Today’s blog post is coming from my good friend and personal coach, Ryan Faehnle. Ryan earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science while serving in the United States Air Force. After college, he moved on to become an NCAA Division I strength and conditioning coach at Miami University, where he helped athletes from 20 different sports (from football to ice skating to powerlifting) to achieve their physical goals.
His abilities were acknowledged from the highest level when famed international Olympic strength coach Charles Poliquin welcomed Ryan to his staff. Ryan lectures internationally on fat loss, training athletes, hypertrophy, nutrition, energy systems, and supplementation. Ryan has been running a private consulting business for 4 years and has coached both athletes and coaches in the professional ranks and the Olympic Games. I believe in Ryan so much that he is the man designing my own training and nutrition “comeback” program to take me to the next level of my physique and performance.
It is with great pleasure that I introduce Ryan and his 10 Principles of Faster Fat Loss. ~Vince
I’ve always said that there’s no one tool for every job, so use the right tool for the right job. This is never truer than in the area of fat loss. You often need to use more than one method to keep your body guessing and adapting and avoid a plateau.
Some of these principles come from the field of bodybuilding, some from track and field, some from gymnastics and some from powerlifting. I’m a huge advocate of learning the best of many different disciplines and adapting a variety of modalities to your own needs and goals.
Here are the 10 best principles I’ve found for faster fat loss results, no matter who you are or where you are in your training.
1. You must track and improve your physical performance parameters relative to fat loss.
As the strength and conditioning coach at Miami University, I trained athletes from a wide variety of disciplines; from ice skating to football to track. We rarely put athletes on a training program that was specific to fat loss because we had other areas to focus on, such as reaction time, strength and endurance. Fat loss was kind of a peripheral benefit of all their other training. Athletes got lean by increasing their performance variables, whether that meant speed, power, endurance or another element of their performance.
You need to have indicators that you periodically test and monitor to make sure you’re making progress. In the context of fat loss, most of these will be in the cardio arena. One of the very best indicators I know is the 400-meter sprint. I have never seen an athlete run the 400-meter sprint in less than 52 seconds who didn’t have a six-pack. The thing about the 400-meter is that it’s long enough to tax your muscles fully, but still short enough to sprint. And the key here is that it demands your body adapt to the work you’re requiring.
Let’s say you run the 400-meter tomorrow and you do it in 1:20. Your body is going to want to be better prepared for that next time so certain enzymatic, muscular and chemical processes take place to adapt to that task. That adaptation not only enables you to run it faster tomorrow, it also kicks your metabolism way up, which is going to help you lose fat.
The whole key to this, though, is that you must track your progress and try to beat your best every time. This is what will keep that adaptation and metabolism boosting process going. I can pretty much guarantee that by the time you shave 30 seconds off your original time, you’ll be much leaner than when you started.
2. For fat loss, total body training is superior to a split-routine program.
I realize that for bodybuilders getting ready for a competition, this may not be applicable. But if you’re just trying to get leaner, training the entire body in one session will get you much faster fat loss results. This is because it creates a much greater post-workout oxygen demand.
If I take two athletes who are the same in every respect and put one on a total body training program and the other one on a split program, the one doing total body training is going to get much better fat loss results in a much shorter time. Now, the reason I say this may not be applicable to you if you’re about to enter a contest. If you are getting ready or a body building show you’re not going to get the gains or definition necessary with a total body program. However, the total body workout is great if you need to get lean in general.
3. Get the most out of the least with your post-workout carbs.
Carbs have two roles post-workout: to stop catabolism and restock muscle glycogen. But if you’re trying to lose fat, you want your body to burn fat as fuel so you don’t necessarily want to top off your glycogen tank. However, you still want to stop that catabolic process and lower your cortisol level so you still need some post-workout carbs.
Research has shown that 30g of carbs is sufficient to stop that catabolic process. You can get that from a glass of cherry juice or another quick, nutrient dense snack. Don’t go overboard on your post-workout carbs and you’ll get the help you need with your cortisol levels and still prompt your body to burn fat as fuel rather than stocking up on more glycogen.
