I hate speaking in absolutes. I think it’s dumb. There are few things in life that aren’t fluid, and don’t change depending on the circumstance.
As humans, we like absolutes; we like certainties. It makes everything easier. It helps us fit things into the neat little box in which we like to view life.
Think about it; how easy would it be if you had one, crystal-clear answer to questions like:
“What’s the best workout for building muscle?”
“What’s the best diet to lose fat?”
“What’s the best stock to invest in?”
“What’s the best pizza location in New York City?”
“What’s the best way to ask out that girl who’s Instagram I’ve been creeping on???”
And so on…
The point is, with these and so many other of life’s great questions, there is no “best” way. And as much as we hate to hear it – mainly because it requires us to be honest with ourselves, our flaws, and our vulnerabilities – the best answer is often, “It depends…”
It depends because, no matter what the question is, no two of us are the same. Everyone has different preferences, mannerisms, tastes, abilities, desires, goals, etc.
And when deciding the best course of action for ourselves, these things need to be taken into account.
This is especially true when it comes to fat loss.
Arguably the most popular fitness goal, fat loss is something that has confused and frustrated people time and time again.
Everyone wants to know the best way to lose fat, the best fat loss workout, the best diet for fat loss, the best supplements for fat loss, the fastest way to lose fat, and so on.
These are fair and understandable questions to ask. Afterall, not only do we want to lose fat, it would be stupid to not also want to do it in the best way possible, right? I mean, how dumb would it sound if someone said, “I want to lose fat, and do it in the worst way possible.”
But, if you think about it, isn’t that what we often end up doing? By trying to find the “best” way to lose fat, we turn to things that are often terrible for us; because they’re either unhealthy and dangerous, or not the most effective way for you to reach your goals.
Sorry to be the one to burst your bubble, but there is no “best” way to lose fat.
Now, before you go thinking all hope is lost, while there may not be a “best” fat loss plan out there, there are certain characteristics that you should look for; to help you know if a fat loss plan may be right for you.
It’s these characteristics that will allow you to lose body fat safely, effectively, and help you maintain results long after you hit your goals.
I give you:
1). A calorie deficit
This isn’t so much a characteristic, as it is a law.
YOU CANNOT LOSE FAT WITHOUT BEING IN A CALORIC DEFICIT.
This isn’t my opinion. This is fact. If you’re not losing weight, you’re not in a calorie deficit. End of story.
It doesn’t matter how much you’re exercising, how many calories your Fitbit or Apple Watch says you burned, or how healthy you eat; if you’re taking in more calories than your body is expanding you’re not going to lose fat.
Now, does this mean you need to count calories? Not necessarily. You can simply reduce portion sizes, limit your intake of liquid calories and highly processed foods, stop drinking alcohol, and add more veggies and lean protein in your diet, to name a few.
But your body monitors calories. This is how it knows whether to burn stored fat for energy now, or store energy as fat for later. So, why wouldn’t you account for those calories in some way just like your body does?
The easiest, and most effective method for fat loss is some form of caloric accountability: being able to know and adjust how much you’re eating, based on your progress. It’s what I do with all my clients. And it’s what I recommend you to as well.
If positive, long-lasting results interest you, that is.
2). It doesn’t vilify any certain food group
I’m looking at you low-fat and low-carbers.
Maybe you’ve had success losing weight eating a low-fat, or low-carb diet. That’s fantastic.
But sorry again, I’m here to burst your bubble…whomever or whatever sold you on that diet, was wrong.
The reason it may have worked was not due to any low-fat or low-carb voodoo-sorcery. The reason it worked was simple caloric restriction (I feel like we just talked about that).
When you cut out an entire macronutrient group you’re essentially cutting out a third – more or less – of your daily caloric intake. So naturally, of course you’re going to lose weight.
But, the problem with this is, the longer you diet, the hungrier you’re going to get. And over time, you slowly start adding those missing calories back in through the foods that you’re “allowed” to eat; under the false belief that as long as it’s not fat/carbs, you’re good.
The second problem with omitting entire food groups is that each macronutrient has a role to play in your body.
Completely cutting out carbs, on the other hand, can also have a negative effect on your body.
Carbs are the body’s preferred source of energy, and are most easily converted into glycogen; what our muscles, brain, and organs use for energy. Without carbs, the risk that our body’s will try and convert amino acids to fuel – leading to muscle breakdown – is much greater.
Not only that, but chronic low-levels of carbohydrate consumption can negatively affect hormones, such as testosterone and thyroid; while increasing cortisol production – all of which lead to a very poor environment for fat loss.
A good fat loss plan is going to focus on a well-balanced macronutrient breakdown, customized to the needs of the individual; not some blanket restriction recommendation.
