How to Lose Fat the Right Way

A highly searched question on Google for both men and women alike, sometimes the mission to drop a few pounds seems to be a lot harder than it has to be. People go online to search for tips and tricks and fad diets to shed the fat as quickly as possible with the most extreme methods as possible. However, these aren’t always the best ways in terms of overall health and longevity. Unfortunately, we’ve come to live in the culture of “now”, where we’ve come to expect things quickly and instantly and with as little effort as possible. In some ways this is a great thing; take the internet for example… a fantastic tool that has opened up a whole world for us in a myriad of ways. When I was a teenager we had to deal with dial up internet and we couldn’t even use the phone at the same time, but now it’s fast and, on the whole, reliable. We have the world at our fingertips, instantly, and that’s improvement.



The issue is that when it comes to things like our health and image, we’ve also adopted this “instant results” mind set - and that isn’t always the best thing for us. Modern standards of beauty and fitness, which are promoted through media and social media alike, have driven us to improve ourselves in many ways, some of which are good and good for us, and others which are potentially harmful. Now of course everyone is entitled to make their own choices, we all have free will, but when it comes to things like fat loss and health, there are definitely ways to go about it which are more harmful than others.

The concept of weight loss essentially comes down to one incredibly simple rule: calories in vs calories out. If you burn off more calories than you consume, you will lose weight, guaranteed. Does this happen overnight or after a few days? Absolutely not. Losing fat the right way takes consistency over a period of time in order to see good results which are sustainable. The problem with fad diets and cleanses are that they tend to work short term (to the detriment of your health) and then once you’ve been on your holiday or whatever it is you were slimming down for, you go back to your regular diet - with no long term benefits.

So how do you do it the right way? It comes down to a few simple things:


  1. Create a calorie deficit

  2. Exercise

  3. Eat enough protein

  4. Cut out the most unhealthy foods

  5. Get enough sleep

  6. Don’t focus too much on the scales

  7. Be consistent


 

1. Create a calorie deficit



First things first, and most importantly, you need to be absolutely certain that you are eating fewer calories than you’re burning off. The average man will need around 2,500 calories per day to live a regular life, this is called your “maintenance amount”. By eating this number of calories you’re likely to maintain a steady weight. Now this will vary slightly depending on your lifestyle and how much exercise you do either as a personal choice or if you have a physically demanding job. If you work on a construction site or you’re a lumberjack, then you’re likely to need a higher daily calorie intake than someone who works at a computer all day.

So, you should be aiming for 300-500 calories below your “maintenance amount” in order to create a stable and realistic deficit to lose weight over time. Most nutritionists will recommend losing anywhere from 0.2 - 1 lbs of weight per week. Also just note that fat will generally come off in a curve, especially if you have a lot to burn when you start off - it will generally come off quicker at the start and slow down as your body adapts.

The problem with calories is that it’s likely you’re consuming a lot more than you think, even when you’re trying to lose a bit of fat. If you’re not sure how many calories you’re actually consuming, it’s a good idea to use an app like My Fitness Pal or similar, at least for the first week, just to learn exactly how many calories there are in your various meals and ingredients - you might be surprised! For example a few scoops of hummus is ok as it’s high in protein, but it’s calorie dense, so if you have too much of it you’ll quickly see the number go up above your allowance.

Try to eat a lot of veggies and low calorie, healthy foods that will fill your stomach and make you feel less hungry for a lower calorie intake like salads, whole foods and grains, which will fill your stomach and burn slower, to keep you fuller for longer.


 

2. Exercise



Not only for fat loss but for overall health (physical as well as mental), exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. The benefits of regular exercise have long been proven to be incredibly high, and in this day and age if you’re not doing a little bit of regular exercise then you really should be. Now when I say exercise I don’t mean running marathons and doing CrossFit workouts, I mean anything from walking, jogging, light workouts to just doing some stretches at home.


