The Finer Tips of Fat Loss
Written by Mark Coles - Follow on Google+ | Facebook | Twitter
Anyone that reads our articles will know that we have pretty high standards when it comes to body composition. When undergoing a body transformation, we look to get males to achieve less than 10% body fat and females at around 12 to 14%.
You may have been sitting at around 10% for a while and wondering what you need to do to get lower. If you’re someone who is a long way off the body fat levels mentioned above, just stick to the programme you’re currently following (that’s if it’s working!), until you’re down to those magic numbers. The article you are about to read is aimed at those of you who really want to take your physique to another level.
When it comes to getting into single digit body fat levels (by this I mean as low as 5%, possibly lower in some cases) you have to be in a completely different mindset. There aren’t many people who display the discipline and commitment to really discover what their physique could look like this low.
Many people look at the body building world and immediately jump to crazy assumptions as to the reasons why they’re all in fantastic condition. To get to that level, their nutrition, training and recovery is meticulously planned right up to the final day when they step on stage. Bodybuilders are constantly learning about their physiques, what works for them, what foods make them look heavy or carry more fluid and also seeing what extra strategies they can use to lose that extra bit of body fat and come out on stage in peak condition. They make many sacrifices along the way, training, resting and eating take priority over anything else, until the job is done.
The reason I’m telling you this, is so you can really get an idea of the commitment that is required to get into this type of shape. Sure, the standard fat loss strategies that you read about all over the internet help many people shift years of excess weight and body fat, but then there’s the select few that spend most of their life in great shape but who really want to take their bodies to another level. So when I get emails from people who ask me about getting below 8% body fat and they tell me they’ve been trying everything possible, it’s always never the case.
So here are some tips to help you enter into the world of being very lean
Make a clear decision right from the start what you want to achieve, and then stick to it
I say this because in many cases, people say they want to be in great shape but they’re not prepared to actually sacrifice what is necessary to get there. If you play at being lean, you won’t make it very far. Set a time frame to achieve your desired body fat level by (say 12 weeks), commit yourself to planning, preparing, training, resting and recovery.
Take your time
There is a very good reason bodybuilders and figure athletes take 12 – 16 wees to get in stage condition - it takes time! Anyone trying to rush the process will only lose valuable muscle mass and end up looking very skinny and flat by the end.
Always remain well above your BMR (Base Metabolic rate – this is the amount of energy your body requires in a state of coma)
Now this point actually goes for everyone trying to lose body fat. You can work out your BMR on many websites, (just type it into Google) it’s very important that your nutrition never falls below this level. From my experience, the higher you can keep someone's calorie intake whilst still losing body fat the better. Afterall, one of the ultimate goals of fat loss is to preserve muscle mass at all times and you can’t do that on a low calorie diet. From a male and female perspective, as soon as you go below your BMR you move into a catabolic state. This is where you will not only breakdown valuable muscle mass, but various other physiological problems will develop. These can range from, lowered sex drive, increase of body fat, insomnia, fatigue and depression. (I’m sure some of these sound very familiar to those of you who eat low calorie diets?). From a female perspective it’s very common to experience symptoms such as low thyroid, infertility and menstrual cycle irregularity (these are sadly very common, again in the low calorie and over trained community).
So if you’re someone who’s spending hours each day in the gym, eating very low amounts of food and expecting results, chances are you’ll be the tired one struggling to hold onto muscle mass! This article that I wrote a while ago, goes into more depth about why you need to eat more to lose body fat
Manipulate your macronutrients
By this I’m talking about the ratios of protein, essential fats and carbs in each meal. In some cases you could well be having anything up to 40% of your diet from carbs and 20% of your diet coming from essential fats. When you manipulate your macronutrients, you will need to taper your carbs down say every 2nd week but you would slightly add a bit more fat in each time to balance out your calories and not risk diving into the catabolic state I mentioned above.
