I think many of us love the idea of being able to use some tip, tactic or hack that helps us lose weight fast and get incredible results while everybody else is trying to figure what they are doing.
Let’s face it most of the diet and fitness industry has been built on this concept.
You know the deal .. “try this new diet, exercise, workout or supplement and experience better and faster results than ever before”.
I think most of us have fallen for this pitch at some point or other when trying to get in shape.
The truth is there are no shortcuts to success. Yes, there are tactics that do help accelerate results and I want to share some of the best with you in this article, but these should only be tried when you have created and mastered the following foundational lifestyle.
At least 80% of your diet is from whole natural foods.
A sustainable exercise program that covers all the bases in terms of building strength, muscle, and cardiovascular fitness.
Being more active in general – Doing something every day that raises your metabolic rate.
Attaining a decent level of good quality sleep.
Make sure to drink enough water to stay hydrated.
Managing stress levels as best you can.
Keeping late-night social activity under control.
If you are trying to get back in shape after gaining weight or you are just getting started this is the foundation you need to achieve and sustain for at least 2 months before considering adding in any of the tactics I outline in this article.
If you have created this foundation already and lost weight but now progress has stalled or even stopped then I would advise trying one or two of the strategies below.
All of these strategies will help you lose weight but some may not suit your lifestyle or mindset and therefore be unsustainable.
My advice is to pick one or two and apply them for a couple of weeks to see what results you get and how comfortable you feel using them.
Strategy 1 – Nutrient Combining
Simply put, if you want to burn fat consistently then your body must be in the appropriate state to allow this. That means being in a negative calorie deficit, optimizing your body’s fat-burning hormones and keeping your metabolism working at full speed.
That is easier said than done but one strategy that can help achieve this is the structure of your meals.
Nutrient Combining for Optimal fat loss.
When it comes to food choices and weight loss an ideal combination is a mix of high-quality proteins, healthy fats, and fibrous carbohydrates daily.
However, if the combination of the nutrients is not set up properly in your meals it can hamper fat loss due to the hormonal responses from your meals.
If your goal is to lose weight you don’t want too large amounts of fatty acids and large amounts of insulin being released into your bloodstream at the same time.
This is exactly what happens when you eat lots of dietary fat and carbohydrates together.
The fats become fatty acids in your body and the carbohydrates increase your blood sugar levels resulting in insulin being secreted.
Insulin by nature is a storage hormone with a key task of regulating your blood sugar and making sure it is transported to the appropriate areas in the body.
Having high levels of fatty acids and glucose in your bloodstream at the same time creates a high risk of the fatty acids ending up in your adipose tissue and stored as fat.
To avoid this situation construct your meals with the following formula;
A protein source with either moderate to high levels of carbohydrates or moderate to high levels of fat.
Whichever option you are eating try to ensure there are no more than about 20 grams of the other nutrient present.
Obviously, it is almost impossible to eat a meal that has zero carbs or zero fats because most foods contain small amounts of them.
However, anything above this natural level needs to be controlled and I suggest keeping it under 20 grams.
So to clarify here are the 2 nutrient combinations I recommend following as much as possible when trying to lose body fat.
Protein + Fat meals (with less than 20 grams of carbs)
Protein + Carb meals (with less than 20 grams of fat)
However, you can take this a step further by timing and synchronizing your carbohydrate-loaded meals more strategically so that your body is optimally primed to absorb them.
Strategy 2 – Carb timing and synching
Over the last few years, carbohydrates have become the enemy with regard to fat loss and for many people, poor carbohydrate food choices can be a major culprit in stopping people from losing weight consistently.
However, even the most carbohydrate-sensitive people can still eat carbs and lose weight if they know how to manage them properly.
The problems I see frequently is a tendency to eat too much especially when not exercising, eating them at the wrong times and as I highlighted in the first strategy eating them with the wrong combination of foods.
Therefore, a great plan, if you want to keep eating carbs and lose weight, would be to combine them with the right foods and eat them at the right time when the body is set up to deal with them more effectively.
The best time to do this in my experience is straight after an intense session of exercise.
But the workout has to be intense.
It is no good going for a walk and stuffing down a big carb-loaded meal. During the 1-2 hour window post-workout, your body is ultra primed to absorb carbs for recovery, energy replenishment, and other anabolic processes but not fat storage.
So even if you do your training in the evening you can still follow it with a meal that contains plenty of carbs and it can actually be beneficial to your results (as long as the fat content is minimal).
