When you train at the gym you burn somewhere between 200 and 500 calories an hour (on average – depending on your weight and the type of training you do).
So let’s say you train 4 times a week, that means you’re burning roughly 800-2000 calories a week from exercise.
But guess what?
To lose one single pound of fat a week you need to burn 3500 calories more than you consumed. So even after you’ve trained hard all week you could still be 1500-2700 calories short.
Which is why just “smashing the gym” isn’t enough if your goal is fat loss.
In fact, when it comes to fat loss, training is just a small piece of the puzzle – the big piece is being in a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you’re eating).
If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t seem to lose weight I have the answer for you…
You eat too much food for the amount of activity you do (or don’t do).
It really is that simple.
And if you think “but I don’t eat that much and I still can’t lose weight” then I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong and you’re simply eating way more calories than you think you are.
Did you know that a Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte contains 420 calories?
Or that a bowl of Wagamamas Beef Ramen Noodles contains over 900 calories?
Maybe you didn’t realise that a Dominoes Pepperoni Pizza has over 2,200 calories?
So how do you lose fat then?
Make Sure You’re In a Calorie Deficit (And Sort Out Your Nutrition Habits)
Doing this equals weight loss because . . . well, science. Basically, if you burn off more calories than you consume you will start to lose weight and in the right circumstances (good nutritional habits, smart training and lots of sleep) this weight loss will primarily (or totally) be body fat.
Now when I say a “slight deficit” that’s what I mean slight – small, minor, minimal. Whatever you do don’t slash your calories to within an inch of their life and eat a stupidly small amount of food, that’s a bad idea as I explained here.
You also need to make sure you’re eating good quality food so you can provide your body with the nutrients it needs for energy, recovery and performance in the gym.
The easiest way to do this is to make sure you’re sticking to these four simple nutrition guidelines.
Number one, aim to include protein, healthy fats, vegetables and leafy greens in every one of the meals and snacks that you have throughout the day.
Number two, on training days have most of your carbohydrates in the meals and snacks immediately before and after you train. This is when your body will make best use of carbs, to provide you with energy before a session and to help you recover after a session. On non-training days simply spread your carbs out across the course of the day.
Number three, aim to make your meals up of a variety of single ingredient foods. By this I mean foods that only have one ingredient, for example chicken is just chicken, sweet potato is just sweet potato and pepper is just pepper – they all only have one ingredient. Whereas a Jaffa cake has loads of ingredients, most of which you can’t even pronounce.
Number four, 80 to 90% of the time avoid wheat sugar alcohol and processed foods. Having these sometimes is absolutely fine just make sure they don’t push you into a calorie surplus.
Nutrition for fat loss really doesn’t have to be restrictive as long as you stick to these for simple guidelines the majority of the time and always aim to remain in a slight calorie deficit you will gradually and consistently lose body fat.
If you want to lose body fat you should do weight training and anyone who advises you any different has no idea what they’re talking about.
For starters; having more lean muscle mass increases the amount of calories your body burns on a daily basis, so lifting weights and adding muscle means you can lose more fat every day just because you’re more muscular.
Why wouldn’t you want that to happen?
Side Note: Having more muscle doesn’t mean you’ll get “too bulky” . . . even for women, getting “too bulky” is impossible without dedicating a SERIOUS amount of time and concentrated training & nutrition efforts on specifically aiming to build muscle mass – you won’t be doing this ‘cos you’re aiming to lose body fat.
Secondly, lifting weights means you will get strong and when you get strong you can…
– Train harder with higher intensity
– Use higher loads (more weight) on the bar
– You’ll be more stable and less likely to get injured
– You’ll build more lean muscle mass (as I said earlier this increases the amount of calories your body burns everyday just by being alive so it makes sense to make some muscle gains).
All of those things contribute to effective fat loss training when paired with good nutrition habits and a calorie deficit.
So, let’s take a little step back here . . . there’s a difference between being ‘skinny’ and having the body you want – the weighing scales certainly aren’t the indicator of your dream physique.
Using women as an example . . . would you rather weigh 10-11 stone and look exactly how you want to look – firm, lean and shapely?
Weigh 8 stone on the scales and be skinny but look soft, flabby and out of shape?
Easy answer isn’t it?
Weighing more but looking awesome and being full of confidence will always beat weighing less but still being ’out of shape’ and unhappy with your body.
Remember, if your goal is scales orientated then your outcome will also be scales orientated i.e. you will weigh a certain weight but you won’t necessarily look how you want to look.
Change your mindset and have some mirror or measurement (muscle girth, body fat %) orientated goals too.
Those people that go all out on high volume cardio/interval training program and a hugely restricted diet may end up losing a load of ‘weight’ on the scales but they don’t always look better.
What I mean by this is;
If you do inordinate amounts of cardio (no weights) and eat a restricted/low calorie diet you’ll lose fat, you’ll lose muscle and you’ll weigh less but you’ll just be a smaller/lighter version of how you looked before; still a bit flabby, still a bit soft, still no shape, still unhappy with how you look.
Whereas if you kick the cross trainer to the curb, add weight lifting into the equation (and execute it properly) you’ll build muscle, you’ll develop great legs, arms etc., you’ll burn more calories every day, you’ll lose body fat and . . . when you lose that fat you’ll unveil the body you’ve been after all this time.
Now tell me that doesn’t make sense.
Increase Your Activity Levels
Being in a calorie deficit does not always mean that you have to eat less food. Living a more active lifestyle will increase the amount of calories you burn and help create a calorie deficit too.
Being more active doesn’t mean you have to be in the gym for two hours a day either, making simple changes such as taking the stairs instead of the lift or doing things like indoor rock climbing as a social event rather than sitting in watching Netflix all adds up.
The truth is your time spent at the gym should largely be focused on getting stronger, becoming more durable, improving your fitness and building muscle mass. And your time outside of the gym (the other 165 hours you have every week) should be where your calorie deficit is created through a combination of nutrition and daily activity.
Get Lots of Sleep
A friend of mine (and fellow coach) once said…
“A lack of sleep makes you dumb, slow, fat, weak and more prone to injury and illness”
He wasn’t wrong.
Poor sleep can be a bit of a disaster for your body…
Your body fat can increase, muscle growth and repair will slow down, your corsitol (stress hormone) levels will go up and your performance in the gym will deteriorate.
And the result is you end up looking and feeling like walking, talking zombie – which isn’t ideal.
Sleep really is the unsung hero of getting results.
I mean yeah, you could survive on 4 hours sleep a night and a cocktail of Red Bull and Monster Energy whilst watching Netflix until the early hours but that wouldn’t do your fat loss any good.
So, getting into a good bedtime routine and deep sleeping pattern is important, here’s how to do it:
a) No phones/laptops for 60 mins before bed – the blue light can play havoc with your brain activity and sleeping pattern
b) Make sure your room is as dark as possible
c) Take some ZMA (if you have trouble sleeping)
d) Get into bed and read for 30 mins
e) Try to get to sleep before 12am and sleep for at least 7-8 hours
There’s also an app called Pzizz that I recommend you try, it’s pretty cool for helping you get in a solid sleeping routine.
All of this is tied together by consistency. If you’re not consistent, fat loss is unlikely to happen and if it does happen it will have been by accident.
The people who get great results do the basics well day in, day out for months and years at a time. It’s not sexy but it works.
All these guys have made impressive progress because they maintained a calorie deficit, good eating habits, a smart approach to strength training, an active lifestyle and lots of sleep for more than just a few weeks.
Remember, great results don’t happen overnight.