Five of the Most Effective Methods for Reducing Body Fat

I get so tired of gimmicky, unsafe and ineffective products promoting unrealistic promises of trim waistlines and washboard ads. The best way to lose body fat is still, assuming a healthy metabolism and the absence of certain medical conditions, to burn more calories than you eat over time (about 500 kcal/day). In my experience a deficit greater than 500 kcal usually doesn't work. Eating too few calories leaves you hungry and can lead to binging, may leave you too tired to exercise and in some cases can slow your metabolism making it permanently harder to shed body fat. 

While fat loss is generally a function of "calories in, calories out" here are some helpful cardio and nutritional methods for stimulating fat loss. These five methods have helped me and many of my clients over the years get lean and more healthy safely and with minimal kicking and screaming. You can certainly "mix and match" these methods (i.e. doing targeted heart rate cardio while fasted and eating to your macros), but if you are new to all these, I suggest picking one to focus at first. Some of these may not work for your lifestyle at the moment. For instance, if you know you will be traveling a lot this month, it may not be feasible to start the Whole 30 protocol. Or if you simply HATE getting up early, fasted morning cardio may not be your jam. But certainly there is one on this list you can successfully implement. 

Targeted Heart Rate Cardio

In this post I explore how I use various metabolic tests to develop strategic cardio programs for my clients' body composition goals. Locally I send clients to DexaFit SF to have these tests done and the results give me several key pieces of information to understand the best way for them to burn body fat. Specifically I look at their RER measuremnt which tells me whether their body prefers to burn sugars/carbs or existing body fat for fuel. Sometimes due to stress, poor diet, poor sleep, too much high intensity work, hormonal issues and myriad other factors a person's body uses a disproportionately high % of sugars versus fat making it nearly impossible for them to reduce adipose body fat (i.e. get lean). So we fix that by training the body to start using body fat by staying within a target heart rate zone during cardio exercise several times a week for a few weeks or months. It often feels counterproductive because usually the necessary heart rate is lower than the client is used to (i.e. low intensity cardio) but speaking from personal experience, it works like magic. 

Fasted Cardio

If you're a morning person, getting your cardio in before you eat breakfast (or anytime in a fasted state) can be an effective way to lose some unwanted body fat, especially the last few pounds. Checkout this post for more details. Depending on the results of RMR and AMR it may be most effective for you to do low intensity, high intensity or both.

Eating to Your Kcal Needs/Macros

Calculating your body's caloric and macronutrient needs and developing a plan and lifestyle to eat to them 80% of the time, in my experience, is the most efficient and logical way to being lean and heathy. Tools like MyFitnessPal make this pretty simple and increasingly accurate. Some folks simply won't do it. That's cool. Live your best life. And some folks, especially those who have a history of eating disorders or overly restrictive dieting, shouldn't if they find it triggering or stressful. Checkout this post for details and my Clean Eating Guide for the best way to start. 

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

This post gives detailed info on how IF can help train the body to burn body fat, reduce insulin resistance and avoid metabolic conditions like diabetes. It works great for some folks and others turn into angry bitch monsters when they fast for 12-16 hours. Again, not every protocol is for everyone but the evidence increasingly validates this as an effective way to improve body composition for many folks. 

Whole 30

I usually never advocate one "diet" over another. I don't really believe in "diets" because they tend to be temporary and extreme and cut out a macronutrient (like no carbs or no fat) which is silly (usually). I prefer lifestyle change that lasts. HOWEVER, I've had several clients choose the Whole 30 plan and every single one of them has had excellent results. Basically Whole 30 removes all processed foods for 30 days. So for 30 days you eat "real" food (i.e. no added sugars, no alcohol, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no junk, etc), . What's not awesome about that?!? It can be tough because it requires a lot of shopping and meal prep. So if you like to eat out or travel it can be tough. But those who do it right shed pounds and generally get heathy and lean great new habits. Check it out.