1) CALORIE DEFICIT
The most important part of any weight-loss journey is (unfortunately…) a calorie deficit. This means that in order to lose weight you must be burning more calories than you are consuming. I’ve talked about the nitty gritty science-y details in my article “The Science of Weight Loss” but for now let’s just all bow our heads and accept that sad fact.
It doesn’t really matter how you achieve this caloric deficit – though I highly recommend combining cardio and slightly reduced calorie intake to maintain a 500 calorie/day deficit. The easiest way to achieve this is by burning an additional 250 calories as well as reducing your calories by 250 each day.
As for the type of cardio you should do – it honestly doesn’t really matter. While steady state cardio basically puts your body into “fat burning mode” at the end of the day it’s calories that count so if it’s HIIT that floats your boat – go for it!
Just… maybe pop some pre-workout first, though!
2) PACK THE PROTEIN IN
Maintaining a caloric deficit will indeed reduce body fat levels but you also run the risk of losing some of your precious muscle tissue, too! It’s difficult to avoid this completely but you can help minimise muscle loss by consuming an adequate quantity of protein so that your body doesn’t rob your own!
While aiming to lose weight it’s best to aim high with your protein intake – just to be safe and to ensure you have plenty free amino acids floating around when your body needs them (thereby preventing it dipping into your muscles for them!). I would recommend hitting about 2g/kg bodyweight of high quality protein sourced from lean meat, dairy, legumes and Whey Protein (or any vegan alternative).
3) LIMIT ALCOHOL
Okay before you crazy kids kill me for this – I am NOT saying to avoid alcohol completely or not to enjoy yourselves. There’s nothing wrong with alcohol (in moderation, of course!)…you’ll often see me sit back and chill with a friend…and a vodka.
I’m doing a PhD. It’s stressful. Sometimes we need to unwind – don’t judge me!
Seriously though there is nothing wrong with drinking BUT we must admit it can wreak havoc on weight loss attempts if overconsumed – for many reasons.
Firstly, alcohol is metabolised differently in a way that can defer fat burning while the alcohol is being cleared out. Alcohol also contains calories (7kcal/ml) which are absolutely useless to the body – we can’t actually use this energy. These are “empty calories” and best avoided while dieting (eat food instead!).
Don’t forget the lovely cravings alcohol can cause and those fabulous decisions we sometimes make after a few too many!
“Let’s make deep fried cheese and Twinkie ice cream sandwiches”
You get the point.
4) CARDIO (UNFORTUNATELY…)
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you’re serious about your weight loss goals… cardio is pretty much a necessity. Remember, a calorie deficit is the main ingredient in dropping the pounds and cardio is a simple and effective method of achieving this.
I would recommend beginning with 3-4 30 minute cardio sessions a week – it can be anything really; walking, running, HIIT, kickboxing … or the stepper – if you so dare.
I do not dare go near that painful, painful machine…
You can also incorporate simple calorie-burning lifestyle swaps like walking to work or to the shops instead of driving, take the stairs instead of the elevator and park your car further away from the doors of your destination.
Except your house, of course. Unless you’re feeling super motivated.
5) FAIL TO PLAN, PLAN TO FAIL
Last minute “panic buys” are almost always a dieting disaster. We live in a go-go-go society where convenience and price beats nutrition – something that doesn’t bode too well with the ol’ weight loss efforts.
Instead of rushing to the shop and falling for the “Saver Deals” try to plan ahead and bring your own food where possible. Keep in mind that voluminous, low calorie foods are your best friend so pack your meals full of veggies also high-fibre foods to keep you feeling fuller, longer.
A satisfied tummy is a happy tummy!
6) KEEP YOUR NUTRITION IN CHECK
Dieting involves a caloric deficit and this brings with it the danger of temporary malnourishment. The easiest way to prevent this is to actually monitor your nutrient intake (nothing crazy, just a ball-park figure!) by using online food-logging apps such as MyFitnessPal. This will show you if you are hitting both your macro- AND micro-nutrient goals each day helping you keep track of what you might need more or less of as you pursue your weight-loss goals.
If you feel that your calorie deficit is making it difficult for you to hit your micronutrients consider taking a multi-vitamin specific for your needs. I train quite a lot so my favourite is Sports Multi AM-PM™ but if you’re looking for a more broad-spectrum approach the Complete Multivitamin Complex™ is your best bet. To my ladies out there reducing body-fat to very low levels I recommend ACTIVE WMN™ as it is specifically formulated to support women’s needs because yes, we have special requirements. We are just that fabulous!
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
The chase for summer abs need not be a painful one. Sure, it’s not easy and indeed requires commitment and patience but with a few tweaks here and there and by sticking to the basics it really is a straightforward process.
Remember though – your health is your priority so avoid drastically dropping your calorie in-take or doing too much cardio. This will shock your system a bit and will only slow down the process as well as potentially damage your body.
By keeping an eye on your nutrition, throwing in some additional cardio and following these tips you’ll be on your way to “washboard abs” in no time
Does anybody still use that phrase?!