This particular post is about 8 or 9 months in the making. A while back I decided that come summer 2018, I wanted to write a kickass post about fat loss. But just an article is… boring.
I wanted to live and experience this post to prove what I’m preachin’ works. I wanted to feel the euphoria of finally noticing all my hard work paying off. I also wanted to experience the ‘WHAT THE F*CK AM I DOING WRONG, THIS IS SO GOD DAMN HARD’ moments that everyone will go through when trying to shed a little fluff.
And above all else, I want to use my experience to help people look good nekkid.
So back in October, I gave myself until February 1st to ‘bulk up’, aka tell myself it was OK to eat things like Pop-Tarts, Chipotle, pancakes, Five Guys. etc. I tried to keep it somewhat clean, but absolutely did not hesitate to allow myself a treat every
now and then day. So I ended up looking like this.
192lbs and hovering right around 20-21% body fat.
But in addition to shoving food into my mouth like that fat German kid from Willy Wonka, I also made a non-negotiable, set in concrete deal with myself that come June 21st (start of summer), I would write a post about fat loss and plaster it with shirtless pictures of myself. Oh look, here’s one now!
Making this non-negotiable deal was probably one of the biggest factors to my fat loss success.
It provided me with a ton of motivation and accountability to stick to my plan because, well, I wasn’t trying to write a post about fat loss that contained ‘after’ photos of me looking like a soft, little marshmallow. That would immediately diminish any credibility I have as a coach and trainer, and it would be a great way for people to not even read the damn article.
I would have none of that.
So before you start your quest for a well tailored birthday suit, make a non-negotiable deal with yourself that ensures you stay consistent with your fat loss efforts. Plan to post your ‘after’ pictures whether you see success or not, buy an expensive outfit that’s maybe a bit too snug for your current body (and then tear up the receipt), or, and I’m 100000% serious, tell your best friend that they can record and post a video of you eating a can of wet dog food while wearing an adult diaper if you don’t reach your goals by a set date.
That last one is an extreme example, but I guarantee it would without a doubt be the most effective method in helping you stay on track. Someone will offer you cake at an office party, but all you’ll see is some Pedigree chopped ground dinner. The upside to this is that your coat will really shine after eating it though.
Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of friends to help hold you accountable. And if you can’t think of a deal for yourself, I’ve got one for you.
Reach your fat loss goals by a reasonable date of your choosing. If you do not, you have to pay me $500. I accept cash, check, Venmo, and Paypal 🙂
Step 1: FORCE yourself to stay motivated and held accountable by making a deal with ACTUAL and SERIOUS consequences if you fail.
Once this is done, you’ll have a different mindset towards actually losing fat. No more nonchalantly brushing it off if you miss a workout or eat like crap for 4 days straight.
So now you’re probably ready to plan your workouts and ‘get after it’ or ‘start grinding’.
Pump those brakes eager beaver.
The first thing you’ll ABSOLUTELY need to address and prioritize is the quality and quantity of your sleep.
I like to try to read books, watch webinars, and attend seminars to keep learning about my craft. Training is a career that is constantly evolving, so it’s important to continue learning because what’s considered ‘good’ now might be ‘bad’ in 10 years.
Aaaaaanyway, one of the things I’ve learned A LOT about in regards to health and fitness is just how incredibly vital, life changing, and fan-f*cking-tastic sleep is for you. It positively impacts literally everything health related, including, you guessed it, fat loss.
In a very condensed nutshell, lack of quality sleep will seriously jack up your hormones, such as ghrelin, which is a hormone responsible for increasing your appetite. When this happens, it’s a strong possibility that you’ll eat waaaay more than actually needed just because your sleep deprived brain and body don’t know any better.
Plus, when you’re sleep deprived, your body will crave and seek out ways to feel more alert and get more energy. And what’s a great way to provide your tired body with a quick boost or pick me up?
CARBS BABY! Or simple sugars. But kinda one in the same in this scenario.
So in a groggy stupor, your brain tells you, “Hey sleepyhead, go eat that carbalicious food source, it’ll make you feel more alert and give you energy!”
And while carbs (and food in general) will, in fact, provide your body with more energy, they’ll also provide it with excess calories. And you know what makes you fat?
“Pft, excess calories. Chris, haven’t you ever heard of CAFFEINE?? Caffeine doesn’t have any calories AND will help keep you awake. Win win!”
… oooor it would be if caffeine didn’t have a half life of 5-7 hours. This means at least half of the caffeine you consume will remain in your system for 5-7 hours after you consume it. So if you drink coffee at 3 or 4 in the afternoon to help you power through the last little bit of the work day, it might still be in your system until 10 or 11pm.
