If you go take a look at Google, Pinterest, Instagram, or your Facebook feed right now, it seems like there are a million different diets and exercise programs for weight loss, and 100 new ones created every day.
If you ask me, that can be overwhelming. I know one thing about training: if you give ANYONE too much information or too many options (in health and fitness), they’ll opt for indecision. Which we all know leads to giving up, or not doing anything.
So how do we weed through all of these different choices to pick the right and best option for you to lose body fat?
Here’s what you need to know:
- Even with detoxes, cleansing, Crossfit, paleo, 30 day shreds, and juice diets in the world, everything really only boils down to 5 different options. That will make this all much simpler.
- Your ability to lose fat is going to be determined by your diet, above anything else.
- Cardio is the lowest barrier to entry when it comes to types of exercise, but how effective is it for losing body fat and losing weight?
- HIIT has been growing in popularity over the last 10+ years as an effective way to lose weight and lose fat, for a reason.
- Weight lifting and/or resistance training should have a place in everyone’s weight loss program. If you don’t have time or don’t like either of these, we’ll talk about how you can save time and get better results.
What’s the Best Way to Lose Fat?
This is a topic that used to be in constant debate among health and fitness experts. Thankfully, universities have spent thousands of hours and dollars on advanced research to bring us the concrete evidence as to which way is best.
No more speculating. Let’s get to the facts.
I’ll be upfront with you. NONE of these exercise methods alone are going to help you lose fat. You can workout for 2 hours per day put if you don’t have your diet locked down, your efforts to lose fat are going to be futile.
1) Changing Your Diet to Lose Fat
If you want to lose fat but you refuse to make changes to your diet, your results are going to be frustrating and hopeless. Diet contributes to 80-90% of your body composition (lean mass to fat mass). Unless you are swimming 20-30 hours per week like Michael Phelps when he was training for the Olympics, forget about it.
Now, it gets a little more complicated than this, but basically if you burn more calories than you consume you WILL lose fat and lose weight.
Calculated changes will come into the pictures when you run into walls and plateaus, but that is the essence of how you are going to be able to lose weight. Keeping your current diet and cutting calories or using portion control will help you lose weight for a while, but if you really want to lose fat and change your body composition you need to focus on eating real foods like vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, and proteins.
All calories are NOT created equal. Think about it this way…
Let’s say you have two twins that are exact genetic copies of each other. They both are trying to lose fat and get in better shape, and are focusing on eating a calorie deficit to do so.
Twin 1: Eats 1600 calories per day of candy bars, bagels and cream cheese, pizza and pasta.
Twin 2: Eats 1600 calories per day of chicken, fish, sweet potatoes, sauteed veggies, eggs and bacon.
After 12 weeks of testing, which one do you think is going to be more ripped?
Sure, it would be awesome of you could get six pack abs while eating pizza and s’mores, but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. See what I did there! 😉
Twin 2 is eating slow burning, functional calories that aren’t going to go straight to his or her gut, butt, and thighs.
If you really want to lose fat, focus on eating real foods like lean (or even fattier) meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even beans, legumes, and lentils.
2) Cardio and Diet to Lose Fat
What is cardio? Steady-state, extended-duration bouts of exercise that primarily utilizes your aerobic energy system. When most people refer to cardio, they are referring to exercise that lasts at least 20 minutes and is relatively low intensity, with very little heart rate variance. Examples can include walking, jogging, running, rowing, and cycling.
When I say cardio has the lowest barrier to entry when it comes to losing fat and losing weight, it’s because it requires the least amount of prep and knowledge to start. You really only need a pair of comfortable running or cross training shoes to get started.
Cardio is approachable, which makes it popular.
Getting started with exercise can be intimidating, but putting one foot in front of the other is much less intimidating than going to a gym, learning how to lift weights, or even testing your strength with bodyweight workouts.
Eating real food and doing cardio is a good way to lose weight, especially if you enjoy doing cardio.
The Science of Cardio
Most people burn around 10-14 calories per minute while they are running. So in a 30 minute workout, you can expect to burn between 300-420 calories. That doesn’t seem like a bad bang for your buck when it comes to calorie burn, but let’s unpack the details of that…
Doing 30 minutes of hard cardio can be pretty exhausting. Of course, a good playlist or rewatching Game of Thrones can make it slightly less painful, but the reality is most people don’t like doing cardio, they just feel like they have to do it.
Now, I’m one of those weirdos that just happened to love running from the moment that I could do it well, but I wouldn’t expect anyone else to love an exercise that is such a cruel love.
Cardio can be an effective way to lose weight, but it isn’t always the most sustainable because it’s great at burning calories, but poor for stimulating muscle growth. It also makes you hungrier than weight training and resistance training. Muscle growth is going to be one of your greatest assets if you want to lose fat and improve your body composition.
3) High Intensity Interval Training
Here’s the reason that I don’t do as much low to moderate intensity running as I used to. It hardly affects your body’s excess post consumption of oxygen (EPOC), it eats into your strength and muscle growth, and requires little stimulation on behalf of your Type II muscle fibers (which are the ones that make you look ripped!).
Steady-state cardio is time consuming, and our time is valuable.
That’s where interval training comes in. The EPOC (excess post consumption of oxygen) effect makes somewhat of a difference when it comes to losing fat because it can allow you to burn more calories for up to 36 hours (some studies even report up to 72 hours) after your workout is over. The number of additional calories you burn is largely dependent on the intensity, duration, and type of exercise(s) that you are doing.
