Training For Fat Loss

#1
It's just occurred to me that the stickies here don't really cover training for fat loss, so here I am typing away to aware you.

Not to sound like a glossy magazine designed to sell nutritional supplements, but if you're like the majority of people, you pre-conceived notions on how to train for fat loss (and the most important means of training for fat loss) are probably in direct conflict with exercise physiology. There are a lot of ideas and beliefs about fat loss, and especially training for it, that are anywhere between not-entirely-accurate and downright wrong. The single biggest thing people get wrong here is the importance of cardio.

It's a well known fact that to lose fat you need to do lots of cardio. The longer it lasts, the better. You need to get into the fat burning zone and stay there. You shouldn't lift weights as they'll just make you bulky -- if you must lift weights, make sure they're light weights that you do for high reps. That's good for toning.

Did you find yourself nodding along to the above paragraph? I don't blame you if you did, but every sentence of the above paragraph is a lie.

In reality, the single most important thing you can do (exercise-wise) to promote fat loss is to try and become as strong as you can be, given the nutritional environment you'll be in (weight loss reality: you have to consume fewer calories than you use in order to lose weight). This flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but when we dig a little deeper, you'll understand why this is true.

As I mentioned above, you need to consume fewer calories than you use in order to lose weight. Whether you offset that balance by increasing physical activity, or by reducing calorie intake, or both, isn't hugely important so long as a calorie deficit is generated. Once that deficit is generated, you will lose weight for as long as that deficit remains (as a side note, changes in calorie consumption and physical activity can shift where your body sets its resting metabolic rate, energy efficiency, etc., so what might have caused a calorie deficit one week could be maintenance the next. At that point, a deficit is no longer in effect). You have to. It's unavoidable.

You, you create your calorie deficit, and now you must lose weight. You can do that with or without exercise, so for weight loss purposes, exercise isn't even important. But, not all weight that can be lost is fat. Now think back to my claim before that strength training is the most important kind of training for fat loss. Any lightbulbs lighting up yet?

See, here's the thing, when people want to lose weight (presumably fat, not just any assortment of weight), most people will turn to cardio because they've been taught (quite accurately) that it can burn a lot of calories, and that within a certain heart-rate range a high percentage of those calories will be from fat. Some people have also clued in to concepts such as interval training, high intensity interval training, and circuit training -- these have been popularised over the last decade due to metabolic effects outside of training. That's all well and good, and there's nothing wrong with using any of these training protocols.

But, if the calorie deficit has been made, it's been made. The most important goal now is not to make it bigger, or to use high percentages of fat for activity, or to increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), etc. The most important goal now is to minimise the loss of fat-free mass, ie bones, muscles, connective tissue, and whatever else you might be composed of that isn't fat. And how do you prevent your body from getting rid of these things? By making it a priority that your body keep them. If you make the concerted effort to be as physically strong as you can be in a calorie deficit, then your bones will harden, your connective tissue with toughen up, and your muscle mass (the one form of body mass most at risk of degenerating with weight loss) will remain intact.

If you're still not grasping the significance of this, let me spell (actually, count) it out for you.

Two people decide to lose weight. One of them goes the typical route of diet and cardio. The other goes the atypical route of diet and strength training. They both lose 20lb.

The first person, who dieted and cardioed their way down 20lb, lost a fair amount of muscle mass while they were at it, which didn't seem to be a problem to them, because they "don't want to be bulky, anyway." They lost 10lb of lean mass within their weight loss.

The second person, who dieted and strengthened their way down 20lb, preserved a lot of lean body mass. They only lost 1lb of lean mass within their weight loss.

Do the math. What's 20 minus 10? 10. What's 20 minus 1? 19. That's how many pounds of fat each person has lost. The one who didn't do strength training has only lost 10lb of fat, while the other has lost 19lb. These are hypothetical numbers, but do you see the picture, and the point I'm making?

Wholebody strengthening is the best thing you can do. Squats, lunges, step ups, deadlifts, olympic lifts, presses, dips, pull ups, rows....these are the sorts of exercises that should make up the main focus of your training. Anything else should be peripheral to this. Learn good form first and foremost, then practice progressive overload.

Don't try and turn your strength training into cardio. You can use strength training exercises in cardio -- a circuit of squats, dips and pull ups is perfectly fine to do -- but make sure you do at least 2 sessions per week that are dedicated to the sole purpose of building strength. You can do circuits, high intensity cardio, low intensity cardio, yoga, zumba (but I will disown you for it), play sports, whatever throughout the rest of the week. But 2-3 days per week, lift some heavy weights, and aim to lift some heavier weights next week. Get your nutrition in check, and reap the benefits.
 
