You aren't fat, but you'd like to lose about 10 pounds to better show off those muscles. Here are the best tips from our experts.
Just about every experienced lifter would look better if he or she lost just 10 pounds of fat and was able to sustain it. What's your best training or diet tip for that person?
Paul Carter – Strength and Bodybuilding Coach
Take 20 minutes to eat your meal.
Some lifters pride themselves on how much they can eat and how fast they can make said food disappear. It's almost like a rite of passage for gaining mass. Eating as much as possible goes hand in hand with eating as fast as possible.
But this should be reversed. Because the slower you eat, the more time you allow the ghrelin (hunger) hormone to decrease, which sends signals to the brain that the stomach has been fed.
I once did one of those fancy seven course meals in downtown Chicago. They brought out each item, and the serving sizes were minuscule. I thought I'd leave the place more hangry than when I walked in.
Well, by the time the last dish was coming around I could barely finish it. I was stuffed. But it took about half an hour or longer for them to bring each thing out, and you were left at their mercy. They wouldn't even bring me extra bread, for the love of God!
But it reminded me of something. If you actually chew, and not inhale your food, and take at least 15-20 minutes or so doing it, you'll actually get FULL on a lot less food. – Paul Carter
Lonnie Lowery, PhD – Exercise Physiologist and Nutritionist
A little less dietary fat and a little extra cardio.
We actually differentiate diet patterns in my house with that 10 pounds in mind. Our usual "healthy" diet is low in refined carbs, while being moderately high in protein and rich in healthy fats such as olive oil and various nuts. When the mirror suggests energy balance has been too positive for too long from old bulking habits, the "on-diet" pattern kicks in.
Unmeasured amounts of fats get mostly replaced by fibrous vegetables like green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. The reasonably lean steaks and burgers get replaced by chicken and more chicken. The point here is simple: Respect that certain fats – however healthy – do carry nine calories per gram. We don't replace the typically larger amounts of fat with carbs, we just pull back on both fuel sources while keeping protein intake high. The good part is that we stay full either way.
In the gym, the only change is the addition of 20 minutes on the elliptical. As little as four 60-second bouts during a high-intensity interval session does the trick over a three month period. Plus, recent evidence suggests that a broader range of genes get "turned on" during HIIT than traditional lifting alone, so I figure that I'm doing my health a favor, too.
This approach has recently worked for me – again – as I dropped from 215 pounds to just 195 pounds in the first half of 2017, with no change in lifting performance. – Lonnie Lowery, PhD
Mark Dugdale – IFBB Pro Bodybuilder
I have three tips.
- Drink two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar at night before bed. Ideally you won't wash it down with milk and cookies. An ASU study showed this protocol reduced blood sugar 4-6%.
- Perform HIIT cardio two times per week. Try eight minutes on an Assault Airbike. Do a two minute warm-up, eight rounds of 10 second sprints followed by 20 second rest periods, and a final two minute cool down. The best part? You're done in eight minutes. The ROI on these eight minutes in terms of insulin sensitivity gains and EPOC is invaluable.
- Do a Mag-10® fast once per week on a non-training day. Fasting is proven to optimize insulin sensitivity, but you can run the risk of cannibalizing muscle. The solution is to drink a serving of MAG-10 every three hours to reap the rewards of the fast without the drawbacks. (More info here: The Mag-10 Cheat Fast.)
The first and second tips take little to no time so you're really without excuse. If the Mag-10® fast is too difficult on a weekly basis, at least try it every 2-3 weeks. You'll look better and be healthier for it! – Mark Dugdale
TC Luoma – T Nation Editor
The "2 Square, Okay to Be Hungry, Anything-Goes-On-Saturday" Plan
This is the easiest way I've found to drop 10 pounds and keep it off. The first thing you have to accept is that it's okay to occasionally be hungry; it's not necessarily a sign that malevolent elves, sprites, or hobgoblins are going to steal all your muscle while you're sleeping.
Secondly, you also have to accept that you're only going to get two semi "square" meals a day. Breakfast and dinner is where you'll get virtually all your nutrients. Breakfast, ideally, is a bowl of fruits, protein powder blended with milk, and a few whole grains in the form of Wheat Chex or oatmeal (just enough to fill you up a bit and get the old brain working).
After that, until dinner, you'll only have Mag-10® mixed with water and flavoring, and only when hunger starts to get the better of you.
