So you want to learn how to burn fat.
You along with millions of other people. Fat loss is the number one goal that personal trainers hear these day because we live in a nation where our waistlines are constantly expanding. If you want to trade in your six pack of beer for a six pack of abs, it’s time to get to work.
I won’t sugar coat it for you.
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(Because then you’d probably just eat it! Sorry…cruel joke…)
Losing weight is hard. It takes hard work, determination, and resisting temptation. All things that up until now, you may not have exactly excelled with. Some of you, yes, okay, perhaps it really was the program you were on. But for many of you, those taste buds of yours simply got the best of you. They screamed out for burgers, pizza, and chicken wings with hot sauce every Friday night while you watch your favorite sports team at the Buddies Bar.
Fortunately, I’m here to make your life easier. You see, there’s the long road to losing weight and the short road. Both take work. It’s how you put in that work that matters.
I want you to see the best results in the least time period possible. So I’m going to outline the strategies that will get you to that goal – and finally help you break it off with those pounds of fat that have been clinging to you like a bad ex-girlfriend.
Let’s get started.
How To Burn Fat
Right now, you’re probably hoping I’ll share with you some super secret technique where you combine food A with food B, eaten only at time C, while using supplement Z to melt 10 pounds in 10 days.
If not, congrats. At least you’re past the first hump.
You CANNOT rely on quick fix approach’s. Or gimmicks. Or basically anything that does follow the basics.
That’s right, the basics. Tried and true. That is what will get you to the end zone here.
In order to learn how to learn how to burn belly fat, you have to get back to tracking your calories.
I know. It’s work. But hey, you don’t need to walk around with a calculator in hand at all times (clearly, THAT’S not going to up your game with the ladies). You just need a trusty APP on your phone. MyFitnessPal is great, or there are many others out there that you can easily use. Search for them and you’ll find some.
Now start logging your food.
For one week, I want you to log everything. I mean it. Whether it’s a full turkey sub at Subway or just a handful of Dorito’s you snagged from your co-worker, you put it down.
After the week is up, see where you’re eat. Now compare this to your current weight trends. Have you been maintaining your weight? Gaining weight? You clearly haven’t been losing weight or you wouldn’t be reading this right now.
This now becomes your baseline calorie intake.
We need to reduce this.
And no, you can’t magically lose weight without eating less. I don’t care what you read in some muscle mag, it isn’t going to happen. The calorie deficit must be there.
In one pound of body fat, there is 3500 calories. So you do the math. Want to lose one pound per week? You need to eat 500 calories less per day. ½ pound per week? Eat 250 calories less. Two pounds per week? 1000 calories less.
I would NOT recommend ever attempting losing more than 2 pounds per week. And even then, only those that have a good 50+ pounds to lose should be going into a 1000 calorie deficit.
If you decrease your calories to meet your deficit needs and you’re now eating less than your always-on-a-diet girlfriend, we have a problem.
If you are currently gaining weight, you will want to use one of the higher calorie deficits. (500-1000). Since you are already in a surplus, you need to overcome that plus put yourself in a deficit). So this means you can go up higher, but your total weight loss will still be within reason.
What about macros?!?…. you ask.zq2
Macros is the latest buzzword in the fat loss community. Everyone out there is worried about macros.
More on those in a second, but I want you to know that they really don’t matter THAT much. Everyone makes them out to be the biggest thing driving weight loss. They aren’t.
This I promise you. I will not steer you wrong.
So track those calories and know that all that REALLY matters here is that you take in the right number to start seeing results. All the diets out there – keto diet, intermittent fasting diet, paleo diet, etc.; they all help you achieve one thing: a calorie deficit.
You really don’t need their specific protocol to see success. You can create your own. Customize your own approach to your preferences.
Before you stop reading this article because you firmly believe you must eliminate carbs to lose fat, I beg you to different. There are many ways to skin a cat. This study illustrates fat loss with a low fat diet1. This study illustrates fat loss with a low carb diet2.
Both are scientific literature illustrating fat loss happened. Food for thought.
How Fast Can You Lose Fat?
