- There’s a lot in this article – if all you do is take action consistently on the bottom lines, you’re good. I suggest reading the whole thing.
- Tracking progress, calories, strength and protein are your bottom lines
- Food quality, sleep and stress really only matter so much that they play into your ability to hit your bottom lines. They all directly impact your health.
- Things like when you eat, how often you eat and other things are completely up to your preference. Choose based on what’s easiest for you because they don’t matter.
Big corporations care for nothing more than their bottom lines. Every action they take, typically, is in some way aimed at the bottom line. Community outreach and sponsorship looks like goodwill, but they also track how it helps the bottom line. Same with every other decision they make.
When it comes to burning fat there are 4 bottom lines. Get these right consistently and you’ll do great.
I take many questions on this subject, and in most cases, the short answer is “it doesn’t matter”. I never give short answers though. Truth is, they could matter but only really in terms of how they affect your ability to hit the bottom lines.
In this article, I go through these bottom lines, tell you why they’re hard to hit, and give you some actionable advice on how you can nail them down.
Time to dig in.
The Bottom Lines
In actuality, this really is THE bottom line.
I put this here first because I actually think it’s the most important. I’ve gone as far as telling fat loss clients if they commit to any guideline I give them, it’s the tracking schedule I recommend. It’s based on weigh-ins, measurements and pictures.
Individual differences can, of course, change how we do things but the reality is we need to see what happens.
If you’re spot on with measuring progress and being completely accountable to it, the other bottom lines tend to fall into place. If you’ve fully committed to looking at what’s happening you’re going to want to see good news, so you’re more likely to take action on what needs to be done.
Wanna up the ante? Be accountable to someone else. Like a friend or a coach.
Seeing these measures move in the right direction has a way of solidifying motivation and cementing continued compliance. In the inevitable times where progress stalls it leads to learning, self-awareness, acceptance and better action plans.
I’ll repeat it again.
If you want to see a change and lose fat, I suggest you start with a tracking schedule. The mind is a powerful challenge but you have a better chance when you have objective proof that what you’re doing is working.
Why it’s hard?
It’s really hard to manage yourself and be accountable to this. It’s just another thing you have to worry about and it’s easy to pass over while you think about diet and exercise plans.
On top of everything else going on in your life.
How to get it right?
I like weighing daily, measurements every 2 to 4 weeks and pictures every 2-4 weeks. You can choose your own, but I suggest you choose one and commit hard to it.
- Weigh-in after waking up, after the washroom and before you eat
- Measurements: around belly button, glutes, thighs, arms are good places
- Pictures of front, back and sides. Aim for consistent backdrop and lighting for consistency.
How much you eat
There is literally no variable in the fat loss game more important to get right than how much you eat. To be more specific, you need to create a deficit of energy in your body – meaning you don’t give it enough energy from food so it’s forced to use stored energy off itself.
(Later, I’ll get into how to force it to burn fat, not muscle)
There are many things that play into creating this energy deficit but none more important and more easily screwed up than how much you eat. Most people even have a pretty solid concept of this knowing that “diet” typically means eat less.
It does. Don’t trust anyone that tells you otherwise.
So it’s true. You’ll have to eat less, on average, to burn the fat off. Just like a really great plan overall is important, it means nothing if you can’t follow it for more than 8 weeks — if you can’t get this one right, nothing else really matters.
Nothing magical will happen in 3-4 weeks except that you may see some progress that motivates you to keep going.
Why it’s hard:
It’s not hard to create a calorie deficit, it’s just easy to break it. Whether it’s nibbles here and there adding up to much more than you think or taking it a little too easy on the weekends but really taking it wayyyyyyyy too easy. Just know if you’re not seeing weight or fat come off, look here. Don’t add workouts/cardio, don’t go get a supplement or whatever. Look at how much food.
If you’re not losing weight, 99.9% of the time, it’s this.
How to get it right.
For many, improving food quality or cutting down on sugar works. Especially to kick it off. That’s only because it took an indirect route to cutting calories.
If you stall or you’re having trouble, I suggest you count. You can do so with a calorie counting app like myfitnesspal, which allows you to scan barcodes and search a database. Or you can do what I do – the old fashioned way – read labels and, uh, use google. For example, “chicken” and “calories” comes up with several sites that tell you chicken is complete money when it comes to pure protein.
Here’s the deal, if you’re gonna calorie count, commit. It’s sometimes en mode to say you don’t have to calorie count – that’s true, you don’t. But be aware, if you don’t you are guessing. And for many, playing a guessing game can be very challenging on the mind while doing this stuff.
I totally refuse to play a guessing game when dieting. So I count.
