Fat loss 101

Before we look into fat loss let me address body fat monitoring. It’s not such a big deal really. You don’t need no magnetic resonance measurement or body fat calipers. For all practical purposes this is how you need to approach body fat monitoring.

“If it jiggles… its fat!”

Fat or skinny if you have something that remotely resembles a bowl of jello .. then you have fat to lose.

What is fat loss?

Fat loss is the process of losing fat tissue from the body while preserving lean tissue (muscle mass).

Weight loss is not the same as fat loss. Weight loss is just a reduction in body weight. In other words, weight loss involves the loss of fat tissue AND muscle tissue… and in almost all cases more muscle is lost than fat. A starvation diet + 3-5miles of running everyday will result in weight loss. Weight loss is not healthy and should under no circumstance be considered an achievement.

The governing laws of fat loss:

In the given order…

1. Total calories in should be less than total calories out.

I  don’t like counting calories and I have leaned down to pretty good levels of leanness (~8-10% body fat) without any calorie counting. All I do, and urge you to do the same, is eat the right stuff and only the right stuff.

When you’re trying to lose fat…

Choose a big bowl of vegetables instead of a bowl of rice.

Choose berries with little cream cheese instead of ice-cream.

Choose a square of 70%+ dark chocolate instead a bar of milk chocolate.

I can go on and on (may be another post)… but you get the idea.

Bottom line: Choose your calories wisely. Eat only what you need & when you need it.

2. Dump the sugar & junk. All of it.

Sugar = glucose in the blood = insulin release = fat storage

This is not a smart thing to do when you’re trying to lose fat. So stop thinking and stop saying ‘It’s hard!’. Just dump the sugar and see the difference it makes in just 4 weeks! And for love of God don’t even think about ”fat free options! They are all loaded with sugar!

If you have a sweet tooth… curb it. Substitute fruit in place of dessert… but don’t go yabadabadoo on the fruits either.

Tip: Throw in a stick of chewing gum right after you eat. Guaranteed to kill the sweet cravings/temptations.

Bottom line: Sugar intake on a regular basis is detrimental to your health in more than one way.

3. Lift weights.

Men, women, young & old.. and those in between… lift some heavy stuff. Muscles burn more calories than fat and so having more muscle in your body will help you burn more calories throughout the day. A person @ 150 lbs & 10% body fat will have a much higher metabolic rate than a person @ 150 lbs @ 20% body fat.

Attention womenfolk: Having more muscle does not mean you are ‘muscular’. Women need not worry about bulking up as a result of weight training. You do not have enough testosterone for that. Trust me… guys bust their chops in the gym 6 days a week and they dont bulk up easy… lifting moderate weight will not bulk you up! Take my word for this.

Bottom line: Lean mass (muscle) is the holy grail of staying fit. Not too much… not too little… but just enough to run a fast mile, jump up a box 1/3rd your height & lift your body weight.

4. Don’t spend half your day on the treadmill/elliptical.

Chronic cardio is the number one muscle destroyer!  So stop running a 10k everyday (unless you’re training for a marathon or similar event) and mix up your workouts. Do some lifting 2-3 days a week, high intensity conditioning or sprint workouts 2 days a week, do a medium duration medium intensity run once a week, do a low intensity hike once a week etc.  Please get off that machine… right now.

Bottom line: Don’t just train hard… train smart!

5. Get more protein. Up the good fats. Reduce carbohydrates.

You need the protein to build, maintain & repair muscle… so get more of it.

Start using fat as your major source of energy. Fats provide more energy per gram and is the preferred fuel for the body. Ever wonder why your body stores fat? It is the body’s ‘reserve’ when you’re out of fuel.

Avoid carbohydrates unless you need the instant energy they provide. Best times to feed your body with carbohydrates are immediately post workout and during an aerobic activity that is 60+ min.

Bottom line: Carbohydrate intake should be proportional to activity. Fat is awesome!

6. Eat real food… only real food.

Protein – Lean cuts of meat, chicken breast, fish, eggs,  cottage cheese, whey protein (or other protein supplement) if you’re vegetarian or vegan.

Fat – Olive oil, fish, avocado, flax seeds, macadamia nuts, almonds, coconut.

Carbs – All vegetables (with potatoes eaten sparingly) and little fruit. Avoid grains, beans & legumes.

Form meals using only these ingredients and you will automatically be eating only what you need, you will get a tonne of vitamins & minerals and you sill stay satiated (full) longer. Once again… throw out the processed crap.

Bottom line: Eat only what your body is meant to metabolize.

7. You need to snooze to lose.

One of the most underrated things with respect to health, fitness & longevity is sleep. Lack of sleep stresses the body and that results in cortisol release which is catabolic in nature. If you are constantly sleep deprived, you are chronically stressed and that just means you have steady cortisol release which is preventing you from losing fat.

The number of hours of sleep changes from person to person. There are people who need 10 hrs per day and there are those lucky ones who do perfectly fine with 6. Find out what works best for you and get the required amount of sleep.

Bottom line: If you’re doing everything right with respect to nutrition & training and you’re not seeing results, I strongly suggest you you look into the quality & quantity of your sleep.

8. Stay active.

Most of us work desk jobs which demand our asses to be glued to our chairs for hours together. Break that eternal bond between your butt & the chair.

– Walk around more. Your spine is craving the walk!

– Do not sit in one place for more than a hour at most.

– Walk 15 min before lunch. Walk 15 min after lunch.

– Where ever you go, park as far as possible from your destination.

– Be greedy for work. Take the trash out, run an errand, offer to pick something up from the floor etc. You’ll become the good guy and you’ll be burning off some grease.

– Play… with your kids, neighbor’s kids, your dog etc.

– Walk/bike to work if possible.

