In the last post I talked about the difference between fat loss and weight loss. The distinction between the two is HUGE and cannot be overemphasized. Make sure you check out the post here for all the details – I talk about how most diets focus on WEIGHT loss and measure that progress with a number on a scale.
I personally feel that you should throw out your scale and start focusing on what really matters – fat loss. You don’t track fat loss with a scale. You track fat loss with measurements around your waist and most importantly with pictures of yourself. When you start focusing on what really matters, you can narrow down what works the best for you and make small changes that will have you shedding fat immediately.
For example, Patrick lost 11% body fat and gained 3 lbs of muscle mass. It requires a little experimenting on your own, but I promise these 3 tips will help you down a path to a fitter, leaner you.
Today I’m going to share my story about how I was able to drop 10% body fat, 23 lbs of fat, all while adding 3 lbs of muscle mass. This didn’t happen overnight. It took some serious trial and error. I had to tweak, adjust and make subtle changes throughout the journey. But the cool part is I figured it out for me, and I’ve used it to help hundreds of my clients.
That is me in the above “before” image about 5 years ago at roughly 215 lbs. At the time I was stuck behind a desk most of the day pushing paper and entering numbers into a computer. But I worked out 5-6x a week, and ran 10+ miles a week. I was eating what I thought was a relatively healthy diet.
During the week I had a routine down – morning juice, some fruit and granola. Lunches were mostly sandwiches – turkey, chicken, or ham occasionally accompanied by a small bag of chips. My afternoon snack usually consisted of a piece of fruit or a protein bar (which I later learned was a glorified candy bar). Dinner was protein, a little vegetables, and lots of rice, potatoes, or bread. There was a little dessert every few days, but nothing too bad. On the weekends was my time to go a little nuts and I thought I was justified because I was so active. I was working out almost every day, so I could get away with weekend throw downs of wings, beers, cookies, etc. I’d think ok, I just need to work a little harder in the gym tomorrow.
“I just need to burn an extra 500 calories.” That was my thinking. Oh, how wrong was I then.
I woke up one day and realized I had put on almost 20 lbs of fat. My energy levels stunk, afternoons dragged on forever. I was sleeping poorly. My joints were sore. My lower back would tighten up making climbing stairs a daunting task.
It wasn’t until I finally understood the role of good nutrition that I was able to apply it to my life and make some solid changes. At first, I didn’t know who to trust. One expert told me calories matter. Another swears that calories don’t matter.
Fast forward 5 years later and I’m 190 lbs and 10% body fat. I feel stronger and leaner and am able to move around better than ever. I have increased range of motion in my joints. My energy levels are great. I have more vitality than ever.
Here are the numbers:
- Before: 20% body fat at 210 lbs. 42 lbs. of fat, 168 lbs of lean muscle
- After: 10% body fat at 190 lbs. 19 lbs of fat, 171 lbs of lean muscle
Equipped with the understanding of nutrition and exercise and a little experimenting, I figured it out. It simply came down to making a few changes. Changes in behavior that I never questioned before.
My 3 Tips to Fat Loss
1) Nutrition trumps all
I realized that I couldn’t out train a bad diet. Nutrition always comes first when talking about fat loss, no exceptions. I focused my eating around nutrient dense foods (meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts). I eliminated most grains out of my diet. Bread, pasta, corn were all relegated to a few cheat meals every week. Carbohydrate consumption went way down – all fruit juices were out. No more sugar in the morning coffee. Smoothies were limited to only post workout periods. It wasn’t that I completely eliminated carbs, I just drastically reduced my intake.
Main change – I eliminated fruits and other carbohydrates from my morning eating pattern. This allowed my body to stay in a fat burning state. I replaced the high carbohydrate breakfasts with higher fat and protein meals. Lots of eggs, avocado, meats and leafy greens. I was eating more of a typical “lunch” meal in the morning.
I also drastically reduced carbohydrate intake. I realized I didn’t really need carbohydrates to function. Yes, if I was doing something on a given day that required more energy I would need more carbohydrates to fuel my energy needs. Or if I was focused on building muscle tissue –I realized I needed the carbohydrates to help with that growth process. But on a whole, especially days when I wasn’t too active, I had very little carbohydrate intake –I would say 50-100 grams which isn’t much. 1 large banana has about 30 grams of carbohydrates for reference. And those 50-100 grams came from mostly vegetables and fruits. I completely eliminated pasta, bread, and flour. I increased my consumption of meats, eggs, nuts, butter and coconut oil. I was eating when I was hungry and not really worrying about how much I ate.
2) Lifted heavy weights at least 1x per week
Without knowing any better, I had focused my time in the gym using lighter weights and higher repetitions trying to achieve that lean look. I was doing a ton of core work on its own. I was isolating muscles using the machines. But I realized that I was doing it all wrong. Gym time should be spent providing a external stimulation to muscles so that they adapt and grow bigger. That I learned is how the body works. And the best way to do that is through big movements, recruiting lots of different muscles and focusing on the bigger muscle groups of the body.
Main change – I replaced lower weight, higher rep workouts to heavier weights and lower reps. I focused my exercise program around a few basic compound movements. I started deadlifting for the 1st time in my life. I focused on the big muscles in the body – quads, glutes, back and chest. I stopped doing isolation exercises like bicep curls and tricep extensions or shoulder flys.
3) Completely stopped running long distances
I never particularly loved running or jogging, but I used to think it was necessary to get leaner. Gotta go put in my time and burn those calories is what I thought. So I would run a few times per week up to 5 miles a pop. But that didn’t really work so well and here’s why. It took up a lot of my precious time and my joints and lower back started to hurt. There had to be a better way. And indeed there was, I discovered the benefits of high-intensity interval training.
Main change – I replaced the 10+ miles I was running per week with short intense HIIT workouts. I did sprints on the beach. Kettlebell circuits were introduced to the mix. I started jumping rope. These short intense workouts never lasted more than 20 to 30 minutes, sometimes even as little as 15 min. I did these maybe 3-4x week. My total workout time went from 7-10 hrs down to 2-3 hrs. That’s right, 6-7 hrs less of exercise per week. Let me repeat that – 6-7 hours LESS exercise per week!
The biggest takeaway I learned from my journey is that getting fit and dropping body fat wasn’t that complicated. Once I understood a few of the basic principles of how the body worked, it was just a matter of putting a plan together and working one day at a time, one week at a time, and keeping one foot in front of the other. In the end it was these 3 small changes to both my diet and exercise program that made the difference.
So, my point for today: Start focusing on what matters – fat loss. These above tips worked wonders for me. I’m not saying that this is the ultimate recipe for getting YOU in the best shape possible. This is what worked for me and hundreds of my clients. And every day there is more and more research to back it up.
A few small changes that you maintain and are consistent with can lead to a huge transformation in body composition. It can be that simple sometimes. Simple, but not easy. YOU have to choose to want it. But I promise if you follow these 3 tips above, you will be well on your way to a leaner, stronger, healthier you.
If you have already started, we want to hear about your progress! What works for you? Make sure to comment here with your story.
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Here’s to your success story.