Dinner is as many low-carb vegetables as you like, doused with a bit of olive oil and served with a hunk of meat that's bigger than a cocktail coaster but smaller than a toilet seat.
This is where the only real hard part comes in: No snacks or caloric drinks during the evening. You can, however, have protein drinks or, if you feel like it, do what I do: Mix a scoop of Metabolic Drive® Protein with a little Jell-O brand instant no-cal pudding and freeze it until it forms a mock ice cream. Then snack on it just before bed.
Now here comes the fun part: On Saturdays, I eat whatever the hell I want. I'd like to tell you it has something to do with resetting the metabolism, but it's just because I want to. Granted, the diet would go a lot faster if I ditched "Anything Goes" Saturday, but tough.
While I'm willing to sacrifice a lot to vanity, I'm not willing to give up all pleasures or semblances to a normal social life. There's nothing worse than going out to dinner with some drip who only eats pureed quinoa husks and vitaminized glacier water, so I don't want to be that guy.
The most important thing about this plan, though, is that you have to get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, and that should be pretty easy if you use protein powder. I was just reading a study that reminded me of the importance of this. Subjects who dieted and didn't get at least one gram of protein per pound lost just as much muscle as they did fat. Not good.
Granted, you could do it without protein powder, but it would require that you eat a whole lot, something on the order of 5 or 6 chicken breasts, 30 eggs, 5 or 6 steaks, 8 hamburgers, a flock of pigeons, or a big hooker's foot between your two square meals. You get the idea.
One last thing. I keep up with my normal pre and post-workout supplementation as it doesn't affect weight loss at all. If anything, it actually helps me attain the holy grail of fat-loss programs, which is actually gaining a little muscle while simultaneously losing fat. – TC Luoma
Christian Thibaudeau – Strength Coach and Performance Expert
Figure out what's sustainable.
Those who achieve their body composition goal and maintain it are those who can stick with the changes they make in the long run. Sure, you can cut huge amounts of carbs and fats, basically surviving on only protein and stimulants, and you'll lose fat pretty fast. But such an approach can't be sustained, and it'll make you feel like crap.
Then once you've had enough you'll rebound the other way – the yo-yo phenomenon. Instead, choose an eating structure that fits your natural tendencies, and find foods that'll help you reach a better body comp while being enjoyable.
Regarding structure, I always ask clients to fill out a one-week nutrition journal. They write what they eat, drink, the quantities, and also the time of day they're having meals. This gives me a clue about their natural tendencies, what they naturally enjoy doing or are comfortable with.
Most people like to feel satisfied when they eat. Having a small meal and still being somewhat hungry is like having your wife tease you in the bedroom and leave when you're "ready to go." So there's no wonder the traditional bodybuilding protocol of 6-8 small meals per day doesn't cut it for some lifters.
Recent studies have shown that eating frequency doesn't have a significant impact on fat loss if everything else is equal. But even if that way of eating WAS optimal, it wouldn't be the best choice for a lot of people because each small meal may actually make them crave more food.
Eating two or three solid meals per day with a shake or two is best for me because I can eat more at each meal, feel satisfied, and not crave food. Other people prefer nibbling or don't have a huge appetite and do well with 6-8 small meals. If they're forced to eat three large meals it might make them uncomfortable and they'd stop the plan or get suboptimal results. So select an eating pattern that fits your natural tendencies.
The second thing to do is select foods you enjoy that are conducive to your fat loss goal. If you enjoy your meals you'll be a lot less likely to look for enjoyment from crap.
My last tip: don't wait until you're almost eating the walls to get a "refeed." I'm not talking about a "cheat." Most people should stay away from cheats full of junk food when dieting down. It just keeps you addicted to that junk and makes the whole process more difficult. By refeed I mean slightly increasing your fats and/or carbs. Even one day of eating at maintenance or slightly over will be enough if you do it before you get mad cravings.
Most people who screw up their fat loss phase do so because they overdo the refeed/cheating thing. You can stop your fat loss progress with one day of too much overeating. – Christian Thibaudeau
Amit Sapir – IFBB Pro, World Record Holder Powerlifter
I have three bits of advice.
- Do 20 rep heavy squat sets. Do it at least once per week, ideally twice. Change your variations: high bar one time, low bar the next, or front/back/yoke etc. This is some seriously high energy expenditure, and doing it with heavy weight will demand a lot from your body, impacting your hormonal output. Even the recovery is very demanding which leads to an increase in caloric burning during that time. So you get a better butt, better legs, and if you're consistent, you see these visual results quickly.