The age-old question everyone wants to know. Keep in mind we are talking fat here, not weight. You can lose weight much faster than you can lose fat, but that would be a combination of muscle and body fat. I’m guessing that’s not what you signed up for.
For pure fat loss, you want to go slower. Go too fast and you’ll dip into muscle loss territory. I’d aim, if I was you, for ½ to one pound per week, especially if you’re already lean and just looking to get shredded.
That may seem like a measly amount, but remember, if you are sitting at 8% body fat and trying to get down to 6%, if you’re 170 lbs., you’re only trying to lose 3.4 pounds total. Doing this slowly over the course of six weeks is what will best help preserve your testosterone levels, your lean muscle mass, and your strength.
How To Speed Up Fat Loss
If you want to learn how to burn fat naturally, there are a few extra tips and tricks you need to know. These are things that you can apply once you are already using a proper calorie deficit to get the best results possible.
Step 1: Lift Weights Regularly
Hopefully I don’t have to tell most of you to hit the gym more, but for those that need a bit of a push in the right direction, lifting weights is the number one way to speed up fat loss.
Wouldn’t cardio do it?
Nope, although we will chat cardio in a second. Weight lifting is king. For both muscle building and fat loss.
The reason why weight lifting gets such great results is three fold.
- It’ll burn calories both while you do it, and after. After an intense weight training workout, you can expect to burn calories at an elevated rate for up to 48 hours later.
- It’ll help preserve your lean muscle mass. More on this in a second, but for now, note that doing so is going to help keep your resting metabolic rate higher over the long haul.
- It helps to reshape your body. With cardio, you’ll just be a smaller version of who you are now. Unless you’re already chiseled Charlie, you probably want a new look. It’s weight lifting that will help you achieve that.
The best way to burn fat at the gym is to keep lifting heavy and with intensity. It’ll pay off. You may not tolerate as much volume when dieting as when you aren’t, but compensate for that while keeping pretty much everything else the same.
Let’s not become ladies and turn to light weight, high rep lifting to feel the ‘burn’. That’s not getting you anywhere.
Step 2: Do Interval Cardio Training
Now let’s chat that cardio training. I want you to ditch all those long, boring sessions you may have done in the past. Step up your game.
Interval training will get you maximum results in minimal time3. This is where you’ll alternate between intense bouts of exercise for 20-60 seconds and then add an active rest component lasting for 60-120 seconds. Repeat this 5-10 times, doing a five minute warm-up and cool down and you’ll be all set.
This style of training has been scientifically proven to help increase fat oxidation rates, elevate your metabolic rate, and it’ll also help you preserve your lean muscle mass as well.
Case in point:
Marathon runner vs. sprinter.
Which body would your rather have.
Step 3: Maximize Your Carb Intake
Here’s where some of you may resist me a bit. I want you to eat as many carbs as you can while still losing weight.
I know anyone out there loving their keto dieting is about to have alarm bells going off in their head. Won’t that make you fat?
I’m not saying to overeat in carbs, I’m saying to eat as many as you can possibly get away with. This is because carbohydrate intake is closely related to your circulating leptin concentrations.
Leptin is a hormone that regulates calorie intake along with total body fat levels. When either of these start dropping too much, it does everything to make you eat. Basically, it’s the enemy.
By keeping carbohydrates up higher, you keep leptin down lower4. Believe me when I say this is the strategy you want to use. Your life will be a lot easier if you do.
Step 4: Incorporate Refeeds (or if you prefer, cheat days)
Speaking carbs, this brings us to our next point: refeeds. If you’ve heard this phrase before, it essentially refers to eating far more calories than you are in an attempt to ‘reset’ the metabolism.
If you’ve been dieting for 6-8 weeks, it’s highly likely that you’ll see things slow down. Your body adapts to how many calories you’re taking in and progress stops moving along.
A refeed resets this. It triggers your body to think more fuel is coming in, so your metabolic rate can speed up again5. If you don’t refeed and just keep going, you have two choices.
- Accept subpar results (or NO results as the case may be for you).
- Decrease your calorie intake even lower.
You can only decrease your calorie intake so low. Managing it to keep it higher is a must smarter move.
