21 Fat Loss Hacks (PART 1)
Hey guys 🙂 today I’m talking about fat loss. If you’re hoping to read about a magic fat loss pill or potion below, I’m sorry to disappoint. The following 10 of my ’21 fat loss hacks’ (11-21 here, in part 2) are based on simple but effective methods for long-lasting, sustainable & realistic fat reduction. Enjoy!
1. Drink water.
Aside from a variety of benefits such as keeping your joints lubricated, promoting healthy skin, aiding digestion and making you feel more energised & alert, drinking water also improves metabolism (science-y bits here & here). So get yourself a water bottle that you’re happy to carry around and stay quenched! Aim for 1-2L per day, but a good guide is to just drink whenever you feel thirsty. An important point to remember is that a lot of the time, thirst is disguised as hunger, so next time you’re reaching for that 2nd helping of chocolate, sip some water instead.
2. Move often.
The more you move, the more energy you expend and the more calories you burn. Caloric deficit = weight loss. Whether you sit down or stand up at your job the point is to move as much as possible. This could be shifting weight from one leg to another, gently stepping forwards and backwards, setting a timer on your phone to stand up and walk around every half an hour, do 10-rep sets of squats at various intervals throughout the day… the list goes on. The focus here is not on what you do, but how often.
3. Increase muscle mass.
Increased muscle mass = increased calorie burn. Muscle burns roughly 3 times as many calories at rest than fat does. When those respective numbers are 6 & 2 calories per pound per day that doesn’t sound like much, but as I discussed in this post, it does add up.
It’s also worth mentioning that when you take into account the effect that increased muscle mass has on your work rate capabilities, it’s clear to see that you will be able to exert more power (not having weak muscles to hold you back from performing at your potential), therefore burning more calories – this theory is of course based on the idea that you will be putting a consistent amount of effort into your workouts. So even if you don’t feel that the calorie expenditure of muscles vs fat is of enough value to you to be a direct factor contributing to fat loss, it’s certainly something to bare in mind when selecting exercises for your next workout routine.
4. Avoid refined sugar.
To simplify something that really ought to be looked at in much more complex detail, the message I want you to take from this point is that, for the majority of people consuming the typical western diet, fat doesn’t make you fat, excess sugar & a calorie surplus makes you fat. Here is a nice little video, explaining the why and the how in a far more entertaining way than reading it. That video comes from this super easy to read blog post by Steve, founder of Nerd Fitness (one of my favourite blogs and one that I highly recommend you follow).
5. Don’t drink loads of calories.
This one is pretty straight-forward: most drinks that aren’t water contain a huge amount of calories, are filled to the brim with sugar & additives and are anything but natural – even a lot of the ones that are marketed as being ‘healthy’. I’d rather fill up on a chocolate protein mousse (391cals), or a 5oz fillet steak (460cals), than waste a quarter of my daily caloric needs on a caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream (455cals), thank you very much!
6. Don’t be scared into the latest fad cardio exercise.
HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts are awesome, I love them; they’re challenging, energising and make me feel like I’ve climbed a mountain, plus they normally last for less than half an hour. However, all those things are based on my opinion – it comes down to personal preference, time availability and individual needs & abilities. Just because I, or anybody else for that matter enjoys it, it certainly doesn’t take away from the benefits of, for example, LISS (‘low intensity steady state’ exercise).
One of the biggest things you’ll hear about when someone is trying to sell you a HIIT programme is “EPOC” (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). Yes it’s true that EPOC is roughly double for HIIT than it is for LISS, but we’re talking about roughly 13 & 7% respectively – that’s a percentage of the total calories burnt during that exercise. So, if you burn 300 calories during an hour of HIIT, the added calorie burn achieved through EPOC would be 39 calories… yay! Now, say you burn 600 calories in an hour of LISS, the extra 7% of calories burnt from EPOC would give you an extra 42. Whilst still not exactly anything to shout about, it’s actually more than the EPOC-induced extra calorie burn from HIIT.
So yes, the relative extra calorie burn from EPOC is higher for HIIT than it is for LISS, but the absolute is roughly the same, if not less. Now that we know how teeny those numbers are in respect to weight loss, I hope you can agree that EPOC is not something that you should be stressing about when it comes to choosing CV exercises for your programme.
The point I want you to take from this is that salespeople will only show you the stats they want you to see. You don’t have have to do a particular style of training to achieve results. Do what works for you. If you like HIIT then awesome, bring it on! But if you prefer LISS, then run/cycle/swim your heart out. The more you enjoy what you’re doing, the more likely you are to stick at it. The important thing is that you keep doing it – consistently burning calories is far more effective than sporadic bursts of calorie burn, that start to dwindle after a couple of weeks when you get bored/burn out/over train. So the combination of resistance training and your choice of cardio will be a winning one.
