Everyone wants to look good, to be healthier and to be at ease with themselves. One of the best ways to do this is to reduce your body fat and thus improve your self image. The problem being that there is a lot of false information on the internet regarding this.
I wish to provide some insights and advice on what is scientifically true, and what I have used in my own experience with dieting. The image below shows my before and after shots where I lost 13 lbs in just 5 weeks by using the principles outlined in this article. My waist size went from 34 down to 31 and a half inches and roughly a 7% reduction in body fat levels.
So here are my top tips that are guaranteed to help you lose fat fast.
1. Eat less calories than you burn
Perhaps the single most important factor in determining your success with losing fat and getting the body you want. It is something so ridiculously simple, it is unfathomable how little coverage it gets and how little people seem to believe it. Yet eating less calories than you burn, on any given day HAS to work. It is basic biology.
Let’s say that your body burns 1800 calories a day just to function. This is called your BMR or basic metabolic rate. What this means is that just existing, just being alive and breathing will cause your body to burn this amount of calories every day.
Now let’s add on to that number, the amount of calories you burn every day by being active. This includes the type of job you do and whether you do any exercise. For the purposes of this example, let’s say this number is 400 calories. Adding this to 1800 will give a TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) of 2200 calories.
It seems obvious now that if you were to eat less than 2200 calories, you would lose weight, eat more than that and you will gain weight and eat roughly the same and you will remain the same weight.
The accepted number for healthy fat loss is to consume 500 calories less than your TDEE every day. So going on the above number, if you eat 1700 calories a day you should experience a steady decrease in body fat.
To work out your BMR and your TDEE simply follow this formula;
BMR = 66 + (13.7 X weight in kilos) + (5 X height in cm) – (6.8 X age in years)
1 inch = 2.54 cm.
1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs.
Example of BMR
You are 25 years old
You are 6 feet tall
Your weight is 220 pounds
Your BMR is 66 + (1370) + (914) – (170) = 2180 calories
To determine your total daily calorie needs, now multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
If you are Sedentary – little or no exercise
Calorie-Calculation = BMR X 1.2
– If you are Lightly Active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week)
Calorie-Calculation = BMR X 1.375
– If you are Moderately Active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week)
Calorie-Calculation = BMR X 1.55
– If you are Very Active = BMR X 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/week)
Calorie-Calculation = BMR X 1.725
– If you are Extra Active (very hard daily exercise/sports & physical job or 2X day training)
Calorie-Calculation = BMR X 1.9
Total Calorie Needs Example
If you are lightly active, multiply your BMR (2180) by 1.375 = 2997
Your total daily calorie requirement is therefore 2997 calories.
This is the total number of calories you need in order to MAINTAIN your current weight.
Therefore simply subtract 500 calories from your final number and fat loss is 100% GUARANTEED.
2. Diet vs cardio; There is only one winner
It is easy to get duped by the idea that to lose fat you need to bust your ass on the running machine. Obviously cardio has numerous health benefits and I am definitely not saying that you shouldn’t do it, but with regards to losing fat I am saying that it always comes second to your diet.
You can run until your feet explode but if your diet is crap then you are always going to go 2 steps forward and 1 step back. You have heard the old saying ‘you are what you eat’; well to a certain extent this is true. What you eat and going on the above example, how much you eat, will have a far bigger influence on your results than doing cardio and neglecting your diet.
Think about it like this. You spend an hour in the gym on the treadmill to burn 500 calories and you feel very proud of yourself. Why not, running for an hour is damn hard work. The problem is, you can negate those 500 calories by not paying attention to your diet. One chocolate bar or a couple glasses of wine is all it takes to put those calories back on.
If you aren’t 100% on top of your diet, it is easy to fall into the mindset of ‘just the one won’t hurt, I bust my ass in the gym today, and I’ve earned it.’
Doing cardio will help you to lose fat but you must always remember that you have to have your diet in check first. That is the absolute minimum. Without that you will start wondering why you aren’t seeing the results you expect.
3. Watch out for that insulin spike
Insulin is an important hormone in your body. It is at a higher level after you eat and a lower level when you are fasting. The simplest explanation…insulin helps store the nutrients from the foods you eat.
The reason you should watch out for it is because high levels of insulin will cause your body to store fat. Actually, if your insulin levels are too high then no matter what else you are doing, your body will not even start burning fat.
