The following are a collection of exercise, diet and lifestyle tips that our Trainers have put together to help you burn more fat, build more lean muscle and increase your metabolic rate so that you can lose weight effectively, quickly but healthily:
1) IDENTIFY YOUR GOAL
The first step to weight loss is to set some goals. What’s your dream ? I.e. what would losing some weight allow you to do more of or do better ? How would being slimmer improve your life ? A little introspection and self-reflection might reveal that being less overweight could allow you to play with your children or grandchildren more, or maybe it would allow you to attract a partner more easily, or even allow you to pursue a lifelong hobby or an interest you’ve always wanted to do more of. Having an overall dream and achievable goals that inspire you is the key to creating drive, discipline and determination to work hard for your goals in the gym and make changes to your diet and lifestyle.
2) MAKE A PLAN
The next step is to evaluate how much time you have available, what equipment you have access to, how much money you can afford to put toward your health, fitness and general well-being and then schedule in gym sessions, time to prepare your meals and shop for wholefoods etc. Its a matter of prioritising what is most important to you. If your dream is to be able to keep playing a sport into middle age, live longer, make the most of family time or anything that involves being fitter, healthier and leaner then you need to identify when in your week you can squeeze in three or four gym sessions. Consider starting your day with a morning workout, it can energise you for the rest of the day and give you that feel-good factor all day long.
3) LITTLE AND OFTEN
You don’t always have to train like you’re competing in a triathlon by doing long drawn out sessions on the treadmill or bike or spending 2 hours in the gym. Try breaking your workouts up into smaller sections: Do a small, quick cardio circuit in the morning, take a brisk walk at lunchtime and then do a strength session just before dinner. Science shows that frequent shorter, more intense workouts have a longer lasting effect in terms of boosting your metabolism and therefore burning fat than less intense, longer exercise sessions. A popular choice nowadays is to perform High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions two to three times per week instead of one long run on a treadmill for example. Keep it short but sweet.
4) KEEP YOUR WORKOUTS VARIED
Humans are amazing at adapting to our environments and responding to the stimuli placed upon our bodies. Its basically why we’re top of the food chain today. But this means that we need to vary the stimuli if we want to keep on adapting and improving. In terms of health & fitness, we need to keep the body guessing by doing a variety or workouts, periodically progressing the difficulty and intensity and changing the focus of your exercise sessions, ensuring an element of overload in order for the body to respond by becoming stronger, leaner, faster etc. Doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results was basically Einstein’s definition of insanity !
5) STAY ACTIVE
Your workouts don’t just stop when you leave the gym, a healthier lifestyle involves being more active in general i.e. choosing to walk to work, going hiking with friends or the family at the weekend, playing a sport, going for a jog, doing the gardening, getting involved in local community activities, do a weekly exercise class etc. Try to include a wide variety of activities into your life, they don’t all need to be done at high speed and high intensity. Create a routine, make being active a habit so that when you have a sedentary day its more noticeable.
6) LIFT SOME WEIGHTS
It’s what our bodies are designed to do. We have evolved to be able to push, squat, pull, bend, lunge, twist, walk, jog and sprint against resistance and in fact these movement patterns have essentially sculpted our bodies into how they appear today. Try and put together a strength training programme that includes all of those compound movements in order to stimulate your body to build new lean tissue which in turn requires repair and maintenance thus causing your metabolism to increase and thus burn more fat as fuel.
7) DRINK LOADS OF WATER
Water is essential to life and how our bodies work. Our bodies should be around 60% water. Of course you can survive quite easily on very little water i.e. the water in our food for example, but in order for your body to function optimally and thrive (not just survive) we need plenty of water each day to keep everything moving around inside our bodies so that we can eliminate toxins, maintain a fast metabolism, repair tissue efficiently and ultimately reduce excessive levels of fat. Studies have shown that if you lose as little as 2% of your body water your performance will suffer by up to 33%. If you’re dehydrated it’s harder to control your temperature, fatigue occurs quicker and its harder to exercise, both physically and mentally.
8) AVOID PROCESSED FOODS
Try and only eat ‘wholefoods’. Unless you grow and pick your own vegetables or only buy organic foods straight from the farm shop, most food products we see in the supermarkets nowadays are processed in some way or another. Minced beef is ground in a machine, butter is cream that has been mechanically separated from milk and fruit is cut from a tree. However, some forms of food processing involve the use of dangerous chemicals and have a far more detrimental affect on our food and thus our bodies than others. For example; the use of toxic additives such as colouring, flavoring, preservatives and the adding of artificial sweeteners/ingredients or high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenating fat, pasteurisation, bleaching, the reduction/removal of natural fats or the removal of bran from grains. Basically any processing which essentially de-natures the food is more likely to be dangerous or detrimental to your health and lead to stubborn fat that is hard to get rid of.
9) GO ORGANIC
Organic fruit and vegetables are grown under strict conditions which refer to the soil in which they are grown. Food which displays the ‘organic’ stamp from the Soil Association means it has been grown in soil which is free of all toxic chemicals often used in commercial farming to increase yield of the crop whether it be a grain, vegetable, fruit or even the grass that animals are fed.These chemicals are often added to soil in the form of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and contain chemical residues that not only harm the soil, the plant but also the micro-organisms that live in the soil and ultimately anybody who consumes that food. As a result of the damage to the soil microorganisms, a commercially grown plant tends to struggle to feed on the essential nutrients in the soil and therefore is often less nutritious than one that was grown naturally and ‘organically’.
