In my time, I have made some EPIC mistakes when it comes to my fitness and fat loss goals.
Seriously, the amount of times I’ve done the wrong things, profusely and repeatedly, is embarrassing.
I’ve poured myself into my workouts with reckless abandon, even though I wasn’t eating or sleeping properly and allowing myself the recovery time I needed.
I’ve done the same things over and over again, even though they weren’t producing the results I’d hoped for (BTW, isn’t that the definition of insanity??)
You name a mistake, I’ve probably made it more than once in my 2+ decades in the fitness game…
Still, my loss is your gain, because the key thing is that I’ve LEARNED from my mistakes.
I’ve made the adjustments necessary to keep moving forward, and learned a TON along the way.
I want to make sure you don’t follow the same rabbit trails that I did, so without further ado, here are the TOP 7 THINGS you should focus on if fat loss is your primary goal…
CALCULATE YOUR BODY FAT PERCENTAGE & BASAL METABOLIC RATE (BMR):
The first step you need to take in order to determine how many calories you should be eating daily to lose body fat is to figure out what your body fat percentage is.
Then take this number and calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate, which is the amount of calories your body burns in a day to remain the same weight as it is right now.
Then calculate what your daily macronutrient targets should be to reach your goals.
HERE is a link to an accurate online body fat calculator
HERE is a link to an accurate BMR calculator
HERE is a link to a simple macronutrient calculator
HERE is a link to a macronutrient calculator (if you are on a Keto diet)
The reason that we want to calculate your body fat percentage first, is because establishing this will make the final calculation much more accurate.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE IN A MODEST CALORIE DEFICIT (TRACK YOUR CALORIES):
Now that we have established how many calories your body requires in a day to remain at the same weight, the next step is to make sure that we are in a modest energy deficit to ensure that we are going to be losing weight.
A big mistake a lot of people make at this stage is to become too aggressive with how big of a deficit they are in.
The problem with this approach is that, while it will cause them to lose weight quickly, they will lose more muscle and their weight loss will stall much more quickly than if they were more conservative.
Once they hit that plateau (and they will), there is nowhere to go.
For example, let’s say that my maintenance is 2200 calories a day, and I create an energy deficit of 800 calories, leaving me with a daily intake of 1400 calories.
When my fat loss stalls, there is nothing for me to cut from, as I am already at a really low amount of calories.
It would be a much better idea for me to create an energy deficit of 300-500 calories, so that most of the weight lost will be from body fat, and so I can still cut more once my fat loss stalls to ensure that I continue to make progress for a longer period of time.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE GETTING ENOUGH PROTEIN:
Research has shown that a person who is regularly strength training should eat between .55-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day.
Protein intake is important for a number of reasons:
It is the building blocks of muscle, without it your body will be unable to repair the damage you do through your training and this will in turn impair the results that you will see from your efforts.
More muscle equals more calories burned at rest, since the body burns significantly more calories to maintain muscle than it does maintaining fat.
Incidentally, this is one of the reasons it is difficult to lose excess body fat, as it is an easily stored emergency fuel for times that the body doesn’t get enough calories for its daily energy needs.
The human body is programmed to sacrifice muscle and save fat for survival.
You can help circumvent this survival mechanism, and preserve muscle tissue in a calorie deficit, by getting enough protein (and regular strength training).
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, which means you will feel fuller, longer, even when in a calorie deficit.
Protein also rates highest among macronutrients when it comes to the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), which is the amount of calories the body requires to process and digest it.
20-30% of the total calorie content of protein rich foods are burned up as the body digests and metabolizes it.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE PRIORITIZING STRENGTH TRAINING:
The go to approach that most people will take when looking to shed some unsightly pounds, or get in better shape for that winter vacation down south, is to concentrate all their efforts on copious amounts of cardio, while at the same time cutting their calories aggressively to obtain fast results.
The problem with this approach is that when you cut calories and do a lot of cardio training, the weight that you lose will be around 50% muscle, which slows down your metabolism.
When your life goes back to “normal” (you have less time to train, you abandon your diet because it is so strict, your job gets long and stressful, etc), you will gain all that weight back – but this time all of it will be fat, rather than the combination of fat and muscle that you lost while training.
This in turn slows your metabolism down, making it easier to gain more fat. This is the yo-yo cycle of weight loss/gain that you see so often in people.
By prioritizing strength training over cardio when looking to maximize your fat loss results, you will ensure that your body keeps, or even increases, your muscle mass, and the vast majority of the weight that you lose will be body fat, which will help you to look better naked.
Which is what we all want, right? Come on now, don’t lie to me… 😉
USE COMPOUND MOVEMENTS:
What is a compound movement? Simply put, it is an exercise that uses more than 1 joint in the movement. Think of a squat, as opposed to a bicep curl.
