Whatever your fitness goals may be, calories are going to play a part. Previous articles have already explained how to build muscle and the importance of calories within this process. With summer nearly upon us, we need to think about how to get our beach bodies ready. Losing body fat whilst maintaining muscle now becomes the main training goal for lots of people. Therefore, this article is going to talk about how to collect the low hanging fruits of fat loss.
The Golden Calorie Rules
- Be in a calorie deficit.
To decrease body fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit. If you burn more calories than you consume, fat loss will occur. It’s as simple as that.
- Track your calories.
Not knowing how many calories you’re consuming, is going to make your fat loss journey very difficult, so track your calories. Why would you guess how many calories are in foods when there are some fantastic Calorie Tracking Apps out there, that have all this information at the click of a button. I personally use the free version of MyFitnessPal. It allows me to track all of my calories in an easy-to-use format that not only keeps me disciplined, it also provides me with lots of key data.
- Make sure you get enough
This might sound contradictory at first, but for the human body to function correctly, it needs a certain number of calories even whilst resting. If you’re not consuming enough calories your body will go into ‘survival mode’ and your hormones will respond by increasing the amount of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is produced by our adrenal system to deal with stress, it is also responsible for our ‘Fight or Flight’ response. An excess of Cortisol can put the body into fat storage mode as well as breaking down the muscles. This is the exact opposite of what you wanted to achieve. The minimum number of calories needed for your body to perform its basic functions is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Many smart watches have the function to work out your BMR, but if you don’t have a smart watch yourself, here is a formula for you to work it out.
X = 66.47+(13.75*Bodyweight in kg)
Y = 5.003*height in cm
Z = 6.755*age in Years
BMR = X + Y – Z
X = 655.1 + (9.563 * Bodyweight in kg)
Y = 1.85 * Height in cm
Z = 4.676 * Age in Years
BMR = X + Y – Z
… or to make life easier google BMR calculator and that will give you an indication.
Collect the low hanging fruits of nutrition
When it comes to fat loss not enough people collect the low hanging fruit. People work really hard in the gym trying new exercise routines, and new diets they see online. But what they don’t do are the things that take no effort at all.
- Drink enough
Just like with the BMR, your body needs a certain amount of water to function optimally. 60% of the human body is water, unfortunately people don’t get enough of it. Your basic water intake is 0.033 * your bodyweight in kg, but if you go to the gym and sweat, this water will need to be replaced on top of that.
- Eat your Fruits and Vegetables.
Fruits and Vegetables provide us with most of our vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are also vital to maintaining a healthy balance of our digestion system.
- Eat enough Protein.
Protein is a key nutrient for the human body as it is a key building block for muscles, bones and tissue structures. Protein is also key for recovery and has the added benefit of keeping you feeling satisfied for a long time. Protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs ,as well as in nuts, legumes, bean and specialised Protein shakes.
- Be Consistent.
One of the biggest problems with trying to lose weight is patience. So many people think that eating well for 3 days will undo years of bad nutrition. BE PATIENT! Every nutritional change should be given a minimum of 4 weeks before being evaluated.
Burn more calories in your workout
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein.
This is true in life as well as in fat loss.
- Vary your Training.
If you continue to do the same programme for months on end your body will stop adapting. With calories being so important in the role of fat loss you need to exercise in a way that is conducive to burning calories. Varying your training structure is a quick and easy point to start. If you always work in multi sets (resting between multiple sets of the same exercise), suddenly switching it up by adding some super-sets (performing one exercise and then another exercise before recovery) can provide you with a different stimulus.
- Add Bigger Movements.
The bigger the movement the bigger the benefit. When performing a Deadlift, almost every muscle in the body is under some form of tension. The more muscles that are working the higher the energy cost (aka the calories burnt). If you compare this to a Pec-Fly where only a few muscles are working at any given time, the energy cost is not as high, which means that less calories are burnt.
*Conventional Compound Lifts.
The vast majority of my programming happens around these key movements, they’re absolutely fundamental to good human movement.
Key movement benefits:
- Burns more Calories
- Improves Intramuscular coordination
- Elevates Heart Rate
- Improves Mobility
- Improves Strength
- Gains Muscle Mass
- Vary your Rep Ranges
Varying rep ranges can also have a big impact. As mentioned earlier the body adapts to the stimulus you provide it with. If you always train in the range of 8 – 12 repetitions, what would happen if you suddenly changed to 1 – 5 reps or 15+? Due to human individuality this is different for everyone, but if you’re trying to create change this is a great place to find some.
- Switch from Split Routine to Total Body Workout
Performing total body workouts can be especially effective, if transferring from a split programme and performing, super-sets or circuits. This is best, if one or both of the exercises are based around key movements. For example, a super set consisting of a benchpress and a dumbbell single arm row.
- Add some Cardio
The C word was always going to pop up somewhere.
Whether you’re a lover or hater of cardio, it plays an important role in fat loss. I like to keep it simple and classify Cardio in two ways:
- Long Intensity Steady State (LISS)
- Intervals (HIIT)
LISS is a great way of burning calories. One of the problems with LISS cardio training is the amount of time it takes, and how quickly the body adapts to it. This is why you see a lot of progression when first training this way, but after a while you need to work harder or longer to burn the same number of calories. This doesn’t mean it that it’s not an excellent way of burning calories, but you have to keep it varied.
Interval Training is great if you’re looking at introducing a more time effective version of Cardio. Interval training is sometimes referred to as HIIT training, but I personally try not to call it HIIT as that is more commonly seen in circuits-based sessions. Interval training is a great way of creating a shock to the central nervous system, this shock can lead to calories being burnt even after you’ve finished your session.
Alex‘ Tips on exercise and Cardio
I personally prefer to be a bit more creative and change things up even further. I like to use a compound exercise followed by a core exercise combined with another key movement all using varying rep ranges. By training this way, I cover lots of key movements in short time whilst getting the benefits of different training systems and varying rep ranges. I personally wouldn’t do this, if the goal was maximum strength or hypertrophy, but this is a great way of training to burn calories.
- Deadlift | 5 Reps
- Pulley Twist | 10 Reps each side
- DB Shoulder Press | 15 Reps
- 3 Sets
As for Cardio one of my favourite beginners Interval Sessions is a 10minute bike session with an even split of work to rest. You spin on the bike for an easy 30seconds – before performing a high intensity 30seconds blast. I would start easier than you think for this and build your way up to 10minutes. This is just one option, there are so many different ways of Interval training.
These are my tips on how to collect the low hanging fruit. You may be doing some of these already, but you might be missing out on a few key points. Have fun, and always remember to be patient.