It’s time I wrote a pretty frank article about this, so be warned: bad language is likely to be ahead. If you have fitness goals that you are working towards, don’t get caught up in the shit. When it comes to getting in shape there is a HUGE market for money-making, and the media and the internet can very easily persuade fitness novices onto their plans for a fee, which often don’t acknowledge or adhere to the basics of fat loss. The result of this is an uncountable number of people blindly following diet plans or exercise programmes and falling off the wagon time and time again. Body fat doesn’t care about fads. It doesn’t dissolve away with magic pills. It doesn’t check at what time of the day you consume carbs. It does respond to the 5 fundamentals that make up any successful fat loss journey. Simple. When you decide to start (or overhaul) your fitness regime you should be beginning from the basic building blocks. There is so much information and research available out there that it’s tough to know who to believe- well you can believe me. I won’t try to sell you anything, or confuse you with nonsensical methods or unnecessary complexities which can really bog down beginners and detract from the basics. There’s 5 things you need to implement for fat loss, and everything else is either a needless intricacy, or, a load of bull. I’m willing to put my reputation on the line here and say making these fundamentals a habit will get you leaner. There’s no scientific way it won’t. So here are the 5 fool-proof fundamentals:
1. Be in a calorie deficit
Or in other terms, burn more calories than you consume. Simple science. If you need to burn more energy to function than you got from your food and drink, you’ll start to burn something else… body fat.
Find a way that works for you. All diets are based on a calorie-deficit premise: fasting, slimming world, low-carb, all that these plans do is help you to get into a deficit, there’s no magic secret. You just need to find a way that gets you understanding and eating within a deficit for yourself. This could be anything from basic portion control to calorie tracking, just so long as you can see yourself doing it for a long time. This needs to be a sustainable option that you can continue with for months not weeks.
2. Weight Train
Now you can lose generalised weight with generalised exercise, most commonly thought of as cardio, however most people don’t want to just lose weight. Instead, what most people want is to lose body fat whilst maintaining or even building muscle. This is the only way to get that toned body shape from the covers of magazines. How is this possible? Weight training. Lifting weights at a reasonably high intensity, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and hitting those big compound lifts 2-3 times a week- the more you demand of your body, the closer you’ll be to that ripped shape. This type of working-out burns calories and is so much more fun and enjoyable than cardio (I’m probably a little bias), and also allows you to follow tangible results- you can’t argue with the numbers as you begin to lift heavier for higher volumes. This could be achieved through crossfit, body building or a mix of functional training, just as long as you are using resistance. Basically: lift weights. I literally cannot repeat it enough. Lift. Weights.
Be consistent with your programme. It’s the only way to make it happen. If you are constantly deviating from your nutritional plan or missing gym sessions then you won’t reach your goals. If you’re cheating yourself by underreporting your calorie intake or your sessions lack intensity or structure, you’ll be cheating your way out of the results you want. Stop plodding along looking for a magical secret that the people of Instagram have discovered and you haven’t- improve your adherence. If you’re one of these people who religiously stick to their plan Monday to Friday and spectacularly go all out on Saturday and Sunday then your progress is likely to go out the window too. It’s unbelievably easy to undo an entire week of eating in a calorie deficit with a huge intake of booze and kebab on Saturday night. It totally sucks but there’s no way around it, you just have to trust in the process and commit to it to begin to see the fruits of your labour.
4. Bare minimum of cardio
Cardio is a tool of fat loss, it isn’t the key. Starting your fitness journey by plodding away on a treadmill for 5 hours a week is counterproductive. Cardio should be implemented later in your journey when progress has slowed and there isn’t room to lower your calorie intake or adding more weight sessions means there wouldn’t be any recovery time. In this instance cardio during rest days or at the end of training can be a good tool to keep your calorie deficit consistent. As always, there’s lots of room for personalisation here. You may prefer LISS (low-intensity steady state cardio which could be any kind of average speed biking/rowing/jogging etc), you may want to take part in some HIIT (high-intensity interval training), or you may want to take the dog for a really long walk, it’s all personal preference. All that I can recommend is something that you find fun and enjoyable. To summarise: use cardio sparingly as a tool.
Give yourself as much time as possible. Don’t start a six-week plan on the lead up to the holiday, start 3 months out and give yourself a fighting chance to reach your goals and actually see some change. Fat loss takes time. It’s a slow process. The longer you give yourself, the better the results. It’s that simple. So those are the 5 absolute fundamentals of fat loss. Anyone honest person in the fitness industry will tell you the same thing. My favourite phrase to consider here is “don’t miss the forest for the trees.” Worrying yourself with teeny details and losing sight of the basics is a sure-fire way to fall of the wagon. Make these 5 things habit, and the results will speak for themselves. I promise. Oh, and as always if you need clarity or help with any of this my services are available and you know where to find me. Peace.