Every day I hear from confused, frustrated men and women who desperately want to get leaner yet don’t know how to go about shedding the heinous bodyfat that’s their bane. I completely understand their bewilderment, since we are all bombarded with ads for weight-loss products’which only serve to delude us. Losing bodyfat is not a magical or mystical phenomenon. To show you just how easy it should be to understand the principles of getting lean, here are the main things you need to know.
Calorie intake must be less than caloric output. To burn fat for energy, the body must be in a state of caloric deficit, meaning what goes out must be greater than what goes in. You’ll have to experiment a bit and keep a food log for a couple weeks to determine whether that’s happening. Soon you should have a handle on whether your basal metabolic rate plus the calories you expend from exercise are greater than, lesser than or equal to the number of calories you’re taking in. If your level of bodyfat is staying the same, it’s safe to say you’re simply taking in too many calories. Adjust accordingly.
Starving won’t get you lean. Sorry, Ally McBeal wanna-bes, but going for long periods without eating will only slow your metabolism and signal your body to hoard its fat stores. What do you expect? Your poor body thinks some kind of famine is going on. It’s only trying to keep you alive a little longer. Another insidious effect of starving all day is that you tend to binge at night. Even dummies know that stuffing your face after dark is not the way to lose fat.
Combining carbs and fat is a bad idea. The body uses both carbs and dietary fat for energy. The problem with combining them in the same meal is that the body will only use one as an energy supply and will save the other (usually the fat) just in case one of those pesky famines sweeps through the land again. The Atkins Diet works so well at reducing bodyfat not so much because of its strict ban on carbs as because cutting them out ensures that you don’t eat this lethal meal combination. Carbs aren’t the enemy, and neither are fats, but put them together on your dinner plate and it’s tubby tummy time.
Beware the diet foods. Since the advent of ‘fat-free’ and ‘sugar-free’ products, a curious thing has happened. Americans have grown increasingly obese! How can that be? The real problem is that most people see those labels as license to scarf down a whole box of fat-free cookies, not even noticing that they’re getting 1,000 calories in sugar. A diet snack is a better choice than its fully loaded counterpart, but don’t think it won’t make you fatter if you eat a lot of it.
Cardio sucks, but you gotta do it. Oh, I wish we could all just strap on one of those vibrating electro-muscle belts and turn the pot bellies of America into rock-hard six-packs. It sure would make beaches more visually pleasant places to be. Unfortunately for the lazy among us, even a good diet won’t burn the fat as well as combining it with cardiovascular exercise. There are so many varieties to choose from that boredom shouldn’t be an issue. The main obstacle for most people is simply getting their fat asses off the couch and away from the satellite TV and DVD player. Get moving, get some heavy breathing going for at least 30 minutes a few times a week, and the fat will come off.
Cheat meals will mess your sh*t up. The concept of a cheat meal during dieting seems to be well-known even among those whose entire meal plan is made up of junk. Will a reasonable amount of ‘cheat food’ once a week thwart your fat-loss plans? Not likely. Most people I know take it to another level, however, visiting all-you-can-eat buffets and staying until closing, eating entire quarts of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or putting away large pizzas with several toppings. They figure, ‘Hey, this can’t be setting me back; I’ve been eating good all week!’ Sadly, if you’re genetically predisposed to being fat, your body is very efficient at staying that way, and cheat meals can make getting lean a far-off dream.
Getting lean takes time. Finally, you have to be patient. Weight-loss commercials have us all convinced that losing fat should be a lightning-fast process. ‘Give us a week, and we’ll take off the weight!’ Sure, if you say so. The truth is that any weight lost very rapidly is going to be mostly muscle and water. The body just doesn’t shed fat that quickly. Buckle down and do the right things, and the results will eventually come. In the end you’ll be lean, still have all your muscle, and your bank account won’t be empty from paying someone like Jenny Craig to hold your hand and commiserate.
Editor’s note: Visit Ron Harris’ Web site, www.ronharrismuscle.com.