If you can schedule a workout in the morning and then follow it with the bulk of your daily carb allowance then you have a situation where the body is in the best state possible to absorb carbs without the potential for fat loss.
To explain this better here is a sample meal plan for a day with a morning workout.
Meal 1 – Pre-workout – Protein/Fat
Meal 2 – Post Workout – Protein/ Carbs
Meal 3 – Protein/Carbs
Meal 4 – Protein/ Fats
Meal 5 – Protein/Fats
If you were working out in the evening you would take the carbs from meal 3 and have them in meal 5 instead.
By synching your carb intake around your workouts and putting together the right combination of nutrients together in every meal you really are setting your body up to be able to burn fat effectively.
However, there is another powerful carb management tool you can use for accelerating fat loss or breaking through a tough plateau especially when you are down to the last few pounds of fat before you get really defined and lean and that is carb cycling.
Strategy 3 – Carb cycling for fat loss
Being on a high protein and a well-managed carbohydrate diet using the techniques already listed will work wonders for your fat loss.
However, as with all diet plans, there is over time a natural slowdown in progress and possibly a stalling especially when you get to the last 10-15 pounds.
At this point when calories are being restricted and training intensity is increasing you may encounter some of the following issues.
A loss of muscle mass– If you are doing more and more intense exercise the calorie deficit can become too large and muscle mass can be lost as it is broken down for energy.
Your metabolic rate may slow– When calorie deficits are too large for long periods your metabolic rate may slow to help preserve energy sources. This will also be true if you are losing lean muscle mass as well.
Your fat-burning hormones decrease- Hormones such as leptin which is used in the fat burning process are reduced the fewer calories you consume. This means your body becomes less efficient at burning fat.
Your appetite and cravings can increase- If the body drops into starvation mode through lack of energy this can trigger a larger increase in appetite and cravings for food in order to try and make you eat more. As we all know when these cravings strike it can make it very difficult to stay within calorie limits.
There are not many people who muster the willpower to ignore these responses.
That said, there is a way to overcome these potential issues which have emerged from the world of bodybuilding where getting to extremely low levels of body fat is required.
It is known as “carbohydrate cycling.” Or what is somewhat known as “zig-zag” dieting, “Hi-low” dieting, “carving-up” or strategic “re-feeding.”
How to cycle carbs to lose body fat fast
As I mentioned above I would only start to employ this technique when you have hit a very stubborn plateau which is generally when you get to the last 10-15 pounds or this technique is used to help make you lose body faster or break through a fat loss plateau.
The basic premise of this strategy is to simply drop into a calorie deficit by reducing carbohydrate levels for a brief period of up to three days and then raise your calories back up to maintenance level for one to three days. You repeat this process until you reach your desired body fat percentage.
So, for example, you would have 3 low-calorie days where calories are 20% below your daily recommendation followed by a 1 high-calorie day where your calorie intake would be normal or even a little higher than usual.
Doing this process allows you to get all the fat loss benefits of low carbohydrate dieting without the low-carbohydrate side effects. Most importantly, it keeps your metabolism elevated and prevents you from going into starvation mode.
In Burn, the Fat the author Tom Venuto explains that when using carb cycling it is best not to do more than 3 days continually on the low carb days.
His reasoning for this is that after 3 days your glycogen levels become depleted especially when training with intensity so to continue in with low carbs for longer can result in low energy levels, softer looking muscles and a slower metabolic rate.
Basically, your diet would become less and less effective the longer you stayed on low carbohydrates beyond the three-day period.
To avoid this and help reset your body so it continues to burn body fat continually then you have to throw in a high carb day.
Along with the physical benefits of increasing your carbs such as restoring your energy levels, ramping up your metabolic rate and filling your muscles with glycogen to fill and tighten them up, there is also the advantage of a mental boost.
Having the ability to enjoy your carbs again makes sticking with your diet much easier to accomplish and keeps you focused and consistent which major factor if you want to lose body fat fast and transform your physique.
The 3:1 ratio of low carb to high carb day is probably the best place to start with this method but if you find it isn´t working a little bit of experimentation and fine-tuning will be necessary to discover what amount of carbohydrate works best for your high and low days.
It’s absolutely essential for these types of advanced diets to be customized.
Another factor that makes this such a great fat burning technique is that Carbohydrate cycling can also make your body much more efficient in dealing with carbohydrates as an energy source.
