Losing body fat is one of the most common reasons that anyone hits the gym. Although it’s not always easy, losing weight and reducing body fat doesn’t have to be complicated.
When trying to lose weight, we want to target body fat for reduction while maintaining our muscle mass. Generally, weight loss comes down to simple maths — burning more calories (through exercise) than we’re eating. This article will present some of the key methods for losing body fat fast, focusing on fat loss nutrition and training for reducing body fat.
In this article, you’ll find:
- Fat loss nutrition
- Exercise for fat loss
- Anaerobic exercise for fat loss
- Aerobic exercise for fat loss
- LISS for fat loss
- HIIT for fat loss
- Best ways to reduce belly fat
- Biggest mistakes when trying to lose body fat
- What is the recommended body fat percentage?
- What are the best ways to measure body fat?
When it comes to losing body fat, nutrition is the most important component. It’s much easier to sabotage your fat loss by overeating, and it becomes much harder to compensate by working harder at the gym. The most important part of fat loss is creating a negative energy balance – where your energy expenditure is greater than your energy intake. It’s harder to create a calorie deficit if your energy intake is high.
Although there are many schools of thought about the best diet for weight loss, they all have one thing in common — calorie reduction.
This can take many different forms. You may want to cut out empty carbohydrates and follow a high-fat keto diet. Or you might reduce your intake of fatty foods and follow a simple low-calorie diet or try intermittent fasting. The key to fat loss is to find a plan you can follow and stick to it for the long term.
However, fad diets and macro considerations aside, it’s essential to choose healthy foods you’re fueling your body with.
You should always consult your physician or a registered dietician for a personalized diet plan. However, following basic guidelines like these can help you to stick to a healthy diet that will lead to fat loss.
You should also consider all three macronutrients — carbohydrates, proteins, and fat and bear in mind the calorie content for each is not the same. Carbohydrates and proteins both contain 4kcals per gram whereas fat contains 9kcals per gram. Therefore, reducing your fat intake can make it easier to reduce your overall calorie intake. For example reducing your daily intake of fat by 10g would double the amount of calories lost than reducing carbohydrates or protein down by 10g.
1. Consume more protein
With protein, choose lean options over fatty meats, opt for fish a few meals per week, and focus on plant-based proteins when possible. Another key aspect of protein is the effect is has on satiety. Consuming more protein will help you feel fuller for longer and potentially reduce the amount of snacking needed. This will help to reduce your overall daily calorie intake.
When you’re cooking, use heart-healthy oils like olive oil and limit saturated animal fats like butter or lard. Choose dietary fats from fatty fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds instead of deep-fried foods and animal-based fat sources.
Try cutting out added sugar found in sweetened beverages and desserts.
Throughout a weight loss journey when we want to try burn fat specifically, it’s essential to take in adequate amounts of protein to protect our muscle mass.1 Research shows that higher levels of protein during weight loss make it more likely to keep the weight off and help to target fat loss.1
Based on your level of exercise, you might need to supplement with extra protein (like Impact Whey Protein) to help keep your muscle mass while you burn fat.
2. Get enough fiber
Another helpful consideration when losing weight is fiber. Getting adequate soluble fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help you feel more satisfied and improve your digestion.
If you don’t think you get enough soluble fiber in your diet, you can consider a supplement. Research has shown links between soluble fiber and successful fat loss.1
It sounds like a lot to think about, but really following a healthy balanced diet doesn’t need to be complicated. When you’re trying to lose weight, you want to make sure that you feel satisfied — being hungry all the time isn’t essential for burning fat. Choosing satisfying, whole foods and using supplements when you need them can be easy and sustainable to help you meet your fat loss goals.
3. Volumize your meals
Increasing the volume of your meals can also help to reduce your daily calorie intake. By getting the composition of your meals right i.e. plenty of fibrous vegetables, lean protein and wholegrain carbohydrates, it will help you to feel full and satisfied after each meal whilst staying within your fat-loss macros.
Looking back to the basic fat loss equation, you need to be burning calories — that’s where exercise comes in. We all burn a different number of calories even when we aren’t exercising (known as our resting metabolic rate) based on our body size and composition.
While it’s difficult to measure this number precisely — even in a laboratory setting — some equations can help you estimate how many calories you burn at rest.
If you’re interested, check out the Harris-Benedict equation.
1. Do anaerobic exercise
Individuals with more lean mass (muscle) burn more calories at rest than those with more fat mass. Think of muscle as active, calorie-burning tissue, while fat is there for storage purposes without burning as much energy.
