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I'm not a big New Year's Resolution kinda guy, if I want to make a change then I do it, I don't wait til January 1st. However, I also realize not everyone is like me and that the tradition can help people kick-start changes in their life. Judging by how gyms fill in January, I suspect that one of the more popular resolutions is "getting in shape", or "lose weight", so here's my simple guide to not just losing weight, but getting a better body by losing body-fat.
I was able to go from 227lbs @ 28% bodyfat last year down to 205lbs @ 13% following (albeit with a few lapses in concentration) 3 simple rules. They're easy to understand and easier to get results from.
1. Eat at a caloric deficit
2. Lift weights 3 days a week
3. Eat 1g protein per lb of lean body mass
1. Eat at a caloric deficit
By far the easiest part of the process to understand is this: eat less than your body needs to maintain your current weight and you'll lose weight. Our daily energy expenditure is kinda like a caloric budget, much like our government for the past century most people excel at exceeding their budget and therefore they gain weight (go into debt). So the simple process is to figure out your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate, this is the number that basically means how many calories you have to eat on a daily basis in order to maintain your current weight), there's tons of online calculators to help you, I feel like my most accurate number came from this LiveStrong How-To: http://www.livestrong.com/article/31345-calculate-daily-caloric-intake-body/
Once you know your BMR, then you can start deducting calories to set your goals. Take into consideration that 3,500 calories equals 1lb of bodyfat. So, if you cut out 500 calories a day then in 7 days you will have lost 1lb of fat. For instance, my BMR is 2,900 calories, since I want to lose 2lbs of fat per week then I only eat 1,900 calories per day. While there is mathematics involved, the body carries weight kinda funny, so maybe you lost some fat but the body volumized the fat cells with water and the scale doesn't know the difference for a few weeks. Good advice is to not follow the scale as the end-all, give it 3 or 4 weeks before expecting to see the numbers start to drop, and using your clothes and the mirror is the best indicator of progress.
2. Lift weights 3 days a week
Losing weight is easy, just eat less. However, while it takes 3500 calories to lose 1lb of fat, it only takes 600 calories to lose 1lb of muscle. It's real easy to lose muscle mass if all you do is cut your calories, so in order to make sure your weight-loss is actually fat-loss, you need to lift weights to keep your muscles engaged and active and in a mode of rebuilding. Jogging won't do this, resistance training will. Way too often people only do cardio and cut calories so when they lose weight they're losing muscle, not exactly the sexy look I'm sure most people are going for.
3. Eat 1 gram of protein per lb of lean body mass (LBM)
Not per lb of body weight! Your LBM is your total weight minus your bodyfat. So, to calculate your LBM you need to know your bodyfat percentage. Calculating this one can be tricky. I bought an electronic caliper, but you can also get this done at most gyms for free, and I personally think it's an excellent progress checker since it'll reveal whether or not you're losing muscle or fat. My bodyfat is roughly 13%, so here's my calculation of my LBM: 205 (my total weight) x .87 (my bodyfat percentage is 13%, so if I wanted to know how many lbs of bodyfat I have then I can multiply my weight times .13, but I want to know everything BUT my fat, so I subtract 13% from 100% to get 87%, or .87 in order to multiply) = 178.
The protein ensures that your muscles can rebuild, and I think keeping your muscles in a state of repair prevents them from being the casualty of a caloric deficit. Now, 180g of protein (I rounded up from 178) is a lot of protein, while ideally you'd get it from regular food sources (chicken, tuna, beef, eggs, etc) when reducing calories this isn't always very easy, so I use whey protein shakes to help cover about 100g per day. You can find some great deals on whey at bodybuilding.com, I usually go with Higher Power, but there's tons of other options.
There you go. Eat less, lift weights and get your protein.
- I didn't include cardio because cardio is not necessary to lose bodyfat. Cardio is used to burn calories, so you can either eat more and do cardio, or if you're like me you'd prefer to not do cardio and just eat less.
- Drink water, it's a great way to cut calories and I hear it's kinda healthy.
- Other than the protein, it doesn't matter where the rest of your calories come from. This is a guide to losing bodyfat, so you could actually eat McDonald's and Taco Bell everyday and as long as you're following the rules then you'd still see your progress. Obviously that's not healthy living, but you're free to live your life.
- A great way to track calories is with LiveStrong.com's Daily Plate. That's been an invaluable resource for me. They've got a database filled with normal foods as well as fast food options, from a baked chicken breast to chicken strip from Chicken Express.
- I no longer place a lot of anxiety on meal timing, frequency or anything other than total calories and total protein intake. But be sure that eating healthier will make you *feel* better, but it's nice to know that I can have some chocolate or a donut and still be on track with my goals. Just be sure you're tracking your calories!
- It's generally not advised to lose more than 2-3 lbs per week, going for more than that will probably result in rough results (starvation isn't the way to go, neither is carb depletion, etc), lasting results take time. Losing that much that fast will also result in losing more muscle than you'd probably like.
- Based on anecdotes from others it seems you can use your calories on a weekly basis. For instance, if I only ate 1700 calories instead of 1900, then I could have a cheat day of sorts where I could eat the extra calories and still be within my caloric range. Obviously don't go too drastic, eating 1000 calories a day isn't healthy on any level and won't help your energy levels.
- I think the importance of "revving up your metabolism" is overblown and an unnecessary/useless worry.
- Bodybuilding.com is a great resource for workout ideas. A simple one that I use is: Bench Press, Clean & Press, Pullups (a great alternative is pulldowns), Dips (use the dip machine to help you), squats (or leg press if this is too difficult), bentover barbell rows. That's 6 exercises that will work nearly every muscle in your body, do 2 sets of each, on Mondays you can go heavy (4 - 6 reps), Wednesdays go light (12 - 15 reps), Fridays go in-between (8 - 10 reps). Simple workout shouldn't take more than an 50 minutes.
- I'd like to say this was all my idea, but I got it here:
- Of course it's important to note I'm no doctor or certified trainer, just a man who likes to learn and figure things out.
- Most importantly, this is not a sprint, it's a marathon. I guarantee results if you stick with it, commit to 6 months and you won't believe the results.