1. Do some resistive weight training 3 to 4 times a week using short rest periods between sets of 30 to 60 seconds. Work out no longer than 1 hour to keep your anabolic (muscle-building) hormones high and catabolic (muscle-wasting) hormones low. Over-training is a quick way to lose muscle along with fat. Maintaining muscle is the goal, and it will help keep your metabolic rate high so that fat loss continues at a steady pace. Attempt to lose no more than 1 to 1.5 pounds of fat per week.
2. Avoid traditional long duration cardio, instead perform HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) 2-3 times per week on alternating days or after weight training to burn fat and increase metabolic rate. HIIT cardio is best done on alternating days from weight training if possible.
3. Watch what you eat. Beware of low-fat or fat-free products. Typically, these products are loaded with carbohydrates and while you are not getting the fat, you may be getting way too many calories from simple carbohydrates. Avoid simple sugars and eat complex carbohydrates in moderation to reduce insulin output and prevent blood sugar fluctuations. Insulin is the main hormone responsible for storing body fat, and high insulin levels prevent the burning of stored body fat for energy. High-carbohydrate diets are not the optimal way to lose fat while preserving lean muscle. Rely on complex, high-fiber carbohydrates such as oatmeal, lentils and brown rice. Avoid breads, pasta, white rice and other highly processed, low-fiber carbohydrate sources, as well as sweets. As a guide, reduce carbohydrate intake to 0.8 to 1.2 grams per pound of body weight. For example, a 150-pound person would eat between 120 and 180 grams per day of carbohydrates (150 x 0.8 = 120 / 150 x 1.2 = 180).
4. Increase the amount of lean protein you consume daily to increase your metabolic rate, increase anabolic hormones and prevent muscle loss during dieting. Lean muscle mass is the active tissue that burns calories and maintains metabolic rate. The goal is to preserve the active tissue we want while encouraging the body to reduce the tissue (fat) we don’t want. Eat high-quality, low-fat protein sources like skinless chicken, lean red meat and seafood during your weight loss program. High-quality protein supplements may be used when the diet does not yield enough daily protein.
5. Reduce saturated fats whenever possible and replace with polyunsaturated fats such as flax oil and monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are considered “good fats” and should be a part of your diet. Research shows that omega-3 oils from many sources of fish like cod, flounder, haddock, monkfish, perch, red snapper, sea bass, salmon and tuna help improve health and fat loss. Essential fatty acids (EFA) are required for optimum health and fatty acid metabolism. Avoiding “good fats” is a sure way to sabotage a fat-loss diet and degrade your health.
6. Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day to prevent dehydration and help liberate fat stores to be burned as energy. Water intake is often cited as the most underrated and overlooked part of fat loss.
7. Eat fibrous vegetables to increase transit time of food, improve digestion and improve weight loss. Increasing fiber intake from vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and other raw vegetables adds fiber, minerals and vitamins with very few calories. They add bulk to the diet while reducing appetite.
8. Spread food intake over 5 to 6 meals per day. Distributing your food throughout the day will improve nutrient absorption, prevent blood sugar fluctuations and decrease fat-storing hormones and fat-storing enzymes. Simply spreading the same number of calories over 5 to 6 small meals per day rather than the standard 3 meals per day will improve fat loss due to the above effects on blood sugar, hormones and fat-storing enzymes.
9. Avoid alcohol (or keep it to a minimum) while you’re dieting. Alcohol contains nearly 7 calories per gram, and is easily metabolized and stored as fat. When you consume alcohol with a meal, your body will metabolize the alcohol first. The rest of the calories and the excess alcohol calories inevitably will be stored as fat. Alcohol is generally regarded as empty carbohydrate calories because you get no other nutritional benefit as you would from the vitamins, minerals and fiber that you get from the carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables.
10. Be snack smart. When you must have a snack, make a smart choice. Avoid sugary or fatty snacks like chips and soda, crackers, nuts, frozen yogurt and so on. Instead, try some air-popped popcorn (no butter or salt) or a slice of lean meat like turkey. When you space your meals to 5 or 6 a day, snacking becomes less important to you. Check the nutritional panels on your snacks for sugars and fats, remembering that fat-free does not mean calorie-free, and remember, excess carbohydrates in your diet will be stored as fat.
Robert DiMaggio is first and foremost the founder and editor of IronMagazine.com LLC, an online bodybuilding and fitness magazine that has been dedicated to helping people achieve their bodybuilding and fitness goals. IronMagazine.com has been online since 2001 publishing new articles, content and a newsletter every month, along with a growing online community IronMagazine Forums.