How many times have you heard a friend say, “I am on a diet”? Then what happens is your friend would lose some weight for a while before putting them all back on again. I’ll bet you have also seen someone say that “Cardio is the best for losing weight”. This person would then religiously pound the treadmill but results are agonizingly slow. Soon, he gives up and gains back all the weight he had lost, and sometimes even gaining some extra kilos!
Ah, so you thought you’ve finally found the answer to permanent weight loss. You went on a strict diet and ran your heart out. You dropped kilos real quickly. But somehow, something is wrong when you look into the mirror in your birthday suit. Yes you have lost some weight, but somehow your body shape isn’t as flattering as you would like it to be. And then suddenly, you hit a plateau.
No matter how strict your diet and cardio workouts are, your weight just simply refuses to drop any further. Then horrors of horrors, you actually start to gain some weight! You get disillusioned because with the unrewarding program and soon you succumb to ‘guilt food’ more often, and the weight comes right back up once again. The program fails and you blame it on your bad genes. Why???
Here’s why. Firstly, take a good look at the title of this article. It’s to “Fend Off Fats” and not “lose weight”. My point is, by merely losing weight, you will also lose some muscle mass in the process. By losing muscle, you will lose body tone and thus your metabolism rate for burning calories will slow down. Therefore, you have got to build muscles while losing fats. You may even gain some weight because muscles are heavier than fats. To lose fats and keep them off permanently, you have to combine healthy eating habits, incorporate cardio exercises and lift weights to build muscles. For every kg of muscles you pack, you will burn an extra 70-100 calories per day even without doing anything. Can you imagine the benefits of building up 5kg of extra muscles? You will be burning 350 to 500 extra calories a day even if you just laze around. You’ll be burning a Big Mac everyday! To further illustrate my point, 1 kg = about 7,700 calories, thus if you burn 500 calories a day because of the extra muscles you have, you will be burning off about 1 kg every 2 weeks simply because of your higher metabolism rate!
You’ll also look good, healthy and well-toned too! Is it any wonder why bodybuilders eat so much but do not put on fat as easily? Everyone knows that intensive cardio and strict diets cause you to lose muscle mass along with fats. So while you will lose some weight at the beginning, you will look like, well, just a smaller version of you without any muscle tone. That’s not what we want is it?
So, as you lose more and more muscles, your metabolism begins to slow down. On top of that, your body will start conserving fats and ‘eat’ your muscles for energy because it is reacting to your strict diet. What happens then is that you will hit a plateau and no matter what you do, you will not reduce anymore weight and your fats will start creeping up again. This, in a nutshell, is the ‘yo-yo’ dieting effect that we hear so much about.
Losing fats is simple. And notice that I said ‘simple’ but did not say that it is ‘easy’. My pointers will be simple to understand, but the execution will take determination and discipline on your part. It is a lifestyle change to keep the fats off permanently and you will be glad you did because you will get used to the changes in only a few weeks. By then, it will become a cultivated habit for you, especially when you are rewarded with a fitter, healthier you, together with a glowing complexion to boot!
Here is how you do it. Simply, losing fats just means you must burn more calories than you consume. Period. Lift weights with compound exercises – Forget those isolation exercises, such as biceps curls and tricep push downs. Go for big muscle groups like legs, back and chest routines. Why? Because you are working with bigger parts with more mass, and that means more body parts are working, translating into more calories being expended. If you are fit, do giant sets (4 or more exercises or sets with minimal rest in between sets or exercises).
Here’s an example: Do only one set of each exercise with no rest in between the exercises. Choose a weight of about 60%-70% of what you normally lift and go for at least 15 reps. Do more if you can or until your muscles are fatigued, then repeat 3 to 5 rounds. The whole routine should not take you more than 40 minutes. After thoroughly warming up, start with squats, then dip, bench press, barbell row and military press. Sounds simple? Not so. You will be huffing, puffing and sweating profusely. What is achieved? You will have combined a cardio workout with a lifting workout and your metabolism will burn for the next several hours. Do this 3 times a week with at least a day’s rest in between lifting days.
After 4-8 weeks, change the sequence of the exercises. So if you usually squat first, then squat last. Then after another 4-8 weeks, change some of the exercises, like substituting squats with deadlift, or barbell rows with lat pull down. This is to shock your muscles so that they continue to adapt and grow.
Remember, this is only an example but make sure that whatever resistance workout you do, that it is challenging for you.
For cardio, go for a run first thing in the morning before breakfast if you can, otherwise do so at a time that works for you. If you are jogging at normal speed, sustain the jog for at least 45 minutes. If you are running at 65% to 80% of your maximum heart rate (you will be panting and unable to sing or complete a sentence while running), then 20-30 minutes will be enough. Anything more than that can cause muscle break down. You may intersperse the speed with slower jogs in between to catch your breath. Do these 5-6 times a week.
Eating habits? Keep it simple in the beginning and just eat less of what you normally eat. For example if you have 2 slices of bread with 2 eggs in the morning, now take just one slice and an 2 eggs. Just reduce what you eat but eat more regularly. Have 5 to 6 meals/snacks a day if you can. This is to feed your body frequently so that it will not go into starvation mode and start to conserve fats. At the same time, it will boost metabolism because your body burns calories while digesting the food. Chuck away all soft drinks, sugary drinks and stop adding sugar into your coffee and tea. Just by abstaining from sugary drinks, you may already have gotten rid yourself of 200 calories per day. Drink plenty of water instead and double the amount if you can.
Once you begin to do this consistently you can start to dial things in more and start to focus on the macro-nutrients and how much you should be having to support muscle growth and eliminate fat.
Oh, by the way, all work and no play makes Jack a dull (and very tired) boy. Do choose a day to relax a week. No exercise on that day. Indulge in your favorite food if you must. Pat yourself on the back and reward yourself for passing another successful week. After all, your body needs to recover too.
As you reach your fat loss goals and you are happy with your muscular development, you can then choose to take things a little easier. Hit the gym less frequently, have shorter runs and even relax a little in your diet. Because of your greater musculature, your body is now a fat-burning machine. You have earned that luxury. Or you can set new goals for yourself and ramp up your efforts with your new found confidence and energy levels.
Simple? Sure. But do you have the determination enough to lose those fats and keep them off permanently? Who said you must go on a strict diet to lose weight and keep the fat off forever? It’s your call folks!