This is one of the reasons many people exercise — to optimize the ratio of muscle mass to fat mass, which burns more calories in the long term. We can boost this lean muscle mass through weightlifting, or anaerobic exercise. Lean muscle mass contributes to your resting metabolic rate and the more lean muscle mass you have the higher your resting energy expenditure. Essentially the more muscle mass the more calories you’ll burn at rest. However, it’s worth noting that it will take a significant increase in lean muscle mass to have a meaningful impact on energy expenditure.
One strategy of weightlifting is called “drop sets”. This means lifting your heaviest weights for a designated number of sets and reps, and then doing the same exercise with lighter weights until your muscles fatigue. It trains your muscles to work harder and see optimal results. Another strategy is to use “super sets”, where you work two opposing muscle groups immediately one after the other without taking a break to recover.
Talk to a personal trainer if you’re interested in incorporating either of these strategies into your workouts.
2. Up your cardio (aerobic exercise)
The other key part of exercise for losing fat is aerobic activity. “Aerobic” doesn’t have to mean the stereotypical ’90’s step aerobics class with leg warmers and sweatbands (unless you want it to), but it can be any form of heart-pumping activity, from speed-walking to high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
In fact, both types of cardio, or aerobic exercise, have key benefits and should be incorporated into your weekly routine.
3. LISS– Low-intensity steady state
LISS cardio is your basic ‘jog-in-the-park-style’ cardio workout when you’re working at a low or moderate pace for a more extended period.
This might be running, cycling, swimming, or using an elliptical machine at the gym. Low-intensity steady state cardio is appropriate for almost all fitness levels. It targets your heart rate in the “fat burning zone” for a longer period of time.
Read up a bit more on LISS with our article below.
4. HIIT– High-intensity interval training
HIIT is a newer approach to cardio that involves shorter, more intense bursts of exercise; think multiple sprints at short distances versus a slower jog for a longer distance.
This type of activity challenges your body and often makes your heartrate elevate quickly, but for a much shorter period than LISS. HIIT training can help you teach your body to recover faster and even lead to increased performance during your LISS workouts.
Try this HIIT workout for fat loss below…
Best ways to reduce belly fat
It’s important to note that you cannot spot reduce fat anywhere on your body. However, you can take steps to reduce overall fat, that will reduce fat everywhere on the body. Also, a bit of belly fat is often totally normal and nothing to fear if you’re healthy.
1. Reduce your sugar intake
Evidence has suggested that in people who are overweight, excessive sugar content may increase fat storage specific to the abdominal area.2 Reducing sugar-sweetened drinks (juices, fancy coffee drinks, soda, etc.) may therefore help reduce the accumulation of belly fat. Reducing sweet drinks and snacks will also reduce your calorie intake making it more likely you will reduce fat from all over the body including the abdominal area.
When you’re choosing your post-workout shakes and protein bars, make sure you aren’t overloading on the sugar.
2. Stick to the basics
Overall, the best ways to lose body fat are to stick to the basics — a healthy diet and a consistent exercise routine.
If you haven’t been seeing results, try switching up your exercise routine and incorporating some new strategies to challenge your muscles.
Biggest mistakes when trying to lose body fat
- Don’t restrict your food and calorie intake too much — too few calories when working out hard can actually start to break down muscle as well as fat
- Don’t sabotage your workouts by overeating the wrong foods — specifically sugar
- Remember that losing fat and keeping it off can take some time. Fad diets that promise quick fat loss typically aren’t sustainable long term and may be detrimental to your health
What is the recommended body fat percentage?
Body fat percentage is one way to measure the amount of fat mass vs lean mass and track your progress over time. The following percentage recommendations are based on the American Council on Exercise:
What are the best ways to measure body fat?
There are several ways to measure body fat. The most accurate can require extensive equipment – like underwater weighing and air displacement measurements. These are often reserved for research settings and can be extremely accurate.
For at home measurements, you have several options. You can invest in a tool that helps measure bioelectrical impedance, which is based on how quickly an electrical current (that you won’t feel) travels from one side of your body to the other.
Lean mass contains much more water, making it transmit faster – fat mass has less and makes the current move more slowly. You can buy handheld BIA tools or a scale that takes a similar measurement.
Two other, at home options involve taking simple body measurements. You can use body fat callipers, which you use on three different body areas to pinch the skin and enter into an equation to calculate body fat percentage. The other at home option is a simple tape measure – you can track the size of your waist, hips, biceps, and thighs overtime.
Although less accurate, you can easily do these methods yourself.
Learn more about measuring body fat percentage here…
Take home message
There are lots of strategies out there when it comes to fat loss, but it’s best to stick with the basics. A healthy diet with adequate protein, soluble fibre, and limited sugars can help target fat loss, along with a workout routine of weightlifting (to increase and maintain muscle mass) and varied cardio (ideally a combination of LISS and HIIT). Following these tips will not only help you lose fat but also help keep your mind and body healthy.