When it comes to fat loss, everyone wants to know what the best program is to help them lose weight, both quickly and effectively. But like anything in health and fitness, the “best” program or plan is going to vary from person to person. And while the best program is going to vary by the individual and their lifestyle, the foundation of the program won’t. Each successful fat loss program contains a few key traits that allow the program to work and the individual to see results.
Below is a list of 9 characteristics that each successful fat loss program has. Whatever fat loss program you follow, ensure these characteristics are fulfilled and you’re sure to see a positive difference.
An Energy Deficit
Anyone who says you can lose fat without being in a caloric deficit either doesn’t know any better or is trying to sell you something. YOU CANNOT LOSE FAT WITHOUT BEING IN A CALORIC DEFICIT. End of story. It doesn’t matter how clean you eat, or how hard you paleo, if you are not taking in fewer calories than you burn, you will not lose fat.
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to count calories (although most of my clients do), but it does mean you need to find some way to decrease your daily caloric intake; whether that be eliminating highly processed foods, or limiting yourself to one plate at dinner, as long as you can measure it and make adjustments, you’re on the right track.
High in Lean Protein and Veggies
When it comes to fat loss, prioritizing the consumption of lean protein and high fiber veggies will go a long way towards helping you reach your goals. Both are highly satiating, so they will help keep you fuller and blunt hunger. This leads to less snacking, eating less at meals, and consuming fewer calories overall. These foods are also naturally lower in calories, so combine that with their satiating properties and you’re golden.
Doesn’t Vilify Fat
For years fat was vilified and made out to be the Darth Vader of our health. Thankfully, we know now that this is not true, and fat is actually essential for our bodies to function. Fat is an essential player when it comes to hormone production, especially testosterone. Fat is also responsible for regulating things like blood pressure, inflammation, vitamin absorption, and assists in brain function. Plus fat makes good foods taste great, so why not include it where we can.
Doesn’t Vilify Carbs
Carbs have now replaced fat as the cause of obesity. Many “experts” say if you want to lose fat, just cut out carbs and BOOM, instant fat loss. But the problem is, carbohydrates actually provide our body with a ton of benefits.
When broken down in the body, carbs are converted to glycogen, and stored in the muscles, liver and brain. These stores help fuel the muscles for physical activity and help aid in brain function. Plus carbohydrates make up some the tastier foods out there so why would you want to cut them out?
You want to know the real magic to cutting out carbs when it comes to weight loss? I’ll give you a hint, it has to do with #1 on this list…that’s right, cutting out carbs is nothing more that another form of calorie restriction. It’s just easier for most people to ditch the carbs because, unlike fat, they aren’t naturally found with most proteins.
For fat loss, just being physically active is important. However, for optimal fat loss, lifting heavy weights is more important. If you are trying to lose fat, in addition to being in a caloric deficit, you should be resistance training a minimum of two days per week. And when I say resistance training, I don’t mean arms and abs. I mean doing large, compound, multi-joint exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, rows and chin-ups.
These movements work the most muscle, burn the most calories and provide huge hormonal benefits such as an increase in testosterone and growth hormone, both of which help build muscle and burn fat.
They also help maintain muscle mass, which is hugely important while dieting. Lean muscle tissue helps keep our metabolisms elevated, which helps burn more calories. If you lose muscle mass while dieting, you’re hurting your body’s ability to burn fat.
The downfall of most diets is that they are too rigid and ban you from eating certain foods. The problem with outlawing certain foods, for most people, is it just makes you crave them more. By being flexible with your diet and allowing yourself to have treats or your favorite foods occasionally, you make the diet much more enjoyable, less stressful, and easier to stick with.
I tell most people to stick to the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, your calories should come from whole, minimally processed sources. The rest of the time, they can come from foods you enjoy.
No Crash Dieting, Cleanses, or Detoxes
These are money-grabbing scams that are not necessary, sustainable, healthy, safe, nor teach you anything about how to eat and maintain a healthy diet. Don’t do them!
Reasonable Goals and Expectations
Most people want to lose weight and they want to lose it yesterday. Unfortunately, too many people fall victim to diets that promise you can “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days” or something like that.
For most people a reasonable rate of pure fat loss is 1-2 pounds per week. Any more than that and you risk losing muscle as well as fat. It may not seem like a lot, but fat loss is a marathon, not a sprint. Slow fat loss is not only more sustainable but will make keeping the weight off easier.
It Lets You Live Your Life
One of the first things I tell people when they sign up to work with me is that a diet and training program should compliment your life, not control it. Yes, you will have to make some lifestyle changes if you want to lose fat. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up everything fun and awesome either.
You can go out to eat with family, or grab drinks with friends. You can go on vacation without worrying about if you can train or not. If you’re miserable because you are always concerned about working out or your diet, you probably aren’t going to be able to stick to your program anyway. Allowing yourself some freedom will go a long way.
There is no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to fat loss. But when it comes to finding the right plan for you, you need to be sure to keep these characteristics in mind.
While you might be able to get away without eating carbs, or following a super rigid plan, most people can’t. Everyone is different, but if you follow a plan based on these 9 characteristics, I guarantee you will see results.
About the Author
Jordan is a coach at jordenpagelfitness.com and creates personalized diet and fitness plans made just for your needs.