When it comes to health and fitness goals, there is none more popular or pervasive than weight-loss. Maybe there are a lot of people out there who are genuinely, 100% satisfied with their current body composition, but from my professional experience over the last 20 years, it certainly seems that the majority of people would like to have more control over their bodyweight.
For our purposes, I’m going to present this goal as ‘fat-loss’, because it specifically identifies the issue, and there’s no doubt it’s a serious one. Worldwide obesity levels are rising. Children are getting fatter and increasingly unhealthy. With all of the ‘diet’ and ‘fat-free’ products on the shelves, the countless books and weight-loss programs available and our advanced knowledge of the importance of maintaining a healthy body composition, the general population still struggles for control of their body-fat levels.
So let’s assume you’re one of the people who’s made the decision that you’d like to get rid of a little extra body-fat. Maybe it’s 10 pounds, or maybe it’s 50. The number doesn’t matter as much as the decision. Once you’ve decided it’s time for change, the last thing we want is for you to struggle or falter because you don’t really know how to go forward.
What I’m going to do is summarize and simplify the information necessary to help you gain control of your body composition once and for all. I do want to point out that achieving fat-loss goals can be difficult, even if you have all of the correct technical information, because it requires modification of habits. Again, this is where true experts like Larry Birckhead at The HabitShift Institute are invaluable.
Build muscle – I’ve mentioned before, but since I end up in this conversation almost daily, it’s worth repeating here. In my opinion, the best thing about the Biggest Loser reality show phenomenon is that anyone looking to lose body-fat needs to be performing regular, high-intensity resistance training. For many of my clients over the years, we changed their bodies completely without doing any extra cardiovascular training at all. Just by stepping up the frequency and intensity of their strength workouts we were able to burn more calories and boost their metabolism enough that they leaned out and lost the extra body-fat. Of course we had to be careful with their nutrition plan, but if your goal is to lose fat, you should be closely monitoring your eating anyway.
Burn calories – People who try to lose weight without exercise are truly at a disadvantage. Because they aren’t burning a lot of calories, they have to eat tiny quantities of food, which leaves them perpetually hungry and allows their metabolism to gradually slow down, making the process more and more difficult. I can understand how it seems like the best way to lose weight is to eat fewer and fewer calories, but a better solution is to burn more. Of course there’s a happy medium here. Assuming you’re taking in enough fuel each day for healthy nutrition without having any extra to store as body-fat (more on this later) then successful fat-loss is easy. All you have to do is make sure you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in, and there are all kinds of ways to burn calories. Treadmills, elliptical trainers and stationary bikes are all effective pieces of cardiovascular training equipment, but you can also go for a walk, run or do calisthenics. Just make sure your heart rate is elevated to safe levels and you keep your body moving as much as possible.
Fuel your body – As the most important aspect of successful fat-loss, proper nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated, and I’m going to simplify it even more. For myself, by eating 5 healthy meals of 400-500 calories each, at 3-4 hour intervals, I’m able to control my body-fat. If I’m really strict on this, I begin to get very lean. If I stray from this plan or start eating too many sugary foods, I start to gain fat. Because I’m 40 years old, over 200 pounds, and train with weights on a regular basis, I need more calories than most people. For smaller women I usually recommend portion sizes of roughly 300-350 calories per meal. For men it’s usually around 400. The trick is to start eating this way and see what happens. If you lose weight too quickly, increase the size of the meals slightly. If nothing changes within a few weeks, down-size the meals a tiny bit. Just stay consistent in your timing, and don’t snack between meals. Also, remember that proper hydration is essential for fat-loss and for a healthy body, so drink lots of water through the day.
–Rob Williams is a Vancouver based business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is an entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, athlete, father, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community. www.williamshealthgroup.com