Weight loss isn’t as complicated as it is hard to maintain. But setting out an efficient weight loss strategy before embarking on the journey could help you get into the right mindset and overcome all potential difficulties along the way. Here are the 5 crucial steps to melting your excess fat off and keeping it away!
Step 1: Increase Meal Frequency
When you eat, your metabolic rate increases as the food gets broken down. So by eating every few hours, you can keep your metabolism in a constantly elevated state, which translates to an increased ability to burn fat. The claim that you need to eat many smaller meals throughout the day to accelerate fat loss still rings as true as it did two decades ago, and today we have a pile of scientific studies which support its validity.
Nonetheless, it would be a lie to say that increasing your meal frequency is the only way to get leaner and improve muscle building – there will always be the people who manage to do this by sticking to three big meals per day. But for the vast majority, increasing meal frequency is a highly effective method to fire up your metabolic rate, gain better control over hunger and stimulate fat burning.
However, the one thing that dieters seem to forget is that completely rebuilding your nutrition habits overnight comes as a great shock to the organism and 9 out of 10 times, it doesn’t produce great results. A much wiser approach would be to gradually increase your meal frequency over the course of 3-4 weeks, adding one meal to your daily total per week. So if you’re currently eating three meals per day and you’d like to get to eight, start very slowly. Add a fourth meal and go on eating four meals per day for at least a week, then increase the number to five and stick to eating five meals per day for a while, and so on. This way you’ll give your organism time to adjust to the change and make the best use of it before moving to the next level. The higher your metabolic rate, the more calories you can burn. For best results, work your way up to at least 6 meals per day.
Step 2: Redo Your Ratios
Calories are a measure of energy, and successful weight loss depends on increasing your energy expenditure, or decreasing your caloric intake. However, not all calories are created equal, and one of the most important reasons for this statement is the thermic effect of different macronutrients. The thermic effect of food is the caloric cost of digesting and processing different macronutrients.
In other words, eating itself costs calories – every process from chewing and swallowing to the production of enzymes and muscular contractions in the stomach costs energy. So, for example, certain low-calorie vegetables and fruits such as celery, grapefruit, lemon, lettuce and broccoli are considered to have ‘negative calories’ because it takes more energy to break down and absorb them than they themselves contain. In general, the average person uses about 10% of their daily energy expenditure digesting and absorbing food, but this number greatly depends on the type of food you eat.
As expected, protein is the winner of this race – 20-30% of total calories from protein get burned during the digestion process, so this macronutrient takes the most energy to digest. When it comes to carbohydrates, 5-15% of total calories are used to digest and absorb them, and with fats, it’s only 0-5%. And unlike protein, fat gets stored very quickly if you consume too much of it.
The solution, however, is not to consume only protein and completely ditch fat – this nutrient plays an important part in many body processes and is crucial for maintaining good overall health. Instead of that, craft a diet plan in which you’re getting around 40% of your total calories from carbs, 50% from protein and only 10% from fat. Choose carbs that are complex slow-digesting and don’t cause insulin spikes, with the exception of the post-workout meal when quick-acting carbs should be consumed to replenish your body’s depleted glycogen. This way you can lose weight in a healthy way. Your total caloric intake should be around 15 calories per pound of bodyweight per day. Start there and then adjust the numbers according to the results until you reach a point where you’re losing weight. That being said, don’t aim at losing more than a pound and a half per week – such kind of weight loss is not healthy nor sustainable.
Step 3: No cheating!
Some people believe that it’s perfectly fine to give in to your impulses and cravings once in a while and “re-feed”, or allow yourself meals without counting the calories and macros. These meals, of course, are comprised of foods that you aren’t supposed to eat, which is why they call them cheat meals. Some other people even believe that by including cheat meals (or even entire days!) in your diet you can enhance your metabolic rate even further and prevent starvation mode. In reality, this is a load of bullshit and there is no scientific evidence for either of those claims. As far as we’re concerned, relatively frequent deviations from your diet plan will prevent you from reaching your goals, or in the very least, they will make you struggle to the finish line.
Additionally, when you drastically change the way you eat (hello fat loss diet), a certain adaptation process takes place in the body. Your body has to change its production rate of certain hormones and increase the production of enzymes which can transform stored fat into a primary source of fuel for the organism. And if you keep on cheating, your body will have a very hard time fully completing this metabolic adaptation.
Finally, you gave up junk food because you understood how bad for you it is, right? Nobody forced you to give up on your burger, fries and coke – instead, you made that choice in order to improve your health and appearance. And knowing how downright addictive junk food is, it’s better to be avoided at all costs. After all, if you keep consuming something that you’re addicted to, it just keeps the addiction going. Our advice is that if you want to lose weight in a reasonable amount of time, stay away from alcohol, high-fructose corn syrup, added sugar and trans fats. And by “staying away” we mean literally treating them like they don’t exist!
Step 4: Plan your meals beforehand
When it comes to changing your dietary habits, meal planning is one of the easiest things you can do to set yourself up for success. You can invent your own system and simply set aside a little bit of time each week to plan your meals beforehand. Believe us, this will make the dieting process a whole lot easier and once it becomes a habit, you could even start enjoying it.
Eating 6-8 meals per day means eating every 2-3 hours, which can be quite challenging, especially if your lifestyle is very dynamic or you work long hours. But if you want your fat loss plan to succeed, you’ll have to make sure that you don’t miss a single meal by always preparing your whole day of eating the night before. You won’t have time to cook and prepare the three or four meals that you’ll have to bring to your workplace with you, and eating out costs much more and usually comes with the risk of processed ingredients. So, as soon as you come home from the supermarket on Sunday, grab a piece of paper and a pen and start planning your meals for the whole week. Every night, prepare your meals for the next day, pack them in a cooler and just make sure you don’t forget them at home the next morning. Also, always have some convenient healthy snacks in your bag, in case you don’t have the time to eat a proper meal. You can find a ton of easy-to-prepare meals that can be cooked in bulk and eaten in more servings.
Step 5: Set the right mental attitude
If you want to avoid frustration and disappointment, don’t expect miraculous results to happen overnight. Sustainable weight loss means changing your dietary habits in the long run, and this takes time and patience but offers long-term results that will improve your health and well-being as well as reduce the inches around your waistline. Also, different bodies take different amounts of time to adjust to a healthier diet, so you’ll need some time to find out what works and what doesn’t for you and your specific goals and needs. Expect to hit a few plateaus – this is very normal and shouldn’t discourage you to keep moving further along. Give yourself a trial period of few weeks to find out what your baseline calories are and how much you can reduce your caloric intake without causing your metabolic rate to drop. According to health authorities, the minimum daily calorie intake is 1200 calories for men and 1800 calories for men, but these numbers can vary depending on your body composition and activity levels.
Once you start getting visible results, you’ll know that you’re on the right course and your motivation will increase even further. The changes will be most dramatic in the beginning, but as you get leaner, maintaining a steady rate of progress will demand more and more patience and willpower. While there’s no getting around the need to eat healthier, long-term weight loss actually starts in your head and having the right attitude will help you go the extra mile. So as you start to lose fat, don’t forget to look at the patterns and habits in your life that could get in the way of success and replace them with healthier ones. Sometimes sustainable weight loss demands a complete change of lifestyle that you should be able to maintain instead of tossing out as soon as the bathing suit season is over.