That will make it hard to fall asleep.
Which means you’ll get less sleep overall.
And now you’re right back at square one.
And if you’re loading your coffee with all sorts of sugar and flavored creamers, forget it. You’re burning the fat gaining candle at both ends, buddy.
The only way to truly address these issues and transform your body into a fat burning machine is to prioritize good sleep just like you would a healthy diet or quality training program. Get yourself 7-9 hours of sleep every night. EVERY NIGHT.
Oh, and did I mention getting quality sleep will allow you to workout with more intensity? This will only lead to a higher calorie expenditure and increase your soon to be scantily clad summer body.
Step 2: ADDRESS. YOUR. SLEEP. FIRST. Prioritize it just like you would your diet and workouts. 7-9 hours every night, amigo.
I really can’t stress the importance of sleep enough. It is in all likelihood the most important thing when it comes to fat loss just because if you’re not getting enough, it will have a negative domino like effect on everything else I’m about to write about.
But if you currently sleep like a house cat on Xanax, then we can move on to the next biggest factor when it comes to fat loss.
YOU WILL NOT SEE SUCCESS WHEN IT COMES TO FAT LOSS IF YOU DO NOT ALTER YOUR DIET IN SOME WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM.
If you think you can just out-exercise a crappy diet, stop reading because my advice will fall on your deaf ears. The way you’ve been eating is what caused fat gain to begin with so its just asinine to think you can keep eating the same way and see different results.
But eating for fat loss can be an extremely confusing and infuriating process if you’re unsure of what to do. The options and diets out there are damn near limitless.
Do you go high carb or low carb? Limit fat or eat more? High protein? Animal protein? Plant protein? Protein supplements? Can you still eat the foods you enjoy? WTF IS QUINOA?!
Despite all the diets and methods out there, if you follow this one simple rule, you’ll probably see the fat melt off you.
Whenever you sit down to a meal, make sure you are about to fill up on meat (protein) and non starchy vegetables.
Thats it. Pretty simple and straight forward.
What’s a non starchy vegetable you ask? Artichokes, asparagus, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, dark leafy green vegetables, eggplant, fennel, green beans, jicama, leaks, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, peppers, pickles, pumpkin, radicchio, radishes, rhubarb, snow peas, spaghetti squash, spinach, sprouts, summer squash, tomatoes, water chestnuts, watercress, and zucchini.
As far as meat goes, basically any dead animal flesh will do. A somewhat morbid way of thinking about it, but it gets the point across. Eggs, steak, ground beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb shank, tuna, bacon, tilapia, salmon, flounder, sea bass, cod, trout, swordfish (or any fish), crab, and shrimp are all good choices.
Before I go on, let’s address the elephant in the room. Some of you may be vegetarian or vegan which makes this particular piece of advice completely useless to you. That’s your choice and I ain’t got no problem with that. You’ll just need to swap the meat for plant based proteins and be sure to include sources that contain all of the essential amino acids, aka complementary proteins (like rice and beans).
Regardless if you love you some meat or not, diets rich in non starchy vegetables and protein burn fat like no other.
Non starchy vegetables are extremely nutrient dense while simultaneously being calorie sparse. This means they pack a wallop of vitamins and nutrients while containing very little calories. This is exactly what you want from your meals when trying to shed fat.
Protein helps build and preserve lean muscle mass, increase and preserve strength, rebuild vital tissues within the body, and keeps you fuller for longer. Also what you want for burning fat.
So, taking my own advice, here’s what a lot of my meals looked like for the last 4-5 months.
Meat and veggies: 3 egg feta cheese omelette (and hot sauce) with 2 pieces of bacon with some assorted veggies.
Meat and veggies: turkey/beef combo meatball with chopped spinach, diced onions, diced bell pepper, and some cheddar cheese. These aren’t cooked yet, fyi.
Meat and veggies: Salmon and assorted veggies.
Meat and veggies: some kind of broccoli bacon chicken salad that I just threw together.
Now I can already hear some of you asking this next question.
WHAT ABOUT CAAAAARBS?
Do not fret my sweet, sweet child, for you can still eat your beloved carbohydrates. But you’re probably gonna need to decrease the amount you eat (perhaps drastically).
A good rule of thumb is that the more sedentary you are, the less carbs you need. So if you’ve got a desk job, you might need very little (if any) carbs in your diet. If you workout hard, some carbs here and there are perfectly fine.
But the main principle of ‘fill up mostly on meat and veggies’ still applies. You can eat your sweet potatoes and quinoa with your meals, but finish your veggies and protein first. Carbs are the lowest priority on your plate.
