Fundamentals of Fat Loss Part I

What is the best way for me to lose weight?  How do I drop stubborn fat?  When will these darn pants fit right?  Why isn’t anything I’ve tried working?!

These are some of the most common questions I get as a personal trainer.

To be honest, I love them!  It is my favorite subject because it is so satisfying seeing light bulbs go off when I teach people this stuff.  I love empowering people with actionable knowledge and watching frustration melt away with the fat.

Why do so many attempts at weight loss, fat loss, or toning fail?  Because you need 3 things to force your body to burn fat.  If you are missing one, it won’t work.  The 3 things you need to consistently do if you want to lose fat are:


  1. Burn more calories than you take in

  2. Strength train 3 days per week

  3. Get plenty of protein


Do these consistently and you will be feeling better, have all-day energy, and be fit, healthy, and strong enough to do what is important to you.  Today I am going to hit wave tops about this weight loss strategy and how these three principles interact.

Burn more calories than you take in.  Also known as a calorie deficit.  Does this mean you need to count calories?  Nope!  If you burn more than you take in, your body won’t care if you counted them.  Counting calories and food logging can be a great strategy to get you there though.  That strategy has the advantage of being flexible.  Hit your daily target however you see fit.

If you don’t want to count calories, don’t despair!  You can cut out the worst offenders of over consumption.  You don’t need to do that forever either.  For our New Year Program we just did 4 weeks of no added sugar, no booze, and no junk.  I participated too.  We focused on eating fruits, vegetables, and lean meats to our satisfaction.  After a short, strict period to start, you can transition to a less strict, more long term strategy.  That “don’t eat” list can turn into a “once a week” list.

Strength train 3 days per week.  Strength training is critical to fat loss in 2 ways.  First, working out isn’t just about the calories you burn during the workout.  It’s also about the calories you burn after the workout.  That’s where the real results are and progressive strength and conditioning reigns supreme in stoking your metabolic fire.  Second, if you are in a calorie deficit, you body will be cannibalizing body tissue to make up for the gap in energy.  If you just do cardio or HIIT, you aren’t sending a strong enough message to your body that your muscle is important.  Your body will naturally want to preserve the fat and cannibalize the muscle.  With strength training, your body will preserve and build your muscle.

Get plenty of protein.  Protein is also key to fat loss in two ways.  First, it is very satiating.  It keeps you feeling full for a long time.  That is helpful to cut down on cravings.  Second, protein is critical to the recovery from strength training.  You need it to repair and build those muscles.  Of these three pillars, the protein might be the least important but don’t sleep on this one!

Putting it all together.  Without the calorie deficit, you won’t lose the weight.  If you have the calorie deficit but no strength training, you’ll lose muscle with the fat.  Thats a problem because it’ll slow your metabolism down, making further fat lost hard and weight gain easier.  If you don’t get adequate protein, even with good strength training you’ll still lose some muscle and you’ll have a hard time resisting food cravings.

In Part II, I will go more in depth on the two nutrition strategies I’ve seen work the best.  Part III will be all about what is and isn’t strength training.  Part IV will be tips about how to get plenty of protein without going over on your calories.  In Part V I will troubleshoot common mistakes, do a little myth busting, and share the mindsets that guarantee success!


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