4. Minimize insulin release at times other than post-workout periods.
I have a simple, but effective analogy for how insulin works and why insulin resistance is so dangerous to fat loss goals. Insulin is like a FedEx truck. Glucose is the package and your body’s cells are the delivery address. Now, one FedEx truck can deliver a lot of packages. You only need a small shot of insulin to deliver a lot of glucose. But when you’re insulin resistant, it’s like using twenty FedEx trucks to deliver the same amount of glucose. All that insulin in your bloodstream is going to wreak havoc on your fat loss goals.
To minimize insulin release throughout the day, limit your fast-acting carbs to post-workout meals and snacks. This means within an hour of your workout. This will limit the higher insulin secretions to post-workout and minimize insulin secretion during the rest of your day.
5. Initiate your energy deficit at a higher overall calorie intake.
A common recommended energy deficit is 500 calories per day. In other words, if you’re taking in 1500 calories per day, you should burn 2000 calories per day, creating a 500-calorie deficit. However, at such a low calorie intake, you’re likely missing out on many of the macro and micro-nutrients that will help you to lose fat. If you shoot for a calorie intake of 2500 calories instead (this is just an example) and a calorie expenditure of 3000 calories, you’ll be getting much more of the nutrients needed to work harder, to balance hormone levels and burn that stored fat. How do you do this? Up the intensity level of your workouts and increase your calorie intake accordingly. Then, make your food choices as nutrient-dense as possible.
6. Avoid cutting calories too drastically.
When you cut calories too drastically, a chain of events are set off that can actually slow fat burning. First, your thyroid reacts by holding on to as much fat as possible. Also, your leptin levels will decrease, further slowing fat loss. Some people can actually gain fat on a very low calorie diet because of this cycle.
As I said with principle #5, it’s better to increase the frequency or intensity of your physical activity and up your calorie intake. The lowest I would be willing to go with my athletes’ calorie intake is 9-11x their body weight. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, the lowest you should go is 1800 calories per day and that’s actually quite low. Also, it’s better for you to start at the higher end of that, at 11x body weight, so you have somewhere to go if you need to cut further.
7. Protein must be increased to maintain muscle mass during cutting.
Research has shown that when you are cutting calories, you have to increase your protein intake to avoid muscle catabolism. If you’re normally taking in 1g per pound of body weight, you may need to increase that to 1.5g per pound or even 2g, reducing your other macros accordingly.
8. Initiate a cleansing period.
This could be a one-day cleanse, a three-day cleanse or a seven-day cleanse. On this cleanse, you want to be getting 99% of your calorie intake from non-dairy vegan protein drinks and amino acid drinks. The other 1% will be one green vegetable per day. This will clean out your digestive tract of built-up toxins and wastes and reboot your fat-burning ability. Your body will actually create new fat cells in which to store all those toxins you have building up in your liver and other organs. It’s essential to clean out those toxins so you can then start working on losing all of that stored fat.
9. The hormonal implications of your food are more important than its calorie count.
Hormones have such a profound impact on your metabolism that how a food affects your hormones is far more important than how many calories it has. For instance, if you’re allowed 200g of carbs per day, getting those grams from high-fructose corn syrup is going to demolish your fat burning potential (and your health), whereas getting them from sweet potatoes and berries will help both. Don’t get so focused on calories that you lose sight of the importance of nutrients.
10. Try training multiple times per day.
I realize this principle may not be possible for some people who are already extremely pressed for time and barely make time for their one workout four days per week. However, this is my “go to” principle for charging up fat loss and I strongly recommend that you try it if at all possible. Getting two workouts per day does require a commitment, but is workable for many people. This may mean getting your first workout before work and your second one during your lunch break or after work.
To make this work really well, use your morning workout for high weight, high speed, low rep workouts and do your higher-rep, lower weight or lower speed (cardio) workout in the afternoon. This way, you get all the hypertrophy benefits of your morning workout, but you also get a second period of higher oxygen reuptake each day.
As I said at the outset, not all of these tools will be appropriate for each person or applicable to every situation. Consider these ten principles as tools in a tool box and use the right one at the right time for you. Change them up now and again to keep your body on its toes and your fat loss on track.
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