With all the contradictory weight loss advice out there, it’s easy to get confused and just focus on one aspect.
Maybe you just cut calories, which leads to a slow-down in metabolic rate and a loss of lean muscle mass, which sets you up to gain weight once you stop dieting and increase calories.
Or you try to burn more calories through exercise but pay no attention to what and how much you are eating. Studies consistently show that people “reward” themselves after they exercise, eating more calories, particularly by indulging in sweets and high-calorie foods that they’d normally steer clear of.
Therefore, it’s essential that you approach fat loss from three different angles. First, you need to exercise, doing some form of training with weights. Additional interval workouts can accelerate fat loss.
Second, you need a whole foods diet that optimizes macronutrients for your unique genetics.
Third, it’s worth the effort to develop habits that allow you to fight against the obesogenic environment that has overtaken modern society.
This article provides a checklist so that you ensure you’re doing all the little things that make a difference so that you get the body you’ve been hoping for.
#1: Training/Physical Activity
Strength training: Any time you want to use exercise to improve your body, your first goal should be on elevating your resting metabolic rate (RMR) by increasing lean muscle mass because this means you will burn more calories every day. This can be done with a strength training program that emphasizes multi-joint exercises through a full-range of motion such as squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, presses, lunges, step-ups, and rows. A general rule is to train in the 8 to 12 rep range, for 4 sets per exercise using 60 second rest periods.
Intervals: The next step is to get in some interval workouts because this type of training raises growth hormone, which is lipolytic, meaning that increases the breakdown of body fat. Sprints also build lean muscle, which aerobic cardio, such as distance running, doesn’t do. In fact, nothing about aerobic cardio is in line with the goals of fat loss or muscle building because it trains the body to be efficient and use the least amount of energy to produce the greatest amount of work.
Avoid sedentariness: Finally, you want to make sure that you aren’t being sedentary most of the day. This will take some effort because our society is designed for sedentariness with our reliance on cars, addiction to cell phones, and tendency to think of being immobile as relaxing. Whether you get yourself in gear by getting a standing or treadmill desk, take frequent active breaks, track your daily steps with a pedometer, or get rid of your TV, it’s vital that you commit to being more active and inspiring your friends to do the same.
Individualize your diet: Nutrition research repeatedly shows that the best diet is the one you can stick to. That said, here are a few principles that can help you design a say of eating that is sustainable:
High-quality protein: Eat protein at every meal, favoring high quality sources—meat, fish, eggs, dairy. Everyone knows protein foods promote optimal body composition because they’re filling, they require the body to burn more calories to metabolize than carbs or fat, and they are used to repair muscle and tissue.
Optimize carb intake: Carb intake should be based on genetics and activity levels. Pretty much everyone will benefit from avoiding processed carbs and refined grains such as sweets, bread, pasta, chips, crackers, and sweetened beverages. For people with significant amounts of weight to lose, avoid wheat and corn and consider removing calorie-rich grains that cause a large insulin response. Replace them with a variety of colorful vegetables, especially leafy greens. Include fruit to round out your daily carb intake—dark colored fruits and berries tend to be nutrient-rich but lower in calories, making them a good addition if your goal is fat loss.
Healthy fat: Include healthy fat from a variety of sources—meat, fish, eggs, dairy, butter, coconut oil, avocado, olives, nuts, and seeds. Fat is filling and it is essential for cellular health and balance of the key androgen hormones. Cooking vegetables with fat improves absorption of phytonutrients and is a surefire way to have delicious meals.
#3: Lifestyle Habits
Research has revealed a number of habits that correlate with leanness and a better body composition. Here are a few of the simplest, most practical ones:
Get a restful night’s sleep: A simple and profound way to get better sleep is to optimize your light and dark exposure. Light serves as the major regulator of your “master clock,” which controls your circadian rhythm. To “anchor” your master clock, you want to get bright outdoor light exposure for at least 30 to 60 minutes a day, preferably in the morning right after waking up.
Avoid late night eating: Finishing your last meal by 8 p.m. promotes circadian rhythms and hormone balance for better sleep.
Pick a meal frequency and stick to it: Constant hunger and nearly uncontrollable food cravings are signs that hormones are out balance and blood sugar is off. Solve this by having a set meal frequency.
Do meditation or other mind-body activities: Meditation, even for a few minutes a day, has been found to lower cortisol and improve balance of hormones like testosterone and growth hormone. Martial arts, deep breathing, and yoga have also been shown to improve resilience to stress and aid in sleep and immune function.
Take care of your digestion: Take probiotics and avoid foods you are intolerant of.
Get enough of the big three: Magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc are all nutrients that directly influence metabolic processes.