I think that in the year 2018 we can all agree that a calorie deficit is a must for fat loss regardless of the dietary method of choice, right? I certainly do hope so. But just in case, I’ll link a few studies just so we make sure we’re on the same page (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Now, for simplicity sake, I’m not going to get into too much detail about this, but let me give you a quick breakdown:
Body fat is a survival mechanism that was built in through human evolution and is in place to help us survive times of famine. It’s how we store calories for later use.
We burn these stores of calories by inducing a calorie deficit, which by definition means that you must burn more calories by simply living and through day to day activities than you consume through food. This in turn will create a negative energy balance.
Think about it this way: Lets say you burn 2,500 calories (This is a simple example) in one day, and through food you consume 2,000 calories. What that means is that there is now a negative balance of 500 calories (2,500 - 2,000 = 500). Now your body has to make up for that negative balance, and it does so by eating away your fat stores, which translates to fat/weight loss.
In theory, if you wanted to burn 1lb of fat per week, you would need to have a daily deficit of 500 calories. Because 1lb of body fat equates to 3,500 calories (3,500/7 = 500). The reason why I say “in theory” is simply because fat loss isn’t a linear process and perfect numbers don’t exist. So there are many variables that will make it more like a rollercoaster instead of a straightforward process.
So you get the point, right? A calorie deficit is necessary to burn fat!
Now that we got the fundamental basis for fat loss out of the way, let me give you some tips!
Tip #1: Stand more, sit less.
Pretty straight forward right? It’s simple, standing requires more effort, which then translates to more calories burned. This is a concept that is not often talked about that goes by the name NEAT (6)
NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) Is all the activities in which we burn calories aside from working out. E.g. Walking, standing, fidgeting, etc.
Tip #2: Park further away in the parking lot and use stairs more often!
Put your comfort aside for a little bit, walk more! Go grocery shopping and park to the farther end of the lot. Take the stairs in your building instead of using the elevator. If you’re at a mall, use the stairs instead of the escalator, etc. You would be surprised how much of a difference you can make with these small changes!
Tip #3: Take your dog out for longer walks (If you happen to have a dog).
If not, how about a quick walk around the block after you have a meal. It’s good for your digestion and you’ll burn a few extra calories!
Tip #4: Avoid fried foods!
Not that you’re not allowed to eat fried foods, but they bring in a lot of calories with very little in terms of fullness. So it’s rarely a good choice when the goal restricting calories for fat loss
Tip #5: Stack up on veggies!
500 calories worth of broccoli is like a truckload, while 500 calories in almonds for example is about a handful. So be aware of portion size and look for a greater bang for your gram.
Tip #6: Stick to lean meats!
Fats can very easily add up to a lot of calories. Now that’s not to say that fats are bad, they actually play in important role in overall health and hormonal balance, however, you must be very mindful of the amount of fat your consume.
Tip #7: Do more cardio!
It’s an effective way to burn more calories and further induce a calorie deficit.
Side note: Keep in mind that cardio is not necessary for fat loss, but it’s a good tool that you should maintain in your fat loss arsenal. However, too much cardio has its downside, because it can be counterproductive towards muscle growth. So find an ideal balance that is in line with your goals.
Tip #8: Focus your training on free weights and compound lifts. They burn more calories per rep!
Think about it this way: Your body burns through calories in a similar fashion that your car burns through gas. Bicep curls is you driving down the highway doing 65mph. Deadlifts is driving up a steep hill while dragging a trailer. Which one do you think burns more energy?
Tip #9: Learn to say NO!
Unfortunately, this is an important aspect that will make or break you. I love pizza just as much as you do, I want cookies just as much as you do, but, sometimes I have to say no to these foods because they don’t fit my plan for the day. Or sometimes I can only manage to eat 1 slice of pizza or a couple of cookies instead of the whole box. So practicing restraint with some balance and moderation is definitely a major key that will determine how fast you reach your goals.
IMPORTANT: Now I don’t want you to misconstrued this tip and think that I’m saying that eating pizza or cookies is bad for you, not at all. But it is important to understand when is an appropriate time to consume certain foods. Because while you CAN eat whatever you want, it doesn’t necessarily imply that you always SHOULD.
Tip #10: Train abs!
This isn’t necessarily a “fat burning” tip, but it’s an important one that will help you achieve that lean physique that you’re looking for!
I know that at some point in time you’ve heard the common saying “abs are made in the kitchen” right? And sure, to some extent this does make sense. Because revealing those abs is only achieved if your diet is in check. But it also implies that you already have a well built six pack under that layer of fat. But this is not always the case.
Abs are stubborn muscles, they don't grow easily, and genetics play a very important role in shaping them. Some people have a 4 pack, others a 5 pack, others a 6 or an 8 pack, and this is defined entirely by your genetics. If you were born with a 4 pack, you will never have a 6 pack, no matter how much you train them. You can't make your body grow a nonexistent muscle. But you can push your genetics to give your abs a better and more detailed shape. And to do so you need to eat and train appropriately
My suggestion is training them 2-3 times per week, and with the same intensity as you would any other muscle. And do so year-round whether you're cutting or bulking. Do high reps, low reps, body weight, added weight, and hit them from every angle possible if you want to achieve those 3D abs. And remember, if you want to reveal those abs you've worked for, you need to burn off the layer of fat that's hiding them!
I am a firm believer in the effectiveness of visualizing your goals and writing them down, so I would encourage you to write down yours! Take out a note book, write down your goals, set a time frame, establish a game plan and track your progress! And more importantly, be consistent!
Strasser B, et al. Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007
Johnston BC, Kanters S, Bandayrel K, Wu P, Naji F, Siemieniuk RA, Ball GDC, Busse JW, Thorlund K, Guyatt G, Jansen JP, Mills EJ. Comparison of weight loss among named diet programs in overweight and obese adults a meta-analysis. 2014
Naude CE, Schoonees A, Senekal M, Young T, Garner P4, Volmink J. Low carbohydrate versus iso- energetic balanced diets for reducing weight and cardiovascular risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 2014
Hu T, et al. Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Am J Epidemiol. 2012
De Souza RJ, et al. Effects of 4 weight-loss diets differing in fat, protein, and carbohydrate on fat mass, lean mass, visceral adipose tissue, and hepatic fat: results from the POUNDS LOST trial. 2012
Nonexercise activity thermogenesis in obesity management. Villablanca PA, Alegria JR, Mookadam F, Holmes DR Jr, Wright RS, Levine JA. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015