When it comes to losing fat in a hurry we tend to find a lot of people taking drastic measures like semi-starving themselves and following extreme diets. These approaches do damage to your body, and in many cases actually make it harder to lose fat by activating the body’s ‘hang on to fat’ survival-crisis mode.
At Optimised, our personal trainers and nutritionists certainly don’t advocate an ‘everybody should be thin’ philosophy, but we do believe in losing body fat fast, and in the right way, for people who believe the amount of body fat they’re carrying is unhealthy. To get really fast fat loss without starving yourself silly you need to eat right, move right and think right.
Can thinking right really help me lose body fat?
Definitely, and in many ways it’s the most important aspect of achieving fat loss. Without a positive mindset and a bit of commitment to meet your goals, eating and moving right seem that little bit harder.
We’ve found that the best way do this is by taking some time to really visualise your new look and feel, what you want to wear, what losing that fat is going to mean to you. Setting that goal and holding onto it is the key to success, so burn that image and that feeling of vitality and confidence into your mind now, and connect with it emotionally in terms of what getting there really means to you.
Am I eating right?
Secondly you need to ditch the calorie restricted fad diets, cut out the foods that are well known for being badly tolerated by your body, and eat healthy – but also recognise it’s not an all or nothing deal and everything has its place in a long term, sustainable approach to nutrition!
While we’re talking about how important nutrition and your diet are in getting to your perfect weight and shape, we’d like to put a serious word in your ear about calorie restricted diets. A calorie is just a unit of energy, more specifically the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.
To lose fat your body has to spend more calories than you’re putting in, but there are healthy and unhealthy ways of doing it. Calorie controlled diets starve your body and mind leaving you hungry and tired, lacking energy and vitality. They give you a short term result with long term problems.
After cutting calories your body sends a message to your brain saying “slow down the master regulator of metabolism” – otherwise known as the thyroid gland – in order to preserve what little energy is coming in.
An under active thyroid is one of the reasons people cannot achieve permanent optimal weight. Your thyroid gland reduces your energy output to balance the reduced calorie input which consequently slows down many of the body’s systems, which we experience as fatigue and loss of vitality.
With calorie slashing diets the body starts using existing muscles for energy too. While this makes your progress on the scales look good, it’s not. It actually further reduces the rate at which you burn energy, making it harder to lose body fat! Losing muscle mass gives people a false sense of fat-loss as muscle weighs more than fat and makes the scales lie.
This not a path to a happy life and will leave your body lacking essential nutrients, storing up a range of serious health issues for you. Don’t do it.
So to lose fat you need to use more calories than you put in, but just completely slashing the calories is a no-no, so what next?
All calories are the same, it’s just a unit of energy after all. What isn’t the same is how you get them. A calorie from a slice of white bread has a very different effect on your body than the same number of calories from a serving of broccoli.
Only you know if you eat too much food. If you do, we recommend slightly cutting the amount of food calories going in while making sure that those calories are good quality. Each calorie should ideally give you essential fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals instead of that calorie either being empty, or worse still, containing chemicals or other substances your body finds harmful or hard to handle. To get you started, here are a few useful suggestions:
- Never diet, just eat right
- Eat regularly to satisfy hunger, every 3 – 4 hours. This will increase your metabolism and keep your blood sugar levels steady. If you eat regularly your body thinks “hey, I don’t need to store as much of this food as body fat, because I am getting energy regularly”
- Consume slightly smaller meals
- Drink plenty of water. Ideally your urine should be a pale, light straw colour.
- Decrease the amount of grains you eat (especially wheat)
- Cut the dairy for a while and re-introduce it
- Eat a source of protein (not soy), a good fat and a carb at every meal (if you’re vegetarian, eggs are great, or eat beans or lentils with brown rice), your body needs all three macronutrients to function properly
- Reduce your intake of processed food, bear in mind that most things that are white, like white rice, sugar, flour and salt, didn’t start out white in the field so they’ve been processed
- Rotate your foods, and get a great variety of whole foods into your diet
If you do that, you’ve just taken the second step on the path on looking and feeling great…
How do I move my body right? Doesn’t all body movement do the same thing?
