Need a little extra help leaning out before the arrival of the sunny months? Let us make your transition to the ideal body a bit easier. Read these 6 fat loss diet tips to make sure you’re on the right track to unveiling those strong muscles you’ve build over the winter!
#1. Do You Want to Be Lean or Shredded?
Although they’re often used interchangeably, being lean and being shredded are two very different states. The majority of people simply want to be as lean as possible without having to train a lot, which means cutting down to 8-12% of body fat for men and 18-22% of body fat for women. To get there, you’ll need to maintain a caloric deficit and focus on eating clean, whole foods, and engage in some form of regular training that allows you to burn fat at a faster rate and improve your muscle definition.
Becoming shredded, however, demands more sacrifice than leaning out. It means becoming extremely lean by getting down to 4-7% of body fat for men and 12-18% of body fat for women, while building strong, well-defined muscles; which is just as difficult to do as it appears to be. It also means having a solid game plan that will adjust most aspects of your lifestyle to this one big goal and it begins by devoting to a tight and consistent schedule of training sessions and counting each calorie that enters your mouth.
Knowing exactly what you want to achieve is of vital importance for success and therefore, your fat loss journey should begin with the question: do you want to be shredded or just lean?
#2. The Lower You Get, the More Crazy You Have to Be With Your Diet
If your goal is to get below 10%, there is something you need to know. The higher your current body fat percentage, the easier it is to lose fat. But as you get lower, maintaining the same pace will become harder and harder. And at the super low ranges, it takes extraordinary efforts to keep going lower. In other words, going from 30% to 20% is much easier than going from 20% to 15%, which in turn is way easier than going from 10% to 5%. In fact, the last task is only for the bravest and most disciplined among us!
Most diet plans you know of were made for people who pack considerable amounts of excess fat and want to reach the 10% range. But the next step of the journey – dropping below 10% – is rarely discussed. So how do you get there? By being extremely consistent and laser focused on your diet and training.
You will have to forget about the concept of cheat days or entire cheat weekends, and effectively eliminate every thought of junk food that passes through your mind. And there is an entire bag of unconventional dieting tools, such as meal timing, calorie cycling, intermittent fasting and using chilies to induce satiety that you will learn to use to hack your way down to the target percentage of fat.
#3. Protein, Protein, Protein
Nutrition experts have been drumming the importance of protein while dieting into our heads for a long time, and for a good reason: as you get leaner, your protein needs increase. This is because in general, the larger your caloric deficit, the more your body tries to cannibalize your muscle tissue, so supplying your body with enough dietary protein will prevent it from devouring your muscles. Science has backed up these claims and shown us that high intakes of protein can significantly support the process of getting shredded. When people restrict their calorie intake, those who eat more protein lose less muscle and more fat, and vice versa.
Since preserving muscle gains while melting away the remaining fat reserves is a key priority for someone looking to get absolutely shredded, you will need to significantly increase your protein intake during the cutting phase. Regardless of how you manipulate your total number of calories, aim to get 0.7-1.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
As the most satiating macronutrient that also has the highest thermic effect (the energy required for digestion, absorption and disposal of ingested nutrients), protein will help you stay full for longer, keep your metabolism running smooth and maintain your hard-earned muscle mass.
#4. Stress Is Your Worst Enemy
If it seems that your progress has hit a wall even though you’ve been eating right and training adequately in a consistent manner for a long period of time, you’re probably too stressed out and it’s time to address this invisible obstacle that can sabotage your fat loss efforts.
Stress wreaks havoc on your body and mind and makes everything more difficult both physiologically and mentally – when your stress hormones fail to drop down for extended periods, you’re experiencing what’s called chronic stress, an unpleasant state of being that makes eating the right foods and getting enough good quality sleep a tough, on-going struggle. Chronic stress weakens our mental power and focus and makes it easy to succumb to food cravings and toxic thoughts that diminish our willpower even further.
On the other side, stress can prevent fat loss and actually encourage fat gain by deregulating the functioning of key hunger hormones in the body, ghrelin and leptin. Leptin helps to control your appetite, while ghrelin gets released anytime you’re hungry.
When you’re overly stressed, leptin levels will drop and ghrelin levels will dramatically increase, making you hungrier. In addition, the chronic elevation of cortisol levels caused by excessive stress negatively affects the receptors for both insulin and leptin, which makes it harder for the body to read the signals of those hormones, thus keeping fat trapped in the cells and making you hungry all the time.
All in all, finding effective strategies for dealing with stress is a crucial step to improving both your physical and mental health, and it’s also one of the cornerstones of developing an impressive physique.
#5. Eat Your Veggies
A diet comprised of lean protein and fibrous, satiating vegetables as the primary source of carbohydrate is the best way to lower your calories and get super lean. However, in the case of vegetables, you shouldn’t reduce the quantity of food ingested in order to lose fat – on the contrary, this might be one of those rare situations where more is better!
The large amounts of fiber will make you feel full and increase your metabolic rate; but what’s even better, the body can’t absorb a big part of the carbohydrates from fiber-loaded vegetables and is then forced to burn off body fat for fuel.
Leafy greens, including kale, spinach, collards and Swiss chards are low in both calories and carbohydrates but they’re incredibly nutritious and loaded with fiber, so add lots of them to your meals to increase the volume without increasing the calories. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, are also high in fiber and incredibly filling and even provide certain amounts of protein. Soups and broths are another great low-calorie option that can fill your stomach and keep hunger at bay.
And don’t forget about the potato, which has been unfairly demonized in popular health-oriented media, but it’s actually one of the most potent hunger tamers that deserves a place in your weight loss diet. Baked potatoes can provide you with steady energy and lasting fullness, as well as plenty of vitamins and fibers. And if you boil them and then allow them to cool for a while, they will form large amounts of resistant starch, which is a fiber-like substance that has been shown to support fat loss.
#6. Prepare Your Meals
Besides helping you get into the right mindset for fat loss, preparing your meals in advance will help you prevent making a detour into a fast food restaurant. If you have never done this, start small, for example by making a commitment to prepare one meal per day. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal – with a little effort, you can find a ton of recipes that suit your budged and which you actually have time to prepare. You can plan ahead by cooking bigger amounts of food that will last a few days.
Choose one or two meal prep days in the week and stick to them. Consider the busiest times of your weak, when the risk of eating ‘bad’ food is the greatest because everything else is impractical, and prep for those weak spots. Believe us, as soon as you start preparing your own meals, your fat loss progress will speed up simply because you’ll be able to choose the products yourself and also keep a better track of the calories you’re getting in.
So if you’re serious about getting lean or shredded, it’s time to buy appropriate containers and start cooking! Don’t worry if you don’t have enough skills or even passion for cooking. If you think of it as a part of the process of re-gaining control over your own life and investing into a healthier, fitter, more confident you, you’ll soon start truly enjoying it!