trends. You’ll see times when most of your eating happens, or doesn’t. You’ll see how much you eat of certain foods and how little you eat of others. And you’ll start to see the quality of your nutrition.
3. Take Breaks/ Reduce Stress – On a recent trip I was reading about how stress impacts our health. In one study participants were asked to self rate their level of stress. Two groups were then formed based on whether the participants had low or high levels of stress. All participants were then exposed to a cold virus. Those with high levels of stress were 3 times more likely to become ill than those with low stress.
Now obviously getting sick is not the same thing as seeking a weight loss goal. But they are similar in that they both involve an aspect of our health. And the take home message is that we are healthier when we have a manageable level of stress.
When someone is stressed they may loss the motivation to train. They may skip meals or make poor nutritional choices. And just how sleep can impair our ability to recover from a workout, stress can impact how effectively we can respond to a training response.
4. Eat for Your Goal – Are you familiar with the expression about taking actions but expecting different outcomes. I’m talking about the one to do with insanity. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Often times we want a result but we don’t make substantial change. We need to make changes with respect to our sleep, mindset, nutrition and activity. Packing a salad for lunch Mon-Fri is not going to move the needle. The changes have to be big enough and for long enough to result in a change.
If today I weigh 243 lbs and my goal is 200 lbs I should be eating for 220 lbs and eventually 200 lbs. Don’t make the mistake of making decisions for too far off in the future.
5. You Need a Deficit – I remember meeting with a client a while back. And this client’s goal was weight loss. As we took a look at their nutrition I heard how they were vegan. They didn’t eat animal products of any kind. And everything was organic. This individual still struggled to lose weight.
Here’s the thing. Weight gain can still occur with the best quality foods. You can still gain weight on a vegan, all organic diet. This is a lot harder to do because of all the fiber that is consumed which makes a high caloric intake hard to do. But eat more calories than what your body needs and you will gain mass.
The other key to (insert favourite weight loss diet) is that it works because it creates a caloric deficit. Stop eating sugar and you eat fewer calories. Stop eating carbs and you eat fewer calories. Stop eating whatever food and you typically eat fewer calories.
6. Seek A Net Result – Have you ever gotten started trying to lose weight. And you’ve been really good for the first part. I mean you are getting 8 hours of sleep per night. You are bringing a lunch to workout everyday. You are waking up and getting to the gym every morning.
You are feeling really proud of yourself. And at the end of the first week or so you look forward to stepping on the scale. You can’t wait to see what kind of result you’ve earned. And what you see is that you’re down a pound. Worse the scale may show you as the same mass.
Screw it!( you think to yourself) I gave it my best effort. I guess I’m just someone who’s not destined to be lean. I gave it my best. Back to my old habits where I can be this weight and enjoy life.
Hold on a second. Fat loss isn’t just about decreasing fat mass. It’s about increasing bone density and stimulating muscle mass.
7. Gym Calories Don’t Count – Have you ever used used a heart rate monitor and tracked how many calories you’ve burned during a workout? Or maybe your favourite cardio machine tells you how many calories you spent during that session. Whatever your method for knowing how many calories you burn don’t use this as the means to achieve your goal.
First of all most calorie counters are just estimates. And they are based on averages. So you really could be coming up short if you base you energy balance on the numbers you’re tracking. As well, many of these estimates don’t eliminate how many calories you would normally burn at rest. For example, if the session shows 350 calories burned but at rest you would burn 50 calories you could be out by a fair bit if tracking this way.
Instead a better approach would be to use your training to improve mood, posture, mobility, strength, power, fitness and many of the other things that can be improved in the gym. Yes you will burn calories while training but the bulk of the deficit should come from nutritional changes rather than increased activity.
8. Small Results Work Best – North America is the land of marketing. And we’re constantly pitched the idea that more is better. So if you could lose X lbs per week than 2X or 3X would be even better right?
When seeking a fat loss goal we have to remember it is important to not lose health as a result. In other words we want to keep as much of our lean body mass and bone density during the process. And it can be really hard to lose fat mass while adding muscle mass. It can be done but it’s harder.
As well, with fat loss we don’t want to compromise our resting metabolic rate (RMR). Our RMR eats up a huge chunk of our daily calories and if we cut our calories too much this can put the brakes on our metabolism.
