A quick google search for “fat loss tips” yields just over 7 million results. Page after page after page is filled with articles titled “7 fat burning secrets” or “the 8 secrets to fat loss the experts don’t want you to know.”
How on earth can you be expected to sift through pages upon pages of results, determine which steps actually hold water, and then put them into practice hoping you’re able to move the needle in the right direction?
If you ask me, that’s outright unreasonable, and borderline impossible.
Bearing that in mind, I’ve dug through hundreds of articles, drawn on lessons from working with my clients, and compiled the 10 most actionable and effective steps you can implement today to level up your fat loss game.
Let’s dig into the list.
1. Mindset: Steel yourself for the highs and lows.
Before we dive into the physical tips and insights, I want to talk about a fat loss mindset. The mindset required to create, and maintain fat loss over the long term is something that is rarely if ever talked about.
Some days will be easy, others near impossible. As much as death is a guarantee in life, so is the promise of ups and downs during fat loss. In the end, over the course of your time spent working towards fat loss, these days will come to balance themselves out. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’ll need to be able to steel yourself for the days where progress seems impossible, and all you want is to sit in your kitchen with a box of Oreos and a litre of salted caramel ice cream.
The best weapon in this battle? Learning to use the momentum you’ve built from the easy days to carry you through the tough ones. Rinse and repeat. Don’t forget that it’s part of the process, and the end result will be oh so sweet.
At some point, your energy levels will drop. This is inevitable. All you can do is take extra measures and precautions to combat and mitigate these annoying drops in your energy. Increase your water intake, double up on veggies, not waiting for 4-5 hours between meals, and taking shorts naps all work wonders in boosting and maintaining your energy.
Strength can, and likely will drop (the deeper you go into a diet, the more likely this is to occur). As you dive deeper and deeper into the dieting rabbit hole, you’ll hit a point where there simply isn’t enough energy coming in to support your typical strength levels. Internalize this, and accept that at some point, your strength will decline some. The good news? As you start to push calories back up and come out of your deficit, your strength will rise again. Likely to a point higher than when you began your quest for fat loss.
Action Step: Actively practice embracing the great days, find ways to manage the tough ones.
2. Ensure that you’re maintaining adequate hydration.
Your body is composed of approximately 55-65% water (give or take). In knowing that, it should become quite clear how imperative maintaining a hydrated state is. Adequate hydration is required for bodily, and fat loss functions. In the context of fat loss, ensuring that you’re well-hydrated aids in the elimination and excretion of free fatty acids.
Action Step: Fill and carry a water bottle with you wherever you go. Regardless of being thirsty or not, you’ll find that you start to drink a lot more water without a second thought. Try to set your baseline water intake at 3.5L per day. Work from there as needed.
3. Manage Inflammation and Pay Attention to Recovery Indicators.
An often overlooked aspect of fat loss is inflammation management, and it’s subsequent consequences when allowed to run rampantly throughout your body.
How can you tell if you’re dealing with unhealthy levels of inflammation? Monitor your body closely and pay attention for the following “tells:”
- Appetite suppression
- Joint pain
- Inhibited pumps while training
- Low or fluctuating energy levels
These are signs of your recovery ability dropping, and inflammation levels rising. Both occurrences are likely due to ignoring other items on this list or pushing your body too hard for too long.
Should more than 1 of the above “tells” begin to rear it’s ugly head, take a step back for a few days. Take a day or two off from lifting, drink some water, have a nap, and considering having a day of higher carbohydrate intake.
Action Step: Carry and maintain a small journal or diary where you can write down when any of the above “tells” show up.
4. Stress Management.
Working in close quarters with inflammation and recovery is the art of stress management. Consistently high circulating levels of cortisol wreak havoc inside your body, hinder recovery, and can even begin to catabolize (break down) precious muscle tissue.
With one of the goals of effective fat loss being maintaining as much muscle as possible, this isn’t a good scenario.
There are measures you can implement to manage stress more effectively and bring balance to your cortisol curve.
1. Look to implement the use of adaptogens on a daily basis. Doing so will help to balance and regulate your cortisol curve so that it peaks upon waking, and gradually wanes throughout the day until it drops at night, thus allowing melatonin to be released and send you into a deep slumber.
The following list of adaptogens does a tremendous job of easing anxiety, regulating cortisol, providing an energy boost, immune support, and being protective against mental and physical fatigue.
- Holy Basil
- Astragalus Root
- Liquorice Root
- Cordycep Mushrooms
- CortiSolve (one of my favourite products)
2. Meditation is a tremendously effective method for grounding yourself, bringing cortisol into check, and harnessing your mindset. Don’t worry. You don’t have to meditate for hours on end. All it takes is 1-2 sessions of 5-10 minutes of deep breathing to garner positive effects.
3. Calming activities can be anything that brings you a sense of calm and peace. For me, it’s cooking and sitting on my balcony watching night fall with a glass of lemon water or something similar. For you, it could be anything from taking a 20-minute walk in the afternoon, to reading a few chapters of your favourite book, or simply sitting in silence.
5. Ensure Enough Sleep.
The importance of sleep has been beaten to death ad nauseum. Yet, I’m going to attack it again, because many still don’t fully grasp this concept – and it certainly has it’s rightful spot on this list.
