Fat Loss to Increase Muscle Definition and Shed Unwanted Weight
Maybe you are just starting your fat loss journey, or maybe you are well on your way. Maybe you have hit a plateau, or just need to change things up. Whether you have 100 lbs to lose or 10, you have come to the right place. Weight loss isn’t just about being skinny – it’s about gaining the mental fortitude to handle the temptations that used to slap you in the face and become who you were always meant to be.
Weight loss is fairly simple when you break it down: calories in versus calories out. I think we all know by now that creating a caloric deficit is the ultimate goal, right? But despite whatever crazy diet and training plan you may have been thinking of trying up until now, getting the most out of every training session, every step, every calorie, is what will ultimately make you stand out and be STRONG.
Here you will find a comprehensive weight training, cardio, diet, and supplementation guide to create your own success story.
Part One: The Diet
No matter what anyone tries to tell you, diet is the single most important factor when it comes to weight loss. I don’t mean eating cabbage soup for every meal, or drinking weird green juices instead of breakfast. Your diet refers to what you consume on a daily basis, not just a restrictive method of torture you feel like you have to put yourself through in order to look the way you want.
When you feed your body with proper nutrition, your cravings will begin to go away and you won’t feel the unnecessary rumblings of hunger given off by your stomach protesting less food. The focus of your diet should be clean, fresh foods that will fuel your body and your workouts. Deprivation is not the key word here, so focus on what you can eat, not what you can’t. Choose foods that have fewer than five ingredients, preferably ones that you can pronounce. Fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and brown rice, and lean meats and protein sources are optimal choices.
The first step in creating your diet is figuring out how many calories you should be consuming per day.
First, calculate your RMR, or Resting Metabolic Rate, which is about how many calories your body burns just by going about its normal daily processes. Then, multiply that number by your activity factor, which accounts for exercise and any other activity you may do during the day to get your total energy expenditure (TEE).
Very Light (mostly sedentary, office work) = 1.2-1.3
Light (about 30 min of moderate exercise) = 1.5-1.6
Active (about 3 hours of moderate exercise, including biking and walking) = 1.6-1.7
Very Active (labor intensive job, full-time athlete, vigorous planned exercise) = 1.9-2.1
Step One: RMR = Weight (lbs) x 10
Step Two: RMR x Activity Factor = TEE
For example, a 180lb man who is active would find:
Step One: 180 x 10 = 1,800
Step Two: 1,800 x 1.7 = 3,060
Once you know how many calories you need to consume per day to maintain your weight, calculate your deficit. One pound equals about 3,500 calories. So to lose one pound per week, you need to cut 500 calories per day (7 days x 500 calories = 3,500 calories). To lose 1.5 lbs per week, cut 750 per day. And to lose 2 lbs per week, you must cut 1,000 calories per day. A healthy rate of weight loss is 1-2lbs per week, so make sure you are not creating a greater deficit than that.
Now that you know how much you need to eat to lose weight, what should you be eating and when? The simplest answer is to fit your meals in according to your schedule. While the 5-6 small meals a day is a popular diet plan, if your lifestyle does not allow you to eat that many times per day, stick to eating three slightly larger meals. As long as you are staying within your calorie range and eating whole, nutrient-dense foods, you will see the results.
Aim to eat breakfast within an hour of waking to rev up your metabolism. And while we’re at it, forget the old myth that eating after 8pm makes you fat. Your body does not sit and look at the clock and think “it’s 8pm, time to start storing fat!” – it just knows it is getting fuel. With that in mind, try to have your last meal 2-3 hours before bedtime because your if your body has to digest food while sleeping, the quality of sleep will be negatively affected.
Make sure you are getting an even mixture of carbohydrates (your body’s primary source of fuel), protein (build and maintain muscle mass), and healthy fats (to aid digestion and increase satiety) throughout the day.
Here is a sample meal plan for a woman weighing 160lbs who is lightly active, trying to lose one pound per week. Her TEE = 2400, so she needs to consume 1,900 calories per day.
Breakfast: 1 egg + 4 egg whites, ½ cup oats + ¼ cup blueberries (309 calories)
Mid-morning Snack: 1 scoop protein powder + 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 apple, 1 tbsp natural peanut butter (375 calories)
Lunch: Sandwich – 4oz roasted chicken breast, 2 slices ezekiel bread, 1oz avocado, 1 tsp whole grain mustard, and Side salad – 2 cups romaine lettuce + ½ cup cucumber + ¼ cup tomato + 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (445 calories)
Afternoon Snack: 1 cup lowfat plain yogurt + 2 tbsp chopped walnuts and 1 cup strawberries (279 calories)
Dinner: 4 oz grilled salmon, 4oz sweet potato, 2 cups roasted brussels sprouts with 1 tsp coconut oil (440 calories)
Total: 1,848 calories
Part Two: Cardio
Cardio is probably the most common exercise adopted by those wanting to lose weight. Whether you run, bike, hit the elliptical, or swim laps, cardio is a necessary component of any weight loss program. You don’t need to kill yourself – hours of cardio is counterproductive. You will wear yourself down and end up needing more calories to keep your body from heading into survival mode.