#2
wow this is great info, am currently 230 pounds , 5 10 in tall and have 30percent of body fat, i want to go down to 190, can you help me out with a routine,am going to a big gym that has all kinds of equipment. thanks again for the previous article
 
#5
I think this would be another great Goldfish sticky...
No complaints here :)

i forgot i been doing a full body routine for the past 6 months , its been more off than on but at least once a week, now i have plenty of time
It's hard to give a truly personalised program via the internet, especially with relatively little information. If you go to the weight training section, there'll be some specific advice on good exercise programs. Something simple consisting of a compound leg exercise (eg squats, leg press, lunges), an upper body push (eg bench press or overhead press), and a pull (eg pull ups, rows, deadlifts) every time you train, for volumes ranging anywhere between 5x5 and 2x15 for most exercises, will suffice for most people, provided you're physically able to perform the movements safely and effectively. I'd start with that and see where you go.

I am an amateur and really would like some advice to this

what if you don't want to add muscle only shift flab?
You're exactly the person that a lot of the content of the original post is targeted at.

Basically, relating this back to everything I wrote in the first post, muscle mass is energy-dense bodyweight (as is fat mass). When you're in a calorie deficit, your body must either get rid of energy-dense mass or reduce metabolic rate (often it will do both) in response to this situation. I won't get into issues related to metabolism (although it is thought by many that strength training can enhance metabolism...I'll play conservative and just say that it helps to prevent/minimise losses in metabolism as your calorie intake decreases), but your training should be geared to make sure that of the two biggest energy-dense forms of body mass that can be lost (muscle and fat), you minimise the loss of muscle mass, so that losses in fat mass can be optimised.

It's very unlikely that you'll gain much muscle mass while losing weight, even if you train like Arnold Schwarzennegger. An overfat, understrong novice will often achieve this rare feat early on in their training life, but seldom to any significant degree. For most people, muscle mass gains are slow and hard to achieve at the best of times. A calorie deficit is the worst of times for gains in muscle mass. You'll likely experience some swelling of the muscles for the first few weeks of strength training (which will then disipate after a few weeks), but that's likely to be it.

As the author of New Rules of Lifting For Women puts it (in that book), You Aren't What You Don't Eat, thus it really isn't something you need to worry about.

I hope that helps and clears things up a bit for you :)
 
#6
i'm 5'11 and 190. i wanna go back to my regular weight; 175. i need to lose the 15 pounds and get my body toned, or maybe even more muscular than what i already am. can someone please help me?
 
#7
Start with nutrition and strength training.

If you want to be 175lb, then you should be consuming 175lb of high quality protein per day. Ideally, this means meat (including anything that moves on the ground, in the sky or through water), eggs and dairy. Protein supplements can also be good, but aren't necessary if you're getting your protein from real foods. You can also get protein from nuts, legumes and grains, but it's a much lower quality of protein, and more complexity is required in your diet to get the best out of it. Every gram of protein contains ~4kcal, so 175g protein is ~700kcal.

You should also be consuming half that much in fat (ie, for 175lb, you should be consuming ~85-90g fat/day). Within that amount, have some saturated fat, have some unsaturated fat, avoid trans fats (which are commonly used in deep frying food) and any fats that don't immediately tell you where they've been sourced from (have you ever seen a canola? Me either, nor has anyone else, since there is no such thing). Every gram of fat contains ~9kcal, so 85g = 765kcal.

So far you're consuming 1,465kcal/day just in protein and fat, if you follow these recommendations.

The remainder of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Like protein, carbohydrates are ~4kcal/g. Figure out your total calorie needs, reduce the 1465 above, and divde the results by 4 to figure out how many grams of carbohydrates you'll need each day.

Starting at 190lb, your maintenance level of calories (once you're training) will likely be somewhere around abouts 2,500-3,000kcal/day. You want a calorie deficit to lose weight, and about 10-20% below maintenance seems to work well for most people. So, create a calorie deficit of 250-600/day below that starting point. I'd start with the lower end there - a 250kcal/day deficit, putting your calorie intake somewhere around 2,250-2,750kcal/day. If after a month nothing's changed, or you've actually gained weight, go down another 250kcal.

As per training, as I've said in this thread, focus on getting stronger across the whole body. Here's a program I prepared earlier. Give it a shot. http://training.fitness.com/young-athlete-development/young-athlete-development-program-50627.html
 

Vedren

New member
#8
Very great thread. I was getting lost with that whole deficit stuff, I've always had, but once broken down in the end I was clear. I do know the importance of weight training. I try telling my best friend about that as we workout together and she gives that same old saying" I don't wanna be bulky like a man, I'm already big boned". I try to explain the importance of weight training but some have to learn on their own. They will learn once loosing the weight and having a hard time keeping it off and once loosing the weight and dealing with flab.
 
