Need a game plan to get in shape for your summer holiday? Here's the 10 quickest ways to lose body fat and improve fitness.
1. Find your baseline and track everything
If you want to improve at something, you need to track your progress and the behaviours that cause this progression. This type of 'self-monitoring' (in this case the calories you consume and exercise you take part in) plays a powerful role in helping you lose fat.
A simple way to start is by working out your BMR (basal metabolic rate), the rate at which you burn calories at rest. Use a simple tool like MyFitnessPal's BMR calculator. Try and stick to 10% below your BMR calorie target each day.
2. Start your day with a sweat
Fitting in some exercise first thing in the morning is great way to fire up your nervous system, boost your metabolism and improve your sleep quality; all factors that contribute to weight loss. A simple 10-20 minutes home workout routine can be enough to start chipping away at your fat loss goals.
3. Focus on lifting weights and HIIT
When it comes to your sessions in the gym, opt for mainly strength training and high intensity interval training (HIIT). The two techniques sit right at the top of the hierarchy of fat loss providing the most bang for their buck.
Cardio is valuable, but when performed alone, has a catabolic effect on our lean tissue - it will help you lose fat but you will end up soft with very little definition. Whereas increased muscle mass increases your EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), a fancy term for saying your metabolism will remain much higher during the 48 hours post-exercise.
4. Increase your NEAT
Make no mistake. A few hours a week in the gym won't guarantee you the summer set up of your dreams. Three hours of activity out of 168 a week doesn't quite cut it. Increasing your NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis), the energy you use that is not from sleeping, eating or exercise, will help boost the number of calories you burn across the whole week.
Try incorporating more of the following into you daily routine:
- Walking to work
- Taking the stairs
- Walking the dog
- Anything else that stops you from sitting still!
The difference between people cursed with a supposed 'slow metabolism' and their friends that seem to stay effortlessly lean is often just the amount of NEAT they perform as part of their lifestyle.
5. Ditch the rewards
If you really want to shed some fat, stop treating yourself for a job well done at the end of the week. It's not that rewards are inherently bad, but that it's way too easy to undo all of your hard work with just one night off the wagon.
It's also worth remembering that frequent gym sessions often lead to increased hunger. I've seen people put on weight when they have started training regularly simply by rewarding themselves for training so much. Refer to point one and stick to the plan.
6. Pick the right poison
All too often, those on the summer body quest manage to keep their food choices relatively sensible yet completely neglect the types of fluid they ingest throughout the day. People just don't seem to evaluate drink in the same way as they do food.
Here's some examples of the biggest culprits;
Medium latte: 150 - 250 Kcal
Large red wine (13% vol): 228 Kcal
Pint of beer (5% vol): 250 Kcal
Regular strawberry and banana smoothie: 250 - 300 Kcal
Alcohol is a double-edged sword in that our body treats it as a poison. Metabolism is prioritised by the liver, which means you will find it impossible to burn fat until all of that wine has been metabolised.
The solution? Stick to water sweetened with fresh citrus juice, black coffee and herbal teas
7. Out of sight out of mind
This is one of the simplest and most effective tips for fat loss success. If you are not exposed to junk food, sugary snacks or the allure of the pub, you are far less likely to indulge. Try the following to get started:
- Give away all of the food in your house that does not fit your nutrition plan
- Set up an online shopping list of all the ingredients needed for your recipes and simply place a recurring buying order on the list.
8. Sleep on it
Getting enough sleep is crucial to gear your body up for effective fat loss. Fat loss is not simply a case of 'move more, eat less'. With an estimated 35% of the UK population sleep deprived, many of you may be undoing a lot of your hard work in the gym by not getting enough shut-eye.
A lack of sleep causes your cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is frequently associated with fat gain. It is also known to activate reward centers in your brain that make you crave more food.
9. Ditch the scales
With so many factors influencing short-term weight measurements (hydration, time of day etc.) it's not worth the constant stress of edging up and down on the scales each day.
If you must weigh yourself do it once a week. Stick to the above points with consistency, and it's impossible not to lose fat. Ditch the scales and trust in the science.
10. Get accountable
Accountability really is the key to both short and long term fat loss success. Having someone else to answer to increases the likelihood that you will stick to the plan. This doesn't have to be a PT, it could be your spouse, training partner or a friend. It's also far easier to take this journey with someone else to help pull you through the days where you feel like diving head first off the wagon!