1. THE LAW OF CALORIC RESTRICTION
You must restrict calories to trigger fat loss.
The most basic rule of fat loss is governed by energy balance. Energy balance is the relationship between energy in, the calories consumed via cheeseburgers (food) and coffee (drinks) and energy out. Energy out is the calories burned through daily energy requirements and exercise. Basically, if you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming, you should lose fat. This is an oversimplification because the human body is complex. At their root, all successful fat loss diets focus on caloric restriction to drive fat loss.
The Slow Carb Diet: The slow carb diet eliminates most starchy carbs, sugars, and fruits to limit the number calories you take in per day.
The Atkins Diet: The Atkins diet severely limits carbohydrate intake to restrict eating options and drive caloric intake down.
Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent fasting limits the amount of time you can eat in a day, making it damn near impossible to eat too much.
There are many other diets and fat loss methods. At the heart of them all is eating fewer calories than your body burns.
2. THE LAW OF “WHY”
Wanting to lose fat isn’t enough. You need a “why.”
Do you want to lose fat and keep it off for good?
How about getting shredded and seeing your abs?
These are common goals, but they aren’t enough to sustain a diet. To lose fat you need to know “why” losing fat matters to you. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to get ripped for the beach or lose forty pounds to be healthier and happier.
Take a conversation I had with one of my clients. It went something like this.
Me: “You mentioned in your application you want to lose fat and see your abs for the first time. That’s great, but let’s dig deeper. Why do you want to lose fat and see your abs?”
Client: “Well, I have a vacation to the beach with friends at the end of April. I was always chubby growing up. Now I want to wow them.”
Me: “Wow, that’s great. Can I ask why you want to wow them?”
Client: “Well, I girl I used to date, Jenna, is going to be there. She didn’t find me as attractive as when we first started dating…although she never said anything. If I lean out and see my abs, I’ll be more confident and who knows, maybe Jenna and I will start talking again.”
The takeaway? Fat loss isn’t the goal. The goal is how you’ll feel once you’ve lost fat.
This “why” is what pushes you to persevere through the tough workouts and hunger pangs to stay the course.
Dig deep and find out the “why” behind your motivation. You won’t always like what you find, but it’s what you need to do to lose fat and keep it off.
3. THE LAW OF SATIATION
Eating a high protein and high fiber diet is a pillar for successful fat loss as protein boosts muscle retention (so your muscles look defined once you’re lean) while both fiber and protein keep you full.
So, what’s the secret sauce that makes protein and fiber so important?
Fiber is difficult for your stomach to digest. It takes up a lot of room in your gut and triggers receptors in your brain to tell you you’re full. Even better, fiber slows the release of insulin in your blood stream. So fiber is a slam dunk which helps you control blood sugar for faster fat loss and gains in lean muscle. As a bonus, fiber also improves cardiovascular health, controls diabetes, controls blood pressure, and of course, cleanses your GI tract and give you high-quality poops. 🙂
Consuming more fiber doesn’t have to mean consuming more grains. The best weight loss strategy is to replace grains with fiber-rich greens and fruits. At dinner, think about eating steak and asparagus, not steak and a quadruple bacon burger with fries.
So what about protein?
Eating a high protein diet is arguably the most important factor in improving your physique. For starters, proteins break down into amino acids. These are the powerhouse molecules that replace dead cells, support growth and help synthesize other important molecules in your body.
Eating a high protein diet can boost glucagon, a hormone released when blood sugar drops to stimulate the breakdown of glycogen (stored carbs) into glucose for your body to help you lose stubborn fat.
Compared to lower protein diets, high protein diets help you retain lean muscle mass during a diet while also keeping you full.
To maximize fat loss aim for protein at each meal and aim for at least 1 gram for every pound of1 bodyweight.
To hit your protein goals, eat lean protein like fish, poultry, lean cuts of beef, and mix in the occasional protein shake.
Eating protein and fiber rich foods keeps you full and provides your body with essential macros, vitamins, and minerals with fewer calories than most other foods. To stay full, optimize health, and avoid crushing a bag of Doritos in a diet fueled eating frenzy, crush your lean meats and veggies.
4. THE LAW OF LONGEVITY
Crash diets are temporary fixes, not long term solutions.
Crash diets promise massive fat loss in the shortest time possible. Look no further than the tabloids you see at finer checkout counters everywhere.
“Lose Ten pounds in Two Weeks!”
“Four Weeks to Fit: Muffin Top Melter”
Sure, these are catchy headlines.(I giggled at “Muffin Top Melter.”) But these not sustainable able methods for lasting fat loss.
So, crash diets are useless, right?
Not quite. Crash diets work for high-level athletes and physique competitors. It can help them get in tip-top shape. For regular folks, crash diets occasionally work in boosting motivation and building momentum for a diet.
But these are the exceptions, not the rule.
If you want to lose fat and keep it off, then you need a long-term plan, not a hyped up band-aid approach. A better approach is recognizing and modifying the behaviors that got you fat in the first place.
I understand the attraction of following the Grapefruit Diet or whatever shit Gwyneth Paltrow shares on the internet promising 20 pounds off in three weeks. But this is the exact type of yo-yo dieting that leads you to gain and lose the same 20 pounds year after year.
