The final touches for meeting your weight loss goals.
In Pt.1, Pt.2, and Pt.3, we discussed the core elements of losing weight. Having nailed down the basics, it’s time to think about the small factors that will push your fat loss to meet your target body composition.
The beginning of a weight loss program is the easiest. The process is new, you’re excited, and the weight seems to fly off. Then after a month or two, things slow down, real life gets in the way, and gaining weight (or just eating normally) starts sounding like a great idea. Here are some tricks to make sure you stay on-track when the going gets tough.
Protein powders are the perfect crutch for those times when cooking isn’t an option. A few scoops of whey protein mixed with water can give you almost the same calories and macronutrients as a grilled chicken breast. Keep powder and a shaker cup or bottle handy for those days when work or class screws up your eating plans.
Being part of a weight loss group, whether competitive or friendly (hello office weight loss pools!), can alleviate the social isolation felt while losing weight, and can provide extra motivation to stay on your diet and exercise plans. A dedicated training partner or training group is a good way to keep your progress up, as you’ll have someone to be accountable to.
There are two extremes when it comes to meal frequency. The traditional bodybuilding approach has you eating seven or eight small meals every day. Fasting-based diets have you eat mostly in a small window once a day (or even once every other day.) The difference between the two approaches in terms of metabolism is slight and variable, though the behavioral benefits can be important. If going on an empty stomach makes it hard to stay on track with your diet, the bodybuilder approach is probably good for you. On the other hand, if you get in trouble by snacking too much, or if waiting to eat most of your calories at once is a good fit for you, then the fasting-based approach is better.
If you eat protein with your meals throughout the day, you don’t have to worry about special pre- and post-workout protein needs. On the other hand, if you work out after a fast, your body won’t have any protein in your bloodstream to repair its muscles. Here, drink a fast-digesting protein shake (and/or amino acids, which are the basis of protein) before you lift.
We’ve already talked about the benefit of buying and cooking in bulk. The biggest drawback to this method is it’s easy to burn out on your bulk foods. Nothing makes some fried food look better than a fridge full of baked chicken you don’t want to eat, so make sure you intentionally make yourself new, interesting, meals during the week. Along with cheats or refeeds, planned variety makes long-term dieting possible. Similarly, planned switching of bulk foods helps avoid burnout.
The Last Five Pounds
The last few pounds are always the hardest to lose, for as you near the end of your weight loss program, you’ll find you might be making progress, but instead of losing pound or two a week, you might be losing half a pound. In these situations, burning an extra few hundred calories can keep you from stalling.
Boost Your Workouts
The easiest and least-stressful way to amp calorie expenditure is increasing cardio training by extending, or tacking-on, sessions. A trick for the time-constrained is adding fifteen minutes or so of bodyweight circuits to the end of your workout, which will bump up metabolism without the strain of intervals or free weight circuits. Off-season athletes can run sport-specific conditioning or position drills.
Tighten the Diet
Even when it comes to the last few pounds, exercise is secondary to diet. When eating almost nothing but lean protein and fibrous vegetables, it’s time for a gut check. All of those little snacks and off-days from your diet have to go, and you must now avoid situations where you might overeat.
Cutting protein intake isn’t an option, so if whittling away your last pockets of fat is turning into a slow process, remove foods or cooking techniques with extra calories (switching from beans to broccoli, or from sautéed chicken to baked), or reduce the size/frequency of cheat meals and refeeds.
Follow the tips above and you’ll continue to lose weight even when others stall out. Stay focused, work hard, and tune in next time as we recap the most important tips to remember when losing weight.