Fat loss is definitely the most coveted goal in the fitness industry. Every day millions of people all over the world will start a new training program or diet plan in the hope of leaning up and reducing their waist size a few inches.
Unfortunately, all too often these needs are met by overly restrictive and temporary solutions, whether that be through an excess of calories burnt with an ultimately unsustainable workout regime or a restrictive diet plan that's going to leave you feeling weak and depleted.
The good news is there is a better way... fat loss is a science, not a gimmick! This means there are some brilliant lifestyles changes or 'hacks' we can make to our weekly regimes thats will hugely increase the amount of fat we burn without all of the negative consequences we've come to expect as a by-product of achieving this goal. This is a somewhat unconventional approach to fat loss as I'll be recommending some changes that focus on what can be done to create an environment within your body that is more conducive to fat loss, by introducing the right forms of nutrition and exercise but also by limiting negative hormone production that can limit your bodies ability to jettison existing fat stores.
1) Sleep Longer
Studies have shown that inadequate sleep dramatically effects our ability to lose fat by up to 55%. There are many reasons for this, including that lack of sleep is associated with poorer muscle recovery, increased stress and, the most influential factor associated with weight gain, our bodies experience an increased production of a hormone called Ghrelin, something that is associated with a reduced metabolic speed and largely triggered by a lack of sleep. Higher levels of Ghrelin cause us to be hungrier and reduce our energy expenditure. This means that people who sleep less are going to want to eat more. This can lead to big problems, especially when we are tired and fatigued as we'll be less likely to make good food choices. If like many people with busy schedules you are only getting 4-5 hours sleep most nights, run an experiment and ensure that you get 7 hours sleep for two weeks in a row. I can virtually guarantee that all else being equal you will be leaner at the end of those two weeks.
2) Focus on Strength Training
Traditionally we associate fat loss efforts in the form of exercise with cardio, and a lot of it! Probably because it's the easiest form of exercise to get started with, you can simply open your front door and go for a run. However, this is a mistake; the real focus should be on strength training. Utilising big compound lifts should be your priority when seeking fat loss. Lifting heavy weights in the low rep ranges (typically 3-5) will send signals to your brain instructing your body to maintain your existing muscle mass even if you are on a calorie deficit. Strength training will raise your metabolism, increase your lean mass and keep your hormones at optimal levels. Tracking your strength training efforts will also give you a very good idea of how successfully you are targeting your fat stores. If you can't make strength gains or maintain the strength you had when you started your fat loss plan, that's a pretty sure sign that you are losing your muscle mass and need to address your nutritional intake.
3) Manipulate Your Macro-nutrients
I don't think it's essential to count calories to burn fat and get lean. Yes, it can help, but ultimately any estimated calorie intake numbers will remain an estimate for a number of reasons. That said, real progress can be made from manipulating your macro-nutrient intake. Many people don't realise this but different body shapes have varying abilities to process carbohydrates. For example mesomorphs and ectomorphs can handle far more carbohydrate per day than an ectomorph. Therefore, a one size fits all approach to macro-nutrient intake is faulty to begin with. You should also cycle your macro-nutrients according to the energy expenditure of a given day. For example, training days should typically represent a higher intake of carbs in relation to fat, whilst rest days would be better suited to a higher intake of fat as opposed to carbohydrate.
4) Avoid Stress
Stress is extremely detrimental to our health and should be avoided at all costs. Stress will release cortisol also known as 'the fat hormone.' It can also leave us unmotivated for our workouts and have an extremely detrimental effect on our hormone balance in general, hardly ideal for fat loss! During times of high stress, my advice would be to focus on strength training a couple of times per week to stay physically strong but do not put your body through caloric restriction of any kind until the stressful period has passed.
5) Skip Breakfast
This has always typically been a big no no as far as conventional wisdom goes, but the truth is that introducing food in the form of carbohydrates (almost all traditional breakfast food) first thing in the morning could be the worst move you could make for your fat loss goals. Each morning, at the point of waking up, your body has been in a fasted state overnight which means your blood sugar levels are stable and very vulnerable to the introduction of sugars. Significant sugar intake is likely to cause an insulin spike causing a massive surge of energy that, if not used immediately, will be stored as fat for later use. Try skipping breakfast, having only a warm drink to get your through the morning. This will allow your body's natural growth hormone (also secreted overnight) to stay active for longer, allowing you to enhance your fat loss.
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