I follow an approach taught by Precision Nutrition to help my clients tweak one small behavior at a time. This builds long-term, sustainable fat loss. Here’s a sample six week approach:
Weeks 1-2: Focus on drinking one glass of water before each meal
For optimal hydration and to keep you full.
Weeks 3-4: Drink a protein shake after your workout
Protein intake is strongly correlated with fat loss and dietary success.
Weeks 5-6: Eat a vegetable with each meal. Vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals to fill you up and give your body the fuel it needs.
Simple? Yes. But simplicity begets consistency, and consistency drives change and fat loss.
Ten percent of the time use an aggressive fat loss approach to move the needle and build momentum. Spend the other ninety percent of your time building better habits to lose fat and keep it off.
5. THE LAW OF IMPERFECT PROGRESS
No diet is perfect.
Intermittent fasting. Paleo. Atkins. Mediterranean. South Beach. Ketogenic. The Doughnuts, Bourbon, and Steak Diet. (Okay, I just made that one up.)
But they can all work by restricting choices you so eat fewer calories, more protein, and more vegetables. That’s it.
There is no perfect diet. Don’t fall in love with the fancy marketing methods of any particular diet. Focus on core principles instead. Eat less, move more, crush vegetables, and eat a high protein diet.
6. THE LAW OF TRACKING CALORIES
At some point, you must track calories.
Calorie counting is an inexact science at best. At worst? It can lead to neurotically measuring every grain of rice, and building an unhealthy relationship with food. So you’re probably wondering why the hell would I recommend it?
Per the Law of Caloric restriction and the first law of thermodynamics, energy balance, or consuming fewer calories than you burn is still the driving force of fat loss.
There some exceptions, including metabolic adaptation, but this is the general rule.
So why count calories then?
Counting calories gives you the biggest weapon in your fat incinerating arsenal: Awareness.
Most people think they’re doing everything right, yet can’t figure out why they’re not losing fat. Until they track calories. Maybe the culprit is that extra scoop of peanut butter or the sludgy syrup you’re getting pumped into your Starbuck coffee. But you’ll never know until you start tracking.
Now, you don’t need to track calories all the time. I don’t, nor do my clients. But if you’re in an agonizing plateau wondering why you can’t lose fat, then tracking your food to find out what’s causing the issue.
And if you’re looking to get in tip-top, magazine cover shape?
Make it happen. Nearly every ripped person I know has either tracked calories and built solid eating habits for years or still tracks calories to stay in line. Tracking calories gives you the awareness to build habits and maximize fat loss.
7. THE LAW OF FLEXIBLE DIETING
Adopt a flexible dieting approach and forgive yourself for diet slip-ups.
My definition of flexible dieting is eating right 90% of the time, then allowing yourself the occasional cheat meal before getting back on your diet. After all, a key tenant is that fitness should improve your life, not consume it.
Stick to your diet most of the time. When you slip up, have a short memory. Forgive yourself forgive and make the next best decision. The stricter you are with hitting your diet 100% perfect 100% of the time the more likely you’ll go insane, develop a case of the “fuck-it’s” and quit.
One meal won’t ruin a diet and one Oreo doesn’t need to be a whole carton of Oreos. A life obsessed with diet and body composition isn’t a life at all. Make the best decisions most of the time, forgive yourself for the slip-up, and get back on track.
8. THE LAW OF LIFTING
The purpose of lifting weights is to build strength and muscle.
The role of weight training in a diet is to preserve the strength and muscle you already have. You’ll maintain anabolic hormone levels like testosterone and growth hormone, both of which support higher lean muscle mass and less fat mass.
This results in faster fat loss and reveals a strong, lean, and aesthetic body…not the dreaded skinny fat look from crummy training during a diet.
Lift heavy at least once per week if you want to stay strong and muscular during a fat loss diet.
For my clients, this means picking one upper body and one lower body lift to hammer in the gym each week. Rep schemes like 4×4-6, 3x6-8, and 4x10-15 work best.
Upper Body: Overhead press, chin-up, bench press, dip, row
Lower Body: squat, hinge, lunge
Start with a moderate load and increase weight by 5-10% each set, aiming to reach your heaviest set after 1-2 warmup sets. Ramping sets work better to avoid excess fatigue in your already depleted state.
9. THE LAW OF SINGULAR FOCUS
You can get stronger, lose fat, and build muscle…but pick one at a time.
I specialize in working with folks looking to get more athletic while losing fat and building muscle. But while we can improve all these factors at the same time, it’s much more effective to go all in on one goal at a time.
This is because at any given moment your body is either anabolic (building, such as building muscle or accumulating fat mass) or catabolic (breaking down fat, muscle, or carbohydrates for energy). This means at any given moment you’re either losing fat or gaining muscle…but not both. So, this would lead you to believe you can’t build muscle and lose fat at the same time, right?
Actually, you can. While your body can only build or breakdown fuel at one time, it can switch between phases of being anabolic and catabolic throughout the day. For example, increasing testosterone can help you simultaneously increase lean muscle and decrease fat mass.
For most people chasing simultaneous fat loss and muscle building is the first-class ticket to spin your wheels for weeks and months, hopping from program to program and diet to diet.
Go all in with one goal, make it happen, then switch gears.