10 Things You Need to Know
to Burn Body Fat and Get Lean
This is the ultimate guide to fat loss and getting lean. Whether you’re looking to get swim suit ready for the summer, getting ready for a vacation to the Caribbean, or just want to get rid of unwanted body fat, you’re in the right place. I am going to take you through 10 things you need to know to lose body fat.
1. It’s All About ENERGY Balance
Energy balance is the difference between your energy input—in layman’s terms the calories you consume through food versus the calories your body burns. Some people refer to the energy balance equation as the “calories in, calories out” equation. Calculating your energy balance should be the first step in the process when looking to lose weight, burn fat, or gain muscle. You should calculate your energy balance.
Positive energy balance: This occurs when you’re at a caloric surplus or you are consuming more calories than you burn resulting in weight gain. (Weight gain = energy input > energy output).
Negative energy balance: This occurs when you’re at a caloric deficit or you are consuming less calories than you burn resulting in weight loss. (Weight loss = energy input < energy output). For best results you want a caloric deficit of 500-1000 calories per day to lose 1-2 pounds per week.
There are three ways to change your energy balance. You can reduce your caloric intake, increase your energy output (exercise more), or combine both options to achieve a caloric deficit necessary for weight loss.
2. Resistance Training
The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn. More muscle means your body will burn more calories per day—at rest! Sounds simple, right? However, the only way to build more muscle is to incorporate resistance training (lifting weights) into your exercise program. By incorporating resistance training, your body will signal a stress response to your muscles triggering them to grow bigger and stronger so they become more resilient to the stress of the resistance.
Your body will use more calories as it grows more muscle, but you can also take into account the energy (calories) you’re expending while you’re working out and the energy your muscles use to repair themselves after you’re done. When you put it all into perspective, you can see why resistance training is so important to losing fat and getting lean! In some cases, you don’t even have to cut calories to see some aesthetic benefits from resistance training.
When it comes to your exercise regimen, stick to compound exercises that use large muscle groups over multiple joints to get the most out of your workouts. These include movements like squat variations, deadlifts, bench press, push-ups, rows, pull-ups, etc. Stick to free weights and body weight exercises versus machines. Another thing to consider is rest time between sets. If your main goal is fat loss, you will want to keep the intensity high during your workouts. There are a couple ways you can do this. You can increase the weight or load of the exercise, or decrease the rest time between sets. Typically, you want your rest interval to be 30-60 seconds depending on how heavy you are lifting. Sticking to these simple rules will allow you to burn more calories during your workouts and expedite the fat loss process!
3. Cardio Workouts
Cardio is anything that raises your heart rate. When you think of cardio, you probably think of steady state cardio jogging or cycling for 30 minutes at the same pace and speed. If your goal is to burn fat, interval training should be part of your workout program. Interval training is a great way to get in an effective workout with minimal time and it’s extremely effective for burning fat.
The most important thing about high intensity interval training (HIIT) is that it keeps your body burning fat even after you leave the gym. During an HIIT workout, your body can’t shuttle enough oxygen to your muscles during periods of hard work. Therefore, your muscles accumulate oxygen “debt” that must be repaid post-workout in order to get back to normal. The result: Your metabolism is sky high for hours after your workout. Fitness professionals refer to this concept as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). The biggest way to use it to your advantage is to regularly work short, intense bouts of exercise into your workout regimen.
Here are benefits of HIIT workouts:
- Time efficient
- Boost metabolism
- Stimulates growth hormones
- Develops cardiovascular system
- Improved heart health
- Decreases recovery time
- Variety of workout types
When creating interval workouts, focus on work to rest ratio. This could be as simple as 30 second sprints followed by 30 seconds of rest for 8 sets. This is an example of an equal work to rest ratio interval. You can make this same workout more difficult by increasing the number of sets or by decreasing the rest interval—30 second sprints followed by 15 seconds of rest. This is a 2:1 work to rest ratio. You may want to consider decreasing the number of sets when decreasing the rest interval for sustainability purposes. Always start with moderate intensity then progress as your fitness level improves.
4. Eat More Fiber
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate the body can’t break down into glucose to use for energy. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both are beneficial in different ways. Soluble fiber attracts water to form a gel which slows down digestion and delays the emptying of your stomach, helping to keep you full longer. Additionally, it can lower blood cholesterol by interfering with the absorption of dietary cholesterol, helping to remove it from the body.
Here is a list of foods that are rich in fiber:
- green beans
- whole grains
- green leafy veggies
Fiber rich food slows the release of carbohydrates. Black beans, berries, sweet potatoes, and other high-fiber foods are digested at a much slower rate, causing a slow, steady stream of glucose into your blood stream. On the other hand, low-fiber foods like white bread will digest much faster, causing larger spikes in insulin.
High-fiber foods like broccoli will fill you up and make you feel satisfied longer, even when you eat less food. One cup of broccoli yields about 40 calories with 10 grams of carbs, 4 of which are “unabsorbable” fiber. Compare that broccoli to one cup of pasta that yields around 150 calories with 45 grams of carbs. You’d be able to blow through that cup of pasta like it was nothing, and probably go back for seconds and thirds, but that single cup of broccoli may be filling enough that you feel great for hours.
5. All Calories are NOT the Same
The foods we eat are just as important as the calories they supply. Simply put, everything you eat can be categorized as either a carbohydrate, fat, or protein. Each of these three macronutrients will metabolize differently, even though they all provide calories. One gram of protein provides 4 calories, one gram of carbs provides 4 calories, and one gram of fat provides 9 calories.