Not all exercise will give you the same outcome, but it’s up to you which suits your lifestyle and goals the best. Bear in mind these numbers are just a rough guide and will vary depending on your body type and current weight, as well as the intensity you do them at:

Low intensity: around 250-400 calories per hour

  • Walking

  • Stretching/Yoga

  • Light workouts

  • Water aerobics

  • Household chores

Medium intensity: around 400-600 calories per hour

  • Jogging

  • Swimming

  • Regular workout

  • Cycling

  • Skipping rope

  • General sporting activities like football or basketball


High intensity: around 600-1200 calories per hour

  • CrossFit and HIIT workouts

  • Running/sprinting

  • Intense cycling

  • Boxing and some martial arts like kickboxing


Whatever it is you choose to do, make sure that it’s regular and consistent. You should be aiming to do some exercise at the very minimum 3 times a week. Again, that could just mean going for 3 walks a week for 1 hour. Even the busiest people can squeeze in a quick walk, jog or home workout if you actually make it a priority, and if you’re reading this, then you probably want to lose a bit of weight so it really should become a priority for you!

If you’re eating 300 calories less a day than your maintenance amount, then you’ll be in a deficit of 2,100 calories per week. If you add 3 good walks and a couple of workouts in there too, you can easily add another 2,000 calories to that deficit - meaning you’ll be in a deficit of over 4,000 calories a week, and over a few months of doing that, you will absolutely be losing weight.


Doing workouts with weights, or professionally known as resistance training, is a great way to promote fat loss. The way it does this is by forcing muscle growth, which burns calories, and the more muscle your body packs on, the more fat you’ll be burning.


 

3. Eat enough protein



You’ve probably heard the “low carb, high protein” rule before, but that’s because it’s accurate. That doesn’t mean zero carbs, but that does mean low carb and the right carbs. And a high protein intake will help to reduce fat for a number of reasons:


  • Protein aids in muscle development, the more muscle you build, the less fat you’ll have

  • Protein burns more calories when it’s being digested

  • Protein tends to be more satiating and it makes you fuller for longer

The recommended amount of protein when you're weight training and trying to build muscle is somewhere around 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. So if you weigh 170lbs, you should be aiming to eat 170 grams of protein per day. But if you're not doing a lot of weight training then you can probably reduce this a little, but protein should still be the most important part of your diet. It may also seem like a lot, and it can be difficult to consume that amount of protein daily. So try to focus on high protein foods like chicken & turkey, beef, tuna, egg whites and cottage cheese, as well as a lean protein powder with low carbs for example Optimum Nutrition Standard Whey.


Here is a list of the rough values (per 100g) of some good, high protein foods:


Chicken breast: 24g

Turkey breast: 25g

Lean beef: 27g

Canned tuna: 24g

Lentils: 25g

Salmon: 20g


Also:

1 Whole egg: 6g

1 cup of yogurt: 14g


It’s also important to stick to good quality carbs rather than starchy carbs. Try to avoid large amounts of white rice and white pasta. Instead go for brown rice and pasta or sweet potatoes.


Make sure you get your good, healthy fats in there too (yes you need to eat fat even when you're trying to lose fat!) for example avocado, almonds, salmon and olive oil. Good fats are in a category called unsaturated fats, whereas the bad fats from things like processed and deep fried food, fall under the saturated fats category.

 

4. Cut out the most unhealthy foods


A lot of the worst foods for you, are unfortunately some of the easiest and cheapest ones to snack on. A general rule when thinking about what is good and what’s not good to eat should be whether or not it’s a whole food, rather than a processed food. Things like processed meats, pre-made microwave meals and snacks like crisps and sweets will all be highly processed and full of preservatives and refined sugar. These will absolutely be responsible for not only raising your calorie intake, but have been directly linked to that stubborn belly fat you might be trying to burn.

