So, the sun is out, and I don’t know about you but I certainly want to look my best and feel confident on the beach with my top off. How do we do it though? You search for ways and methods to lose fat. You google diets and you see hundreds of links telling you hundreds of different ways to burn belly fat fast. It’s probably why you’re here reading this now. I’m going to take you through 4 different and popular methods to lose some fat over the coming weeks including the method I used to go from 99kg and 17% body fat to 88kg and less than 10% bodyfat in just 16 weeks!
But just before we dive into the methods, let’s first breakdown why our bodies burn fat, and then you’ll be in a much better position in choosing the method that’s right for you.
Bodyfat is simply excess fuel. In order to lose fat, we need to create the demand to burn that fuel. This happens by burning more calories than you eat. There’re 2 scientific principles that apply here. “The Conservation of Energy” and “The Conservation of Mass”. They basically just mean that there is an amount of fuel or energy that’s needed for you to do everything you do every day, and if you don’t eat enough fuel then you need to get that energy from somewhere else to do that work. So, you burn body fat, but if you eat too much you store that extra fuel as bodyfat. No fuel is ever lost, its either burned or stored, hence the ‘conservation’ in the name.
So, with that understanding out of the way, what do we actually do about it? Well, we need to create the demand to burn that extra fuel we’ve stored AKA ‘bodyfat’. Now, let’s dive into the first method and my personal favourite, “Flexible Dieting”.
METHOD 1 – FLEXIBLE DIETING
Flexible dieting is a phrase that has been around for a while, but it’s been really popularised by the work of nutritional scientist Dr. Layne Norton. Flexible dieting works on the understanding that we burn a certain number of calories every day. So, as long as we stay below that amount, we will lose fat as we’re not eating enough food to fuel our daily activity, so we burn bodyfat to make up the difference. For example, I burn in excess of 3,500kcals a day, so if I want lose fat I keep my activity where it is and reduce my calories to 3000kcals a day and I’ll slowly lose fat over the next few weeks. I can be more aggressive by lowering it further, but I would not recommend it to most as you’ll be starving and will probably lose some muscle if the diet is too aggressive.
This method sometimes gets criticised as being a method that is used as an excuse to eat sweets and treats, and that isn’t true and is normally done by those that don’t understand how fat loss works. Fat loss does not always need to be overly restrictive, and laser focussed. But you will still need to implement some kind of restriction. Think about it. You have a limited number of calories to eat, which is less than what your body requires, so obviously you are going to feel periods of hunger and fatigue as you will with all diets. With this in mind you will want to eat as much food as possible for your calorie allotment. To do this you will need to be somewhat smart with your food choices. Higher fibre foods tend to be lower in kcals, higher protein foods tend to be more satiating and make you feel full sooner, as well as protein itself having positive thermogenic effects to aid fat loss and help preserve or build muscle while losing fat. You should still be able to fit some nice treats and sweets into your diet and calories, just be careful not to go overboard as that will mean you’ll be eating less of the lower calorie, filling foods.
I personally always use this method and if I’m honest it doesn’t even feel like I’m dieting sometimes. I make sure I stay within my calories and I hit my protein requirement and BOOM I’ve lost over 10% of my bodyweight and quite a lot of fat in just 16 weeks. If you want to work out how many kcals you need, just Google the Muller equation and fill out the questionnaire and it’ll calculate your calorie requirements. Then just weigh and track your food intake and be patient. Fat loss takes time and sometimes it can take a bit of trial and error before you get it right.
It should be mentioned that tracking and weighing foods can be tedious, but it can also be used as a tool to learn portion control. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at eyeballing what you eat and how many calories you’re eating.