Calorie counting’s a skill. It gets to be second nature, you’ll learn about food and it’s even useful when it comes time to learn to maintain the progress you’ve made.
Try other things if you want, but it’s always there as a last resort. And if you’re someone that likes certainty and structure..there it is. It also makes it easier to fit some “bad food” in without worrying about it hurting progress.
STOP: If you’ve got a ton of weight to lose, pay the most attention to the above two. The leaner you get, the more particular you have to be about the last two bottom lines.
Train to get stronger
You’ve been told to sweat. In the right doses that isn’t bad thing by any means. But if you’re trying to shred some fat off your body your number #1 exercise priority is to get stronger.
Here’s why: there is absolutely no better information to your body that it needs to keep all the muscle it already has. Like, listen body, I’m gonna keep trying to throw a little bit more weight on this bar so if you need energy – because we’ve already established there won’t be enough food – you better take fat because I need the muscle.
Male or female, it doesn’t matter.
The best lifts for strength are the deadlift variations (like these), squat variations, pressing variations (like the bench press), chin ups and rows. Train these in rep ranges of 6-8 per set and look to add weight to the bar.
If you get all the bottom lines right, it will take the fat.
Why it’s hard:
Well lifting weights is hard work. The big lifts also require a consistent checking of the ego when it comes to loading and technique if you want to stay safe. Trust a guy that repeatedly hurt himself in his early years.
How to get it right:
Getting coached somehow – even if it’s short-term can make all the difference in the world. Find someone who’s well-schooled in coaching people through some of the bigger lifts — deadlift variations, squat variations (single leg or both legs), presses, rows, chin up are the game.
Use some of those big lifts in rep ranges that mainly fall below 8 and otherwise spend most of your other time between 8-15. Don’t confuse that stuff too much – I’ll say it again, your main priority is aim to get stronger, so you avoid getting weaker.
Another important point is because your calories are low in order to force the body to eat energy off itself, your workload can’t be too high.
Pick around 4 or 5 main exercises per workout with no more than 3 hard sets per exercise
How much protein you eat
You can lose weight OR you can specifically lose fat.
No one just wants to lose weight. Anyone who says they want to lose weight is actually saying they want to lose fat.
Truth is, if you get the calorie portion right you’re going to burn fat. But if you neglect protein there’s a pretty good chance your body’s going to start eating up muscle and that’s NOT good. You may still be losing weight, but you won’t be getting leaner.
Take it too far and you just start to look unhealthy and “skinny-fat”.
The more fat you’re carrying, the more likely it is to burn fat regardless of protein intake (and strength training) but if you’re looking to get lean, protein’s really gonna matter at some point.
So, if you’re actually looking to burn fat off those trouble spots you’re going to need a lot of patience because the love handles, inner thighs and belly are always the last to go. Once you’re lean enough the body will have no choice but to take from those “trouble spots”. Or muscle.
So the game changes the leaner you get.
The body at this point really prefers to burn off muscle and you have no choice to convince it otherwise. You have two primary arguments to make to your body: aim for strength and high protein. Basically, “keep the fucking muscle, body”.
And before anyone even thinks it, there’s nothing wrong with eating more protein. Research has shown no issues with very very high intakes (way higher than I recommend). However, if you’ve got kidney issues, check with a doctor first.
Why it’s hard:
Of all the macros, protein takes effort — I mean, unless you’re just gonna drink protein shakes and eat greek yogurt out of the container. Otherwise, you’ve gotta prepare and cook meat and fish, ditto eggs, and you’ve gotta boil beans and lentils and stuff like that.
Everyone that ever went from not lean to lean dealt with this somehow.
How to get it right:
The magical number is 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight (or per pound of ideal bodyweight). So, a 150 pound person should shoot for 150 grams of protein daily.
The research does say you’re fine with a little under that – it also says you’re more than fine with more. I suggest you get as close to that 1 gram per pound number if you’re strength training. And if you want to get leaner, you’ll be strength training.
Find your high protein foods like meat/fish, eggs (6g per whole egg), cottage cheese, greek yogurt, beans/lentils, protein supplements and build meals around 30-60 grams of protein.
Things That Sort of Matter
Quality of Food
It’s an important topic but probably not for the reasons you’re expecting. High quality foods aren’t going to make much of a difference directly compared to lower quality foods.
However, if you’re diet is so full of empty and processed calories your ability to get a handle on the bottom lines is going to take a hit. Too much crap in the diet, too little energy to make better choices.
To make this point as clearly as possible: As an isolated incident eating 120 calories of pure sugar vs 120 calories of banana (a banana is 120 calories) will make no difference.
There are worthy arguments that the hormonal fallouts to eating “unhealthy” foods will have an effect, but truthfully, if empty calories make up a lot of your diet, you’ll struggle to hit the bottom lines anyways because your energy will be too low and you’ll generally feel like crap.