I’m sure there are a million other ways to stay active. These might sound trivial but trust me they all add up and could account to like 300-400 extra calories burnt per day.

Bottom line: There is no substitute for an active lifestyle.

Well by now I hope you have a decent idea of what fat loss is and why your 50 situps every morning is not giving you results. If you are interested in a more customized fat loss program shoot me an email.


12 responses to “Fat loss 101

  1. Srividya July 7, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Great read! Succint and no nonsense fat loss tips. Thanks!

  2. shilpa July 8, 2010 at 5:20 am

    hey raj, how about some tips on indian food- what to eat, what not to eat etc.

    • RG July 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm

      Now that is one big blog post by itself! But in short… the Indian diet is dominated by grains and that is my greatest concern. A ‘vegetarian diet’ should be dominated by ‘vegetables’.
      Anyways, in general…
      – Choose the tandoori chicken/lamb/fish instead of any breaded & fried dish.
      – Have eggs everyday. Omelets, scrambles, half-boils… they all work great. Make them with lots of vegetables, nuts & cheese. Very satiating.
      If you’re trying to lose fat…
      – Drop the rice/naan/poori/dosa etc. Ask for a cup of lentils and eat that by itself.
      – Get loads of vegetables. Always have a colorful plate. 4-5 different vegetables like a salad or sauteed in olive/coconut oil is awesome.
      – Have daal as a meal. That is… cook one cup of dry lentils with 2-3 cups of cut vegetables.
      – If you HAVE TO eat dosa… make a dosa with 2 eggs, 2 stick of cheese and a cup of vegetables on it. That’s a big dosa with a load of protein & fat and relatively small ratio of grains.

      Know what… I will write a post on this.

      It’s all about fighting the conventional eating style and experimenting with nutritious ingredients. There are many awesome things about Indian cooking (like lentils, yogurt, spices, vegetables etc.). Save them. But kill the bad stuff (like excessive grains).

      People will tell you you’re crazy to not eat like everyone else… but 9/10 times these people who tell you how & what to eat are either diabetic or arthritic or victims of some chronic illness and 8/10 times they’re super out of shape. It is not without reason that India has one of the highest rates of diabetes & heart diseases. So don’t give in. Be aware that by eating this way you’re eating the right stuff. Its only a matter of time before you feel, perform & look better than ever.

      • Arvind Ashok July 9, 2010 at 2:19 pm

        Raj – one addition to your “sauteed in olive/coconut oil”. It is extremely important that whatever you cook in these oils is done in low flame. Otherwise the toxins/bad stuff in these oils will be released and you are causing more harm. It does take longer, a lot longer. But these oils contain MFCs that are amazingly good for you. And “extra virgin” is better – this just refers to the nth press of the olive/coconut to get the oil.

      • RG July 9, 2010 at 3:02 pm

        Arv – What you’re saying is true. Am writing a blog post dedicated to fats and am covering the toxins there.

        But since you brought it up…
        The ‘smoke point’, as it is known, is low for olive oil & coconut oil (below 400 F depending on purity) in general compared to canola oil (~475 F) & avocado oil (~500 F). And yes… extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the oil derived from the first pressing of olives.

  3. jo July 8, 2010 at 10:08 am

    hi, great article, very blunt and to the point.
    i would like some advice on food to eat on the go, i drive around alot of the day with work and would like some ideas on easy to eat food, as i am gettin bored of my choices. I eat berries/ yogurt, egg whites, cottage cheese, rice cakes etc. thanks. ps i train before work 7-8am (weights) .

  4. Arvind Ashok July 8, 2010 at 10:43 am

    @Jo, There’s no reason to skip the yolk and eat only the whites. I will let Raj explain more. Am not sure if rice cakes are a good idea. Salads are easily the best choice – you should be able to find a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s while you drive around – they have a great salad bar. Add baby spinach (lettuce is just water), eggs and steamed veggies and whatever makes you happy, and you have a healthy meal. Also, your pre and post-workout meals are important. Am sure Raj has a post about them somewhere, either in the blog or in his head.

  5. RG July 8, 2010 at 11:07 am

    @ Jo… Thanks for stopping by.
    Arv pretty much covered everything. Especially the yolk part! Never fear the yolk… ! Yea and definitely skip the rice cakes. They wont kill you… but you have much better options.

    I don’t know your food habits (meat eater/vegan etc.) and your location. So I’ll try to keep it general.

    On the go meals:
    – Salads are awesome. meat, eggs, spinach, veggies, some cheese, nuts, olive oil, little fruit. Too many combinations!
    – Protein shakes are a great meal. protein powder, whole milk, nuts, berries. Again… tonnes of combinations. Can be made as a high or low calorie meal. Definitely filling.
    – Almond/peanut butter + protein powder + little heavy cream + water = awesome snack bars.
    – 3 oz cheese, some fruit, some nuts = good meal on the go.
    – Make/buy some almond bread. Make a sandwich.

    If you’re training the in AM before work…
    – Have a decent serving of protein before your workout.
    – Post workout is your most important meal and if you are on the go after that… consider this your make-or-break meal! Get a a lot of protein (1/4 to 1/2 your weight in grams) and an equal amount of carbs. Reduce the fat in this meal.
    – Rest of your meals should be mostly protein and fat with all your carbs coming from vegetables – assuming your goal is fat loss.

    Remember… there’s a difference between ‘not unhealthy’ meals and ‘healthy/nutritious’ meals. Go for the later… always!

    I am in the process of writing a blogpost on post workout nutrition. That should give you more specific information.

    Hope this helped.

  6. RG July 8, 2010 at 11:09 am

    @Arv – Once again… thanks for bringing up the yolk vs. white.

    This site has a tonne of info.


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