The former involves the hip and knee (and all the muscles that are needed to move these joints), while the latter involves only the elbow.
As the owner of a 24/7 commercial gym, I see people making this mistake all the time, and it is a big reason why people spin their wheels and don’t make any progress.
The benefits to focusing on compound movements in your training are numerous.
Since you are engaging more muscles in compound movements, you can cut down on the number of exercises you do in your workouts and still get the same effect as you would with a longer workout (time management anyone??).
Compound exercises also create more metabolic and muscular stress over your whole body, which means you are burning more calories during your workouts (think how much more tired you get from a set of bodyweight squats than you do from a set of dumbbell curls).
Compound movements allow you to use heavier weights because of the number of muscles involved in the movement, which actively recruits more muscle fibers, which in turn will accelerate your progress as well.
Another brilliant thing these exercises do is work your “accessory” muscles (biceps, triceps, etc) better than isolation exercises in a lot of ways as well.
For instance, seated cable rows or a kettlebell deadlift will put more stress on your biceps than a set of lighter biceps curls would, as the biceps are activated in these movements as a secondary muscle.
While compound movements are generally a better option as your overall training strategy/foundation, 2 or 3 sets of isolation movements are great to add in at the end of your workout to stimulate these muscles directly to maximize your results.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE GETTING STRONGER:
Making sure that you are getting stronger gradually over time in all your exercises is a great way to gauge whether or not you are making progress.
A stronger muscle is a bigger muscle, and before you scream at me, “but I don’t WANT to bulk up”, remember that your muscles are the shape that gives you the figure you are looking for, once you have stripped the excess body fat away to reveal it beneath.
Make it a habit to track all your training data (exercise, weight, sets, reps, rest periods, etc), and then try to add a rep or two to each exercise at each of your workouts.
It doesn’t matter if you are doing circuits, HIIT, regular strength training, or any combination of these different approaches.
Make sure you are continually adding reps, or sets, or reducing your rest periods to make sure you have progressive overload in your workouts.
One of the main reasons that I have continued to have success over the long term with my own training (other than consistency), is because of tracking my training data, and continuing to add reps and weight gradually over time.
I have stacks of notebooks in my home office, filled with years of workout data.
I credit this habitual, consistent practice with the continued improvement that I have seen in my physique, as well as my strength and performance, over the years.
Trust me on this, doing this will be a game changer with regards to the kinds of results you will see over the course of time for your efforts.
After all, if you are willing to put in the effort in the workouts themselves, is it really too difficult to track these things??
MAKE SURE YOU ARE GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP:
Rest and recovery are major components of any fitness program.
Training is only the stimulus that you use to force your body to change, but if you are not getting enough rest (as well as eating properly of course), your body will not be able to repair and transform itself.
Sleep is very important as this is where muscles are made and fat is burned.
If you train hard (and smart) and eat right, your body will grow and repair itself while you sleep. The optimal amount of sleep is 8-9 hours but try to get as much as your lifestyle and health allows.
Sleep is also the time when growth hormone secretion is the highest.
Growth hormone is mainly responsible for muscle growth and repair, but it also has a significant influence on fat burning.
Not enough sleep equals lower levels of growth hormone and an impaired level of fat burning.
Sleep deprivation has also been linked in numerous studies to higher rates of obesity.
Everything you do in the gym is like withdrawing money from a bank account.
Rest, recovery and nutrition are these “deposits”, and you must make sure that withdrawals (training) don’t exceed deposits (recovery and nutrition).
You must be regularly “depositing funds” into that account or you will be broke before you know it.
Anyways, to wrap things up (don’t want to take up TOO much of your valuable time with my ranting), practice these ^^^ things regularly and I scout’s honor, hand on heart guarantee you will start seeing much better results with your training efforts…:)
Heck, even just doing ONE of them and that’ll happen…….
…….BUT there is more to making the process work optimally for YOU
Interested to find out how I can help YOU achieve your fitness and fat loss goals while still living your life? Check out my 28 Day Fat Shredder Program which has helped hundreds of busy parents just like you shed pounds and pounds of ugly, oozing bodyfat while still enjoying the foods and beverage that they love…
Author: Chris Friesen
Chris Friesen is a gym owner, personal trainer, online fitness coach and former “fat dad” living on 60 beautiful acres of countryside in rural Canada.
He specializes in helping busy parents shed body fat quickly, WITHOUT becoming gym rats OR giving up the foods they love to eat.
In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids, sitting in his hot tub out in the snow with a glass of bourbon, and yelling at his (many) misbehaving barn cats.