So have the cookie and have a few drinks, but you’re asking for trouble if those choices repeat themselves too much. At the end of the day, they’re just empty calories and fat loss efforts won’t take a hit just because you had some. People do better on flexible diets anyways.
Again, directly, it won’t have a huge play but if 5 hours a night is your norm the research does say your hormones are likely out of whack and you’re much more likely to have trouble controlling calories.
So yeah, 7-8 hours a night of good sleep will be very helpful, but for the most part, only because it gives you a better chance to nail what really matters.
Do you make good decisions and feel fully in control of yourself when stressed out?
Meditate, sleep more, get a massage, get organized and cut out your life’s clutter. It’ll make hitting your bottom lines easier.
Things that are your choice
I take plenty of questions on a week to week basis and most of the time they’re about stuff that doesn’t really matter. I blame the media for confusing this stuff so much. It is what it is. If you concentrate solely on the bottom lines, great. Everything else should be tailored to make it as easy as possible for you.
If you hate eating breakfast then don’t. If you want to eat 2 big meals a day vs 4, do that. Whatever makes hitting the bottom lines most likely.
When you eat
Aside from spreading out protein intake throughout the day (only because you’ll have to in order to get enough) this one is also something you can forget worrying about. There’s so many ways to structure how you eat that will work the same way in the end and you should just do what’s best for you.
If you don’t like to eat breakfast or don’t have time, then don’t. If you like to eat 2 big meals and 2-3 snacks, go for it. And if you’re like, really weird, and want to eat one huge meal in a day go for it. Works for this guy apparently.
(I don’t follow him lol)
There are benefits to eating protein and carbohydrates after a workout. Sure. But the window in which those benefits lasts much longer than the half hour to an hour many push as the “post-workout window”.
Chances are, unless something unusual gets in the way, most people are going to eat within 3 or 4 hours after their workout. If you workout before work in the morning, it’s called lunch. If you workout when most people do around 5pm-6pm, it’s called dinner. Don’t complicate this stuff.
How often you eat
You’ve probably heard it at some point, but if you haven’t, even as early as 5-10 years ago the standard fat loss diet consisted of eating about 6 meals a day in order to keep the metabolism on high all day long.
Those days are over – we now know it doesn’t work that way.
Your metabolism jumps by how much you eat in total. So 2 meals equaling 2000 calories jumps your metabolism just as much as 6 meals totaling 2000.
The Difference Between Carbs and Fats
I fully expect this one to be a tough one for you. Maybe not, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
In terms of their effects on health and energy, both of these macronutrients provide the body with different things. You absolutely need to get both of them from a wide variety whole food sources.
But as far as tracking carbohydrate and fat counts in order to lose fat? I invite you to stop because the truth is both will be low to moderate because your calories are already low and a pretty substantial portion of them are being taken up by protein.
There will be no difference between low-fat and moderate-carb diets and moderate-carb and low-fat diets – let your preferences decide that one.
If your protein is high and calories where they need to be – and most of your food choices come from whole foods, these numbers will be taken care of on their own. I encourage you to otherwise just eat the whole foods and meals you like the most.
What time of the day you workout
You can probably find an article or some research on hormones being optimized at certain parts of the day, but really, it isn’t making any notable difference. If hormones are best suited for training in the morning and you hate morning workouts, nothing’s gonna matter in 5 weeks when you’ve quit altogether.
Choose based on what works for your schedule. That’s what’s important.
Your specific food choices
You can read into a lot of claims that certain foods are “fat burning foods” – I think grapefruit is a common one. These claims are fun to read and I’ve even fallen for them in the past.
Here’s the thing: as I mentioned near the top of the article, if you’re eating too much no fat is being burnt. So focus on that and don’t worry about the idea that certain foods have magical properties that burn fat. None do.
Lol, just stop.
Get a protein powder if it makes it easier to your protein numbers – it probably will. Choose one that tastes good enough and doesn’t make you fart.
Otherwise choose stuff that you could be lacking nutritionally like a fish oil, vitamin D and multivitamin. And whatever else your blood work may suggest.
So, there it is
Truth is, I could probably go on and on about things that don’t matter. For your sake, if you’d like to burn fat, you really need to focus on the top 4 bottom lines and keep an eye on anything that could be contributing to your ability – or inability – to manage them.
Doing that consistently enough, for long enough, is a challenge in itself. Your chances of doing so hinge on your ability to ignore the rest and mesh the things that really matter best to your life, tastes, preferences and schedule.
Focus on that and you’ll do great.
Have any questions? Click HERE and let me know what I can help you with.