5 Proven Fat Loss Strategies for Men
Let’s face it, guys want to look and feel their best. Having a great physique increases confidence, and performance in all areas of life. And what male doesn’t want that?
You might not be there right now? You may have tried and failed in the past and are just not happy with what you see in the mirror. Past habits of regular drinking, eating out, no exercises has increased belly fat and love handles are now hard to shift. Feeling of no time because of work and family might leave you feeling frustrated. You know the body you want, you just don’t know how to get there.
I’ve had many clients that have gone through the same thing, they come to me weak, lacking confidence, carrying extra body fat and feel discouraged. It’s not until I teach them how they can change their body, teach them they don't have to slave hours in the gym, but make a few lifestyle choices and teak their training that the transformation happens. And that’s why I wrote this blog, to help guys, many who are in the same situation as I just described. You can transform your body, all you need is the knowledge, and tools so you can achieve the physique you want which will improve all areas of your life.
Before we start I want to explain about an important part of your transformation that is especially linked to males. Testosterone. Testosterone is required to increase strength, muscle mass, bone mass, fat distribution and virility.
Unfortunately studies show that modern day man walk around with under half the amount of T our ancestors did. Humans are very much the same physiologically, it’s the dramatic change in the environment that’s a problem. Chronic stress is very common in todays society and the body handles this by activating the fight or flight response. This response would save our ancestors lives back in the day and ensured our survival as a species. People aren’t fighting for their lives on a daily basis, but things like traffic, bills, commute to work, lack of sleep, work load, social stresses are all low levels of stress the body still interprets as a threat and think it must survive. This constant state of stress releases Cortisol. Cortisol works in relationship with Testosterone in that when Cortisol rises Testosterone lowers and building muscle, burning fat, reproducing and performing at your optimum becomes a lot harder.
Managing your Testosterone is key to optimal performance and results. I am going to share the strategies that will help balance the equation in your favour, so you can live longer life and be a bad ass while you do it.
Lets start with training. Lifting weights is a staple to transform your body. Lifting weights helps build muscle, burn fat, increase bone density, improves posture and keep your body strong and resilient. Building lean muscle mass is key to improve body composition as it increases your resting metabolism and you’ll naturally burn more calories at rest than someone who doesn't lift weights.
The hormonal response to lifting weights is very important for males as it boosts testosterone levels which regulates sex drive, increases bone mass, muscle mass and fat distribution. Also muscle mass literally stores anti agin hormones and has been shown that people who frequently lift weights live longer because of it. Bottom line is, if you lift weights you become stronger, improve your body, want more sex and live longer.
A training week should be intelligently planned out, so you are working hard in the gym then focusing on your recovery so you can improve and train harder next time. Hammering yourself in the gym everyday does not balance hormones in the favour of fat loss and muscle gain. There are different training splits you can do, the key is to find one that you can stick to consistently. A 2-3 day full body split works great for men that are busy with work and family commitments. If you have the time then a 4 day upper/lower split works best in my experience.
Structure the session
Quality of movement and form should always take preference, but you want to start each session with a heavy lift to drive that hormonal response. Anywhere from 3-5 sets of 5-7 reps. Accessory exercises will come after that, these are less intense but focus on building muscle and strengthen your body. 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps works best for most. A metabolic finisher is a great way to run fat, build a weak body part or get a nice pump. HIIT finishers, loaded carries, arm work, core/upper back work are key areas to target. Do these for time, or 3-4 sets in the 15-30 rep range.
Think movements not muscles
Studies show you want to target each muscle group 2-3 x a week which will provide a response and stimulate muscle growth. This is where body building bro splits of arms and back, legs and abs are ineffective for general populations. Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, Lunge and Loaded Carry are all movements that hit targeted muscle groups and you should be hitting all of these movements across your training week. These movements also have a functional carry over into everyday life.
Sleep is the most effective form of recovery and is one of the most effective things you can do to accelerate fat loss, improve overall health and increase longevity.
If you’re serious about shedding fat then you have to get serious about your sleep. Two key components are sleep quality and quantity. You need to pay attention to both and get both dialled in if you want to reap the benefits.
Quality sleep regulates hormone production, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and can improve memory. Sleep is key for fat loss as it improves insulin sensitivity and you are better able to handle carbohydrates. Going to bed at the right time spikes human growth hormone which is essential for muscle growth and metabolising fat stores. This means if you do go to bed at the right time then you literally burn fat while you sleep, and will clear harmful toxins and wash away waste proteins that build up during waking hours.
Avoid screens before bed time.
Being exposed to screens and bright lights after dark releases cortisol and shuts off the release of sleep hormone, Melatonin. Scrolling through social media, doing work on your laptop or watching too much TV before bed blunts Melatonin production which delays the onset of sleep and prevent you reaching deep stages of sleep even after you drift off.
To set yourself up for sleep and produce more Melatonin dim the lights inside when it gets dark outside, use f.lux on your computer and night mode on your phone. Cut screens off at least 90 minutes before bed .
Make your room dark, cold and quiet. The darker your room the deeper you’ll sleep and you’ll pass through natural sleep cycles. Obviously noise is going to wake you up, LED lights from phones and TVs integer with sleep cycles and a boiling hot room will wake you up. The body sleeps best better 16-20 degrees celsius.
Get black out blinds, remove devices and TV’s out of the bed room. Side note: studies show that couples who have a TV in their room have 50% less sex than those who don’t!!! Use ear plugs to drown the noise if you can or get a white noise machine. Open a window to cool your room, or buy a chilli pad that cools your side of the bed. Another side note: Women have a higher core body temperature than Men which means they get much colder.
Get to bed by 10pm. The best time to bank your hours of sleep are between 10pm-2am. This is when HGH (human growth hormone) is released at it’s highest dose which is going to help you recover at your optimum and assist in muscle growth and burn more fat.
