The principles toward a leaner and toned body are actually quite simple.
But, if you’ve ever tried to research it or have attempted to achieve it; then you’ve probably experienced lackluster results, frustration or confusion from all the contradictory information that’s out there.
Want to know the biggest secret to fat loss success? It’s the same as any endeavor. The secret is: Consistency. If you can consistently take the fundamental actions that put you on the path toward your goal, it’s only a matter of time until you achieve it.
Now, the better your adherence and the smarter your strategy- the faster and better the results. With fitness, and most things in life, results require time. But keep in mind: smarter methods get better results than hard effort alone.
Practically everyone I’ve worked with has wanted to be leaner, have more muscular definition, to gain more confidence, and to look better naked. Sound familiar? It should, because wanting to be healthy and attractive is a fundamental human desire!
The problem is people are rarely willing to change their behavior to be congruent with their goals. Especially when things get challenging or uncomfortable. And, the higher your goals, the harder it’s going to be. However, doing things right can make it all possible!
After spending hundreds of hours of learning, testing methods, and training others; I’ve discovered 7 habits that produce fantastic results when followed consistently. And, I’m going to share them with you.
These 7 habits are not just the fundamental components for highly effective fat loss, they are also great tools that will improve your health. Your body is a complex machine… The better you treat it, and the more optimized all its functions are; the better you will look, feel, and perform.
It’s important to incorporate all of these habits together. Neglect any and you will compromise your results! It’s also critical to understand that getting leaner, burning fat, and losing weight are cyclical in nature. You simply cannot perpetually lose weight, or shred fat for that matter, while maintaining proper health. It’s best to set a 4-12 week goal, then take a break to reassess your progress and objective. Losing too much weight too quickly is not healthy and can be a recipe for failure.
Ok, enough of the preamble… Are you ready to finally get the fat loss results you’re looking for? Let’s do this!
Habit 1: Eating at a Calorie Deficit
Your body loves energy. It loves it so much that it stores it in several forms. And, the form we all love to hate is body fat. Anytime your caloric intake exceeds your maintenance levels, your body will begin to store that energy as fat.
This mechanism was good thing for our ancestors, from a survival standpoint, but can be a hurdle for us when we look to maximize our fat loss.
It’s possible to convince your body to burn its stored fat, but you have to give it good reason. The only practical way to make an impact on your body fat balance is by sustaining a calorie deficit over time.
The quick and dirty way to estimate a below maintenance level of calories is to use the 10-12x bodyweight factor. In other words, multiply your bodyweight by 10-12 to get your estimated daily caloric intake level to achieve a deficit.
For example, if you are 200lbs multiple that by 12 and you get a starting calorie level of 2,400.
I recommend starting at 12 because we don’t want to over-do it and starve yourself. If after about 10 days you aren’t making progress: reduce that number by 10%. On the other hand, If you notice a drop in performance or feeling of well-being, add 10% calories back in.
The more sedentary or inactive you are, the better it may be to go down to the 11 or 10 multiple. With that said if you’re practicing the following habits your activity level should be going up!
Habit 2: 30% or Higher of Calories from Protein
After calculating your calories to achieve a deficit, we need to improve your macronutrient profile. With regards to fat loss, protein is the most important macronutrient that you need to ensure you’re getting enough of.
Why is Protein so important? 2 primary reasons:
1. Protein provides the most satiation of hunger than any other nutrient. And…
2. An adequate Protein intake helps your body burn pure fat by helping preserve and build new muscle.
Plus, protein is a metabolic stimulator, it has the highest thermic effect of food. So eating more of it will automatically rev-up your metabolism!
To calculate your target protein intake, we will take your calorie level (calculated in Habit 1) and apply 2 formulas to it. The first will calculate calories from protein, and the other will calculate grams of protein to be consumed daily.
Using our 200lbs bodyweight example, our calories are set to 2,400 by the 12x factor. Now, multiple 2,400 by 0.3 to calculate 30% of calories. Then we will divide that number by 4 to get the number of grams of protein.
Example for a 200lb Person:
Calories: 200lb x 12 = 2,400
Calories from protein: 2,400 x 0.3 = 720
Grams of protein: 720 / 4 = 180
This is an excellent starting place for your protein. It might be challenging to hit this number unless you are following a specific meal plan because you will initially feel a lot fuller.
Keep in mind, animal and dairy sources of protein are superior. However, plant sources are still great in conjunction with the higher quality sources.
A palm size or deck of card size portion of lean protein is about 25-30g of protein. Use that estimation when building your meals.
Utilizing a protein supplement powder like whey is a great way to kick your protein intake levels up. I like to take 1 scoop of whey protein in the morning and 1 after my workouts. Experiment with brands and flavors to find one you like.
Habit 3: Strength Training at least 3 times per week.
You want to lose pure fat right? Sure you do! But, in a state of calorie deficit, your body will burn any tissue it can get its catabolic hands on. Including your precious muscle mass!
We must give your body a reason to maintain and build muscle. And, we do that with Strength Training. I’m talking about lifting weights. Resistance Training. Performing exercises that are so heavy that you cannot perform them for longer than 30-60 seconds. Weights that are above 70% of your 1 Rep Max.
Strength Training not only will help burn more calories from the work and recovery it requires. It will prompt your body to increase protein synthesis. AKA growing muscle. It’s what gives you that lean toned look, instead of a softer, smaller, and a weaker version of yourself.
Lifting 3 times per week provides a great mix of frequency and recovery time. Protein synthesis maxes out about 36 hours after a strength training session, and this frequency allows you to recover and re-stimulate it adequately through the week.
On top of that, Strength Training will help your body better process carbohydrates. Allowing you to burn fat more efficiently at rest.