10) INCREASE YOUR PROTEIN INTAKE
Protein provides the building blocks our body needs to grow, repair and rebuild muscle. They are known as amino acids and they are essential if you want to develop lean muscle. By building the amount of muscle you have you place an increased demand on your body to feed the muscle fibres the nutrients they need to function optimally and thus the body responds by ramping up the speed of your metabolism to meet that demand. The consequential increase in metabolic rate causes an increase in the amount of fuel required and, providing you keep your blood sugar levels steady, this means you will burn more fat (even when you’re not training) ! The added bonus of having more muscle tissue is that you therefore have more storage room for sugars (Glycogen) which allows the body to maintain an optimal blood-sugar level, which means your body won’t need to release excessive amounts of insulin which forces your body to only burn carbohydrates as fuel, and not fat.
11) MANAGE YOUR BLOOD-SUGAR LEVELS
Lets get something straight - All carbohydrates are sugars. Grain products like bread, pasta, rice and even breakfast cereals are mostly carbs. But so are all vegetables and fruits. They all get broken down into the simplest sugar molecule glucose before they are absorbed into your bloodstream through your gastro-intestinal wall. However, not all carbs and sugars are created the same. Grains and starchy root vegetables like potatoes are known as complex carbs whereas the above-ground vegetables and fruits are simple carbs. Complex carbs (polysaccharides) contain many more glucose molecules than simple carbs and sugars (mono, di-saccharides). If you eat too many carbs (sugars) your blood-sugar levels rise. Excessive blood-sugar levels cause you to stop burning fat as a fuel and instead your body prioritises just burning carbs/sugars in an attempt to get blood sugars levels back down to a normal level so you can get back to burn your body’s preferred source of fuel, fat. Additionally, if blood-sugars are really high, your body will send some of the sugars to the liver where they will be converted in fat cells and stored away. So be cautious of eating too many starchy, complex carbs because if the amount of sugar in your blood is above (or below) normal levels all day long, you will struggle to burn fat and even accumulate more ! Furthermore, be aware that not all sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream at the same rate. Some carbs are absorbed really quickly and cause your blood-sugars to spike almost immediately. These types of carbs are known to have a higher Glycaemic Index (GI) value whereas carbs that are absorbed into the blood more steadily have a lower GI value. Finally, be cautious with white sugar that you’d add to your tea or baking recipes - they are highly processed sugars and present further significant health issues when consumed excessively. As challenging as it may be, removing all processed sugars from your diet can accelerate the rate of fat loss.
12) NOT ALL FAT IS BAD
Eating fats doesn’t necessarily make you fat ! In fact, some fats actually help you to burn fat. In a nut shell, the fats you should avoid are often the most processed fats i.e. the ones that humans have adulterated in some way or another (usually to make their product more appealing to the consumer !). These fats are known as trans-fats and are usually made by hydrogenating vegetable fats i.e. margarine. Natural fat i.e. the fats that are found in dairy products like butter, organic grass-fed meats, eggs, coconut, avocados, olives, nuts, fish etc are actually really important to include in your diet. Fat is our preferred source of fuel and is what our bodies manufacture super-important hormones from. Furthermore, certain fats allow us to absorb (fat soluble) vitamins and minerals and without fat we wouldn’t be able to absorb these vital nutrients which keep our bodies functioning optimally. Another interesting fat fact is that most omega-3 rich fats are anti-inflammatory whereas fats that contain more of the omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory - worth considering if you’re trying to beat the bloat ?
13) HOMECOOK 90% OF YOUR MEALS
J.E.R.F. - Just Eat Real Food ! Eat clean - Make the majority of your meals at home from (preferrably organic) wholefoods. Choose seasonal vegetables i.e. lots of salads in the summer and more root vegetables, casseroles and healthy soups in the winter. Find places to buy minimally processed vegetables, meats and fish i.e. good quality greengrocers, healthfood stores, farmers markets and fishmongers. Buy a good recipe book that teaches you how to make sauces, curry pastes etc that are often bought from the supermarket pre-prepared. Use leftovers from the evening before for snacks or lunch the next day. Learn how to make the most of the food you buy and minimise waste i.e. when you buy a whole chicken, use all of the meat, breast, leg and wings but also use the bone and carcass to make a stock or bone broth to use in other recipes. Stockpile healthy snacks in the form of fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds, make your own healthy dips like hummus and guacamole etc. If your food has a list of ingredients that you can’t pronounce - don’t buy it or eat it. If your great grandma didn’t cook it or eat it 70-80 years ago then its probably an overly processed pseudo franken-food !
14) LIMIT PORTION SIZES
Use smaller plates and try not to overeat. Eat until full but not stuffed. Keep some leftovers for the next day for lunch or healthy snacks. Listen to your body and recognise when you’re full. There’s no need to count calories and weight out all your food for every meal but if it helps, logging your meals in a food diary can be a good exercise to familiarise yourself with exactly what and how much you eat on average each day. Slow down, chew your food thoroughly, savour the taste and be mindful of the fuel you’re putting into your body. At the same time, acknowledge that food is more than just fuel and ensure you include plenty of enzyme, vitamin and mineral rich superfoods that will help your body function better. Think quality over quantity !
15) STOP DRINKING
Most people don’t like this one, but if you’re serious about burning off excess fat, give up alcohol. You don’t need it. You can still enjoy yourself without booze. After a few weeks of not drinking you’ll notice how much better you feel, how much more you manage to do with your time and that you can actually still have (be) fun without having to get drunk. Sure, after you have abstained for a while, there’s nothing wrong with a nice glass of wine or a cold beer with a barbeque every now and again but if you want to shed more than a few pounds you need to get rid of the binge-drinking at the weekend. Obviously there’s the associated increase in calories to consider but often the problem with alcohol is it causes us to make poor decisions, poor dietary choices in particular, not just whilst you’re drinking but often during the day(s) after.