Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Bodybuilding.com and republished with permission.
Before you set fire to the pantry, read this! These three simple tweaks to your current training, nutrition, and supplementation could make all the difference in your fat-loss results this summer.
Too often, people treat fat loss like an emergency; they panic and make impulsive decisions rather than thinking clearly and strategically. The result is disappointment, frustration, and—worst of all—having to start from scratch the next time around!
This year, that cycle ends for you. If you're somebody who has struggled to see results by making dramatic, unsustainable changes to your training and lifestyle in the past, try this three-point system of training, nutrition, and supplementation. It's simple, realistic, and can be adapted to work with a wide range of training plans and schedules. And yes, it'll give you some fast results!
Got your attention? Let's make it happen.
1. Training: Discover cardio acceleration.
Right now, you probably have a weight-training session and a cardio session. Sure, that burns calories, but it also requires a lot of time and work. If fat loss is your goal, you don't need to do separate strength and cardio sessions. Combine the two to achieve big results!
This is what is known in training circles as "cardio acceleration." Cardio acceleration saves time by alternating high-intensity cardio and strength training in one all-inclusive workout. Yeah, it's nice to chill out and catch your breath between sets of strength training, but you want to burn fat, right?
Maximize your workout by adding 1-2 minutes of high-intensity cardio between each straight set and superset, or between transitions from one exercise to another.
In a 2008 study, sports scientists at the University of California found that cardio acceleration was more effective at increasing strength and dropping body fat when compared to traditional resistance and aerobic training.1 Female participants were recruited for this study and divided into two groups:
- Serial training: Resistance exercise followed by 30 minutes of aerobic training
- Integrated training: Resistance exercise with a 1-minute bout of vigorous aerobic exercise (treadmill running) before each set.
Though the groups did the same amount of work—three times a week for 11 weeks—the integrated training group came out on top. That group saw a significant increase in upper- and lower-body strength, as well as a 3.3 percent increase in fat-free mass and a 5.7 percent decrease in body fat.
By replacing your rest periods with short periods of cardio, you can easily (well, it won't feel easy!) rack up 20-30 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) without spending more time in the gym. HIIT training is one of the best methods to burn fat because you burn more calories during the workouts and burn calories long after you're done training.
2. Nutrition: Cycle carbs around training days.
That bachelorette party in Vegas is coming up fast! Your first instinct may be to slash your calories, but that is so wrong. Of course it's not healthy, but it's not effective, either!
Meanwhile, you feel hungry all day, grow irritable, become grouchy, and your sleep is crappy. Your low energy makes your workouts suffer. There's a better way!
Diets that cycle carbohydrates are common among fitness athletes, and there's research to support this method. Researchers at Genesis Prevention Center at University Hospital in South Manchester, England, found that women who followed a very low-carbohydrate diet on two consecutive days during the week—and ate a Mediterranean-type diet the rest of the week—lost an average of 14 pounds over six months.2 Women on a 1,500-calorie restricted diet, on the other hand, lost 12 pound in that time. Although not a significant difference in weight loss, carb cycling may be an attractive alternative to those who struggle eating a restricted-calorie diet day in and day out.
The cycling strategy alternates high- and low-carb days. This stimulates the body's production of the fat-burning hormone leptin. It is also incredibly mentally rewarding! It gives you a higher-carb day to look forward to, which helps you stick with your plan. That's a win, right? You can enjoy eating carbs fairly regularly and still lose weight.
Introduce your high-carb days on the days you perform your hardest workout sessions. For many people, this will mean a leg or back day. Adjust your plan according to your goals and lifting schedule.
3. Supplements: Hit your protein goals first.
Additionally, any time you make fat loss your goal, you risk losing plenty of fat-burning muscle tissue along with the soft stuff. A healthy protein intake and supplemental BCAAs can both help you hold on to lean mass, while the BCAAs can also help with recovery between your high-intensity workouts.
When someone wants to lose fat, particularly by an ambitious deadline, the first supplement that usually comes to mind is a fat burner. While this can definitely help, it's a tool that should only be used in conjunction with tried-and-true fitness staples like protein or branched-chain amino acids—not in place of them.
Cover those crucial nutritional bases, and you'll give your fat burner—and your workouts—a better chance of working for you.
- Davis, W. J., Wood, D. T., Andrews, R. G., Elkind, L. M., & Davis, W. B. (2008). Concurrent training enhances athletes' strength, muscle endurance, and other measures. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 22(5), 1487-1502.
- Harvie, M. N., Pegington, M., Mattson, M. P., Frystyk, J., Dillon, B., Evans, G., ... & Howell, A. (2011). The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women. International Journal of Obesity, 35(5), 714-727.