#9
Well, hopefully she'll learn. But some people never do (for them, they "try everything, but nothing works [except for that stuff that they refuse to try]").
 
#10
Great post. Most people think they'll get bulky from weights and skinny from cardio, then completely forget that the diet is the most important thing. Probably worth mentioning that about 25% of mass lost is lean mass on a diet when you don't do free weights, but it drops to only about 5% if you are doing weights. Be sure to keep the intensity (pounds on the bar) high and ensure you get enough rest!
 
#11
Good reading. As I stated on my thread elsewhere on the forum, I am trying to achieve that "rare" goal you speak of. Adding muscle while losing fat. Regardless if I achieve my goal or not. I am eating healthy (chicken, rice, vegy's) and snacking healthy (hand full of peanuts throughout day, protein bar/shakes). I am not stacking protein like a boss, I want to say I am consuming 60-100g of protein a day. I have been lifting 3 days a week and doing cardio 3 days a week. As long as I am losing body fat and not muscle while I do this program, I look at it as if it is a win. I usually have that "cardio to death" mentality when I am trying to cut weight (i am in the army, so sometimes I must cut). But for the first time I am actually doing both, and staying true to it. I feel stronger, but maybe thats just my mind playing a trick on me, either way, I feel great and I feel like I have changed my life style which makes me a winner no matter what.

SGT W
 
#12
Great info posted! Every weight watcher has their own success and failures to share. As there are a lot of information in books, magazines and even online. Finding ways which works for your body is like a trial and error. The common denominator and formula for weight loss: healthy eating and regular exercise.
 
#13
Great post. Most people think they'll get bulky from weights and skinny from cardio, then completely forget that the diet is the most important thing. Probably worth mentioning that about 25% of mass lost is lean mass on a diet when you don't do free weights, but it drops to only about 5% if you are doing weights. Be sure to keep the intensity (pounds on the bar) high and ensure you get enough rest!
I don't know the exact numbers, and I'd say it varies on hormone levels, personal genetics, training age, current body composition, and of course diet and exercise, but that 25% vs 5% sounds about right to me. Someone in a very favourable position will actually gain some lean mass even when at a calorie deficit, but unless you're a 16-year-old overfat noob male on a strength training program, I'd anticipate that some lean mass is going to be lost. The goal is just to minimise the amount of it that's lost relative to the amount of fat lost.
 
#14
I have had personal trainers most of them said heavy weights are great for losing weight. I'm 282 lb (approx 20st). my body fat percentage is 27.5% and my lean muscle mass is 199.8 lbs. Now i'm a bit lost as to what to do to lose weight. if I had no fat (which if occurred i'd be dead), i would have to lose approx 25% body weight as pure fat = 15st. So lets say I managed to get down to half my body fat percentage (approx 12.5%) - then I would have to lose half of 25%/5 stone = 2.5 stone. I understand that there may be slight variations in these calculations, but the idea should be correct (unless i've made a noob mistake). So i'd be a very healthy 17.5 stone man - pretty ripped with 12.5 % body fat. But I seem to put on bulk when I do weights - i already look like a bear of a man. Doctors charts (which do not take into account frame) put me at ideal 12.5 stone - impossible! - but I would like to get down to 15st or even 14 1/2 - What style of training program will get me there?? because I am at a complete loss. I understand the theory that muscle burns calories - but don't want anymore size. I see plenty of people in the gym trying to get bigger - i infact want to get less bulky - My diet isn't perfect but do eat lots of fresh chicken salmon - diet could be improved on IMO. In my teens i did quite a lot of weights and grew - it seems now i'm told to eat the same kind of things (portion sizes?) and train the same way - I don't want to grow anymore. Any advice for PT's welcome
 
