Fat Loss and Weight Loss Issues and Plans for Success

Written by Robert Forney ISSA CFT July 17 2010

Due to the massive amount of questions I have been receiving regarding fat loss and weight loss I have decided to write an article addressing the issues of losing and keeping the fat off. I was going to write an article on how we use bands in our training, but that will have to be in next months issue. There seems to be a lot if misinformation out there regarding losing fat and how to keep the fat off.

We will discuss some of the myths, issues, and ways to exercise in order to keep the fat off. In addition, I will show you some of the options at your disposal and the best ways to use exercise in your quest for fat loss.

What I believe is the cause of obesity:

As we all know, America is getting fatter and fatter as a nation. We continue to eat more and more low fat foods, yet we continue to get fatter. I believe there are a few simple causes of why we are getting fatter as a nation. I believe one of the major causes of the fat epidemic stems from overeating. The portions we are served are usually extremely large and study after study has shown that we will continue to eat as long as there is food on our plates, even if we are not hungry!

The second, and related cause of obesity, has to do with the lack of exercise we receive. There are some who believe our metabolism slows down when we get older, but I think it has more to do with lack of exercises. If you think back to when you were a child, you will probably remember how you would run all over for absolutely no reason. When was the last time you decided to just jump up and start sprinting for no reason? My theory is not that our metabolism slows as we get older, but that we slow down as we get older. Of course the children of today are different than the children of yesterday. There wasn't all this electronic media to keep us sitting at idle. This is what is happening with our children today, they sit on the computer, or in front of the television, and are not out running around and burning calories. This causes them to get fat and become even more lazy and then they are stuck in a vicious cycle. They enter adulthood with weight problems which continue as they grow older.

Do not use overall body weight to determine success or failure:

Using overall bodyweight to determine success or failure is a very limited and poor method of analyzing your progress. First of all, it will tell you very little about your body composition. By losing ten pounds of fat and gaining ten pound of muscle you will stay at the same weight, but do you really think you will look the same? Of course not, and that is why you need to forget about your overall body weight and look to body fat percentage or pictures as a measure of your progress. Instead, take some pictures today, and then again in 3 months, and you will be able to see your changes and get motivation at the same time.

Losing overall body weight is an easy concept. You must expend more calories than you take in and you will lose weight. You can do this by either by increasing your daily actives, decreasing the amount of calories you consume, or both. If you are looking to for long term fat loss, you must make a few changes in your lifestyle. Fad diets do not work and will only cause you to rebound and gain even more weight than when you first started to diet.

Don't use calories to monitor your food intake:

Counting calories to monitor your food intake will work, but it will quickly lead to burning out. Most people do not have the time to count calories and it is sometimes impossible to figure out the calories in some meals. The approach I recommend is to assess your current eating habits and cut back on fat and carbohydrates slightly. Always make small decreases instead of big decreases. In addition you should try to cut back on simple carbohydrates such as soda, candy, white rice, etc. If you drink a soda every day, you will drastically cut your calories by just cutting out that daily soda. Same goes for most chips. Eat out once a week instead of every night. Reward yourself every weekend with a fatty and tastey meal. It's a great way to reward yourself. After a few months, cut your reward meals to every two weeks.

The myth of spot reducing fat and how the body uses fat for fuel:

The first issue I would like to discuss it the idea that one can spot reduce fat. It is impossible to spot reduce fat, so by doing 100 crunches a day you will not lose your belly. You will build the muscle under the fat, but you will still have a layer of fat above your muscles. You may be wondering why it is impossible to spot reduce fat, and I am going to explain it now so that you will know the answer. Since most people try to use crunches to lose that belly, I will use the same exercise in my example of why you cannot spot reduce fat. When you perform crunches your body first begins to use ATP and CP to fuel your exercise. Next your body begins to use Glycogen to replenish your stores of CP and ATP. Since we are talking about crunches and anaerobic activities fat doesn't come into play until after the exercise ceases. So when you are finished performing your 100 or so sit-ups your body begins to use fat to rebuild your glycogen stores.

You may be saying so how does that prove you cannot spot reduce fat. The fat that is used to restore your glycogen does not come from a localized area. the fat that is used to rebuild your stores of glycogen comes from fatty acids in the blood stream that are traveling around your body. These fatty acids come from all over the body. Fatty acids travel around the body and are used when needed. They move in and out of cells often and are only used when needed. They are constantly being moved around the body whether or not you need them for fuel. This is the reason why it is impossible to spot reduce fat. I hope this makes it clear. The same goes for aerobic types of exercises, when fat is used it comes from fatty acids in the blood stream which are released from all over the body. Where your body fat is stored is determined by your genetics.