Be strategic with re feed/cheat meals
One of the first things people ask me when they start a transformation “When will I be having my cheat meal”. People use cheat meals way too often as a cop out and an excuse for their poor will power. When you’re working to get your body fat level very low they’re not a reward, they’re actually part of the strategy. In most cases further into the diet, you will be eating a lot less carbs than normal so the reefed does help to replenish muscle and liver glycogen levels. On your path to single digit body fat levels you’re more than likely going to go down one of two routes. The first one is low carbs all the way, this is where you would have the strategic high calorie/carb days and your diet will be based mainly on lean protein sources, essential fats and vegetables. In this situation, I would structure re feeds based on the appearance of your physique, your energy levels and your weight (if you’re losing weight too quickly, a planned high calorie day can slow this down). The second is starting off with more carbs in your daily plan (say 40%) you’d then gradually cycle them down as you go week by week as I mentioned above. With this strategy remember it’s very important that you slightly increase your fats as you drop your carbs, again to prevent diving into that catabolic state. Within this seconds strategy you could also use the carb cycling path that has proved very popular for a lot of people, I talk about this more in my carb cycling article.
Don’t be frightened to make changes along the way
Remember, you’re body is unique to you and therefore one style of fat loss that works for someone else may not work for you. So if you find you’re not shifting body fat and you’re following a particular nutrition programme, it’s ok to make some changes along the way. Fat loss isn’t about sticking to one eating plan the whole way through a 12 or 16 week period, quantities and ratios of food groups will need to be manipulated every so often to force your body to adapt.
Don’t use fat burners until it’s really necessary
People get caught up with using fat burners as far as 12 weeks out from a transformation. I’ve seen this happen so many times, they’re adrenals get completely burnt out, they lose muscle too fast, develop insomnia, depression and they more than often end up ill. If you can’t get lean manipulating your nutrition, training and recovery, you really need to address what you’re doing. Trust me, it’s not because you’re not taking enough fat burners. You can use them towards the end of the programme, just to give your metabolism a boost and to help shift that extra bit of body fat, but that’s about it.
Don’t be afraid of “fuel work” or steady state cardio
Years ago, I was at a brilliant seminar with Phil Learney and he referred to steady state cardio as “fuel work”. I like this phrase a lot because it’s exactly what it is, your goal isn’t to try and improve your aerobic system like I see so many people doing, fuel work serves merely as a tool to expend extra energy or fuel to help you along the path to a shredded physique.
Gradually increase your fuel work as the transformation goes a long
I hear of way too many people kick starting a fat loss program by adding in crazy amounts of anaerobic interval sessions and steady state cardio sessions, only to learn that they’re losing weight at a rapid pace as they’ve burned themselves out. If you’re losing more than 1 – 2 lbs per week, there is a very strong chance that you will be losing all that hard earned muscle mass. For many people, gaining the muscle in the first place has been the hardest part, all that hard work can be lost very quickly if you go overboard with the energy expenditure too early.
At some point your body could well plateau out, you don’t want to stress it by lowering your calories and driving you into that catabolic state I talked about, so you need to make a change. It is at this point that you can add in some low level “fuel work”. The main objective here is to not tax your body, but to just gently expend some energy.
Now someone following a normal fat loss program should be seeing results from basic things like, increasing the effort they are putting in at each workout, increasing the number of sets or simply the adaptation the body goes through when it starts to get healthy. Focussing on getting your body healthy is the best way to kick start fat loss, a sick body won’t lose fat. So for those of you beginners reading this, just keep doing what you’re doing for the time being, use can use some of these strategies later if you feel you’re ready.
Using the case of Lucas here, we only added in steady state cardio 4 weeks out from his photo shoot. Up to this stage we had only manipulated his nutrition. So in his case, he started doing 3 x 40 minute low level fuel sessions for week 1 (4 weeks out), followed by 4 on week 2 and 5 on week 3. At the beginning of his final week he was ready to go, there were only a few minor tweaks to make just before the shoot. His strength training and fuel work was cut right back from 5 days out and he did nothing with 3 days remaining.
There are things which we have discussed that we will do differently next time, but that’s all part of the journey. It’s all part of knowing your body inside out and how it responds to different strategies.
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