#15
I have had personal trainers most of them said heavy weights are great for losing weight. I'm 282 lb (approx 20st). my body fat percentage is 27.5% and my lean muscle mass is 199.8 lbs. Now i'm a bit lost as to what to do to lose weight. if I had no fat (which if occurred i'd be dead), i would have to lose approx 25% body weight as pure fat = 15st. So lets say I managed to get down to half my body fat percentage (approx 12.5%) - then I would have to lose half of 25%/5 stone = 2.5 stone. I understand that there may be slight variations in these calculations, but the idea should be correct (unless i've made a noob mistake). So i'd be a very healthy 17.5 stone man - pretty ripped with 12.5 % body fat. But I seem to put on bulk when I do weights - i already look like a bear of a man. Doctors charts (which do not take into account frame) put me at ideal 12.5 stone - impossible! - but I would like to get down to 15st or even 14 1/2 - What style of training program will get me there?? because I am at a complete loss. I understand the theory that muscle burns calories - but don't want anymore size. I see plenty of people in the gym trying to get bigger - i infact want to get less bulky - My diet isn't perfect but do eat lots of fresh chicken salmon - diet could be improved on IMO. In my teens i did quite a lot of weights and grew - it seems now i'm told to eat the same kind of things (portion sizes?) and train the same way - I don't want to grow anymore. Any advice for PT's welcome
If you're losing weight, you're not going to be growing much muscle mass. As has already been discussed in this thread, you will most likely be losing some muscle mass, and the goal of training as I've written in here is to minimise muscle losses so that of the weight lost, the majority of it is fat. Lifting weights won't make you gain weight (other than some water weight/swelling) without excess food, so get on a fat loss diet and lift.
 
#17
Hi Goldfish, I agree mostly but I don't think you can use with everyone. A study here shows cardio at least maintains fat free mass (ffm) The effects of either high-intensity resistance or endurance training on resting metabolic rate ...

therefore for some people who have ghrelin/leptin issues, cardio might be a preferred option as cutting down on eating is too stressful for them (ie, they'll never keep it up) - therefore, as strength training won't shift enough calories, cardio is the best option

I like your point about keeping strength training and cardio separate

Regs,

Jon.
 
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#18
Hi Goldfish, I agree mostly but I don't think you can use with everyone. A study here shows cardio at least maintains fat free mass (ffm) The effects of either high-intensity resistance or endurance training on resting metabolic rate ...

therefore for some people who have ghrelin/leptin issues, cardio might be a preferred option as cutting down on eating is too stressful for them (ie, they'll never keep it up) - therefore, as strength training won't shift enough calories, cardio is the best option

I like your point about keeping strength training and cardio separate

Regs,

Jon.
Thanks for the comment and input. I agree, nothing in the training world is right for everyone. Whenever I write cookie-cutter advice like this, it's intended for normal, healthy people without any health issues. Since everyone has something wrong with their body, you have to take what you can from the ideal and apply it sensibly to your own body.

I'm having a read of the study, and there's something important to note on the first page of the full pdf: "The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of 12 wks of either heavy resistance or high-intensity endurance training on RMR in 64 previously active but untrained men aged 18-35 y."

The test subjects are men in their prime, which means they've got testosterone on their side (it's easier to build or maintain muscle mass when you've got more testosterone). They're also previously active, so they're more likely to be competent at the exercises, and are thus more likely to get the most out of whatever exercises they do. And, because they're previously active but presently untrained, they're in a unique position to be able to reap beginner progress at it's best. When someone is physiologically a beginner, in the first 6-12 weeks, anything will work. Strength exercises will improve flexibility, flexibility exercises will improve endurance, and endurance exercises will improve strength, all because the test subject is going from doing nothing to doing something. Looking at the results of the study, this is confirmed -- the endurance training group's 1RMs improved and the resistance training group's VO2 Maxes improved, although each group made more significant improvements in the areas they specialised in for training, which is to be expected.

Note also that the programming for the endurance training progressively increased the intensity until in the last 4 weeks of the study, the participants were regularly running at >90% VO2 Max. Simply going from being sedentary to walking half an hour a day will put some muscle mass on the lower body. Any activities at >90% VO2 Max intensity have a similar effect to strength training when it comes to the effects on the musculature involved, and again this is especially true when coming at it from previously being sedentary/untrained.

What I recommend in this thread, I consider to be the ideal scenario. However, as a beginner, it's demonstrably more important that they do something than nothing, which the study you've presented does a good job at demonstrating.
 
#19
Hi

how about brisk walk? Is it good for fat loss? I have been told that my fats are mostly around my arms and legs. After starting to do my abs exercises and other toning exercises, my weight increased for almost extra 1 to 2kgs. Is it normal? therefore my bmi has also increased. MY FAT CONTENT is 34.1 and muscle content is 27. How should I make more muscles?
 
#20
A brisk walk probably won't hurt. Assuming no injuries or bodily dysfunction, anything is better than nothing.

Training may result in more swelling of the muscles and more water retention, which may account for the slight increase in weight. However, you can't gain much weight without eating in a way to gain weight....likewise you can't lose much weight without eating in a way to lose weight.

Are you trying to build muscle mass or lose fat, primarily? You start your post concerned with fat loss, then end with asking how to "make more muscles." But the ideal situation for fat loss is strength training + a calorie deficit, and the ideal situation for muscle development is strength training + a calorie surplus.
 
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