Losing significant weight and shedding unwanted excess body fat is no easy task, and it often seems like an insurmountable challenge to those who have tried and failed.
However, if follow the three basic guidelines to successful, sustainable weight loss you’ll be well on your way to achieving the body you’ve always wanted.
Rule 1: Reduce your calories
At its most basic level, dropping weight and shedding body fat boils down to a simple equation; burn more calories than you consume.
While there are important nuances to this statement, such as controlling insulin and other hormones and finding the right macronutrient balance, the fact remains that when consume calories in excess, you’ll store the surplus energy and gain weight.
To achieve a negative calorie balance many believe that they can merely train more, but this is the least effective route to the desired outcome for numerous reasons, such as compensation hunger and the time needed to burn sufficient calories.
A more effective tool is manipulating your diet to create a slight calorie deficit every day through diet and exercise.
With this approach you stand a better chance of reducing your weight over time and, more importantly, keeping it off.
Sarah Lotter, a Jo’burg-based exercise rehabilitation specialist and an online coach and personal trainer, advises that you plan your calorie deficits carefully.
“You can’t suddenly decrease calories drastically or suddenly ramp up the exercise. This will likely result in lost muscle, which will slow down your metabolic rate at a time when you need it to work at its most efficient.”
A conservative guideline is to reduce your calorie intake by 10-15% of your normal diet, but no more than 500 calories a day.
Rule 2: Find the right balance
Bernadine Schwartz, founder of BikiniBoots, a full service training and advice consultancy for anyone who wants to change their lifestyle and body, says that determining your efficiency as a fat or carb metaboliser will help to inform your dietary approach.
“Once you’ve established if your body responds better to good carbs or fewer carbs and more good fats, those looking to lose weight can adjust their meal plan according to their training schedule,” she explains.
However, many who are overweight or obese are more likely to be insulin resistant, which means they’ll derive more benefit from a low-carb, high-fat approach to eating, particularly when combined with a suitable training program.
However, even the carb eaters should be strict about the types and amount of carbs they eat each day, and at which meals they eat them.
The general consensus is that fibrous carbs from fresh fruit and vegetables should be the dominant source in your diet, with as little processed carbs and simple sugars in your eating plan as possible, if at all.
And don’t eat carbs at every meal, or even every day. Some form of carb restriction and/or manipulation will greatly assist in restoring your insulin sensitivity and boost the effects of the training proposed in point three.
Special consideration should also be given to the protein component of a diet as this helps to spare muscle during periods of calorie restriction, and helps to add muscle following intense weight training.
Proteins and fats are also essential for the production and release of various important hormones that help to build more muscle while also working to burn more fat.
Rule 3: Train intelligently
While exercise is largely ineffective at creating a negative calorie balance, mainly due to the time constraints we all face, especially if used in isolation, exercise can help to speed up the process when combined with the right dietary approach.
The intelligent use of cardio, for instance, can help to burn a few hundred calories each day but, more importantly, it can help to ensure most of those calories come from stored fat.
Fasted-state cardio, for example, has the power to burn fat when used correctly – when we keep our carb intake low our bodies are forced to find the fuel for this form of activity from other sources, the most abundant source of which is stored fat.
Another tip is to get more active throughout your day to burn extra calories through normal daily activity. Taking the stairs instead of the lift, going for a walk around the office every hour and parking your car at the far end of the shopping mall parking lot and walk the extra few metres to boost your daily calorie expenditure by a few 100 calories each day.
Lastly, the right type of weight training also helps to sculpt a sexy physique and boosts your metabolism.
Accordingly,, the best approach to training for fat loss is a combination of cardio and weight training, with heavy compound lifts that incorporate as many muscles as possible in each movement the most important element. These moves burn more calories per rep, help to create more shapely muscle throughout your body, and this form of training helps to release more of those beneficial hormones already mentioned.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.