Many people who follow a permanently low carb diet will argue that keeping carb levels low it forces the body to use fat more efficiently for energy and for the most part this is true.
However, this is only going to work if you plan to stay on a low-carb diet for the long term because should you want to restart eating carbs regularly you may find your body cannot cope with them properly and the body fat could come back on pretty quickly.
Strategy 4 – Intermittent Fasting
When struggling with slow or stagnant fat loss the main issue for most people is getting their diets to a level where they are able to lose fat but maintain it consistently on a long-term basis.
Most people are able to lose fat by going extreme for short periods but not many of us are able to sustain this so we can enjoy being lean all the time.
Calorie cutting is easy to do when you’re already at a moderate to high-calorie level or if you’re eating too much because you overestimated the number of calories you need.
When you are already eating low levels of calories then this becomes even more difficult and as we have seen already it causes a whole host of problems that will stop or slow down the fat burning process.
The problem is we all know we need to eat less but putting that into practice and actually tracking what we are eating is too much of a challenge for many people.
The reason for this I think is we find it hard to judge just how much we are eating and tend to overeat. I see this issue especially with women who have less flexibility in their calorie intake compared to men.
Also, there is just so much temptation around us all the time makes it very hard to resist no matter hard we try.
Consistent fat loss requires extreme levels of discipline and willpower to stay in control of your food choices at all times.
Add to the fact that we all live busy, hectic lives that make organization and planning so difficult to commit to on a regular basis.
If this sounds like you then you may want to look at intermittent fasting.
There are a number of approaches that I have seen when using intermittent fasting but the following two are the one to consider starting with.
16/8 – This means you eat all your food in an 8 hour period during the day generally from 12-8pm. The rest of the time should only include water or a cup of black coffee or tea. I would recommend starting doing this 5 days a week and seeing how you feel and the results you get.
2 x 24 – This is basically adding 2 fast days per week where you don´t eat for a 24 hour period. This doesn’t mean eating anything for one whole day but setting it up in the following manner.
In the evening stop eating after dinner then have nothing else except water and the odd black coffee until dinner the following evening. Repeat this again a couple of days later.
You don’t necessarily need to make dinner the one meal you have on your fast day. Depending on your daily routine you could have breakfast then miss lunch and dinner.
So long as you’re not eating for a 24 hour period then you are fine.
One other point to mention is that when you do finally eat whichever strategy you choose you want to break the fast with a normal balanced meal that should contain protein, fibrous carbs and healthy fats and not some big fast-food cheat meal.
On the non-fast days eat normally as described previously focusing on choosing natural foods, timing your meals properly and sticking to calorie limits.
However due to the large weekly calorie deficit caused by the fast days you do have a little more room for being relaxed with your food choices. But not much!
As with any plan, the key is to start with a baseline diet then analyze progress and change accordingly.
Here are some other guidelines that will allow you to get the best results from either strategy.
Do some form of exercise while fasting and try to time it just before you break the fast so you are able to enjoy a post-workout meal. It will also mean that the calories from this meal will be absorbed much more efficiently.
This should be a high protein meal with complex carbs and if you are craving sweets then this would be a good time to treat yourself but within reason.
On the normal days stick to the principles of healthy eating, nutrient combining and carb synching around your workouts
When fasting it is a good idea to keep yourself busy so you don´t sit around thinking about food. You will find that fast days can be extremely productive.
If what I recommended above feels too much to start with half the amount and then add other fasting periods if results start to slow.
The benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Here are just a few that may interest you.
- Reduced Body Inflammation – It appears that fasting can assist with reducing systematic inflammation which in turn reduces your risk from disease and other life-threatening issues.
- Improved Insulin Sensitivity – Without going into details you can increase how well your body deals with insulin by going into a fasted state on a regular basis. The more sensitive you are to insulin th4e better chance you have to become more of a fat burner rather than a fat storer.
- Increases human growth hormone (HGH) levels – If you want to burn fat then having HGH flowing around your body is going to help considerably. Apparently being in a fasted state can increase this and therefore increase your ability to burn fat.
This is a very basic overview of intermittent fasting and there is a lot of science and research to support this strategy that is beyond the scope of this article.
Strategy 5 – Cheat days
Whether you decide to follow intermittent fasting or go with the carb cycling approach if you want to get super lean then you need to be very restrictive in your food choices to keep calories low.