On a refeed, you want to have one meal (or one full day if you’re already quite lean and therefore your body fights fat loss harder) where you eat a very high carbohydrate intake. Like go nuts. Don’t even track it. Eat carbs but keep fat intake low.
The next day, get right back on the plan.
The main difference between a refeed and a cheat day is a refeed is more planned. You are eating high carb, low fat. A cheat day is eat whatever the hell you want.
Some people prefer cheat days as it helps them out psychologically more. The drawback however is you may risk a bit more fat gain if you aren’t careful.
So choose your approach. Whatever you pick, just be sure to do it at least every 8-12 weeks.
Step 5: Get More Sleep
Do not take sleep for granted.
I know there are not enough hours in the day. I experience this as much as the next guy, but you really must focus on quality sleep in order to see results. Aim for seven, if not eight hours a night.
When you don’t sleep, your cortisol levels become elevated and fat loss becomes much harder6. Sleep is a strong influencer of BMI so it pays to get more shut-eye.
Step 6: Take Control Over Stress
Finally, start watching your stress levels. Just like sleep, too much stress can also cause an elevation in your cortisol levels and this can lead to an accumulation of fat around the abdominal region.
Those who are very high strung and constantly stressed typically have higher levels of abdominal belly fat than those who aren’t.
So if that six pack is ever going to be in your cards, you had better learn how to successfully manage stress better.
Whether it’s deep breathing, hitting a punching bag, or meditation you do, just do something.
Except drink alcohol. As great as a coping method that may be, alcohol actually completely stops fat burning, so I recommend sticking with water for the time being.
Follow those six tips and your fat loss will increase up a notch.
How To Lose Fat WITHOUT Losing Muscle: Burn Fat, Not Muscle
As we eluded to earlier on, to see truly great results, you’re going to want to learn how to burn fat without losing muscle. This is why anyone who is wondering how to burn fat without exercise should reconsider their question.
Exercise is the single greatest way to ensure you keep the muscle.
Here’s what to know.
Lift Heavy Weights
As just noted, the single most important factor in keeping your muscle mass intact is heavy weight lifting. When you lift heavy weights, you send the message to your body that it needs to preserve its lean muscle mass because it needs it to complete the daily tasks its being asked to do.
If you don’t lift heavy and just do no exercise at all, the body sees absolutely no reason to keep that hard-earned muscle.
Muscle burns calories. Lots of them. It’s far more metabolically active than fat tissue is. Therefore, in the face of starvation (which is essentially, what a diet is leaning toward), your body wants to lose muscle. Fat is what keeps it alive. Muscle is what pushes you closer towards your demise (from your physiological stand point when a faced with a famine).
You need to convince your body otherwise.
DON’T Overdo Cardio Training
It’s also important that you don’t overdo cardio training. If you are eating few calories and forcing your body to travel long distances, this means that you are now really primed to ditch the muscle.
Again, just look at a marathon runner. They aren’t exactly the most bulky of lads. Most are stick thin. There’s a reason for that. The body doesn’t want all that muscle slowing it down.
Interval training is fine, but even that, don’t overdo it or you risk it becoming too much as well.
Eat Sufficient Protein
Next to strength training, the second most important thing you must do to keep muscle is eat sufficient protein. Most people think that when dieting, they’re eating less food so they should eat less protein as well.
Nope. It’s exactly the opposite.
Let me tell you why.
When you start on a reduced calorie intake, your body has less energy coming in from both fats and carbohydrates. This means that there is less available fuel.
Therefore, it’s going to look for fuel elsewhere. It has two options:
- Use the protein coming in through the diet for energy (through a process called gluconeogenesis. It’s not the most efficient process, but it will get the job done).
- Use stored body fat.
Obviously you’d like it to just use point 2, but it’s going to usually use a combination approach. If you start burning protein as energy, this means there is less protein coming in to help meet the needs of your body. Your muscles require protein to maintain themselves, so now they’re falling short. And you, my friend, are seeing muscle loss.
So you eat more protein than you need so if any does get used as energy, you still have more than enough left over to keep those muscles satisfied.
Don’t Avoid Saturated Fat Entirely
It’s also vital that you don’t avoid saturated fat entirely. Some people think this is the best approach to seeing weight loss but saturated fat plays a key role in your testosterone production.
