At some point every week, someone asks me, “What can I do to get rid of this?” That question often is accompanied with someone showing me the problem area. My answer is typically that you have to make significant lifestyle changes with your diet and physical activity levels. Most people lose interest after that. I guess they want an easy answer to a difficult question. Unfortunately, there is neither an easy answer, nor an easy solution.
To make significant changes to one’s body requires significant changes to one’s diet and exercise habits. I learned this fact years ago while dabbling in bodybuilding. My failed experiment with bodybuilding taught me how to manipulate my diet and exercise program to maximize fat loss while holding on to hard-earned muscle mass.
First let me say, I do believe for long-term weight loss or maintenance, it’s essential to focus on lifestyle changes that can be sustained. That’s not to say I don’t believe making some extreme changes for a short time to achieve a goal is bad, just realize it isn’t sustainable long-term. Bodybuilders are experts, as they drop their body fat to single digit levels before a show. I’ve seen bodybuilders go from 12 percent body fat to 7 percent in two weeks. Some of the methods they use are extreme, but doable. Here are some of the most common methods:
• Eating a clean diet. Replace junk food with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Make sure each meal is balanced, as it will keep you feeling fuller longer.
• Eat five to six small meals a day. Your body will be forced to increase the daily energy expenditure because of the frequent activation of digestion and absorption processes induced by the repeated food intake throughout the day. The body perceives eating frequently as a sign of energy/food abundance, and it will burn more stubborn fat.
• Cutting back on carbohydrates. I didn’t say eliminate. Typically, as the day goes along, we become less active. When at rest, the body uses little carbohydrates for fuel. If you’re going to snack, munch on celery with peanut butter or low-fat string cheese to stay in a fat-burning state.
• Doubling up on aerobic exercise. This is a great way to burn fat and spare muscle mass. Instead of doing one to two hours of aerobic exercise, split the sessions up to two 30-minute sessions. These sessions can be more intense versus doing long, low-intensity cardio sessions. Shorter, more intense cardio sessions burn more calories and spare hard earned muscle than longer, less intense sessions.
• Lift heavy. When eating fewer calories and doing more cardio, your body burns muscle as well as fat. To prevent this, bodybuilders will scale down their repetitions to the three to eight ranges, and lift heavier weight. This method tricks the body into holding on to that hard-earned muscle. That muscle also helps keep the body’s basal metabolic rate steady.
• Get at least eight hours of sleep. Believe it or not, your body is in a fat-burning state when you sleep. During a night’s sleep, most liver and muscle glycogen (stored energy) is depleted. Thus, the body turns to stored fat for fuel. Plus a full night’s sleep decreases levels of cortisol, a nasty stress hormone that is associated with weight gain.
Implementing these methods will help eliminate some of the most stubborn body fat. That being said, some of these methods aren’t realistic long-term. However, our bodies are programmed to store fat in case of a famine, so to drop that fat on the back of the arms, to melt those love handles or to turn the keg into a six-pack, sacrifices in your diet and hard work are the only answer. Just be sure to come back to a sustainable diet and exercise program for long-term health.
Chad Hodson is the fitness manager for the Blount Memorial Wellness Centers and Blount Memorial Weight Management Center.