This time around, Personal Trainer and Fitness Expert Lee Boyce lays down the skinny on fat loss. Lee’s worked with clients of all walks of life, and is no stranger to dropping body fat for himself or for his clients. This is just the ticket if you’re a “hard-loser.”
I do a lot of talking about putting on size and putting on strength. Alternatively, I don’t have much out there when it comes to cutting down. The odd piece here and there pepper the internet and fitness mags, but it’s never been the focal point.
For the masses, I’ve decided to put cutting in the list of “Boyce Talks” topics. Time to send some myths to the crypt.
Myth 1: Steady State Cardio is a Must
Of course it’s a must. It burns calories, can help to cut fat, and helps your aerobic system in the process – right?
This is true, to a certain degree. The thing is, steady state cardio (that’s long runs, walking stints, or anything else that requires moderate intensity for a long time) can have an effect on fat loss, but for someone serious about cutting down, they’ve gotta be most concerned about improving their body composition.
If steady state cardio isn’t performed at the right time relative to your day, diet, and workout, then the effects can have no effect on your quest for fat loss. In fact, even if you’re not training with weights frequently enough, the body can start using your muscle for its energy to fuel your cardio workouts, and you’ll start burning the wrong thing!
Here’s what to do instead. Keep your strongest, most explosive muscle fibers working at all times, and you’ll be sure to keep your muscle on and continue burning fat. Your weight training workouts can have a cardio component if you keep the tempo high enough.
All you have to do is shorted your rest intervals, or group your exercise sets. There’s nothing wrong with lowering the weight lifted by 10 or 15 percent so that you can afford a rest time that’s 45 seconds shorter.
Another idea is to implement a form of interval training. If you just feel at a loss without your treadmill or local track, then rather than doing droning laps upon laps, spice things up by alternating sprints with slow jogs or walks.
On the track, go 100m at a moderately fast sprint pace, and then walk or lightly skip for 100m. Once you hit the backstretch, start sprinting again. Sprint the straights and walk the curves, for a total of 5 laps.
If this doesn’t leave you breathing heavy for the rest of the week, nothing will. It’s a lot harder than it looks! The benefits of this kind of training is that it’ll spark your metabolism. You’ll be using so much muscle from all over your body to perform the sprinting – and using it exploisively!
That kick-starts your metabolic demand to work overtime to surmount this debt. And you’ll be using it for the remainder of the day. Studies have shown that with a proper high-intensity training method like the above, you can be burning fat for up to 38 hours after you’ve finished your workout.
Myth 2: You Need to Lift Light Weight, High Reps
If you do, sure, you’ll burn fat – but you’ll be cutting your strength gains in half while you do it. We already know that as you cut down and lose weight, your strength will irrefutably go down. So why add to it by starving yourself of heavier lifting sets?
A common thought is that to trim down, you’ve gotta go high-rep so that you can “feel the burn” and produce lactate.
Granted, there is some truth to the presence of lactate facilitating the process of fat loss and release of other important hormones, but heavier sets will do well to keep training your central nervous system, and hold on to as much strength as possible while you lower your body weight.
As I said earlier, the key is to cut your rest intervals, and train with more compound movements. This will enable you to get the most out of your workouts and not “burn out” quite as quickly as you would with smaller isolation movements.
Introduction to Complexes
The hallowed complex is just the trick to conquer exactly what I said. They can combine NO rest with heavy-ish lifting and compound movements for total body workouts.
The rules of the standard barbell complex are simple – perform a series of movements for one set each, but do not put the bar down to rest between sets. It helps if the movements somewhat “flow” together. For instance, deadlifts into bentover rows, into hang cleans.
Here are two examples of brutal barbell complexes for low reps (I kept both to sets of 5 reps, with substantially heavy weight!) that I used during my cutting phase this year.
So as you can see, reps don’t matter – it’s the intensity, and one more thing also. Which conveniently brings me to my third and final point…
Myth 3: Weight Training is 75% of the Battle
What you put into your body is truly 75 percent of the battle. As I always say, in the gym, you’re breaking your muscles down through your workouts. The way your body looks as a result is all up to what you put back into your body when you’re not in the gym.
Your diet is the true determining factor as to how lean you will be. You can have the hardest workouts of your life in the gym, but those workouts only amount to maybe 6 hours out of a 168 hour week. If you negate those workouts by chowing down on the starchy, sugar-filled foods and foods high in sodium, you’ll have a hard time seeing razor sharp abdominals.
One thing to remember is that (especially if you’re predisposed to being a fat guy), insulin and your hormonal balance in general play a huge role, and it’s important to keep them at bay.
Insulin transports sugars to either muscle cells, or to fat cells stored as triglycerides. No one wants the latter. Having said that, the timing and frequency of the sugars you consume matters.
I believe that muscles will need sugar the most immediately after you wake up (since your body’s been starved of all nutrients for the last 8 hours) and immediately following a workout (since the muscles have just been broken down and therefore will feed on the sugars, since they’re more ‘hungry’ than the fat cells).
All other times of day, sugars should be avoided like the plague. Here are a few other tips:
- Eat more vegetables. Especially the cruciferous kind. They have properties that are anti –estrogenic in nature and will help in keeping lean.
- Increase your water intake. Water retention is often a result of dehydration. As a reaction, the body starts to store any water to keep physiological systems somewhat functional. If you drink more water, you’ll have less of that problem. Start by replacing all flavored drinks in your diet with water, you’ll be on a good foot.
- Get more sleep. If you have a stressful job or lifestyle, your hormonal balance will be thrown off, and you’ll likely release more cortisol. Cortisol can play a role in increasing abdominal fat stores, so it’s best to try to lower those effects by getting a good night’s sleep.
It may sound like quite the task, but the real order of the day is discipline. Stay on top of your workouts and pay attention to what you feed your body, and you’re bound to be a lean, mean fighting machine.
As a result, you’ll likely have more energy, and even feel less joint stress than you used to when you were carrying around more non-functional weight. All in all, your body will thank you. No need to thank me, though. You can do that later.
Why Lee is Awesome
Lee Boyce is one of the bright young talents in the fitness industry. By age 22 he had his first fitness article published by a major company.
Since then, he’s become a sought after strength coach based in Toronto, Ontario, and is a TV Fitness expert, Public speaker, and regular contributor to the most popular fitness magazines including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, TNATION, Musclemag, and Muscle&Fitness.