Aerobics vs. Weight Training for fat loss:

To be very blunt, I believe weight training is the superior method for fat loss. The reason for this has to do with both the utilization of calories and muscle mass. Excessive cardio leads to muscle catabolism (the breakdown of muscle tissue). Since nearly all fat that is utilized by the body is utilized by muscle tissue, the problem becomes self evident. By increasing your muscle mass through weight training you increase your fat burning muscle tissue and increase the amount of fat you can burn. In addition, you will increase your fat burning metabolism by increase your muscle mass. Does this mean that I don't think aerobic training is good? No, but it is not the best method for fat loss. Of course, even better than weight lifting is High Intensity Interval Training. You can read my article in this in the past fitness and exercise articles archive. Now that's a mouthful!

Lifting weights without becoming "bulky":

Many women think they will become to big or get bulky by lifting weights. I wish it were so easy to get bulky because most men would love to get bulky. I have personally seen very few women who I would consider bulky. Since everyone is different, you will have to figure out which method is best for you, but the first I would try is to work with low reps, around 3 to 5. If you look at elite Olympic Weightlifters, the lower class divisions, you will see that they are able to increase their strength without increasing body weight or muscle mass year after year. They have very low body fat percentages and are not "bulky". The second method to try is the high rep 25+ scheme where you work to increase your strength endurance.

In addition to your weight lifting, you must pay attention to your calorie intake. If you find you are getting "bulky" cut back on your calorie intake.

Gaining muscle mass and losing fat:

Gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time is not impossible, but it can be hard for some and easy for others. The way to use more fat is to increase your muscle mass. Since muscle is denser than fat, it takes up a lot less room than fat pound for pound, so if you lose one pound of fat and gain one pound of muscle you will see huge differences in your body. By increasing your muscle mass you will increase your fat utilizing tissue. This will result in more calories being utilized 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Remember, you can lose weight by either increasing energy expenditure or decreasing calorie intake or both. But if you are looking to lose fat and gain muscle, the trick is to have enough calories in the system to facilitate muscle growth, but not so much as to increase your body fat. You will need to pay attention to your body fat percentage to make sure you are on track. If you find you are increasing your body fat (not overall body weight), you need to cut back on calories. You may actually find that your overall body weight goes up and your body fat goes down. This is what we are looking to achieve. Here is the strength training and dieting I recommend to achieve this goal.

For strength training you need to work with reps ranging from 1 to 15. Since everyone is different, you may get better gains with the high reps or the low reps, so when you figure out what reps you respond to best, then spend about 70% of your lifting in that rep range. In addition to strength training you will need to perform some HIIT (high intensity Interval training) training or sprinting to your program. HIIT training and sprinting allow you to expend a considerable amount of calories without sacrificing your muscle mass. HIIT training stands for High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT training consists of interval training of high intensity and low intensity. You can perform it on any bike, stationary bike, track, etc. For an example, if you were to perform HIIT training on a bike you would perform about a five minute warm up. Next you would perform an all out effort for about 30 seconds to a minute and then slow down again for about 30 seconds to a minute and repeat. If you perform it correctly, you should only be able to perform about 20 minutes max. You should perform this about 3 to 4 times a week. You can also perform sprints instead or in addition to your HIIT training.

As for the dieting aspect, there are two roads you can try to accomplish your goal. The first thing you have to do is to assess your current eating habits to see if you are gaining, losing, or maintaining your body weight. As an example, if you are currently maintaining your weight, you can add in the recommended strength routine and see what your body fat does. If you notice a decrease in body fat, but want to increase your muscle mass, try to slightly increase your protein and good fats intake. Asses again in about 1 month and make adjustments as necessary. If on the other hand you find you are still putting on a little fat, then cut back slightly on the fat and simple carbohydrates. You will need to constantly tinker with your dietary intake as your progress. Pay special attention to your body fat, you can use a simple caliper to measure this, but make sure you take the measurements at the exact same locations. Although calipers are not very accurate to assess overall body fat, they can be used to accurately to see if you are gaining or losing body fat.

Another option you can try is the Zig Zag Diet created by Dr. Fred Hatfield. The basic of this diet is to take in excess calories for 4 days a week and the restrict calories the remaining 3 days a week. This diet can also be applied to losing weight, etc.

Although you may gain a lot of muscle mass with this program, there are other ways to gain even more muscle mass. To gain a maximum amount of muscle mass you will need to do as bodybuilders do and bulk up for a period until you reach the muscle mass you want and then cut down to lose the excess fat.

After your training you should take some protein with a high sugar drink. This is the only time I think you should drink a high sugar drink.

Losing Overall Body Fat:

Losing overall body fat should not come at the expense of losing muscle. Here I will discuss losing overall body fat, but you must also perform strength training to try and maintain your muscle mass. To lose overall body fat, you must expend more calories than you consume. You can achieve this by decreasing your calories and increasing your exercise.

For exercise I would recommend a lot of HIIT training and minimal strength training. You can perform your resistance training with the rep range you like, but you should mainly concentrate on HIIT training. I would perform the HIIT about 4 times a week after your strength training. In addition to your HIIT training, you can incorporate some cardio for about 30 minutes 3 times a week.

For your diet, I would recommend decreasing your fat and simple carbohydrates (you should try to get rid of all simple carbohydrates). Make sure you check your body fat often and make changes as needed.