3). Focuses on lean protein and veggies
The one thing that low-fat and low carb diets get right is they, by nature, are higher in protein and veggies.
When it comes to fat loss, prioritizing the consumption of lean protein and high-fiber veggies will go a long way towards helping you reach your goals. Both are highly satiating, so they’ll help keep you fuller and blunt hunger. This is because it takes the body much longer to digest them, compared to other types of foods. This leads to less snacking, eating less at meals, and consuming fewer calories overall.
In the case of lean protein, eating higher amounts has two distinct benefits.
First, protein supports muscle tissue maintenance and growth. Unfortunately, it’s much easier for our bodies to break down muscle tissue for energy than it is fat stores. So, in a scenario where a person is in a calorie deficit AND protein consumption is less than adequate, the likelihood of muscle loss is high.
This is problematic because not only does muscle help give our bodies that lean, sexy shape that most people are after, but it also helps keep your metabolic rate higher.
Eating enough protein (around 1 gram per pound of bodyweight) provides the body with the amino acids it needs to maintain muscle tissue during the fat loss process. Combine that with lots of high-fiber veggies, and you create a great hunger-blunting environment.
4). Reasonable goals and expectations
Most people want to lose weight and they want to lose it yesterday. Unfortunately, too many people fall victim to diets that promise you can “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days” or something like that.
When it comes to progress on a fat loss plan, everyone is going to be different. In fact, one of the things I tell my clients is never compare their progress to someone else’s. All of us are different, and that means our bodies are going to react differently to fat loss as well.
A reasonable expectation for fat loss is about 1-2% of your bodyweight per week. The reason I suggest percentages is because it’s more customized to the individual.
The problem with blanket recommendations like 1-2 pounds per week is that someone who weighs 300 pounds is going to have a lot easier time losing 2 pounds per week, than someone who weighs 150 pounds.
Progress doesn’t begin and end with the scale, though. In fact, the scale on its own is a very poor indicator of progress.
The scale works best when combined with other progress metrics, including: body circumference measurements, month-to-month progress photos, how your clothes fit, how you look in the mirror, compliments you get from other people, progress in the gym, and most importantly, how you feel.
Managing the expectations of your fat loss plan is actually a huge key, for not only making continued progress, but reducing stress, and making the whole process much, much easier.
5). Flexibility to live your life
One of the first things I tell people when they join my coaching program is that a diet and training program should complement your life, not control it. Yes, you will have to make some lifestyle changes if you want to lose fat. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up everything fun and awesome, either.
You can go out to eat with family, or grab drinks with friends. You can go on vacation without worrying about if you can train or not. If you’re miserable because you are always concerned about working out or your diet, you probably aren’t going to be able to stick to your program anyway. Allowing yourself some freedom will go a long way.
One of the biggest things a good fat loss plan teaches you is how to go “off” plan, without completely undoing your progress.
The longer you’re on a fat loss plan, the more aware you become about the food you put in your body, and how it affects your progress. You learn that protein and veggies are your best friends, and should be the focus of every meal.
You learn that carbs fuel training and intense exercise, and should be eaten in larger amounts on workout days, and smaller amounts on non-workout days.
You learn how to cut out excess and unnecessary fats from your meals; either by ordering less fatty cuts of meat, or getting dressing and sauces on the side.
You learn which foods you truly enjoy, and which ones you eat “because they’re there.”
And most importantly, you learn that even if you have a bad, or “off” day, having a good fat loss plan allows you to get right back on track the next day; with little or no damage done to your progress.
5.5). Strength Training
This one is just a half a characteristic because, while it’s technically not as necessary as the other five, it’s still one that I recommend a majority of the time.
Strength training is not just designed to make your stronger – which will help you in every area of life – but it can help amplify results and keep you healthy.
Regular strength training has been shown to help increase flexibility, mobility, bone and joint strength, help reduce depression, increase performance across all modes of exercise, and fight off chronic conditions and diseases.
Oh yeah, it helps you build and maintain muscle, while getting you sexy AF, too.
For a fat loss plan to provide results, it doesn’t necessarily have to have all of these characteristics. However, the more of these a plan has, not only the more likely it is that you’ll be successful on it, but the greater the likelihood you’re going to be able to maintain your results once you reach your goals.
Fat loss can come with a lot of frustrations because most plans actually make things harder for you to achieve success; rather than easier. If you’re looking for a fat loss plan that not only has all of these characteristics, but also takes what’s often seen as a difficult and frustrating process, and simplifies to get you the results you want, I suggest you sign up for my free 5-day fat loss course.
With 5DFL You get 5 days of lessons designed to help you build a fat loss plan that’s going to work for you, because it’s designed for YOU.