Figuring out how to lose body fat is a challenge. Here are ten simple facts about body composition that most people overlook.
#1: Success is very unlikely if you’re using language like ”I want to when I...”
You can be the most motivated person in the world, but if you’re talking about doing something at some point in future, you’re probably not going to come through.
Taking action is the most important factor when it comes to changing your body. Without action, you’ve got nothing but a lot of blah blah blah and excuses.
Success happens when you jump right in. Start today.
#2: A goal without a plan is just a wish.
Beginners almost always have great intentions. They absolutely WANT to lose fat and get in shape. What they usually don’t have is a plan to overcome the little obstacles that will naturally arise.
When they feel intimidated in the weight room, or the gym is too busy, they put it off. Or they make the rationalization that “something is better than nothing” and they do casual cardio or some other useless workout that doesn’t effectively overload their body.
Stop treating exercise as something to do when it’s convenient and set up a training schedule with pre-planned workouts. This way, all you have to do is execute when the gym is jammed or you’re mentally exhausted from work.
#3: The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.
Inconsistency in training can be defined as any of the following:
- Skipping workouts.
- Not completing workouts according to plan.
- Doing random workouts—lifting one day, a group class the next, and cardio after that.
- Not giving full effort 99 percent of the time. There will be hard days in the gym. Those are the ones that make you better if you give it everything you have.
The fact is that improving body composition with lifting is pretty simple: Train 4 times a week for about an hour.
Lift a fairly high volume (4 sets per exercise). Use 8 to 15 reps per set and short rest (zero rest to 2 minutes). Train primarily big lifts like squats, deadlifts, pulls, presses, and step-ups.
Use moderately heavy weights in the 65 to 85 percent range and occasionally train to failure.
Don’t do things that inhibit muscle building or recovery like long, slow cardio, constant partying, or living a high-stress life.
#4: Exercising with the singular purpose of burning calories is a waste of time.
Humans are amazingly good at rationalizing behavior that goes against their goals.
When people exercise to burn calories they compensate by eating more than if they hadn’t worked out at all. They go burn off 500 calories from a five mile run, and boom, they inhale a bag of chips, an extra sweet potato, a few glasses of wine, or chow down on some “healthy” but calorie-filled desert.
Instead, stop exercising to burn calories and start training for performance. Make sure you use training facts that are proven to promote optimal body composition. These include weight training and sprint interval workouts.
#5: You can lose body fat more quickly than you can gain muscle. But it’s much easier to keep the muscle on than it is to sustain fat loss.
You can start losing fat in a matter of days. It's possible to drop a serious amount of flab in a few weeks if you train and eat right.
It takes much longer to put on muscle. Although you can get changes in the quality and strength of muscle tissue after a few workouts, putting on actual mass takes 4 to 6 weeks—and gains tend to happen slowly.
When it comes to sustaining your results, it’s easy to preserve muscle mass—all you have to do is eat adequate protein and do a minimal amount of weight training. And if you completely quit working out, muscle is the last adaptation that you lose.
Fat, on the other hand, is very difficult to keep off once you lose it. Hunger hormones change when you lose fat, making you eat more. We reward ourselves with food when we have “been good” and dieted or exercised. And people often tend to move less throughout the day once the lose weight, leading their overall calorie burn to drop.
The fact is that if you want to change your body composition for the long-term, it’s worthwhile to train in a way that builds muscle and eat in a way that helps you lose body fat. Higher protein diets with plenty of lower carb fruit and vegetables tend to work.
#6: Spending most of your life sedentary sets you up for a life of stiffness and diminished health—even if you work out.
Your body is this amazing physical thing that can sprint, climb a tree, jump onto a box as tall as yourself, lift hundreds of pounds overhead, or run for miles. But it’s highly efficient and will adapt to whatever position or movement patterns it finds itself in most often.
When you spend most of your life sitting, it’s not just that your mobility suffers. Muscle building is reduced, the use of sugar in the blood drops of, and metabolism slows. The buildup of inflammatory factors increase and gene signaling slows.
The cumulative effect is profound: People who sit more aren’t just fatter and weaker. They increase their risk of cancer and heart disease and are more likely to die prematurely.
Unfortunately, our society is set up for sedentariness. To buck the trend, you have to take dramatic action and be vigilant. Whether you get a standing desk, choose active transportation, or use a timer to stand up every 20 minutes, you can’t accept a life in which you die piece-by-piece everyday.
#7: Effective training is what builds muscle. Extra protein is not necessary.
Extra protein is a godsend when you’re trying to lose fat: It preserves the muscle you’ve got, reduces hunger, and it is very costly calorie-wise for the body to digest.
But as long as you are eating adequate calories, a high-protein diet is not necessary when you are trying to build muscle.
Muscle gains come from three things:
- Muscle damage, which leads to the production of growth factors that stimulate muscle building.
- Metabolic stress leads to the release of hormones and inflammatory factors that trigger tissue growth.
- Mechanical tension—which occurs when you lift heavy weights—activates genetic pathways that lead to muscle growth.
Protein can support this process by sustaining protein synthesis and boosting insulin sensitivity, but the actual effect in terms of visible mass is negligible compared to the effect of training properly.
One area that extra protein will make a difference is if you’re trying to put on muscle while cutting calories. When you’re in a calorie deficit, the extra protein will preferentially be used by the body to trigger protein synthesis.
#8: The optimal diet for fat loss is not a mystery and there’s no magic bullet.
Fat loss supplements and easy weight loss plans are a billion dollar industry, but the fact is that there is no quick fix to a better body composition.
This is abundantly evident—two-thirds of the population would not be overweight if this stuff worked. Humans just don’t want to believe it.
The real magic bullet is that there is no mystery about how to eat. Choose whole proteins, a lot of vegetables, fruit, nuts, and healthy fats. Include other select whole foods that are high in indigestible fiber.
#9: What you eat has a much greater effect on metabolic rate than when you eat.
It’s not that nutrient timing is dead, but that exactly when you eat is much less important than the macronutrient composition and quality of your food.
For example, a meal that is high in refined carbs will spike blood sugar and insulin. It will cause the body to burn fewer calories during digestion than if you ate a meal of animal protein and fibrous green vegetables.
On the other hand, planning meals around protein, healthy fat, and vegetables during the day, while saving higher carb foods for dinner is a great way to keep blood sugar steady and maintain energy throughout the day. If you eat this way it’s much less important whether you eat every 2 hours, every 4 hours, or go with some other complicated meal timing.
#10: Your environment primarily shapes your body composition.
Consider how often you have the opportunity to eat. You eat with friends, at parties, at family get-togethers, at work. We continually have high-calorie food at our fingertips.
Most people’s environments are set up so they have to drive everywhere they go. They spend their free time “relaxing” on the couch in front of the TV or using a computer. There’s even blue light coming from our devices that messes with hormones and triggers food intake.
You really have two options:
Throw your hands up in defeat and accept a lifetime of too much body fat and poor health.
Or take your life in your hands and actively take control of your environment.