Eat Lean Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat.
What you eat has a major impact on your hormone levels, you can think of food as information for the body. Eating a majority whole food diet and controlling calorie intake will have the biggest impact body composition long term. There are some fundamentals you can follow that will ensure you are stimulating the right hormones and contumacy building muscle and burning fat.
Eat Lean Protein
Protein is one of the three macro nutrients that make up the majority of the human diet. Protein is probably the most important macro nutrient when it comes fat loss. Protein contains essential amino acids that carry out many important bodily functions such as rebuilding systems, restoring muscle tissue, improving metabolic function, and helping bones, hair and nails regrow. Lucine is an important amino acid found in protein and is a main driver for muscle growth. Protein has a high thermic effect which means you burn calories while eating it, it’s the most satiating, and is the only macro nutrient that doesn’t get stored as body fat.
A high protein diet isn't necessarily ‘healthy’ it’s the majority of people are under eating it, especially if you want to change the shape of your body. 0.8-1g per Ib of bodyweight is a nice range for most people. If you weigh 80kgs, that 176Ib which would equate between 140-175g of protein per day.
Spreading this evenly through meals is also important as you want to keep muscle protein synthesis (protein turnover) constantly happening. Think of muscle tissue as a brick wall and amino acids as bricks, bricks are constantly being taking off the wall and you want to keep building the wall back up.
Food sources that are high in protein are
Meats (lean or fatty) Mince beef, steak, or wild game
Poultry. Chicken breast, turkey, eggs and egg whites
Seafood. Cod, Sword fish White fish and Tuna
Dairy. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and other cheeses
Beans and Lentils (vegetarian)
Tofu and Tempeh (vegetarian)
Protein powders. Whey, Casein, Pea, and Pumpkin.
Non animal products also contain protein. Things like quinoa, broccoli, avocados, potatoes, and nut butters all contain protein that are accounted towards total daily intake.
Place Carbohydrates after training
You want to place carbohydrates after training to blunt the Cortisol response, start the recovery process and restore muscle fuel which will trigger muscle growth and repair. Carbs should not be avoided, they should be eaten at the right times with total daily intake and quality taken into account. Eating a higher carb meal before bed stimulates the rest and digest response and switches on feel good hormones that are pre cursors for Melatonin. This can be a great strategy if you have trouble sleeping and eat a higher fat/protein meal during the day. Carbs have also been shown to optimise testosterone levels during resistance training.
Sweet potatoes, yams, white/brown rice, white potatoes, quinoa, oats, fruit and veggies are all great natural carb sources.
Eating fat will not make you fat. Fat is essential for cell health and at regulating hormone production. Avocados, nuts and seeds, olive oil, walnut oil, fatty fish, whole eggs and high quality dairy are all beneficial fat sources.
I mentioned chronic stress in the intro and how easily stress can accumulate from modern day life. Stress and fat gain are related by Cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone produced by the pineal gland and although it’s not necessarily bad (you need cortisol to wake up and get you fired up for certain tasks) it’s the constant release of Cortisol that takes it’s toll. Training is a stress on the body, couple that with a heavy work load, family commitments, lack of sleep and poor nutrition, it’s no wonder the body is in the fight and flight response can’t burn body fat efficiently. For every fight and flight output, you need a rest and digest input, to balance the nervous system in your favour.
Meditation is one of the most effective calm the nervous system, regular meditation alters brain chemistry, it reduces stress, anxiety, inflammation in the body and and even the change the structure of your brain. Headspace and Calm are great apps that guide you through. It’s a case of finding a quiet place, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for 5-10 minutes each morning.
Breathing techniques also play a major role in calming the nervous system. Box breathing has been shown to rapidly lower heart rate, and even just breathing through your nose instantly calms the nervous system and will get you back into the rest and digest response. Box breathing is a series of breath counts. Inhaling fir 4 seconds, holding the inhale for 4, exhaling for seconds and holding the exhale for 4, where you repeat the process for 8-10 cycles, or for time. It sounds easy, but trust me it’s not and requires a lot of concentration.
Walking is a the only form of exercise that doesn’t trigger the stress response. Humans are meant to walk. It was literally our only mode of transport and because of this it’s become a fundamental human movement pattern. Regular walking lowers blood sugar, protects the immune system, increases mental well being and burns body fat. Track your steps aiming for 10,000 a day, or 3 x 10 minutes walks a day should be your minimum. Don’t under estimate the power of walking, go on lunch, get more steps in, walk while on your phone, do what you can to get the daily steps in.
Schedule in Alcoholic drinks
I have put this in here as many clients struggle with this, and it has such a major impact on your body composition. Regular consumption of alcohol is literally going to stop getting you the results you want. I’m not saying never have it, just schedule it in at the right times if you like a drink. Alcohol is recognised as a toxic chemical in the body, and it does everything it can to remove it immediately. Processes in fat loss, growth hormones, rebuilding muscle tissue all stop or slow down until alcohol has left your system. Drinking alcohol lowers testosterone, increases cortisol and contains an enzyme called aromatase which converts testosterone into oestrogen. This increases body fat and the chances of man boobs! Not very manly!!!
Purer alcohol contains less calories and has less impact on performance. A gin and tonic, of light spirit and soda water are good low calorie choices, as is drinking a spirit neat without the sugary mixer.
Plan drinking days
If you’re going to drink that evening then make sure your nutrition is dialled in. Hit your protein intake, reduce carbs and fats to make room for calories coming from alcohol in the evening. Eating shitty food all day and a heavy drinking session can easily erase an entire week of being on point.
These are the big rocks to address if you want to transform your body and will work for most people. If you do want a more detailed plan specific to you, your lifestyle and goals then get in touch.