What's the Secret to Fat Loss?
To many people, fat loss can seem like a magical phenomenon that only occurs when the planets align while you're standing at the end of the leprechaun's rainbow. Other people believe that they just can not achieve the fat loss that other's can because of slow metabolisms, genetics, or a number of other reasons. While fat loss is not magic, there is a certain degree of truth to the second statement. Every person's body is different and responds differently to different dimensions of exercise and nutrition. If there is any secret to fat loss, it's just that. Maximum fat loss stems from finding the right combination of exercise and nutrition that works with your body. With that said, just because some people respond to certain things, does not give you an excuse to say, “Well I just can not lose fat because I have a slow metabolism.” Oftentimes, when I work with clients who tell me that (which is ALWAYS an overweight client), I also find out that their diet is packed with fried foods, lots of starchy carbs, sugary treats or some other substandard diet item. I also find out that when it comes to exercise, oftentimes, they do not want to push themselves or they do not know what it feels like to really work your body. Let's talk about how your diet and how you exercise can effect fat loss.
A Healthy Diet (Not Starvation) Leads to Fat Loss
When I say healthy diet, I do not mean NO diet. Extreme low calorie diets (aka starvation) will lead to temporary, short-term fat loss followed by a regaining of most of the weight, if not MORE. One surefire way to get a slow metabolism is to stop eating or eating very low amounts of calories on a daily basis. This attempt to create a calorie deficiency will work initially, but ever, your body will enter into starvation mode. Your body will recognize that it is in a state of very low calorie intake and will start to actually store MORE fat from less food. Your metabolism will slow down to conserve energy. The reason for this is because your body thinks it is in danger of not having enough nutrients, so it stores excess fat thinking it will not be fed again for a while. In addition to this, your hormones will get all out of whack. Your hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods will sky rocket, your energy and mood will sink to new lows, and, basically, you'll be a giant GRUMP. More importantly, you will not get the desired fat loss you're looking to achieve, because your body will be working against you. This will also affect your ability to work out at a high enough intensity to achieve maximum fat loss.
When it comes to diet, you need to nourish your body with the RIGHT foods, not NO food. Focus on improving your hormonal balance to reduce your hunger and cravings while improving your energy level. Fill your diet with non-starchy vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli, consume protein through beans and leans meats like turkey and fish, and avoid starch like potatoes, white bread and white rice. Obviously, there are many other things you can eat and many other things you should not eat. The key is to consume mostly non-starchy vegetables and low sugar fruits, followed by lean meats and a very small portion of non-starchy carbs like brown rice. Focus on fiber, protein and water. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, starchy carbs and high fat foods. For an exact meal plan, consider consulting a nutritionist or dietician to help you with a full nutritional plan.
How Does Exercise Affect Fat Loss?
I think most people understand that burning calories during exercise helps to lose weight. However, losing weight is not always a good thing. If you're only losing muscle, your weight will decrease, but that is not necessarily a good thing. We want to focus on fat loss, and the only way to measure fat loss is to find your body fat percentage. Consult a trainer at your gym or seek out a way to find an accurate body fat percentage.
Once you've determined your body fat percentage, you now have a good way to track your progress. The easiest way to think about how exercise affects fat loss is to picture a marathon runner and a sprinter. Both athletes have very low body percentages, but their bodies look very different.
The marathon runner trains specifically for cardiovascular endurance by running long distances at a moderate intensity. Think of this as jogging long distances or on the treadmill for an hour. On the other hand, the sprinter trains at absolute maximum intensity for a very short duration, training their bodies to be able to exert maximum effort as efficiently as possible for a short time. This method of training is called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Moderate intensity jogging promotes gains in cardiovascular endurance and some fat loss but does not promote muscle growth. HIIT promotes muscle growth while training cardiovascular endurance and fat loss. This is why sprinter look very toned and muscular, while marathon runners have very low body percentages but do not look sculpted. The way you train should align with your goals. If you're having trouble toning your body and losing fat, ask yourself, are you training like a marathon runner or a sprinter?