METHOD 2 – INTERMITTENT FASTING
Another method I’ve used is intermittent fasting. This method means you go through periods of fasting or restriction and eat ad libitum (freely) within a shorter period of time. There’s quite a bit of misinformation around this method with some people saying that it’s better for fat loss than traditional caloric restriction, and others saying it causes fat gain because “your body goes into starvation mode”. The truth is when calories and protein are equated all diets are equal. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest intermittent fasting is better for fat loss when compared to normal caloric restriction (PMID: 31614992). This doesn’t mean it isn’t good for fat loss though. In the same study (PMID:31614992) intermittent fasting was successful in lowering weight and fat in participants. That makes perfect sense when you realise that people have less time to eat and that means they’re less likely to eat the calories they need to sustain their weight.
So, what are the different intermittent fasting methods? The most popular are the 16/8 method and 5/2 method. The 16/8 method means you fast for 16 hours of the day and eat for 8 hours. This sounds more difficult than it is. Remember you’re asleep for 8 hours a day and that counts towards your fasted time. Therefore, if you have your first meal at 12pm, then your last meal is before 8pm and the day is more or less over. As you can see the 16/8 method is just a fancy way of saying “skipping breakfast”. This method can be made even easier to adhere to by also including the high fibre and high protein foods that I mentioned above to help with filling you up sooner and for longer for less calories. The 5/2 method simply means, eat as normal for 5 days and fast for 2 days. The 2 days of fasting don’t need to be back-to-back, they can be any 2 days of the week and can be split up. Again those 2 days a week of fasting means you’re less likely to eat enough calories throughout the week to sustain your weight and you’ll burn bodyfat.
METHOD 3 – LOW CARB OR KETO
There is still a myth that carbohydrates make you fat. Well, I’m here to say otherwise. In fact, I lost a lot of bodyfat eating hundreds of grams of carbs a day and right now I’m keeping it off while eating over 400g of carbs a day. How am I doing that? Simple really. I don’t eat above the calories I need for the week. Yes, just like I said, when calories are equated all diets are equal and low carb is no better for fat loss than a low fat diet (PMID:29466592). But saying that it’s still a viable method for fat loss. By default, lowering carbohydrates means reducing the amount of ultra-processed foods that are really easy to over-consume. Foods like; cake, sweets, cookies, doughnuts etc.. By reducing carbs you will, by default, increase protein as well, and protein is satiating, promotes fat loss and helps preserve muscle. There’s also a lot of cases where people say it’s a good method to reduce appetite and so may help you eat less. Is it magic? No, but it is certainly a method you can use to help reduce the number of calories you eat throughout the day and help you lose fat. It’s not for me, but it could be for you.
METHOD 4 – THE MINIMALIST OR WHOLE FOOD APPROACH (80/20)
So, what if you don’t like tracking and weighing your food? What if you like carbohydrates? What if you like breakfast? Then the whole food or minimalist approach to nutrition and dieting might be good for you. This method simply has you put the main focus on whole foods like lean meats, potatoes, vegetables and fruit while keeping treats to a minimum. Some people describe this as 80/20. 80% whole foods and protein sources and 20% what you love. Why put your focus on whole foods? Well single ingredient foods tend to be more satiating and fill you sooner for longer. They tend to be higher in fibre and lower in calories. And like I keep saying, to lose fat we need to eat less calories and, some extra protein helps.
TYING IT ALL TOGETHER
If your goal is to lose fat, then these methods could really help with getting you summer ready. Remember lower kcals, more protein and more fibre. And if you want some help with getting in shape, why not pop into any of our centres and grab one of our fantastic PTs, and we’ll help get you shredded for summer and beach ready.
- PMID: 31614992 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6836017/
- PMID: 29466592 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29466592
About the Author
Fitness instructor, personal trainer and author, Patrick Joyce specialises in nutritional science and fat loss. By his own admission, fitness has always been a huge part of his life and he really enjoys helping people to get fitter and healthier using a ‘sustainable’ fitness approach and by separating the fact from the fiction. Follow Patrick on Instagram (@big_paa) or Facebook (Patrick Joyce Nutrition)