I get so tired of gimmicky, unsafe and ineffective products promoting unrealistic promises of trim waistlines and washboard ads.
The best way to lose body fat—assuming a healthy metabolism and the absence of certain medical conditions—is still to burn more calories than you eat over time (about 500 calories per day). In my experience a deficit greater than 500 calories usually doesn’t work. Eating too few calories leaves you hungry and can lead to bingeing, may leave you too tired to exercise and, in some cases, can slow your metabolism making it permanently harder to shed body fat.
While fat loss is generally a function of “calories in, calories out” here are some helpful cardio and nutritional methods for stimulating fat loss. These five methods have helped many of my busy clients over the years get lean and more healthy safely and with minimal kicking and screaming. You can certainly “mix and match” these methods, but if you are new to all these, I suggest picking one to focus on at first.
Some of these may not work for your lifestyle at the moment. For instance, if you know you will be traveling a lot this month, it may not be feasible to start the Whole30 protocol. Or if you simply hate getting up early, fasted morning cardio may not be your jam. But certainly there is one on this list even the busiest lawyer can successfully implement.
Targeted Heart Rate Cardio
This technique is about using various metabolic tests to develop strategic cardio programs for my clients’ body composition goals. I send clients to DexaFit (they have locations all over the country) to have these tests done and the results give me several key pieces of information to understand the best way for them to burn body fat.
Specifically, I look at their respiratory exchange ratio, or RER, measurement, which tells me whether their body prefers to burn sugars/carbs or existing body fat for fuel. Sometimes due to stress, poor diet,poor sleep, too much high intensity work, hormonal issues and myriad other factors, a person’s body uses a disproportionately high percentage of sugars versus fat, making it harder for them to reduce adipose body fat (i.e. get lean).
So we address that by training the body to start using body fat by staying within a target heart rate zone during cardio exercise several times a week for a few weeks or months. It often feels counterproductive because usually the necessary heart rate is lower than the client is used to (i.e. low intensity cardio) but speaking from personal experience, it works like magic.
If you’re a morning person, getting your cardio in before you eat breakfast (or anytime in a fasted state) can be an effective way to lose some unwanted body fat, especially the last few pounds. Checkout this post for more details. Depending on your resting metabolic rate and active metabolic rate, it may be most effective for you to do low intensity, high intensity or both.
Eating to Your Calorie Needs/Macros
This method calls for calculating your body’s caloric and macronutrient needs and developing a plan and lifestyle to eat to them 80 percent of the time. In my experience, it’s the most efficient and logical way to being lean and healthy. Tools like MyFitnessPal make this pretty simple and increasingly accurate. Some folks simply won’t do it. That’s cool. Live your best life. And some folks, especially those who have a history of eating disorders or overly restrictive dieting, shouldn’t if they find it triggering or stressful. Checkout this post for details and my Clean Eating Guidefor the best way to start.
Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Here’s some detailed info on how IF can help train the body to burn body fat, reduce insulin resistance and avoid metabolic conditions like diabetes. It works great for some folks and others turn into angry monsters when they fast for 12-16 hours. Again, not every protocol is for everyone, but the evidence increasingly validates this method as an effective way to improve body composition for many folks.
I usually never advocate one “diet” over another. I don’t really believe in “diets” because they tend to be temporary and extreme and cut out a macronutrient (like no carbs or no fat) which is silly—usually. I prefer lifestyle change that lasts. However, I’ve had several clients choose the Whole30 plan and every single one of them has had excellent results. Basically Whole30 removes all processed foods for 30 days. So for 30 days you eat “real” food (i.e. no added sugars, no alcohol, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no junk, etc). It can be tough because it requires a lot of shopping and meal prep. So if you like to eat out or travel, it might not be the right approach for you. But those who do it right shed pounds and generally get healthy and lean great new habits. Check it out.
Jonathan Jordan is a personal trainer, nutrition coach and corporate wellness consultant in San Francisco. Check out his blog JJ Fit 24/7.