It is that time of year again. With 2018 coming to end, it is time to determine your goals for 2019. If you are like most people, your New Year’s Resolution will be to lose weight.

While this is a fine goal to choose, I want you to change your mindset a little bit.  Weight loss in our industry is a combination of lean mass (aka muscle) and fat mass.  Losing lean mass is a bad idea.  Lean mass is what drives your metabolism.  The more lean tissue, the higher your metabolic rate. The higher your metabolic rate, the more calories you  burn during exercise and at rest.  If anything, you want to try to maintain or increase your muscle mass.  While this is a challenge while following a lower calorie diet, it is possible and should be the goal. Instead of weight loss, think fat loss.

Fat loss is primarily what most people mean when they want to lose weight.

Principles of Fat Loss  

1. Have a clear vision of where you want to be and how your body will look – write down your goals and vision of what your body to look like  and keep somewhere you  can see it everyday.  Write a plan on how you are going to achieve that goal.  If you aren’t sure on how to create a plan, read this two part blog post on enjoying the process and goal setting.

If you aren’t a detailed oriented person, that is okay.  Your goals can be simplified to something like this:

  • Increase vegetable intake to 2 servings/day vs. the current 1 serving a day.
  • Exercise 3 days/week
  • Increase water intake

However, keep in mind that if you want hit a certain look, weight goal, or bodyfat percentage, you will need to be as specific as possible.

2. Identify and eliminate your triggers – most of us know what our trigger foods are.  It can be chocolate, mashed potatoes, etc.  Be vigilant with your food and stop making excuses.  Slipping up and spending a few days binging on all of your favorite trigger foods will never allow you to reach your fat loss goal.

Be mindful of your eating.  You should actually be tasting your food instead of eating fast and not fully enjoying it. Try these simple things you can do with your meals to enjoy them and reduce your chances to overeat:

  • Take your  time and chew your food – savor the taste of the food. Chewing slowly will allow your tastebuds to give you feedback about the taste your are experiencing.
  • Put your fork down between bites – this will allow you to chew your food vs shoveling food into your mouth.
  • Be attention to your satiety levels – if you are chewing your food slowly and putting your fork down, your body will tell you if you are full, you just have to pay attention.   But here is the key – when you are full – STOP EATING!

The hardest part of food is staying to a strategy. You really do need to plan. Heading to a restaurant with friends? No problem, you may want to consider fasting since you know that you will most likely overeat in a social setting.  I don’t mean a 24 hour fast,  have an good breakfast and just skip lunch. When you eat, eat high fiber foods first, then protein.  Pay attention to your satiety levels.  If after eating the salad and protein source, your still hungry, have some of the carbohydrates, but again, pay attention to your satiety levels.

3. When you exercise, workout to build muscle even while trying to maintain – by training hard in a caloric deficit with the mindset to build muscle vs. maintain, you will increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a powerful hormone that not only controls blood sugar, but is a powerful fat burning hormone.

It is possible to build muscle in a calorie deficit, but it is challenging. Training in the 6-10 rep range will allow you to keep the muscle while in a caloric deficit.  Don’t be afraid to push yourself. Just pay attention to how your body feels and your energy levels.  If you are getting weaker during your training, most likely you created to big of a calorie deficit – up your caloric levels a bit. Being a little hungry is okay, but your shouldn’t be starving at the end of the day.

4. Choose performance outputs in cardio based workouts – instead of doing long, steady state cardio at a slow pace, push yourself and challenge yourself during the workout.  Intervals are a great way to up the ante of your workout and can create a metabolic disturbance that will cause your body to burn excess calories for up to 24 plus hours after the workout is over.  Intervals include periods of hard work (sprints, hills, more watts, etc) followed by periods of recovery.  The ratio is typically 1:2. For example you sprint for 10 seconds and recover for 20 seconds, then repeat for however many reps and sets.  However, you  can certainly increase that recovery period if needed.  Perhaps a 1:4 ratio, or more  if needed depending on well you recover between reps.

5.  Choose a nutrition plan you can stick to without feeling overwhelmed or deprived –  the goal of any weight loss/fat loss program is three fold:

a. spare muscle

b. meet nutrient needs

c. provide enough of a calorie deficit to lose bodyfat  safely

Any diet will work as long as it provides a calorie deficit.  You heard that right, ANY DIET will work.  Keto, Paleo, Adkins, Vegetarian, South Beach, etc, they all work.  The difference in all of them is macronutrients values and philosophy.  If you find a diet that helps hit the three goals listed above, stick with it.   This is where most people fail.  Starting a diet plan that is unrealistic or doesn’t match your personality will result in going into bad habits.

Find it hard to eat “clean” 100% of the time? Try following the 80/20 rule.  What this means is to eat 80% of your calories with good, wholesome food and 20% can be the stuff you crave. However, you have to be vigilant and stop once you hit that 20% mark.  If you keep going, you won’t hit your fat loss goals and most likely you will go the other way and gain body fat and bodyweight.

6. Find ways to move more in your everyday activities – everyone is concerned with how many calories they burn during their workout. However, the truth is that the calories burned from exercise will only make up between 5-15% of your total energy expenditure.  That really isn’t a lot. There is an easy way to burn more calories throughout day by increasing your ADL’s (activities of daily living). ADL’s are things such as taking the stairs instead of the escalator, stand-up for longer periods of time vs. sitting, park farther away from the front of the store and walk in. It all adds up.  Try taking a 10 minute walk after each meal if you can.  That adds up 3.5 hours to exercise time during the week!

7. You are 100% in control of how much food you eat –  if you are in a situation where you don’t want to eat certain foods- DON’T! If you are feeling pressure to eat everything your friends are eating, you need to reassess.  Remember, you are in control of what you eat, not the people you associate with.

So there you have it, the 7 principles to help you loss fat for 2019.  Use these principles to help you finally get rid of stubborn fat and help you build the body you want, whether it is for performance, health, or vanity reasons.

authored by dave radin, bs, cscs

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