While we titled this article “Fat Loss Made Simple,” we admit that it can seem like there’s actually very little about losing fat that’s easy. Sure, our job — telling you what to do, what to eat, what to take and when — is simple. But your job — following that advice, pushing yourself through the workouts, ignoring the potato-chip cravings, keeping track of all those vitally important supplements — is hard. Really, really hard.
However, you know you can do it, and we believe in you, too. So we’ve given you not just one but two complete programs, allowing you to decide which to follow based on which timeline suits your current goals. Now that you have the program, you need to bring the desire, the commitment and the dedication to follow through. The only remaining question is, Are you ready for the challenge? (A simple “yes” will do.)
SLOW & STEADY
In Aesop’s famous fable, the plodding tortoise beat the boastful hare in a footrace thanks to pure tenacity. In the gym, success can also be measured simply by whether goals are met, without any consideration of how quickly it took to meet them. In fact, when the goal is losing body fat, sometimes the best approach is the slow and steady one, gradually chipping away at those fat stores until one day you’ve gloriously gotten to where you wanted to be. This track nods to that method, giving you everything you need to achieve lasting fat loss without pushing yourself to the limit.
No question, exercise is going to be critical to this process. We recommend following a four-day weight-training split, meaning you divide your body parts so that you’re training each one once a week. Here’s a sample split:
Back, biceps, abs
It’s possible to keep metabolism high even when lifting weights. The primary way to do that is to reduce the time you rest between sets to less than a minute. Ideally, rest periods should be about 30 seconds long. But don’t be tempted to go light in the face of less rest. Research published in the journal Sports Medicine in 2003 found that training with heavier weights and fewer reps actually increased resting metabolic rate for longer, so try to stick with weights that you can lift for somewhere around six reps before failure.
And now, the words you may have been dreading. Yes, you must do cardio if you want to burn body fat. In fact, you must do at least three days of cardio, and the best possible cardio to do for burning fat is high-intensity interval training. HIIT involves intervals of high-intensity exercise (like sprinting on a treadmill) with periods of low-intensity exercise (walking on the treadmill). We recommend doing at least 20 minutes of HIIT with a 1:0.5 ratio of high to low intensity. That means go hard for a minute and follow that with 30 seconds of slower movement.
A lot of people make the simple mistake of assuming one of two things. Either they think that exercising is the more critical factor of a weight-loss plan or they opt to use the hour they spend in the gym as an excuse for eating whatever looks good for the rest of the day. Neither one will help you lose fat.
A good diet is essential to losing body fat. To achieve a slow and steady burn, aim to eat 1 gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day. That means a 180-pound man should eat 180 grams of carbs daily. Focus primarily on slow-digesting carbs like whole-wheat bread, brown rice and oatmeal. Keep protein intake high and steady, also at about 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. And as for fats, keep them healthy: i.e., olive oil, avocados, salmon, nuts (including peanut butter) and seeds. Finally, don’t fall into a deprivation mindset — consistently allowing your body to go hungry can quickly stall fat loss, so plan on eating at least six smaller meals per day.
Trying to lose fat without supplements is like trying to swim with one arm tied behind your back — you can do it, but why make it harder on yourself? Adding these supplements to your regimen can help accelerate your results.
CLA: Conjugated linoleic acid is a type of healthy fat that works in a variety of ways to bump up fat burning. It not only increases metabolism but also reduces the amount of fat that’s stored by the body. Even better, it has been shown to specifically target abdominal-area fat. The only caveat is that it can take a minimum of three months to see results, so be consistent in using it.
Take 1 to 3 grams of CLA two to three times per day with meals.
Omega-3s: The essential fats found in fatty fish like salmon and sardines are just about as good for your waistline as it is for your heart. In fact, these fats are so powerful, they have been shown to actually turn on genes that influence fat burning, turning your body into a fat-melting machine.
Take 1 to 3 grams of a fish oil supplement two to three times daily.
Carnitine: This amino-acid-like compound’s primary job is to transport fat into the mitochondria in cells, where it can be burned for fuel. Having more carnitine available in the body has been shown to maximize how much fat is used for this purpose.
Take 1 to 2 grams of L-carnitine, L-carnitine L-tartrate or GPLC (glycine propionyl-L-carnitine).
Green-Tea Extract: Yes, tea contains caffeine, but in the case of green-tea extract, the truly active ingredient is a phytochemical called epigallocatechin gallate. EGCG appears to block the action of an enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine, a hormone that keeps your metabolic rate up. With higher norepinephrine levels, you’ll have a higher metabolism, and therefore more fat burning.
Take 500 milligrams of a green-tea supplement standardized to minimum 30 percent EGCG two to three times per day between meals.