Alright, so we know we might want to cut our food calories slightly and pay close attention to the kinds of foods we’re getting our calories from, but to burn the fat fast we also need to move.
The first rule is to move your body every day. It doesn’t matter how, when or where. The second is to move it right.
For fast fat loss a good personal trainer will know exactly how you need to move, how much rest you need to take while working out and what kind of exercises are most effective. That’s what good personal trainers get paid for.
So firstly, cut the old ‘medium to low intensity, long duration’ way of doing cardio. Let’s be clear, huge amounts of cardio will help you lose some fat, but it’s not going to get you where you want to go fast, with a body that is toned from top to bottom.
Big cardio workouts or using cardio workouts exclusively are a fat loss tool, for sure, just not a very effective one. It’s like using a spoon to create a sculpture, in the end you’ll have a sculpture, it’ll just take more effort, it’ll take more time, and you probably won’t have something particularly good to look at when you’re finished.
How to exercise and burn fat quickly
To burn fat fast you need to increase the neuromuscular demands on your body, and that means resistance exercise. Muscle is an active tissue that needs energy to sustain it whether it’s being worked or whether you’re asleep. That means it needs calories, and calories mean breaking down and burning fat!
Resistance exercise doesn’t have to mean big muscles though. It just means training functionally, with exercises that engage multiple muscle groups at the same time. A squat, for example, involves over 14 major muscles, a bicep curl exercises just a few, which do you think burns the most fat?
This type of exercise is also more effective than cardio when it comes to burning calories because post exercise oxygen consumption and your metabolic rate are proven to be higher after resistance exercise.
Does it mean you have to end up with a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger, especially for ladies? No. Activities like circuits, yoga and Pilates develop muscle and use very few, if any, weights. Resistance exercise is best performed using the following types of equipment:
- Free weights
- Own body weight
- Stay away from machines which work specific muscles (like a pec deck)
One great method to burn fat is through circuits. To perform a circuit put together 4-8 exercises that use as many muscles as possible, and perform them at about 65% (or above) of your maximum with no rest between each exercise.
When you’ve finished your circuit of 4-8 exercises, rest for 2–5 minutes, then start again. Perform 2–4 circuits in each workout. You’ll notice you’re out of breath and getting a great cardio burn as well as building muscle.
Keep it fresh…
Every 2–4 weeks you need to change things around, introduce new exercises, more weight, change the intensity of the workout, the speed of your movement and/or the number of repetitions for each exercise. Otherwise your muscles will adapt and your workout will stop being effective. Remember, your body is built to adapt to new environments, including your workout.
If you don’t go for a circuit style workout (if you’re worried about missing your cardio remember circuits give you an awesome cardio workout at the same time as working your muscles) but instead take a longer rest between your exercises, then add a 10 minute short duration, high intensity cardio blast at the end of your session. The most effective way to go about it is to work flat out for 1 minute then rest or take it easy for 30 seconds to recover, then go hard again for one minute until you’ve done 10 minutes. You can use any piece of cardio equipment, rower, sprints, skipping, etc.
Although big or exclusive cardio workouts are poorer fat burners, you still need some cardio exercise, and this way of doing it is very, very effective. Short duration cardio is essential as it allows nutrients to be transported to the cells via the bloodstream and carries waste products away. Plus when fat is released from storage centres (adipose cells) it travels through the bloodstream to be burned.
One other thing: aim to be asleep before 10.30pm and get a minimum of 8 hours sleep in complete darkness, as lack of sleep and rest will place stress on your body. When your body is stressed it protects itself, and one way of doing so is by releasing hormones to store fat. A good rule is every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after in terms of recovery and repair.
We hope that if your goal is to lose a bit of body fat over the coming months, the advice above is useful – just remember that size zero isn’t good either and that it’s important to be happy with yourself whatever size you are.
If you’re not, it’s time to change.
To your lean, healthy, optimised future,
Matt & Dee