(I got my info from this 14-post article, referring extensive studies and looking thoroughly in-depth into both sides of the arguments on EPOC.)
7. Eat protein.
The body’s preferred source of energy is carbohydrate. Whilst this is true, if the body’s energy requirements aren’t met by carbs, it will use surplus protein, as well as stored body fat as its energy source – which is why high protein/low carb diets are so successful for weight loss. Apart from a whole bunch of other awesome stuff like muscle growth, bodily repair and other hormonal processes, protein also promotes satiety and helps kill cravings for foods high in sugar.
I’m not gonna jump on the ‘avoid all carbs 4evz’ bandwagon (although if this works for you, please go ahead), but speaking from experience, I do believe the body can function perfectly fine on a low carb diet. You will of course however need a higher carb intake on training days, both to fuel your workout (if you’re not working out before breakfast) and afterwards for muscle growth & recovery.
Remember: everyone is different and you may be one of those people who simply need a higher carb intake; if so, cool, if not, cool. Regardless of your carb intake, try to aim for 0.7-1g of protein per lb of bodyweight, then you can divide the rest of your calories between carbs and healthy fats in a way that works for you.
8. Don’t starve yourself.
Yes, having a daily 500 calorie deficit will result in roughly 1lb of weight loss per week. But, after a few weeks, your metabolism will slow down to become more efficient, resulting in a lowered resting metabolic rate. (Remember that for weight loss efficiency sucks) and you will therefore have to work harder and/or longer to bring yourself down to a calorie deficit. Before anyone thinks, “Yes Lola, but that happens as you become more efficient at a sport anyways…” I would like to just answer that by noting that, as Lyle McDonald points out in his post, Energy Efficiency, it takes years for this efficiency to increase enough for you to have to work harder to burn the same amount calories for a given amount of work.
So back to drastically low calorie diets: energy drops, resulting in bad performance, lack of motivation & binging. If you want to achieve a calorie deficit for weight loss, it’s much better to cut 100-300 cals max, as this shouldn’t cause all those negative side effects and you can still progress. Please don’t take this to mean that it’s wise to eat your own body weight in food either; just be sensible, intuitive and if you’re still not seeing progress, consider tracking your food for a week or so and you might find that those few cheeky bars of chocolate you’re eating each week are making a much bigger impact than you thought.
9. Be aware of the way you eat.
Something I used to struggle with was portion control – mainly because of the combination of the facts that my eyes have always been waaaay bigger than my belly and also because I have some kind of weird FOMO when it comes to food. I will always try to finish everything on my plate: not out of politeness or the way I was brought up, but because I feel like if I leave food on my plate, then I’m missing out on those tastes, textures and general wonderfulness that is food.
There are several ways you can combat the battle of portion control. One way is to practice mindful eating: take your time with your meal, think about the tastes, the textures, the smells, the temperature and any other sensations that you can feel – and appreciate all of it. This should make you become more aware of when you have had enough and you won’t be able to just mindlessly stuff your entire plate down your gullet without so much as taking a breath. If that’s too much for you to begin with, simply start off by slowing the pace at which you eat, like a lot. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness, so you must give it time to do so before you eat twice as much as you actually need to.
If you’re like me and will still eat everything on your plate regardless of how full you are and want a method of portion control that doesn’t require any self-control, simply use trial & error to figure out how much food you actually need and only put that on your plate. A lot of the time now, I’ll cook my food, then put HALF of it on my plate and the rest straight into an airtight tupperware box. This means that: a) I have a more appropriate plate size in front of me and, b) I now have another healthy meal all ready to eat on another occasion. Also, if I eat it straight away it means I have to wash something up that I wouldn’t have had to if I wasn’t so damn greedy. Call me lazy, but this method works for me.
10. Get enough sleep.
We don’t build muscle while we’re actually lifting weights. Sure, you can get a ‘pump’, but the real magic happens when you’re sleeping. Plus, lack of sleep has been shown to contribute to weight gain by reducing leptin levels (the hormone that tells you that you’re full) & increasing ghrelin levels (the hormone that tells you that you’re hungry). Being tired also leads to cravings for foods high in sugar, not to mention the lack of motivation you have to exercise when it’s been hard enough to get out of bed in the first place.
Thanks for reading the first 10 of my 21 fat loss hacks, I hope they have given you some insight into the mysteries of fat reduction – take a look at part 2 for the remaining hacks!
Are you ready to take control of your life? Book your free consultation with me today!