Without it, testosterone levels can dip and you’ll see muscle loss as just one of the negative side effects.
Coupled with low sex drive, sexual performance issues, decreased metabolic rate, suppressed mood, and difficulty sleeping, to name just a few others.
The key thing with saturated fat intake is to get it from naturally occurring sources. This means eggs and beef, not deep fried Oreos.
Eat Before Bed
Finally, consider eating before bed. This might go against what your conventional fat loss wisdom says but eating before bed is what will enable you to prevent muscle loss while you sleep. While the body is quite good about fasting as long as the calories and nutrients are coming in over the 24 hour period, it definitely doesn’t hurt to have a bit of protein before bed.
As long as you aren’t stuffing your face with carbs and sugar before you turn in, it’s not going to lead to fat gain.
Remember, it’s your total calorie count at the end of the day that matters, so just work this in.
Use these tips and make sure that you aren’t risking losing that muscle you worked so hard for. It’s a sad reality that too many guys face and then they’re virtually back to square one with their progress.
Foods That Burn Fat
The belief that you can eat certain foods and these foods will actually burn more calories than they contain is inaccurate. No food is going to burn fat itself. All foods, safe for maybe cucumbers, contain more calories than what you will burn off to consume them.
But certain foods do posses fat burning properties that can make your progress go a little bit smoother.
Curious which those are? Here are the best foods to eat to burn fat.
You simply can’t go wrong with salmon. Salmon is not only rich in the protein that your muscles need, but also contains omega-3 fatty acids. These omega fats help to increase insulin sensitivity, which improves how your body handles the carbohydrates that you consume. This in return means less fat is gained and more muscle is built when in the face of a higher carb intake.
Omega-3 fats are key for maximum fat loss success.
Some guys break it off with beef while dieting, thinking there’s no place for red meat in their approach. I’m here to tell you to add it back in.
Why must you do this? Because beef is going to be an important source of zinc, and zinc is required to sustain higher testosterone levels.
We already spoke about the powers testosterone has over fat loss, so no need to go over that again. There appears to be a direct correlation with zinc intake and testosterone status7.
3. Egg Whites
Egg whites are another fantastic food to eat while on a fat loss diet simply for the reason that they are a very high quality source of protein (one of the highest out there) and they are a high volume food. Meaning, you can eat a lot of them to feel full and not net many calories.
They’re also very versatile, so start using them in your menu, stat.
Oysters are a food that most men never even think about, but they are also powerhouses when it comes to zinc.
They’re often noted to be an aphrodisiac so may even put you in the mood.
Have I mentioned sex can boost testosterone and therefore enhance fat loss? It burns calories too.
Just another reason to get horizontal (as if you needed another reason!).
5. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is an anomaly when looking at dietary fat. This is because it actually has thermogenic properties while most other dietary fats are happy to just stay a fat.
When you eat most types of dietary fat, they quickly convert into body fat. There is very little energy expenditure to make this happen and if you are in a calorie surplus, it’s almost automatic.
Coconut oil however is a medium chain triglyceride and acts differently in the body. It actually provides a fast source of energy more like that of carbohydrates, so is great for those who are dieting.
Furthermore, it has a thermic effect of food to the tune of 15%, meaning that for every 100 calories you take in, you’ll burn off about 15 just breaking the coconut oil down.
This may not seem like much, but it adds up and can give you a fat loss advantage.
Coconut oil also offers many other additional health benefits, so it’s not a food that you want to overlook.
If you aren’t a coffee drinker, consider becoming one. Just don’t drink it at night when it may interfere with your sleep (see above!). Coffee is great for fat loss because the caffeine found in it can help to boost your energy and stroke your metabolic rate.
It could help you burn a few more calories each day and as we saw previously, anything that boosts your daily calorie burn is going to move you in the right direction.
While not a food, cinnamon is something else that you do want to consider. Cinnamon is a spice that can help to regulate blood glucose levels so you don’t get those spikes and crashes. This also means it helps regulate insulin and that is important for keeping fat burning in check.