It is pretty easy to keep insulin levels low and steady, all you have to do is keep your carbohydrates and sugar intake to a minimum.
One fool proof way to manipulate your body and to increase your fat loss is to make sure you don’t mix carbs and fats in the same meal. So this means you can eat carbs and protein together, and proteins and fats together.
A good example of a carb and protein meal is rice and chicken.
A good example of a protein and fat meal is chicken and eggs with low carb mayo.
4. Workout before your first meal of the day
The absolute best time of the day to perform your workout is before breakfast. The main reason for this is because you have just spent the last 8 hours or so sleeping and it was probably a good 10 hours or so since you last ate. Your body is now in a fasted state where your glycogen levels are pretty low.
This helps us to burn fat because right from the start of your workout, your body is using a higher proportion of fat as your main energy source.
Another very good reason is that it will give your metabolism a little boost. You don’t just stop burning calories when you stop the workout. Depending on the intensity, you can keep burning calories for several hours afterwards. A high intensity workout, the kind where you are sweating buckets and are out of breath will keep your body in a fat burning state for up to 12 hours.
It is very important that should you do this, make sure you get some fluids inside you beforehand. It is very likely you will be dehydrated when you wake up even if you feel fine.
5. Ignore the scales and the mirror
This is a really odd tip, but one that I feel is very beneficial for you. The scales can lie and the mirror can totally deceive you.
It is very addictive to monitor your progress daily, especially when you start seeing results. Yet doing so can totally skew how you perceive your progress.
Let’s talk about the scales first. Your weight can and will fluctuate daily. There are many reasons for this such as water retention, how much you have eaten recently, even different scales give wildly different results. What you should do is only weigh yourself weekly, say a Monday morning as soon as you wake up. Always use the same scales, digital if possible and remember that just because you have lost a few lbs, it doesn’t always mean it was fat. It could be water weight as you will lose a bit of water weight before the fat really starts to fall off.
Now for the mirror. Our eyes deceive us every day without us realising anything, which as you can imagine, could play havoc with our self-perception. Sometimes we only see what we want to see. How many times have you looked at yourself wearing a particular item of clothing and thought you looked fat in it, even though a few days previously you though you looked great. It’s common and every person thinks these things from time to time.
That’s not to mention variables like lighting, time of the day, your distance from the mirror. It just produces so many different results and is not a reliable indicator of progress.
So what can you do?
Well the tape measure is probably the most accurate way to gauge your progress. Simply measure your stomach around the navel, your hips around the maximum protrusion of the buttocks and your thigh around the largest part. Again as above, don’t do this every day but once a week is fine and you will definitely notice the measurements getting smaller.
So there you have it, my top 5 tips to make the whole fat loss experience as easy as possible. If you have any advice about what may have worked for you, please feel free to leave a comment below.
this is a brilliant article. however how does on determine hwo many carbohydrates are required and how to actually keep the insulin down?
Hi, a good rule is to work out how many calories you need in a day and split it 40/40/20 with carbs/proteins/fats. The lower the carbs and calories the lower the insulin spike (generally).
wow. cool. will give it a start! 🙂 thanks so much
Great article, it sums up the main and most scientifically-backed ways to lose weight.
I do have a question though, regarding point 4: I’ve seen mentioned in Outside Magazine that 20 minutes of cardio before breakfast is the way to go. But since I do my cardio on the street (running around the ‘hood) I do feel anxious about the idea of going for a run without having eaten nothing at all. Could you elaborate on the best strategy to maximize results during pre-breakfast workout/ make ’em a bit more “secure”?
Thanks for the article and the website in general,
Hi Afonso, you will have more than enough glycogen in your muscles from the previous day to fuel you through your early morning workout. If you are concerned with maybe feeling weak or dizzy by exercising on an empty stomach then it’s ok to have a small piece of fruit or maybe an energy drink before. Thanks for your comment!
I am now just starting to realize the importance of being healthy in relation to my overall weight. I don’t have a lot $ to join a gym just of yet. What are some things you can recommend as workouts. I walk/ran with the dog every week at least 3 miles and have taken up walking almost on a daily basis. Thanks for the article by the way.
Hey Bob, finding the money for a gym is a worthwhile investment. You can’t put a price on your body, but if not then you can always do things like press ups, sit ups, bodyweight squats and of course, go running outside. Money should never be a barrier!!