If your diet consists of donuts and candy, for example, you’ll look and feel differently than if your diet consists of lean meat and vegetables. Protein has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates and fats. This means your body burns more calories breaking down and digesting protein than it does carbs and fats. Additionally, protein is more filling than carbohydrates.
Although protein is an important part of a healthy diet, you certainly shouldn’t derive all of your calories from that one macronutrient. Carbohydrates and fats are essential for optimal health as well. Certain fats, such as medium-chain fatty acids like coconut oil, are actually linked to increased energy expenditure and reduced hunger when included in the diet.
Carbohydrates are your body’s go-to energy source and are necessary for maintaining intensity during your workouts. However, carbohydrates also fill up your body’s glycogen stores quickly, so excess carbs in your diet can also mean excess fat.
Everyone’s body is different. There is not a one size fits all solution to calorie intake or macronutrient breakdown. The best thing you can do is track what’s going into your body, adjust as needed, and repeat that process until you get the desired outcome you want.
6. Track, Adjust, Repeat
This is probably the most important tip for getting and staying lean. You must track your progress, take body measurements, measure body fat, and weight. Also, record your food portions so you know what will work for your body.
I know it sounds too simplistic, but the only real way to figure out what will work for you is trial and error. However, there are a couple of things you can do to make the process easier. Number one, figure out your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
This number tells you how many calories you need to consume in order to maintain your current weight based on your activity level. If your goal is fat loss, you will want to subtract 500 from that number and that will be the number of calories you will need to lose weight and burn fat. To be consistent, track and record what you eat to see how close you are to calorie needs. Once you have controlled your caloric intake, you can start to break those calories down into macronutrient ratios.
Ectomorph: If you’re an ectomorph, you’re naturally thin with skinny limbs and a high tolerance for carbohydrates. Usually your metabolic rate is fast. A good starting macronutrient ratio for you would be something like 25% protein, 55% carbs and 20% fat.
Mesomorph: Mesomorphs are naturally muscular and athletic. They have a moderate carbohydrate tolerance and a moderate metabolic rate. Mesomorphs can usually start at a 30% protein, 40% carb, and 30% fat macronutrient ratio.
Endomorph: If you’re naturally broad and thick, you’re probably an endomorph. Endomorphs have a low carbohydrate tolerance and a slow metabolic rate. If you’re an endomorph, try a ratio of 35% protein, 25% carbs and 40% fat.
7. Get Rid of the Sugar
The most common sugars are monosaccharides (glucose, fructose and galactose), but mostly these are occurring as disaccharides (which are sucrose, lactose and maltose). Monosaccharides and disaccharides are two kinds of simple sugars, which are a form of carbohydrate. Oligosaccharides and polysaccharides, on the other hand, contain more sugar combinations and are known as complex carbohydrates — for example, whole grain breads, brown rice and sweet potatoes.
Monosaccharides require the least effort by the body to break down, meaning they are available for energy more quickly than disaccharides.
When it comes to fat loss, you will want to be mindful of your sugar consumption as it spikes insulin levels which can cause your body to store excess fat. Glucose and maltose are notorious for affecting insulin levels, but stick to natural sugar from fruit and limit food items with added table sugar or sweeteners.
8. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
A lot of people underestimate the importance of hydration when it comes to fat loss, and drinking plenty of water is one of the easiest steps you can take for a healthier body and mind. Start drinking early in the morning and aim to drink between 3-5 liters per day – depending on your body composition. This will help flush your body of toxins and allow your body to function optimally. Some other benefits of drinking lots of water include: healthier skin, teeth and bones, improved digestion, reduced fatigue and increased fat metabolism.
9. Snacks on Deck
Snacking is often our biggest downfall when it comes to eating well and getting lean. You want to aim for 3 medium sized meals a day (~300-500 calories each) and supplement the rest of your daily calorie needs with 2-3 snacks (~100-300 calories each). Here are a few healthy snack ideas:
- Protein shake/smoothie
- Handful of nuts
- Berries or apple
- Greek yogurt
- Hard-boiled egg
- Celery with almond butter
- Hummus and carrots
- Cottage cheese
10. Chill Out to Manage Stress
For most of us, stress is a fact of life. Unfortunately, research reveals that it’s also a fact of fat. Even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight—or even add pounds.
Your body responds to all stress in exactly the same way. Every time you have a stressful day, your brain instructs your cells to release potent hormones. You get a burst of adrenaline, which taps stored energy so you can fight or flee. At the same time, you get a surge of cortisol, which tells your body to replenish that energy even though you haven’t used very many calories. This can make you hungry…very hungry. And your body keeps on pumping out that cortisol as long as the stress continues.
Levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, rise during tension-filled times. This can turn your overeating into a habit. Because increased levels of the hormone also help cause higher insulin levels, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods.
A University of San Francisco study published in 2011 found that rats placed in high-stress situations were likely to use fatty and sugary foods to self-medicate; the comfort food had a calming effect on the rats’ brains that restricted the release of stress-related hormones. Stress hormones send messages to the body, one of which is to store fat around the body. The most studied and effective way to reduce stress is meditation, because it lowers cortisol and blood pressure levels.
Here are a few things you can do to relieve stress
- Deep breathing techniques
- Sleep (7 hours or more)
- Light exercise
Now you are equipped with the information you need to start your journey towards getting lean and mean! Remember, getting the results you want is all about educating yourself so you are prepared to do things the right way. This means doing the appropriate workouts like HIIT and interval cardio workouts to maximize fat burn. Calculate your calorie needs, body measurements, macronutrient goals, and be flexible to make adjustments on the fly. Stay away from foods with added sugars, drink lots of water, eat frequent meals, have snacks ready, and stay stress free!
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