Any spikes in insulin are going to immediately put the breaks on fat oxidation taking place, so the more you can keep your blood glucose levels stable, the better.
8. Chili Peppers
Many don’t consider chili peppers a food either, but more of a spice. Either way you look at it, it’s time to consider getting them in. They contain a compound called capsaicin, which will also help to elevate your metabolic rate for a few hours after eating them.
Take any metabolic boost you can get.
9. Whey Protein
If you don’t have whey protein powder in your pantry, now is the time to get it in. This is great because not only is it a terrific source of quality protein that will help keep your lean muscle intact, but whey also contains appetite reducing properties.
Subjects who consume a whey preload before meals tend to consume fewer calories at those meals, so it may just help take the edge off your hunger8.
10. Low Sugar Yogurt
If you want to learn how to burn fat from the stomach, try consuming yogurt. Research9 has indicated that subjects who consume dairy products in their fat loss diet lose more fat, especially from the trunk region, than those who don’t consume dairy products, assuming the total calorie intake of both diets stays the same.
In addition to that, if you eat some low sugar Greek yogurt that also contains some fat, you’ll also take in CLA, which stands for conjugated linoleic acid and this can help with the release of fatty acids from the fat cells to be used for energy10.
All in all, don’t shun dairy! Unless you are lactose intolerant and can’t have it, it’s worth getting in.
Fat Burning Supplements
Now you want to get in an extra edge. So you think you’ll check out supplements. As you do, you’re met with literally thousands of products all aimed to help you do more, burn more, or build more. The supplement world is filled with every product under the sun – and it can be quite confusing to navigate it all.
The most important thing that you need to keep in mind when looking for fat loss supplements is that they should not promise results that seem too good to be true. When they do, that’s your first sign that something is up. Chances are, that supplement is not going to deliver.
No matter what you do, you are not going to lose 10 pounds in 10 days. Sorry to break it to you guys, it ain’t happening. If you lose touch with reality and get sucked into that world, you will be disappointed. This I can guarantee you.
When I look for supplements, I like to look for ones that work with my body or help me better manage my workouts and diet.
I NEVER expect a supplement to do the work for me. The moment you do, you’re a lost cause. There is no escaping the fact that you must put in work.
So let me walk you through my line-up of favorites.
Protein powder is quite simply a must. If for no other reason than the fact it will help you boost protein synthesis following a workout session and help you move from a catabolic state to an anabolic one.
When dieting, protein is key, as we discussed so protein powder will come in extra helpful to get your needs met when you need them.
Choose one that’s as low in carbs and fats as possible. I like a good whey isolate.
You may have taken creatine before while building muscle, but why would you take it during fat loss, you wonder? The reason is because creatine does help you maintain your strength output11. And keeping the weight on the bar is the number one thing that will keep your muscle mass intact.
So get that help.
It may cause slight water retention when using it, which does work against what you are trying to accomplish here (get ripped), but water can be lost when stopping creatine or through other means such as eating plenty of asparagus (a natural diuretic).
Be sure to stay extra hydrated when on creatine as well as that’ll help flush out the retention. You should be drinking more while dieting anyway, so the two go hand in hand.
I also like using BCAA’s when dieting especially. Taking these during the workout helps prevent one from entering quite such a catabolic state. Think of them as fuel for the muscles when your body is in need.
They’ll also help give you an extra edge in the gym and help you get more determination to max out that set when you’d rather just not.
My number one go-to for dieting periods to help with the symptoms is caffeine. While you do need to be careful with caffeine as too much will not be a good thing and impact sleep quality, it is great for boosting your energy levels, improving your focus, and enhancing your strength level as well.
These are all things that dip when dieting, so I say, if you can get it, do it. Simple.
Just remember, not before bed. Taking too much caffeine in prior to bed will seriously mess with your sleep and sleep is CRITICAL for fat loss.
One of my favorite potent fat fighters, carnitine is great for helping to enhance the release of fatty acids from the fat tissues, increasing the usability for energy12. Carnitine is also an awesome energy booster, so I find it helps combat those lows I have during the day. As it’s not stimulatory, you can take it at any time. Do be aware some people do say it can cause trouble falling asleep though, so I do still recommend taking it in the morning or early afternoon.