During your nightly slumber is where the culmination of your fat loss efforts throughout the day sink in and take effect. You can have the perfect diet, the perfect habits, supplementation, and training program, but if you aren’t getting enough sleep – and subsequently recovering well – all your efforts, time invested, and money spent will be for naught.
I would suggest starting by aiming for 6-8hrs per night. Everyone has their sweet spot and it’ll take a bit of experimentation to find what works and feels best for you. Even the timing of when you go to bed, and when you wake up can have an impact. I wish I could tell I had a “formula” or “best bedtime secret” to share with you, but I don’t. To get to the bottom of your best bedtime, you’ll have to play around with different bedtimes.
As well, sleep has a huge impact on appetite regulation. The less sleep you get, the more likely you become to develop cravings and feelings of insatiable hunger throughout the day.
Action Step: Pick what times you’re going to go to bed, and wake up at each day. Be consistent and stick to those times for at least 10 days. After that, you’ll have fallen into a rhythm of sleeping and waking at the same, or similar time each day.
6. Maintaining a Caloric Deficit.
Granted, this should probably be number one on the list. But it comfortably falls in the middle of the list as ALL of these points are quite important for fat loss.
In honesty, the importance of maintaining a caloric deficit comes down to common sense. In the majority of cases, if you’re eating above maintenance calories, you won’t be burning fat. Plain and simple.
Action Step: Watch your bites, licks, and tastes. These are the little nibbles of your friends piece of cake, licking off the spoon you used for your peanut butter and sips of your friend’s soda. In isolation, these are small rocks that don’t account for much. But compound all those little bites, licks, and tastes over the course of your day, and the week. They certainly add up, and can be more than enough extra calories to pull you out of your deficit. I’m not saying you need to eliminate them entirely, but you do need to mindful, and painfully aware of them. If you’re a perpetual “snacker” and find it really hard to cut out the little tastes here and there, track them. That will ensure you don’t erase your deficit.
7. Cover your bases with simple supplementation.
I’m often blown away by how many people who are serious about their health overlook this group of basic supplements (I’ve been guilty of doing so myself). All members of the list below support important bodily functions, keep things working optimally and support your well-being and fat loss efforts.
- Vitamin D
- Fish Oil
- Vitamin C
Action Step to keep your body humming and cover all bases: Go see your Doctor and get some basic blood work done. When you get the results back, use the supplements listed above as needed to bring your levels to a normal range (if necessary).
8. Coax your body into dropping fat, don’t force it.
This one may come as a fresh perspective on fat loss for some of you.
It’s NOT about forcing your body into dropping as much fat (and muscle along with it) in as little time as possible. Forcing things along – whether it be fat loss or muscle gain – for the sake of rapid progress almost never works in the long-term. Doing so inevitably results in rebounding, often to a weight and body composition that exceeds where you began.
In a perfect world, we take a long, slow, calculated approach that provides you with a lean physique that you can sustain and maintain for the rest of your life. Being able to do so lies in learning to recognize when to push hard, and when to back off for a time. The goal should be to STIMULATE, and ENCOURAGE your body to shed its excess fat.
Action Step: Watch and listen to the feedback your body gives you. Appetite, cravings, hunger, energy, scale weight, progress pictures…these are all bits of feedback that help to a paint the larger picture.
9. Veggie Intake.
Your Mom was right (yes, again). Eat you veggies, my friends.The benefits are simply too numerous, and powerful to ignore. Trust me – I made the mistake of avoiding most veggies for the better part of 3 years (and most of my childhood).
How’s this for a testament to the power of veggies? I’m currently dieting and training quite hard in preparation for my first bodybuilding show of the season. In the beginning of my prep I was still stuck in my ways of ignoring veggies, and thinking they didn’t bring me much value as I felt fine most of the time. As calories have gotten lower and lower, I began increasing my veggie intake as a way of filling up on food volume without adding an excess of calories. The timing of this change coincided with my energy and strength levels beginning to decline due to such a low caloric intake.
The kicker? My energy rose (to a degree) and stabilized, fat loss sped up, my joint health and integrity has improved, my skin feels better, and my hunger levels have balanced throughout the day.
In short, listen to what your Mother preached for the entirety of your childhood.
On a more scientific level, all of the fibre in veggies aids in free fatty acid metabolism and elimination. The anti-oxidation and free radical scavenging have tremendous benefits for long-term cellular health. Fibre has some anti-estrogenic properties as well. This is a great tool to have in your box when it comes to fat loss.
Action Step: Eat. More. Vegetables. Steam them with some soy sauce and low-fat cheese if you’re in desperate need of flavour.
10. It’s SUPPOSED to be tough.
Much the same can be said for any goal within the fitness space. It’s not going to be easy. You will be challenged, tested, and pushed. But I can promise you that it will be well worth it in the end.
Anything that moves your body out of homeostasis is rarely easy. Change is rarely easy and requires to you stretch beyond your comfort zone.
Action Step: Break free of your safety net. As the saying goes, “try to do one thing a day that scares you.” When you repeatedly shatter your comfort zone, you become mentally more strong. By association, this will make your perseverance in fat loss stronger as well.