This is a guest post by Darrin Clement, who runs WorldFitnessNetwork. Visit http://worldfitnessnetwork.com to learn more about the art and science of developing lean muscle mass and an awesome physique.
Nobody wants to be a fatty. Whether you are now fat, on your way to being fat, or just want to get leaner, there are countless things to keep in mind.
With so many ways, I’ll overrule my usual verbose nature and dive in, somewhat tersely, with the 25 Ways To Be Unfat. Each of these could be its own article (or even its own book!). But I’m just giving you a sentence or two for starters. We’ll break these down into 5 categories: Overview, Attitude and Behavior, Eating, Lifting, and Cardio.
Since I focus worldfitnessnetwork.com on weight training and running, you might expect this article to be focused on weight lifting and running, right? Well, for sure, those are both part of the picture to be unfat. But eating habits are the most important factor for getting trim.
Final preamble: these are written for the person who wants to be lean, not super-lean. If you want to get into cover-model shape, there are more subtle techniques that come to play. But if you want to look good enough for the beach, these are for you!
1) 80% of the battle is what you eat – the cliché is true: you can’t out-train a bad diet. Eat smart and you’ll be lean.
2) 10% of the battle is resistance training – training with weights can help by burning some calories, increasing metabolism, and changing your body composition. Even for women. But many guys fall into the trap of building muscles that are still covered in fat. More on this later…
3) 10% of the battle is cardiovascular training – cardio (e.g. running) can help with calories but is only one-tenth as important as how you eat. And too much of the wrong running can burn muscle in addition to fat so you can’t over-rely on it.
All of these are mostly mental; if you learn the right techniques and then have the discipline to act on that education, even when you don’t feel like it, then you’ll win. Your attitudes and behaviors are key:
4) Don’t strive for perfection – getting your psychology about fitness right is most important; until you want to get ultra-lean, you are shooting for a 90% compliance; do the right thing 90% of the time and you’ll get lean.
5) Set goals – if you don’t set targets, it’s hard to know if you are making progress and it’s hard to know when you’ve “arrived” at your destination. Forget complicated goals – keep them simple by focusing on Measureable and Timebound. An example of a good goal for a woman: I will weight X pounds, at less than 20% bodyfat, by July 4.
6) Adjust your social life – avoid other fatties or soon-to-be fatties; who you surround yourself with influences who you become. If you’ve already had a junk-food meal this week, say no to the group going out for a Chinese lunch.
7) Keep a log – write down what you eat, when you exercise, what you did, etc. Think of it as your fitness diary. You can do this online or on paper, I don’t care. But keeping a log will keep you on track even on days when you are less motivated.
8) Eat frequent small meals – eating smaller meals more frequently will prevent binging and keep hormonal responses more regulated.
9) Eat enough – most people having trouble getting to their target weight because they eat too much without realizing it; but some people eat too little and thus their metabolism shuts down, burning muscle and clinging to the fat for energy reserves.
10)Eating fat doesn’t make you fat, eating too many calories makes you fat (so too much fat is bad, and saturated fat isn’t great, but good fats like fish oils, nuts, olive oils, etc. are healthy).
11)Don’t combine starches and fats in same meal – fats are important for your diet but they slow down the processing of starches (simple carbs, sugars) and thus those starches are more likely to be stored as body fat.
12)Eat protein with every meal – regular protein consumption, combined with regular resistance training (see below) pretty much guarantees that you won’t lose muscle while losing fat.
13)Eat a veggie or fruit with every meal – most fruits/veggies are low calorie with high nutritional value so you will get nutrients, feel full, without blowing your day’s calorie limits.
14)Avoid foods that come in bags or boxes – usually bags and boxes mean more processing, thus fewer nutrients to you and more artificial ingredients to improve flavor; the cheapest calories come from bags and boxes.
15)Have a carbolicious meal once a week – once a week have a really fun meal that breaks all the rules – I call mine my “carbolicious meal”. But plan it ahead of time – don’t leave to chance or it will start to happen “by chance” more often!
16)One bite is enough: Don’t go cold-turkey on junk; just dramatically reduce portions. Craving a dessert? Just take one bite of a cookie to satisfy the craving. Save the rest for another day.
17)Lift weights – especially important to remind women that lifting weights is critical; improves daily quality of life, prevents muscle loss while losing fat, and quite honestly just looks better to men! Don’t worry, you will NOT get “bulky” (think about how many men TRY to get bulky and fail – there’s no way you will get bulky doing common-sense weight training with heavy weights).
18)Lift heavy – male or female, you can lift a lot more than you think. It takes practice to lift heavy weights, but the results (compared to doing many reps of lighter weights) is that you’ll stimulate more natural hormones, you’ll burn more overall calories. Target as heavy a weight as you can for 8-12 reps for 2 sets per exercise if you are brand-new, 6 to 10 reps for 3 sets after a few months.
19)There is no such thing as “toning” – continuing the previous point, you will not get “toned” by lifting light weights for many reps. It won’t build muscle and it won’t burn fat. Getting lean involves two things: fat loss and having enough muscle underneath the fat once it’s gone. Even woman need to have muscle to look good.
20)Compound movements – do exercises that involve more than one joint. For example, squats, pull-ups, bench press, etc. Avoid single-joint exercises like leg extensions, biceps curls, etc. They hit fewer muscles and burn fewer calories (so your workouts either become ineffective or you have to take twice as long to get results).
21)Free weights rather than machines – study after study shows that free weights recruit more muscles (so more calories are burned) including stabilizer muscles. Machines burn fewer calories and have been show to NOT be safer. Don’t be fooled!
22)Stick to a routine long enough but not too long – when you get started, just about any routine will produce results. But all routines start to become less effective as your body gets more used to them. Every week you should be progressing (more weight, or more reps, or… etc.) When you aren’t progressing for two weeks in a row, switch your routine a bit and stick with that until it too (eventually) stops to get results.
23)Get your heart racing 3 times a week – this is heart-healthy but also helps burn calories to get you lean. Ideally you want something that leaves you panting and lasts 30 to 40 minutes at least 3 times a week.
24)Pick something you like – there are infinite ways to get your heart up for a cardiovascular workout: running, biking, skating, rowing, calisthenics, log throwing, hopscotch, etc. Find something you like or you won’t stick with it. But don’t make it so “fun” that you aren’t working hard.
25)Move up the intensity ladder, down the duration ladder – for most overweight people, they think “treadmill” when they think cardio. Then they just walk for hours on the thing. That’s not ideal. Fine to start that way, but each week try to increase your speed and decrease your duration. Eventually you could get to the point where you are doing full-out sprints. 15 minutes of 50/50 sprints (1 minute sprinting as fast as you can, followed by 1 minute of walking) will burn more calories than walking on a treadmill for 2 hours. But you need to work up to that level of intensity.
Once you’ve incorporated these into your life, you’ll see pounds of fat dropping. It won’t happen all at once – not like you see on TV. But you’ll notice the difference. Once you are beach-ready, there are even more things to get you ultra-lean but we’ll save those for a future article.
For even more ideas, and a free ebook on your first 3 months of getting in shape, visit http://worldfitnessnetwork.com .