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The Fat Loss Pyramid

The Fat Loss Pyramid

When it comes to fat loss, people seem to have it backwards. With a combination of shrewd marketing tactics and playing into people’s self-esteem issues – combined with all sorts of miracle drugs and devices – most media sources make it tough to get a handle on what the biggest priorities are when it comes to stripping off body fat. Fear thee not, for BHP shall save you from the misinformation the media has you wrapped up in. Even when you do not have a lot of time, you can select the most meaningful changes to put into practice to set you up for long term success.

#1 Eating and Lifestyle Habits (7 days a week with 80-90% adherence)

Yes, nutrition is the single most important factor when it comes to cutting fat. Deal with it. This is not a cop out on my part. With over 8,500 hours of training clients under my belt, I have seen countless people try to get around this inconvenient truth. Exercise can’t melt steel beams, at least not if they are made out of constant poor diet choices. The most you can do is slow the impending gain in fat mass by working like a savage in the gym. Even with the most effective exercise plan in place, all it will do is serve to discourage you if the rest of your life does not agree with the change you are working towards. Go whole hog in attaining your goals – and eat your veggies, kids!

You need to cook.

This is hard for people to get over. Cooking is a lost art and people will spend countless monies and make excuses to avoid the fact that if they do not personally oversee the preparation of their food, they will not succeed in losing fat.

In theory, you can order out and still make progress towards your fat loss goal. Maybe you will spite Coach Tombo and try to GrubHub your way to a healthier you – but just like all before you, you too shall fail. There are simply too many temptations – too many added extras that wouldn’t get eaten if they didn’t appear before you in all of their plastic container-packed glory, the unknown amounts of mystery sauce that is compromising your food. The best you can do when ordering is damage control. In a pinch, have some go-to items on the menu from a few select places and stick to those. Every other time, you should be eating food that is made at home.

You need to get involved in the process and have a plan.

There should be no such thing as not knowing what you are going to eat for dinner when you are truly trying to lose bodyfat. Countless times I have asked clients who feel like progress has stalled “What’s for dinner tonight?”, to which they reply “I dunno.” That’s where you should start. If you are willing to commit to having a fat loss training regimen, then you need to commit to knowing what is for dinner. Prepare your food in advance and choose from those options. Try picking 2-3 types of protein, 3-4 types of veggie sides, and a carb option. Mix and match – these are your meals for the week. This can all be cooked in 2 hours. And oh yeah, it doesn’t need to suck either! We will provide you with some good recipes.

Restructure your idea of what portions are.

Cooking your food for a few days or the week ahead lets you see how many servings are actually available for consumption. In The Road to Health and Performance (coming soon!), we will cover adequate serving sizes and how you can plan ahead for a week of eating. By sticking to your plan when you cook, you will make it easier for yourself to stick to your plan when mealtime comes around.

Make outcome based goals.

Not seeing results? Get in touch with your portions and adjust up or down from there. Losing fat and muscle? Eat more protein and lift heavier things. Not losing anything? Cut out a serving of carbs per day. Gaining weight? You need to see what that weight is. If your clothes fit better and you weigh more; its muscle. Stay the course. If you are putting on body fat, then decrease your overall intake by a little until the scale slides. Only make changes out of necessity.

Make sure you are eating enough and recovering properly.

Many times, I have tried to convince clients that they are actually not eating enough. Undereating is a chronic and long term sabotage to your fat loss efforts. People who undereat tend to have high percentages of body fat (men >20%, women >30%) and often struggle to understand why they are so chronically soft. If you want to stop emulating a pillow, then you’ll need to eat enough raw material to build some muscle.

There are also other things that belong in this category, like sleep and stress management. If you are a person who gets angry about the color of the Holiday Starbucks cups, I don’t think we should start our fat loss conversation about which diet pills you should take. Collect yourself, calm down, and create a plan to eat like an adult and sleep like a baby. This is your foundation and you won’t get further than here if you do not work on it – I promise.

#2 Metabolic Resistance Training (3 sessions per week)

If you had only 3 hours a week to dedicate to training, this is where you would go. If you have less, this is still the best bang for your buck. “But don’t I need to do lots of cardio?” Um … not unless you want to get a visit from the Hungry Skeleton, the mythical creature who comes and steals all of your #gainz if you do not do things properly.

On a serious note, cardio won’t necessarily kill your #gainz, but it does not take much brainpower to figure out why lifting weights is THE CORNERSTONE of training for fat loss. To frequently work every muscle group hard, we tend to use full body training splits for fat loss within the BHP training system. By switching from upper body to lower body movements, we can tax the heart by forcing it to defeat gravity by moving blood around the body – up and down, front and back – with minimal recovery between sets. The result is a massive metabolic disturbance which keeps you burning calories far into the hours beyond the workout, which is something steady-state cardio does NOT do for you. This disturbance is called EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) or casually known as “the afterburn” in fitness circles.

It should also be your priority to train this way to stave off muscle loss as the years go by. We experience muscle loss as we age at an alarming 5 lb per decade, with a resulting 2-4% decrease in metabolism. To achieve these ends, at BHP we usually train in the 8-15 rep range to promote muscle growth/maintenance. Remember, the loss of your #gainz are the Hungry Skeleton’s only way to survive. Keep him hungry. Numerous studies support this training method, so here is some research to learn ya somethin’ if you need hard data:

 

Schuenke MD, Mikat RP, McBride JM. Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Mar;86(5):411-7. Epub 2002 Jan 29.