Look forward to a 0.5 to 1 lbs per week weight loss. Not only does this ensure you keep us much of your muscle mass and metabolism it also sets you up for long-term success.
9. Time x Efforts = Results – If I’ve sat down for a Strategy Session with you I may have shared the study comparing three groups. One group gets happy hour daily (max 2 drinks). One group walks 0.5 mile per day. And the third group doesn’t change anything. At the 6 and 12 month points of the study there were only 3 and 7 pounds difference between the three groups.
Imagine if that were you. You start a health habit of walking 0.5 miles per day and your friend is slinging back margaritas everyday after work. After 12 months of effort there is only 7 lbs difference between you.
Would you quit? Would you cry foul and say it’s not fair? I’m not going to lie I might be tempted to quit if that were the return on my investment.
But here’s the thing…the results come later. In the case of this study at the 18 month point there was 70 pounds difference between the groups. That’s a huge outcome. If 200 lbs twins started the study together the walkers are going to be closer to 160 lbs and the drinkers will be closer to 230-240 lbs.
Now those are results that motivate me to keep going if I was in the walking group. And it might encourage me to quit drinking if I was in the other group. Either way the take home message is to know that long term results are based on making small consistent efforts over time.
10. Eat Your Calories – Do you have a favourite drink? I don’t mean alcoholic. This could be juice, pop, milkshake, coffee, tea or something else. Regardless of your beverage of choice it usually goes down more quickly, and sometimes with more frequency, than your favourite food.
If your goal is fat loss you need to limit the calories you drink. You can include coffee and tea but be aware of the calories that come with cream, sugar or other additives. But otherwise you should drink water.
Another benefit of drinking more water is that it will induce more frequent trips to the bathroom. And if you’re someone that can sit for hours on end at the desk this can be a good reminder to get up and move, change your posture and of course, refill your water bottle.
11. The Devil is in the Details – I remember attending a conference and the presentation given by the dietitian explained how much was under-reported nutritionally. And this wasn’t meant to be a strategy to deceive or mislead but simply how many view their own habits.
For example, if you ask people if they drink coffee you may find that they drink 3 cups per day. What is left out is the cream and sugar that goes with each cup. Or the donut that happens with the mid-morning break. This could be the sauces or dressings that provide the extra flavour. Maybe it’s the extra mouthfuls that take place when preparing and tasting a meal. It could be finishing a few bites left on a child’s plate rather than scraping it into the garbage.
Can you see all the ways we can forget or overlook the various ways we take in calories? Remember this if you’re struggling to achieve a caloric deficit and can’t understand why.
12. Make Your Own Meals – When you take a road trip do you like to be the driver or the passenger? Regardless of your preference you’d have to agree that it’s easier to control the outcome when you’re in the driver’s seat.
The same is true when it comes to your nutrition. If someone else is preparing your meals it becomes harder to arrive at your goal destination. And the further removed the chef is from the consumer the harder it can be to hit the target goal-wise.
A chef might not know how many calories you should be eating. They many not know that you are looking to eat more protein, to eat fresher ingredients or eat just enough.
When you make your own meals you are more invested in the process. You have a better idea of what is going in your mouth. You know the quality. And you can adjust macros i.e. proteins, carbs and fats accordingly.
13. Eat More Protein – For a fat loss goal it is usually a good idea to up your protein. This works for a few reasons.
The first is that protein has greater satiety, or sense of fullness, compared to carbs and fats. Eating a serving of protein will fill you up more than some pasta or an avocado.
Secondly, protein takes more energy to digest compared to fats and protein. Think of eating some cotton candy. As soon as it touches your lips it almost dissolves instantly and it pretty digested into a sugar solution. Compared this to eating a steak which takes significantly longer and more energy to digest. This energetic cost of eating is called the thermic effect of feeding and is higher with protein than the other macronutrients.
Lastly, when the goal is to get lean we are looking to create a caloric deficit. At this time it’s a good strategy to up our protein intake. Intake can be from 16.-2.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. If you tend to think in terms of pounds, eat one gram per pound of bodyweight. This will help ensure you maintain, and maybe build, muscle mass as you lean up.
Going forward pick the tip you aren’t currently doing but would be easiest to start doing. Track this habit, whether you do it or not, until it becomes automatic for you. There is no set time course as to how long it should take. Once you have a habit on auto-pilot pick the next habit and track it until it is a habit for you.