I personally kept most of my carb intake closer to my workouts to help fuel me through my lifts and recover from them.
That’s one of my favorite post workout meals/snacks. 1 banana, some frozen berries, and some Greek yogurt. And yes, I absolutely did feel like a #basicbitch taking all of these pictures of my food.
Other than that, mostly all of my meals contained very little starchy foods. It’s been basically protein, fats, and veggies all day, ‘err day. And since fat is the vehicle in which flavor travels, I really never felt ‘deprived’ at any of my meals. Eat a bun-less bacon cheeseburger and tell me how much your diet sucks, YOU LIAR.
Side note: I’m also experimenting with cutting out almost all grains from my diet, and to be honest I’ve never felt better. My joints don’t ache, I don’t feel as groggy in the morning, and I have virtually no more bloating after meals. But that’s a point for another day.
But what about cheat days?!? PLEASE TELL ME I CAN EAT ALL THE DELICIOUS SWEET TREATS OF THE WORLD, OH GOD PLEEEEEEASE!?
I personally ate one cheat meal per weekend. And believe me, sometimes I ate junk food like it was my job. Some of my favorite cheat meals over the last 4 months included:
- Shake Shack double bacon cheeseburger, bacon cheese fries, strawberry shake, and then 3 Duck Donuts for dessert
- Bacchanal buffet at Caesar’s in Las Vegas where I sampled every. single. dessert. they. offered.
- (literally ate 7-8 of these donuts at the buffet. So effing good)
- An entire loaf of challah bread french toast
- And so on and so on
Now I didn’t eat THAT crazy for every cheat meal, but I definitely didn’t shy away from “bad foods”. As long as you eat clean for 85-90% of your overall calorie intake for a week, you can eat whatever the hell you want for the remaining 10-15%.
And if you do mess up during the week, relax. Your fat loss efforts are not sabotaged. Realize this, get over it, and get back to meat and veggies at your next meal.
One unhealthy meal does not define a crappy diet just like one healthy meal does not define a clean one.
And if you’re curious as to what my ‘macro count’ was for the week, don’t bother asking because I honestly have no idea. I hate counting calories as I find it very tedious and annoying. My primary ‘calorie counting’ method consists of first making quality food choices and then being smart with my portion sizes. Calories will count themselves this way and I don’t have to stress over eating precisely 127 and 3/4g carbs per day.
For what it’s worth, I will say that prepping your weekly meals on Sunday will probably be the the single greatest thing you can do to ensure you see success with your diet.
Prepping your meals provides you with quality, healthy, already made meals you can just take and go. This completely eliminates the “I have no time to cook a healthy dinner” excuse that seemingly all Americans have nowadays. And I’m sure you ARE busy, and some days you really DON’T have time to cook. Those are the days and nights when settling for a pizza or fast food seems like the only option.
Not if you prep your meals ahead of time 🙂
Yes, it will take a decent chunk of time to prep your meals on Sunday, but the return on your time investment will be so great for fat loss. This is precisely what I did, and I’ll probably never stop doing it.
*Side note: for anyone wondering if I took any supplements over the last 4-5 months, yes. I drank 1-2 whey protein shakes every day and took 2 fish oil capsules every morning. That’s it.*
**Side side note: change your verbiage around food. Stop saying “you can’t” eat something. This implies you’re depriving yourself, starving yourself, and struggling through your ‘diet’. Tell yourself “you don’t” eat something. This implies you’ve made a bigger lifestyle choice and it just might make it easier to say no to certain foods.**
Step 3: Eat mostly meat and vegetables. Set time aside one day to prep some of your meals for the week (which will consist of meat and vegetables).
Quite frankly, you could stop reading here and still see amazing results if you only did these 3 things. But I suppose if you wanna keep reading, or just see more shirtless pictures of me you big ol’ horndog… let’s continue.
One of the biggest misconceptions about fat loss is that the best way to do it is hit the treadmill hard and often.
I don’t know about you, but here is a list of things I’d rather do than jog on a treadmill for 30 minutes:
- practice French kissing with a cheese grater
- cage fight a jaguar
- let Edward Norton curb stomp me
Not only does long, slow, cardio bore me to tears, but it’s definitely not the best way to burn fat. Not even close.
The clear cut winner in the fat burning department is strength training, hands down.
By focusing on strength training as your primary form of exercise, you’re going to ensure you build muscle and increase strength, both of which will help incinerate fat.