As I mentioned before, dieting hard can cause hormonal imbalances, one of which is the reduction of Letpin an important hormone in the process of getting your body to burn fat.
In very basic terms, we can consider Leptin the “main man” hormone from which all other weight loss hormones get their cues.
What this means is that when leptin levels are high the body is not going to enter a starvation-type state and trigger the fat protection mechanism.
The amount of leptin in the body is regulated by two principal factors.
The first is your calorie consumption.
If you consume a high level of calories then leptin levels are also high. Alternatively, when you reduce calorie consumption leptin levels drop as well. Low levels of leptin mean less fat burning.
The second thing that affects leptin levels is body fat levels. That is, higher body fat levels mean higher levels of leptin and lower body fat levels equal’s lower levels of leptin.
This explains why it’s easier to lose fat when you have substantial body fat to lose upfront, as opposed to the considerably more difficult feat of going from lean to super lean.
Whichever way you look at it the more fat you lose the harder it becomes to keep losing it as leptin levels decrease in the body. So fat loss becomes progressively slower the leaner you become.
So how do you “diet” (i.e. eat fewer calories) and lose fat without having low levels of leptin causing your body to decrease metabolism and fat burning?
One solution can be cheat days!
As your diet levels of leptin reduce significantly (around half) over a 7 day period. So at the end of one week, your fat-burning capability can be reduced by a huge 50%.
Despite that, you can return leptin levels up to normal and place your body in the fat-burning state with just one day of overeating or “cheating”.
To make this even better research into this subject has revealed that foods such as pizza (or another favorite food that are normally banned on a regular diet) are more useful than say oatmeal in helping to turn back the unfavorable effects of dieting, increase leptin levels and get the body back to a fat-burning state.
The reason behind this is due to the relationship between leptin and another hormone Insulin.
Leptin is incredibly correlated to endocrine therefore once insulin levels go up leptin levels imitate and vice versa. currently, foods that offer the best insulin response are people who contain a mix of fat and high glycemic carbohydrates.
Therefore goodies such as pizza, cheeseburgers, ice creams, pastries or any other meal where carbs and fats are present do a fantastic job of resetting our metabolisms by raising leptin levels in the body.
But, to make these cheat days work properly every other day of the diet has to be arranged accordingly so that the fat loss results from this day are at their highest.
Therefore here are the 4 guidelines I recommend for adding a cheat day.
Use healthier versions of your favorite treat foods. If you are following a strict paleo type diet then a lot of the treat foods we normally enjoy are off-limits. The internet is awash with lots of paleo-friendly recipes of naughty foods we crave that are made with healthy and natural ingredients. By choosing these variations you still get the feel-good experience while knowing you are not feeding your body with low-quality nutrients.
Eat the foods you want but don´t consume to the point where you are uncomfortable.
Eat consistently throughout the day instead of saving it up and having one big feast.
Avoid excessive alcohol. A couple of drinks is ok but if you have too much it can actually have a negative impact on Leptin levels so it can cancel out the benefits of doing the cheat day.
Always try to make the day after a cheat day a low-calorie one and perform an intense workout so you get the maximum fat-burning benefit from the raised Leptin levels in your body.
Cheat days can be an effective fat loss tool and help you stick with your plan because of the reward factor they provide but they really should only be used once you are lean and have mastered the fundamentals that were described earlier.
In my opinion, cheat days are only for people who have the last 5-10 pounds to lose, have been dieting and training hard for a number of weeks and are able to fully control and manage their diet effectively the rest of the time.
Cheat days are not for everyone and you certainly don´t need to use them to get lean but it is good to know that when dieting is getting really tough there is a way to have a break from the discipline and still progress with your results.
As I stated in my introduction there is no real fast track to success when it comes to weight loss. No fancy diet strategy, new workout craze or must-have supplement is going to give you the results you want if you don’t have in place the right foundational elements that I laid out.
Not only that you also need to be able to consistently stick to this framework not just for a few weeks but months if not years to get to where you want to be.
The strategies in this article can certainly and I would certainly recommend applying the first two on a long-term basis once you have dialed in your diet and are comfortable in making good food choices.
For the rest, I would use them as experiments for when your results have stalled and nothing else is working.
Thanks for visiting my site and taking the time to read this article, I hope you got some value from it. If you have any questions or would like to discuss another topic please leave a comment below. If you could take a second to share this article with any friends or family you feel it may be of interest to I would greatly appreciate it.