Aim for 3-5 sessions per week of moderate to vigorous effort. Sitting on an incumbent bike while leisurely chatting with your neighbor is not going to cut it. If you want to see the results, you have to work. So put on your headphones, find a playlist with a solid beat, and get to it. You shouldn’t be able to talk more than a sentence or two if someone tried to start a conversation.
If you find you are hitting a plateau, only have a limited amount of time to exercise, or really, really hate cardio, give High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, a try. HIIT has been shown to burn more fat than longer durations of steady state cardio when performed correctly. Similar to weight training, your body will continue to burn more calories after the training session in addition to whatever is burned while actually completing the activity.
HIIT basically consists of an all-out, balls to the wall sprint, followed by a slightly longer recovery period. For example, if you are on a treadmill, sprint at your fastest possible pace for 30 seconds, followed by a recovery jog for one minute. If your sprint is a 10, make the recovery jog around a 5-6. Repeat for fifteen minutes total, or 10 rounds, and finish with a 3-5 minute cool down walk.
Part Three: Weight Training
Weight training is probably the second most important component of a weight loss plan, behind watching what you eat. Not only does it increase your muscle mass which in turn increases the amount of calories you burn at rest, it also ensures you will have a hot, toned body left when the fat melts away. The problem most cardio bunnies and dieters who eschew a weight regimen face is that when they finally reach their goal weight, they are left merely as smaller versions of their bigger selves. There is no shape underneath because they failed to build one.
That’s where the weights come in. While you can’t spot reduce (sorry, no amount of crunches will make those abs peak through until the fat is gone), you definitely can control the shape of your musculature. No one just has jacked arms or killer legs – those are developed on the weight floor.
When weight loss is your primary goal, aim to hit the weights three days a week with an emphasis on compound movements – that is, exercises that hit more than one muscle group at a time. Choosing exercises that recruit multiple muscle groups will lead to a higher calorie burn, Additionally, circuit training can also be an effective way to get your heart rate up while hitting all the muscle groups in a shorter amount of time.
Because your goal is to keep moving (increase your heart rate and therefore your overall calorie burn) and to add some muscle, rest periods should be kept to a minimum, about 30-60 seconds at the end of a set or circuit. Lift as heavy as you can to increase the metabolic workload, but be sure you are able to maintain proper form through all the exercises. If you notice your form is slipping, swallow your pride and drop the weight. No injury is worth your ego.
Circuit Training for Weight Loss – perform 3 rounds, 15 reps of each exercise; rest only when the round is over for no more than 60 seconds.
Flat bench dumbbell chest press
One-arm dumbbell row
Alternating dumbbell biceps curls
Overhead dumbbell triceps extensions
Part Four: Supplementation
Supplements are like the secret sauce that will help take your weight loss journey to the next level. Often when creating a caloric deficit, your body doesn’t get the full range of nutrients that it needs, no matter how clean or healthy your diet is. Taking a well-rounded multivitamin and mineral will help close any nutritional gaps you may have.
Taking fish oil 2-3 times per day will help keep your skin healthy and provide important Omega-3s to support brain function which can decline as a result of consuming fewer calories than you are used to.
Using a preworkout is also a great way to increase your energy levels when it comes time to train. We all have those days where we feel sluggish or didn’t get enough sleep. Using a preworkout formula will give you that extra dose of motivation to not only hit the gym, but complete your workout with enthusiasm and energy you may not have known you even had.
A good, quality protein powder is important after a weight training session to help your muscles repair and recover faster. Stay away from protein “blends” – you want high quality whey or vegetable protein that will provide plenty of amino acids, the building blocks of muscle, straight to your body.
If you find yourself hitting a plateau, especially when you get to those last stubborn 10-20 lbs, it’s time to up your supplement arsenal to kick your body into high gear.
A fat burner will not only help suppress your appetite, but will also boost your metabolism when simply dieting and exercising no longer seem to have an effect. Despite its name, a fat burner alone will not do the work for you – you still have to put in your hours at the gym and in the kitchen. The ingredients are designed to work with your body to enhance metabolism and fat loss while providing a steady stream of energy.
Aside from using the scale, you should be taking measurements and progress photos monthly. Sometimes you may not see the scale moving, and that can be a huge deterrent. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t making changes. Take photos in either a bathing suit or shorts and a sports bra (women) from the front, side, and back. Try to wear similar clothing in the same spot with similar lighting. Losing inches means a lot more than a number on the scale.
If you feel that your progress is slowing down or you stop losing weight for a few weeks in a row, try changing things up. Do you normally lift 20lb dumbbells? Try 25’s this week. Is the elliptical your preferred cardio machine? Next time use the stairmaster. You can also reevaluate your diet. If you have lost 20lbs, you no longer need as much food. Recheck how much you should be eating using the formula above. If none of that seems to work, make sure you really are eating what you think you are. Measure and weigh all food you eat. Track it – even those little extras like the peanut butter you licked off the knife when making your son’s sandwich for school or the bite of your friend’s burger you tried at lunch. It all adds up.
Consistency is the key – whether you have ten pounds to lose or a hundred, following a solid program will get you where you want to be. Are you ready to commit to getting in the best shape of your life? Comment below with I AM STRONG and share your before and after photos with us.