It’s important to note that giving yourself some leeway here can actually help you. Sticking to an incredibly strict diet is hard and often a recipe for failure. If you try to be too strict with your diet and completely cut out everything unhealthy, 100% of the time, you’re far more likely to fall off the wagon or binge eat. Giving yourself the odd cheat meal (meal, not day!) and having the occasional sugary snack is not going to be the end of the world, and it’s likely to boost your mood and give you that mental strength to keep going. Just don’t make it part of your daily eating habit.


A rough idea of things you should try to avoid as much as possible include:

  • Sugary snacks like donuts, sweets, cakes

  • Potato chips and French fries

  • White bread

  • Alcohol and sugary drinks

  • Fast foods like burgers and pizza

  • Microwave meals

  • Processed meats

  • Deep fried food

  • Sugary breakfast cereals (be careful, even the healthy ones are loaded with sugar!)

  • Overloaded coffee drinks like caramel lattes or anything with whipped cream

 

5. Get enough sleep



Many people will say they function on 5-6 hours sleep a night, which is probably true, many people actually can. However, the downside of not getting enough sleep is that it hinders your body’s healing process and stops it breaking down fat, repairing muscles and organising your brain into nice, neat little files and folders.


Many studies have been done on sleep and sleep deprivation and all the results point towards the need for around 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you’re a busy person with a tight schedule, a social life, kids, or whatever it is, then at least try for 7 hours - go to bed at 11.30pm and get up at 6.30am - I think that’s fairly doable for most people.

In terms of fat loss, not getting enough sleep has been directly linked to the amount of belly fat you retain (which tends to be the most stubborn of all the fat storages). Getting a good 8 hours of sleep a night is also proven to help in muscle development, which in turn boosts fat loss.

 

6. Don't focus too much on the scales



The fact is, the amount of KGs you’re carrying is not necessarily a correlation to how much fat you have stored on your body. Muscle weighs significantly more than fat so someone with a lean, muscular physique will likely weigh more than someone who is considered fat or overweight. Focusing too much on your actual weight could lead to extra stress or frustration, which in turn will hinder fat loss - stress causes Cortisol spikes in your body which leads to an increase in fat storage, particularly in the belly.

In the real world, your weight actually doesn’t matter, you don’t go around stepping on scales in front of people all day and no one really knows or cares how much you weigh. Your goal should be about your physical appearance and your overall health. If you look in the mirror and see a big gut or a double chin, then perhaps your goal should be to reduce the look of those rather than to reduce your weight.


Doing exercises like squats and deadlifts (which are fantastic compound moves) will help to build up the bigger muscles in your lower body like the quads, which in turn will mean you pack on more weight, but drop fat. These exercises have also been shown to boost testosterone, which is another great hormone for fat loss.

It’s also worth noting that your bodyweight is likely to change throughout the day or over a few days as you eat, drink water, go to the toilet etc. so it’s not always an exact indicator! You should also be drinking enough water through the day (2-3 litres) so your body doesn’t feel the need to store water, which can lead to some added weight and bloating.

 

7. Be Consistent



This is probably the most difficult thing when it comes to prolonged weight loss and healthy living. Anyone can eat clean for a few weeks and everyone can make that new years resolution to hit the gym 4 times a week. But it often fails because people try to make extreme changes too quickly, they don’t see those “instant results” and they give up.


Real fat loss takes time, you aren’t going to see dramatic results in a few days, you need to stick with it for a prolonged period of time and don’t lose focus and up the amount of cheat meals you have in a week or start skipping workouts and runs.

For any prolonged habit or change, it’s important to give it 100 days, that’s just over 3 months, before you consider how effective it is. After 3 months of being in a calorie deficit, eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep, you absolutely will notice a significant difference.


Motivation is a key driver in anything you do and human willpower is an amazing thing. If you are genuinely motivated to achieve something then you definitely will do it. Imagine it this way, if you were offered $10,000 to stick to all these above points for 100 days and drop as much fat as possible, then you definitely would do it - because you’d have a key driving factor. So it’s not about thinking “I can’t do it”, it’s about whether or not you have the drive to do it and if you make it your priority.