High intensity interval training recruits your type II muscle fibers, which contributes to muscle growth and development. Steady state cardio primarily uses your type I muscle fibers which improves your muscular endurance and oxygen efficiency, but stimulates very little muscle growth.
Guys- This is why running is NEVER an excuse for skipping leg day.
The biggest reasons that HIIT is preferable to steady state cardio if your goal is to lose fat is…
- HIIT workouts take anywhere between ½-¼ of the time and deliver BETTER results.
- HIIT workouts or sprint training leads to muscular growth and development, unlike cardio.
- They are simple to use.
Pick an activity like running, jogging, jumping rope, swinging a kettlebell, picking a body weight exercise, or doing burpees, if you dare. Go all out for 20-30 seconds and recover for 1-2 minutes. Repeat that for 10-20 minutes and consider your workout DONE!
Here’s two examples of why interval training trumps steady state:
There was a study done at McMaster University with two different groups of college kids, that took place over two weeks. One group did 90-120 minutes per session of steady state cardio cycling, while the other did 4-6 30 second max effort bursts on the cycle, with a recovery period. At the end of the 14 day study the first group had done 10.5 hours of exercise while the interval group had done a mere 2.5 hours. Want to know what happened? Their improvements in performance and muscular development were virtually the same.
But what about the long term results?
Another study from the university of New South Wales involved 45 overweight women that did a 15 week training program. One of them did a steady state cardio program and the other did a sprint training program. At the end of the 15 week study the sprint training group lost 3 times the amount of fat as the steady state exercise group.
You can also check both of those studies out on Mark’s Daily Apple here.
4) Weight Training and Resistance Training
Speaking of type II muscle fibers and improving your body composition, what better way than building some muscle with weight training or resistance training.
Here’s why weight training, resistance training, bodyweight training, etc. is so effective for weight loss…
- Weight training and resistance training lets you target specific muscle groups for muscle growth and development.
- Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does, because muscle tissue requires more calories for repair, growth, and maintenance. You could say that muscle is pretty high maintenance.
- Building muscle makes your body better at nutrient partitioning, which means that your body will be more averse to storing fat because it needs to focus on repairing muscle tissue.
Weight training and resistance training can be time consuming like cardio, but is way more effective if your goal is losing weight and losing fat.
Focus on using compound, big muscle group exercises like push-ups, bench press, squats, lunges dead lifts, rows, and overhead press. They are going to be the most metabolically demanding, which means you are going to burn more calories, build more muscle, lose fat, and ultimately get better results.
5) Metabolic Conditioning or Circuit Training to Lose Fat
Here’s where we get into the best of all worlds. Metabolic conditioning or circuit training is the one-stop-shop for getting your cardiovascular conditioning, building muscle, losing fat, improving your body composition, and saving time.
There was a time in my life where I was working so much between working full-time as a personal trainer and part time as a digital marketing director, that many days I’d only have 20-25 minutes to start and finish my workout as soon as I hit the doors of the gym.
Thankfully, that was all the time that I needed to do everything that I needed to do.
By putting my weight training program into circuits I was able to do all of the work that I needed to PLUS get an extra metabolic bump from keeping my heart rate elevated. Keep in mind, of ALL of the activities mentioned in this article, metabolic conditioning is the most rigorous and the most rewarding. It gets your heart rate higher than cardio and even HIIT, plus you get all of the anabolic (muscle building) benefits of weight training.
Summing it Up
At the end of the day, you should pick an exercise or workouts that you enjoy. If you enjoy the activities that you are doing and you are seeing results, you will be less likely to quit. If you enjoy steady state cardio like walking, running, jogging, cycling, etc. then stick with it!
If you have time for weight training and resistance training or you just want to do some bodyweight exercises at home, go for it!
Hate steady state cardio and weight training? Go run sprints or do interval swimming for 10-25 minutes. Or if you want to see the best results, have the grit, and don’t mind suffering occasionally, start using the exercises we talked about earlier and try circuit training or metabolic conditioning 3-4 time per week. If that’s too intense but you want to grow or get toned, start lifting weights.
If you want some more ideas for how to start using this information to rid yourself of stubborn body fat, check out…
- Why You Need to Build Muscle to Lose Weight
- How to Use Weightlifting to Melt Fat
- 3 Simple Weight Lifting Programs that Torch Fat
- 4 Reasons Weight Lifting is Ideal for Weight Loss
- 8 Cardio Workout that Are Better Than Running
If you want to unlock the gates to six packs abs and building lean muscle tissue, you can get my new book The Ultimate Fat Loss Checklist, totally FREE.
Get on a Program NOW!
If you need a little more of a push in the right direction, you can join over 14,000 people in my Weight Loss Master Class.
I just wanted to let you all know that I have been working on something fun. Men’s Health runs a contest every year called the Ultimate Guy Search, and the winner of the contest get’s to be on the cover of Men’s Health magazine during June of the following year.
Guess who is a finalist? 🙂
You guessed it! I am truly thankful and forever grateful for all of the clients, friends, family members, and acquaintances who have been voting for me over the last 8 weeks. I really thought there was no way that I would make it this far, considering that I am competing with some of the most ripped and esteemed guys in this field.
I would love your vote! If you have a few seconds, all you have to do it…
- Click the link HERE, to get to my page on Men’s Health.
- Click the “VOTE” button below my name and above my profile picture.
Thank you so much! Let’s see if I can make it to the cover.