- Finish your workout with 20 minutes of cardio. You don't need much but if you do this after weight sessions (or first thing in the morning if that works best) and just make it habit, these 20 minutes will give you a lot of body composition and health benefits. Like many things, consistency is key. Make sure you actually sweat.
- Make Mag-10® and Plazma™ part of your daily diet. These two things will make a huge difference to anyone who uses them consistently. Every single one of my clients uses them without exception. Why? I look at these both as actual meals rather than secondary supplements. The quality and absorption of both protein and carbs are in many ways superior to actual food.
Plazma™ will help you train harder, recover faster, and take in more usable carbs. So it's inevitable that you'll look better, get stronger, burn more calories – both in training and at rest – and even have fuller looking muscles due to the extra carb uptake. – Amit Sapir
Chris Colucci – T Nation Moderator
Cycle carbs and add just enough cardio.
To get to the next level with your physique, you've got to amp up the training and tighten up the diet more than you've already been. Shocker, huh? More specifically, add just enough cardio to boost the weekly expenditure without interrupting recovery, and drop carbs enough to reignite fat loss without interfering with training performance.
The details will largely depend on what you've been doing, but a general approach would be to add 15-20 minutes of low to moderate intensity cardio either every training day (immediately after lifting or in the morning) or every "rest" day (any time). If you're already doing conditioning work, focus on a lower-than-usual intensity for more diverse training and do it as far apart from your current conditioning as possible.
On the diet front, it's basic carb cycling:
- Rest days are practically no-carb.
- Easier lifting days like arms, shoulders, or any lower volume day are low to moderate carbs (about half what you have on a typical day).
- The hardest training days like legs or back get your regular/current carb intake.
The one-two combo of a bit more cardio and less carbs when you don't need them are a relatively pain-free way to drop some extra fat and get you where you need to be.
After you hit your "target weight," though I shudder to use the term, simply drop the extra cardio and maintain the super-basic carb cycling to maintain a lean physique. Less carbs on non-training days is a smack-your-head-simple way to minimize body fat without paying attention to much else. – Chris Colucci
Tony Gentilcore – Strength Coach and Performance Expert
I'll attack this question from both fronts – training and diet.
"What makes muscle, keeps muscle."
From a specificity standpoint, if the goal is fat loss the general consensus is to train a metric shit-ton and make yourself hate life and exercise till you can't feel the left side of your face. While I can respect the sentiment, it's a faulty approach with regards to fat loss.
Fat loss plans should alternatively be referred to as "muscle maintenance" plans. The idea should be to maintain or keep as much muscle as possible while in a caloric deficit. The easiest way to do so is to lift heavy things – remind the body to hold on to precious lean tissue.
To that end, traditional strength training should still be prioritized even if fat loss is the main goal. This isn't to say you can't help expedite the process with some strategically placed circuits/HIIT/or metabolic finishers. However, if you've already ensured a caloric deficit via nutrition, adding in copious amounts of training volume via high(er) rep sets and endless metabolic conditioning is usually nothing more than a one-way ticket to Crankypantsville and sacrificing muscle.
Don't forget to lift appreciable weight. Force the body to keep your hard-earned muscle.
The barrier to fat loss for most has little to do with education.
It's almost always about being an absurd asshole who doesn't like taking accountability for his or her actions. People know what not to do. There's something emotional that prevents them from doing it.
It reminds me of something a friend of mine, Mark Young, said recently about clients of his who complain about his coaching style. Every now and then someone will chime in and say something like "nothing you have said is new to me, or something I couldn't have done myself without paying you."
"Well, were you doing it?" he'll ask.
It's such a money response.
For some reason, people will hear the following:
- Make your own lunches to bring to work.
- Pre-package your own meals ahead of time in your fridge.
- Limit access to trigger foods that can make you overeat.
- Use smaller plates.
- When in doubt, eat more protein.
- Drink more water.
- Eat your freaking vegetables, you child.
- ... and people who hear this will say stuff like, "That's so simple. I already know all that!"
Okay, so do it. – Tony Gentilcore
Dani Shugart – T Nation Editor
Know your setbacks, then defeat them.
Chances are, if you're at the "I just need to lose 10 pounds" point, then you already do the basic, common-sense stuff. You likely don't eat meals low in protein. You don't add processed carbs on top of processed carbs to your plate. And you probably don't have any trouble skipping fried food or conventional (sugar-filled) desserts.