Your actual strength training program is beyond the scope of this Habits List. However, if you are not doing squats, deadlifts, presses, chin ups, and the huge variety of functional free weight movements that are encompassed in strength training- then your program needs a little work!
Habit 4: At Least 10,000 Steps or 90 Minutes of Activity per Day
If you’re anything like the average adult, you probably spend too much time sitting. Between advances in technology and professional obligations, being seated or at a desk all day is the depressing new normal. 8-10+ hours seated is common, but not healthy!
Your body is meant to move! To be active and athletic. If you don’t move it, you will lose it.
The second biggest variable you have control over (caloric intake being #1) in regards to your metabolic rate is known has NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. NEAT encompasses all the movement you do throughout the day that is not focused exercise. E.g. walking, fidgeting, taking the stairs, cleaning around the house.
10,000 steps is roughly 5 miles or 90 minutes of continuous walking. Getting those 10K steps each day will help you elevate your metabolic rate by about an extra 500 calories. burning an extra 500 calories each day roughly equates to losing almost a pound of fat per week!
If getting your steps in proves challenging, getting a pedometer or activity tracker (like Fitbit) is worth the investment, it will help track your movement and hold yourself accountable. You must set aside time each day to get your movement in. You can use this habit to upgrade your life; cleaning, doing chores, listening to audio books or podcasts while walking, can all be accomplished while getting your NEAT in, killing two birds with one stone!
To effectively lose fat, you have to burn it! And, that means getting off your butt and moving!
Habit 5: Consume at least 15g of Fiber per day
A study found that one consistent behavior between the most successful weight loss dieters using the MyFitnessPal app was a high fiber intake.
Fiber is very important for your digestive health. It helps keep things running smoothly and your gut flora happy. Fiber is found in 2 forms, soluble and insoluble. Both are important for proper health function. Fiber is primarily found in plant based foods like vegetables, legumes, and fruits.
The most useful benefit of fiber with regards to fat loss is that it fills you up at a much lower calorie point due the volume of space it takes up, thus helping avoid overeating.
To hit >15g per day, you’ll need at least a cup of vegetables or legumes (beans) with each meal. Plan your meals and snacks to include beans, fibrous carbs like broccoli, greens, celery, or almost any other fruit and vegetable.
It’s shocking how much of an impact adequate fiber intake from whole foods can have on the way you feel. Whole, natural fiber-rich foods are generally packed with the critical micro-nutrients we all need to function optimally and feel our best.
Habit 6: Drink at least 64 ounces of Water per Day
You’re probably dehydrated. And it’s probably hurting your physical performance, mental health, and general well being. Just a 2% decrease in hydration can negatively affect performance.
Your mission is to rev up your health and metabolic rate. And, just like an engine without coolant- if you aren’t properly hydrated, your body will redline prematurely.
When your body isn’t hydrated its processes slow down, your energy levels drop, and your ability to make good decisions declines. Nothing functions optimally. Surprisingly, dehydration can cause you to retain water and feel bloated. Which can mask fat loss progress and can be frustrating and affect program compliance.
64 ounces of water per day is a great starting point. if you want optimal hydration going up to ½ your bodyweight in ounces may help. Adding in electrolytes will aid in absorption and put it the water to better use.
So how do you know if you’re properly hydrated? When using the restroom, your urine should be closer to clear than yellow. The darker the color, the less hydrated you are.
I recommend getting a quality 32 oz water bottle, like a Nalgene, and filling that up twice to make tracking easy. You can get one on Amazon for less than $10.
Habit 7: Sleep an Average of 7-8 Hours per Night
Life is a balance of stress. When you diet, train hard, deal with work, take care of a family, or face all the other things life throws at you- you will get stressed. And, that’s OK!
What’s not OK is getting burnt out. Our bodies require recovery. You won’t ever improve or move towards positive results, or achieve your fat loss goals if you aren’t allowing your body to recover and rejuvenate itself. A minimum level of stress is required to stimulate change. Couple it with proper recovery and that’s where the magic happens. Personal, physical, and professional growth occurs when we challenge ourselves.
High quality sleep, and enough of it, is probably the most important part of the stress recovery process. You can get away with a couple nights of bad sleep, but the debt will accrue and at some point it will be collected. You will pay the price by getting sick or feeling terrible.
Just know: a lack of sleep can destroy your health, plateau your performance, prematurely age you, and stall your fat loss.
- To optimize your sleep, it takes a little planning and effort. Here’s what I recommend:
- No stimulants 8 hours or more before target bedtime.
- No screens or highly stimulating activity 1 hour before bed.
- A cool, completely dark room to sleep in.
- A pre-bed ritual of writing out all the tasks and open loops you have to take care of.
- Shutting your eyes 15 minutes before your target time so you can wake up 7-8 hours later.
- A pillow and bed that are comfortable. It’s worth the investment!
If you find yourself dragging or your results suffering, first see how well you are managing your sleep. Fixing that is often the missing link!
Tying It All Together:
When followed, these 7 habits will help you function optimally, transform your body, produce highly effective fat-loss and improve your overall health.
If you want to do this fat loss thing right, you must follow ALL of the habits as they work in synergy. Neglecting one will eventually produce consequences. Each of these habits is important and should be prioritized if you want top results.
In closing, please keep in mind that under-eating by too much or for too long is just as unhealthy as being overweight. Food is the fuel your body transforms into energy, muscle, bone, and every other tissue in your body. You need enough of it at the right quality to function at your peak.
Losing weight and burning fat should be a temporary phase used to achieve a realistic goal. To reach your best self, make sure that your goals and behaviors are congruent with maintained health and are sustainable in the long term.
Good luck and happy fat burning!