PGX: PGX (and other products like it) works in a far less high-tech way to help you lose fat. It is a combination of plant fibers that absorb water and expand in size in your stomach, making you feel fuller faster. It not only restricts how much food you then eat but also slows the progress of food through the intestinal tract, keeping you feeling full longer.
Follow product dosing instructions.
CHURN & BURN
Maybe you’re on a deadline. Maybe you’ve got a fire lit inside and just can’t wait. Maybe you’re impatient and ultra-driven by nature. Whatever the reason, sometimes slow and steady is more like dragged out and painful. In that case, switch on over to this approach. It builds off the previous program but adds some extra oomph to get you thinner faster.
Burning significant numbers of calories is even more critical to faster fat loss. Instead of a four-day split, you’ll need to do a three-day split twice a week. That means you’re working every bodypart twice. Here’s an idea of how to break that up:
Chest, shoulders, triceps
Chest, shoulders, triceps
As in the Slow & Steady technique, you should aim to keep rest periods to a minimum, about 30 seconds between each set. And again, don’t shy away from heavier weights. Try to use weights that you can lift for six reps.
Just as weight-bearing exercise has to be increased when burning fat faster is the goal, so does cardio. On this plan, cardio frequency doubles to six times per week. Because HIIT is better at burning fat than just about any other kind of cardio training, we recommend you do it all six days. As a reminder, HIIT alternates high-intensity intervals with low-intensity intervals. Again, you should be doing one minute of high-intensity work and 30 seconds of low-intensity work, for at least 20 minutes per session.
Hey, you said you’re tough and want to lose fat super fast. So here’s what you get: a low-carb diet. That means eating no more than 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day. So, for our 180-pound male, that equates to 90 grams of carbs daily. To put that in perspective, here’s a sample day’s carb menu:
As you can see, there’s no room for sandwiches, even on whole-wheat bread, or brown rice for dinner. As a reward for keeping that tight a leash on your carb intake, you are allowed one cheat day per week. OK, it’s not really a reward, but feel free to think about it that way — it’s actually an important tool for keeping your metabolism high. Because you’re limiting intake of your body’s favorite energy source, it might assume that your tribe has fallen on hard times and have entered a period of famine. As a result, it will try to protect your fat stores by dropping metabolism. That’s the opposite effect to what we’re after, so to bump metabolism, you need to have one day per week of high-carb intake — 2 to 3 grams per pound of bodyweight.
There are rules for that day, too, however. You can eat slower-digesting carbs, like brown rice, whole-wheat breads or pasta, and oatmeal throughout the day. But in the morning and through lunch, you can have a little treat — all the fast-digesting carbs you can handle. We’re talking sorbet, white bread, white rice, sugary cereals like Froot Loops or Frosted Flakes — anything you’ve been dreaming of, as long as it’s low fat or fat free. These types of carbs boost insulin levels almost immediately, and insulin boosts levels of the metabolic hormone leptin, which is the whole point of the cheat day. But once the glycogen stores in your liver and muscle cells have been replenished, any extra carbs will be stored as fat, so stick to the 2- to 3-gram limit.
All the supplements in the Slow & Steady program are pretty much required for anyone looking to lose weight, so add those to your regimen. But because you have the need for speed, we have a few additions for you, a trio of expert fat burners.
Caffeine: Arguably the most common, most studied and most used supplement ever, caffeine is easy to find. You can drink it in coffee or energy drinks like Celsius or, for more accurate dosing, you can take it as caffeine anhydrous. It works by more than one mechanism. First, it has been shown to reduce the pain that results from exertion, which allows you to work out longer and harder. But it also increases lipolysis, or the release of fat from fat cells, and thermogenesis, which will use up all that fat that’s now floating around in the bloodstream.
Take 200 to 400 milligrams of caffeine two to three times throughout the day, with one dose about an hour before workouts.
Yohimbine: This extract from bark from an African tree works like an offensive lineman. There are two types of receptors on cells that can take up the hormone norepinephrine. One of them just holds it without using it; the other uses it to activate lipolysis. Guess which one you want working. Yohimbine blocks the nonfunctioning receptors so that norepinephrine is diverted to the ones that actually increase fat burning.
Take yohimbine supplements that provide 2 to 10 milligrams per dose two to three times per day, with one dose about 30 to 60 minutes before workouts.
Synephrine: If you’ve noticed that synephrine shares a suffix with norepinephrine, you’re on the right track. It’s the active ingredient in the Citrus aurantium plant. In the body, synephrine mimics norepinephrine’s actions — it stimulates lipolysis, raises metabolism and even blunts appetite.
Take 200 to 600 milligrams of citrus aurantium standardized to 5 to 20 milligrams of synephrine two to three times per day before meals.