Muscle is a metabolically active tissue meaning it uses calories as fuel in order to maintain itself. So it goes to reason that the more lean muscle mass you carry on your frame, the more calories you’ll burn in a given day.
Slow, steady state cardio does not build muscle. As a matter of fact, if done with enough frequency and intensity, it causes your muscles to atrophy, or shrink, in order to increase oxygen transport efficiency within your muscle cells. This is why it’s not uncommon for cardio enthusiasts to be leaner and less muscly.
But don’t just strength train for the sake of strength training. Strength train to get STRONG. AS. HELL. Just going through the motions is a great way to feel good about yourself… but never see true results.
This means you need to lift heavy, with heavy being a relative term for every individual and their ability level. The number of reps you perform on a given exercise should mostly range anywhere from 3-10, but of course there are times when higher than this can be beneficial.
Deadlifts, squats, pushups, rows, chin-ups, lunges, and presses (along with all of their variations) should be your new best friends. These are all compound lifts, meaning they involve multiple muscles and move multiple joints at once. The more muscles that work during a lift, the more calories you’ll burn during a lift. Take a look at these to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
And instead of focusing on lifting to burn fat, start setting and chasing performance goals, such as hitting a certain weight on squats or being able to perform one unassisted chin-up. You wanna do this because if you’re setting and hitting personal bests with weights, improved aesthetics will kinda just naturally happen.
I’d be willing to bet the individuals who are able to do the things you want to do performance wise also look the way you probably want to look.
And my results were a direct result of doing just these things. I personally lifted weights 4x week doing an upper/lower split, meaning 2 days emphasized lower body lifts and 2 days emphasized upper days lifts. Strength training was without a doubt my primary method for exercise for the last 4-5 months. Cardio took a back seat on my list of priorities.
^ Chin-ups with 80lbs attached, 500lb hip thrusts, 225lb bench press, and 400lb (hand supported) reverse lunges.
And if you’re a beginner or intimidated by weights, don’t worry! For lots of folks, your bodyweight can provide plenty of resistance for various movements. You absolutely don’t have to rush into using dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells.
YOU DO have to aim to do a little bit more every proceeding session though. This is the foundation of all exercise programs, aka progressive overload. Your body will adapt to whatever reps, sets, and loads you use over time. This is good because it means you’re seeing results, but it’s also bad because it means you’ll eventually plateau if you don’t incrementally keep making your lifts more challenging.
In a nutshell, if you do squats but ALWAYS use 50lbs for 3 sets of 8 reps week after week after week, your body will stop adapting, stop improving, and stop burning fat.
Step 4: Prioritize strength training utilizing compound movements/exercises. Make it YOUR MISSION to get stronger. Strength = efficient and optimal fat loss.
Now I know I basically just said slow, longer duration cardio sucks a big one and is more useless than the guy who designed these bus seats.
…but I actually did it every single day the last 4-5 months.
But hear me out.
My longer, slow duration cardio consisted of strictly taking my dog for a 30-40 minute walk. This is waaaaaay different than jogging at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes,
Walking is ideal because the intensity is so low that you avoid the muscle eating adaptations that jogging brings about while still burning fat and calories. Now do you burn a lot of calories during a 30 minute walk? Hell no. BUT, let’s do the math of what daily walks add up to over time.
I took Dexter on a 30-40 minute walk basically every day over the last 4-5 months. That’s roughly 140 days, give or take. I’m estimating that each walk burned anywhere from 100-175 calories. So that adds up to 14,000-17,500 calories I burned by just walking.
This equates to burning 4-5lbs of pure fat. BY WALKING. Do you know how EASY walking is? It’s so easy that TONS of people think it’s TOO EASY and they skip it altogether.
^^ He’s happy I didn’t skip it.
Walking can also have other benefits like stimulating recovery from your main exercise priority, aka strength training. If you don’t have a dog, come walk mine. He’ll love you forever and you guys can be best buds.
Now if you absolutely feel the need to perform some type of cardio still, you just need to shift gears from 1st to 6th, no in betweens.
High intensity intervals have been proven time and time again to shed fat like no other cardio method out there. AND they take a fraction of the time to complete.
The only itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie downside is that they make you hate your life when you perform them. Small trade off!
Yes, intervals are not easy if done correctly. But neither is having a smokin’ hot bod. The only reason people flock to treadmills and stationary bikes in the first place is because they’re easy and using them is a great way to feel good about yourself.
Sorry, but I’m into results, not falsely boosting my self esteem. And this is precisely why I wanted to put myself through this fat loss ‘experiment’… to prove that it works.