Most Americans treat junk food the same way we treat our protein, so avoiding that type of behavior, along with regular weight training, will keep you relatively lean compared to the general public. Now, if you want to go from relatively lean to exceptionally lean, then you have to solve the problems that are unique to you. Here are a few common ones:
- Do you snack a lot after dinner? End your eating at the dinner table, then clean the kitchen, and get the heck out of there till you make coffee in the morning. If you're still hungry at night, either make dinner more substantial or eat slightly more during the day.
- Do you become uninhibited around food when you drink alcohol or use marijuana? Abstain for a couple months and see what happens to your waistline.
- Do you love peanut butter a little too much? Try defatted peanut powder and mix a few tablespoons of it with water to make a peanut paste. No, it's not as good as the real thing, but the substitute is worth the sacrifice, and you'll come to like it.
- Do you struggle to stay away from your kids' food? Set boundaries. The more you practice keeping your hands off their snacks and dinner plates, the easier it'll become. Or maybe stop feeding the little assholes so much junk food. (I'd be the worst parent ever.)
The point is, you need to examine your weakest points during the day and then make a plan for how you're going to strengthen those points going forward. It's a lot like planning to get your workout in. If your plan is solid, nothing will throw it off, and eventually it'll become a habit.
One last thing to remember: If you've got enough muscle underneath it, being 10 pounds up still looks damn good. If you don't have enough muscle, then being 10 pounds up just looks kinda sloppy and weak. So build or retain muscle, always. – Dani Shugart
Akash Vaghela – Strength and Bodybuilding Coach
Increase your NEAT, non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
This is the energy expended for everything we do that isn't sleeping, eating, or exercise. Think walking, shopping, cooking, cleaning, fidgeting, and maintaining posture. Because of the wide variety of activities NEAT encompasses, it can be hard to define. But it's extremely significant and can make up anywhere from 15-50% of your total energy expenditure.
If you're someone who already trains and eats "mostly" right, this will be a game changer. Think about your naturally lean friends. The ones that seem to get away with eating a ton of food but always look in shape. Chances are, these people are more active in their daily lives, not just blessed with a racehorse metabolism that burns through everything they eat.
They'll tend to fidget more, always be on the go and have active jobs, while your sole activity in the day may only be a 45-60 minute weight training session... which might not burn as much as you think it does.
The only real way we can gauge NEAT is through tracking our daily step count. When adding a step target to your routine, the first thing to do is check what you've been averaging on a daily basis. If you have an iPhone or Android, you should have a built-in step counter in the "health" or "heart" section.
Typically, most people average between 3000-5000 steps a day when they're not aware of it. Sometimes even less. If you fall into this bracket, the first goal is to bump up to around 8000. From here, slowly ramp it up over the course of weeks and months. For most people, around 10-15K tends to work great.
In order to make this sustainable, think about how you can build movement into your daily routine, without it affecting work and life in general:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Take phone calls while walking.
- Get off a few stops earlier on your commute.
- During your breaks at work, go for a walk.
- Have walking meetings.
- Go for a walk in the evening with your partner instead of watching TV.
If in doubt, move more. – Akash Vaghela
Mike T. Nelson, PhD – Metabolism and Fitness Expert
Let's say you're training hard and eating enough calories over multiple meals. This is great for adding muscle. The downside is that you can see your body composition go the wrong direction if you're not careful. The solution is to weigh each thing you stuff in your face. But there's an easier route for dropping 10 pounds, keeping muscle, and doing both in a sustainable fashion.
Go for a period of time and NOT eat, as in some type of intermittent fasting or IF. While there are many ways to do it, I prefer fasting 20-24 hours, once a week, on an off-day.
The benefits? First it lowers insulin, which has many heath benefits and it drives your body to use more fat as a fuel. So you end up cutting out a ton of calories, and from a practical point of view it's super easy: don't eat or drink calories. I've used this method for over 8 year now with lifters, and it's much easier than trying to cut small portions off multiple meals.
The only catch is that you'll want to take 2-4 weeks to slowly ramp up your fasting time. Week one, try 12 hours including the time you sleep. Week two, go 16 hours or so, and week three you hit the 20-plus hour range. This is pretty easy once you're adapted to it and you still have the other six days per week to crank away building some muscle. – Mike T Nelson, PhD