We do these back to back in an alternating fashion to create this metabolic effect while promoting muscle gain. Lose the Fat + Gain the Muscle = Winning. BHP also uses many protocols involving the use of other metabolic resistance training methods including, but not limited to: complexes, circuits, combination/hybrid movements, explosive movements, escalating density training, timed sets, ladder methods,  so on and so forth. We will explore the uses of each of these in future blog posts.

 

#3 Glycolytic Interval Training (1-3 sessions per week)

Interval training is a tried and true method to put an exclamation point on your fat loss training. While it does not promote muscle mass, from an energy systems standpoint it mimics strength training. Due to this similarity, it does still cause this metabolic disturbance (EPOC) we are looking for. It does not do it for as long, or as much, but it does. We primarily will use glycolytic intervals for this purpose. This is an anaerobic form of energy systems training which forces the body to break down glucose without the use of oxygen. This causes local metabolites and byproduct and usually results in that swollen, burning sensation you feel after a locally exhaustive set of spin bike sprints at SoulCycle. Not that I would uh, know about that or anything…

Being that your body has to clear these metabolites while in a working state far from your metabolic baseline, there is a recovery period. That is why you cannot hold a max effort for more than 20-40 seconds, generally.

In the BHP training system we usually program these for 15-40 seconds “on” with  30-120 seconds “off”. A snippet of a glycolytic workout may look like this:

There are countless protocols we can use for conditioning, but the basic principle is the same. Hard work, incomplete rest, and sucking some wind. These will add some peaks to your valleys during a typical training week in terms of a metabolic spike.

#4 Aerobic Work (1-2 sessions per week)

Aerobic training has gotten a ton of flak for a few years since the dawn of the famous Tabata study, but recently has seen a resurgence in the strength and conditioning community thanks to Joel Jameson and his work. One thing I will tell you though – as a vehicle for fat loss it is not King, Queen or even a Butler for that matter compared to resistance training or glycolytic work. Aerobic training basically just burns calories. For instance, jogging for an hour burns about 500-600 calories depending on your bodyweight and cruising speed. That may seem like a lot, but all you have to do is slip up and eat a piece of cannoli cake (it’s so good!) and there goes your hour of jogging. The reason it works like that is because it does nothing to cause EPOC and therefore all the magic stops minutes after you stop running.

That being said, there are a host of benefits to aerobic training. Namely it is a way to bolster a person’s general ability to recover. It does this by increasing the capacity and power of the aerobic system, and by increasing parasympathetic drive (the ability to chill out) resulting in better sleep quality and thus better recovery from workouts. If you can recover quickly, you won’t be as sore and you will see quicker results.

With that in mind, at BHP we will program for steady-state aerobic work when after our initial evaluation, we find that clients are lacking in their ability to recover. If a client comes in with a resting heart rate over 90, generally they will be better served with a month or two of cardiac output work to bring their RHR down. This means they will be more efficient by way of moving more blood every time their heart contracts, necessitating less beats per minute. Long term, it helps in the fight against fatness, especially as your mood and disposition can hamper your results by keeping you in a constant cortisol bath, the hormone that is largely associated with muffin tops.

The other method is aerobic interval training, where you may work at mid-high level intensity for 5-15 minutes for 1-3 sets with 5 minutes of rest between. These can be done on any modality. Many times we even have people do their movement preparation with sets of Kettlebell swings in between exercises so we can attack movement issues and aerobic issues at the same time.

Aerobic work is the icing on the cake, but it’s not the cake itself or the cannoli cream that holds the two layers of cake together. But, it sure is nice to have. Burning calories will add up, but remember; it will not be your most time efficient or hardest hitting tool to burn fat.

There are a million and one ways to make your life more conducive to your fat loss goals. You can take yoga classes. You can walk to the next closest subway instead of taking the cab 3 blocks to the closest one. You could ride a bike, or a unicycle if you are from Williamsburg. You could pick up a sport, walk in Brooklyn Bridge Park, or go bowling every other Friday. Hell, you could even get a PhD in quantum mechanics, collapse the space-time continuum, and try to prevent Justin Bieber from ever happening by inventing Tinder early and swiping his mom right. It does not matter, but you shouldn’t be that person who trains hard at the gym, eats pretty well and literally does zero other activity. Use your body, it’s pretty awesome!

#6 Supplements (as needed)

The question of what supplements someone should take always comes up. These all go back to diet. Your supplement protocol should be complementary to your diet and goals. So if you are chasing fat loss and lifting heavy things, you will need to make sure your protein is topped off as well as supporting your immune system with some vitamins to augment the hard work. Fish oil is also huge because it is a total body anti-inflammatory. I have often seen people drop a pants or dress size in a few weeks of supplementing with proper amounts of EPA/DHA (The healthy fats in fish oil). Even branched chain amino acids can help you spare precious muscle in between long bouts of not eating. These go at the top of the pyramid because if you aren’t working on your diet and not lifting weights, these hardly will matter.

Your Time Breakdown

If you are strapped for time, and we all are, then you have some choices to make.

 

If you only had 3 hours a week to work on your fitness, then you will be metabolic resistance training. If you only have 2, then you need to do MRT and steadily work on freeing up another hour so you can do MRT.

If you had 3-5 hours a week, you would add in some glycolytic interval sessions. Maybe an aerobic day.

If you had 5+ hours per week I would hope you would do some bonus work, or like..get a job or something.

 

The BHP Advantage

 

If you are serious about your goals, you should seriously think about hiring a coach. At BHP, we are able to combine MRT and other fat loss modalities seamlessly within the same workout and maximize your time in the gym. We help you cover all of the bases and have Precision Nutrition  certified staff at the ready. I am a coach myself, and I have a coach, because it is just that important.

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