Finally, my last must have, fish oil! Don’t go without this one. There are calories in it – nine per gram to be exact, but fish oil is a wonderful substance. Fights depression, combats heart disease, reduces inflammation, keeps your hormones healthy, stabilizes blood sugar and accelerates fat loss13. Sign. Me. Up.
BONUS: 3 Secret Hacks To Lose Weight In A Week
Now that you’ve finalized the last element of the equation, it’s time for me to share with you three of my secret hacks that will help you lose weight faster each and every week you’re on your program.
Hack #1: Use A Food Journal
I can’t recommend a food journal enough. While it does take some extra time each day, simply writing your food down can save you from eating things you shouldn’t and help you keep track of your progress better as well.
When you write it down, you will have a record of what you’ve done so you’ll know what helps you see results and what doesn’t help so much.
It also keeps you consistent. You’ll put more thought into each meal knowing you have to write it down than if you’re just winging it.
Hack #2: Have Some Sex
Here’s a hack I know all of you will put into practice…. If you can get some bedroom time with your lady, it can actually help your fat loss results. True, sex does burn some calories (not as many as Cosmo may have her believe…), but more importantly, it jacks up your testosterone and lowers your cortisol. This PRIMES your body for better muscle retention and fat burning results.
Not to mention it’ll be guaranteed to take your mind off that cheeseburger for at least 10-15 minutes. Unless you are in the deepest stages of cutting and that cheeseburger is more enticing to you that your lady will ever be.
Hack #3: Meal Prep. Meal Prep. Meal Prep.
Okay, so nothing seriously special about this one, but honestly it will be a game changer for you. If you want to one-up your results, start meal prepping every single week. It takes the thought out of the process. Just open your Tupperware and start eating.
So there you have my top tips to seeing maximum fat loss. If you are serious about your goal, get serious about the process. It doesn’t have to be agonizing if you don’t make it, but it does have to mean hard work.
Follow the road map I’ve just laid out for you here and you will be on track to seeing excellent results in no time.
- Astrup, A., et al. “The role of low-fat diets in body weight control: a meta-analysis of ad libitum dietary intervention studies.” International journal of obesity24.12 (2000): 1545.
- A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial
- Kordi, MohammadReza, et al. “The effects of six weeks high intensity interval training (HIIT) on resting plasma levels of adiponectin and fat loss in sedentary young women.” Journal of Jahrom University of Medical Sciences11.1 (2013): 23-31.
- Jenkins, A. B., et al. “Carbohydrate intake and short-term regulation of leptin in humans.” Diabetologia 40.3(1997): 348-351.
- Weststrate, Jan A., and Joseph GAJ Hautvast. “The effects of short-term carbohydrate overfeeding and prior exercise on resting metabolic rate and diet-induced thermogenesis.” Metabolism39.12 (1990): 1232-1239.
- Taheri, Shahrad, et al. “Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index.” PLoS medicine1.3 (2004): e62.
- Prasad, Ananda S., et al. “Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults.” Nutrition12.5 (1996): 344-348.
- Hall, W. L., et al. “Casein and whey exert different effects on plasma amino acid profiles, gastrointestinal hormone secretion and appetite.” British Journal of Nutrition89.2 (2003): 239-248.
- Zemel, M. B., et al. “Dairy augmentation of total and central fat loss in obese subjects.” International journal of obesity29.4 (2005): 391.
- Blankson, Henrietta, et al. “Conjugated linoleic acid reduces body fat mass in overweight and obese humans.” The Journal of nutrition130.12 (2000): 2943-2948.
- Earnest, Conrad P., et al. “The effect of creatine monohydrate ingestion on anaerobic power indices, muscular strength and body composition.” Acta Physiologica Scandinavica153.2 (1995): 207-209.
- Wutzke, Klaus D., and Henrik Lorenz. “The effect of l-carnitine on fat oxidation, protein turnover, and body composition in slightly overweight subjects.” Metabolism53.8 (2004): 1002-1006.
- Simopoulos, Artemis P. “Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and in growth and development.” The American journal of clinical nutrition54.3 (1991): 438-463.