I did precisely ZERO jogging over the last 4-5 months. Not a single minute of ‘traditional’ cardio. My cardio consisted of the following:
High intensity days: 10 second sprints on the assault bike (x10-15), regular sprints x10 sec (x10-15), or suicides (x15 min)
Medium intensity days: tempo runs x20-30 min (think of these as medium intensity intervals. They’re faster than a jog, but slower than a sprint)
Low intensity days: walk the dog, mobility/bodyweight/low load lifting circuits
And honestly, I didn’t even do a ton of this stuff either. I did high intensity intervals maaaaybe twice a week and medium intensity once or twice as well. Strength training was really my main focus, as it should be for you.
Steps 5 & 6: Go for a daily walk. And when you do perform more intense cardio, suck it up and do medium or high intensity intervals. They’re hard, no one likes them, but they cannot be beat for fat loss.
At the end of the day, I think I can call my ‘after’ photos a success when compared to my ‘before’ shots. I went from 192lb with 20-21% body fat in February to 178lb with 13ish% body fat on June 17.
But a very dangerous trap people can fall into when it comes to fat loss is seeing pictures like this.
And now these become the standards to which you compare yourself too. But that’s quite possibly the worst thing you can do.
You see, that guy who is completely shredded and ready for a cover shoot is either genetically blessed with amazing aesthetics, and/or works so hard to achieve that physique that his diet, workouts, and overall fitness routine interfere with his hobbies, social life, and even overall health.
I don’t know if you’ve ever known physique competitors before, but I have. And while they look amazing, the extent to which they need to go to achieve that look is not something the average joe would ever want to do, trust me. To get that cut, your whole world needs to be diet and fitness.
No bullshit, a female physique competitor (who’s body fat level I’d estimate to be in the mid to low teens) once told me that as her competition got closer (and her workouts became more extreme and diet much more strict), she would have vivid dreams of eating peanut butter, wake up, and almost cry because it was only a dream.
So you really need to sit back and ask yourself if an absolute shredded six pack is even worth it at the end of the day. Because you can absolutely get down to 7% body fat (for guys), but you better damn well be ready to make some lifestyle sacrifices.
Be prepared to meticulously measure out all of your food, allot a LARGE chunk of your free time to exercise, be Nazi strict with your diet…oh, and basically kiss social outings to restaurants and bars goodbye. 7% doesn’t even know what a restaurant is.
^^ The dude on the left? While he looks friggin’ amazing, his life revolves around fitness and he probably hasn’t had a single ‘cheat meal’, alcohol, or sweet treat in 4 months. The dude on the right? Literally about to go crush some ribs and mac and cheese later tonight, possibly some ice cream afterwards.
Precision Nutrition put together an amazing infographic outlining just what exactly needs to be done to achieve the look you’re after. Take a look at the graphic. Are you ready to modify your lifestyle to achieve the look you want? Sometimes what it takes to achieve a look may not line up with how much work you’re ready to put in.
Step 7: Make sure your fat loss goals are realistic for how much work you’re willing to put in. Also be aware that your fat loss goals will take longer than you want. Stop thinking in terms of weeks because it will likely take months. Sorry, but that’s the truth.
Step 8: While I truly believe everything I’ve just laid out will help a lot of people shed fat, realize that what worked for me may not work as well for you.
Everyone is their own unique little snowflake and your fat loss efforts will probably reflect that. Maybe you benefit from having more carbs in your diet than I did, maybe you thrive off strength training 3x week, or maybe throwing in a day or two of dedicated cardio will work wonders for you. Who knows. You’ll have to be your own judge in that regard.
So to summarize this entire post, if your goal is to lose fat, do the following, in this order:
- Force yourself into accountability by creating real consequences if you don’t reach your goal
- Sleep a lot
- Eat mostly meat and veggies
- Lift weights
- Go for a walk every day
- Do some sprints every now and then
- Be realistic
And a deal is a deal. Back in October I did say I would ‘plaster’ this post with my ‘after’ pics, so, here they are.
Now you may be asking, “are you just having a poor man’s fitness photo shoot… on your driveway?”
“Didn’t you feel like a big douche? Like, I bet your neighbors thought so.”
SURE F*CKING DID. Especially for this photo. But hey, I made myself a deal.
“Let me pretend I don’t see my wife taking photos of me, BE HARDCORE AND SEXY.” – me, during this photo
So in order to offset any douche baggery I brought into the world by posing like this, I also took these.
Flexin’ on these bitches.
Keepin’ these streets clean.
I call this the “even though I don’t come out and directly say it, please look at my ass fitness chick instagram model pose”.
Ok, thats enough already. Go get that summer body.