The journey to a lean physique is not easy, and along the way, you are bound to encounter many obstacles. This is normal. With a solid training program, good nutrition, and some adherence and self-control, you will most likely be able to get pretty good results on your own, however, for many of us, “pretty good” isn’t good enough.
Taking your body from sedentary, overweight, and out of shape, to a stronger, leaner, version of yourself is a great accomplishment, and one to be proud of. Pat yourself on the back if you’ve come that far. However, taking that next step, from a fit body, to a photo-shoot ready, head-turning beach body is whole different animal.
Most of us know that the last ten to twenty pounds are the hardest to lose, and many will be tempted to just give up, assuming they can never get there. Over the last four years working as a personal trainer, I’ve found that ninety percent of my clientele have been the “fit” population, who struggle with the last little bit of body fat, and so losing stubborn body fat has become something of a speciality of mine.
I’m here to share 4 of my best tips and methods for breaking fat loss plateaus, and getting that lean body you’ve always dreamed of. Please note that these methods are geared towards stubborn body fat, and while they may be applicable if you have a significant amount to lose, if you have a ways to go, don’t feel the need to implement all of these. Sometimes it’s better to leave some tools in the toolbox for when the going gets tough.
1. Track macros with deadly accuracy.
This may be second nature to some, but if it’s not, it should be. Having a good picture of what you take in on a daily basis is vital to make progress. If you just eat clean, or eat Paleo, or Keto, or whatever your diet method of choice may be, but aren’t tracking intake, you’re going to have a very hard time adjusting and making progress.
While just about any diet may work at first, eventually, you will get stuck, and then what? Try to eat cleaner, or more Paleo? Guessing isn’t going to get you very far. If someone has an exact of idea of what their macros are, it’s easy to shave off some carbs here, some fat there, and keep things moving. However, if all you know is the general kinds of foods you eat, you have no way to adjust unless you eliminate a macro group entirely, which is something none of us want.
2. Cycle your carbohydrate and caloric intake.
Carb-cycling, and specifically, calorie cycling, can be very beneficial for fat loss and body recomposition. By eating more calories on training days, and less on rest days, you can supply your body with energy for the specific needs of the day, rather then having a static intake all week.
The specifics will vary person to person, so I’m not going to throw out any numbers, but generally, protein would be roughly the same each day. On training days, carbohydrate intake would be much higher, and on rest days, carbohydrate intake would be very low. Fat may fluctuate as well, with it being higher on rest days, and lower on workout days. I’d aim for eating somewhere around maintenance calories, give or take 100, on training days, and get into a pretty good deficit on rest days.
Note: this is much harder to do properly if you aren’t tracking macros, but you can try but just severely reducing carb intake on rest days.
3. Increase training volume.
There are a few ways to go about this, but it all boils down to thermodynamics. If you are training more, you are expending more energy, and if food intake remains the same, you’ll burn more fat over time.
You can either increase the length of your workouts, adding more exercises, if you have a free schedule and love the gym. However, if time is a constraint, just add more work to what you are currently doing. Use supersets and tri-sets, cut back on rest times, try to do more reps – anything you can do to squeeze more work into your scheduled gym time. Push yourself hard.
4. Use cardio to increase weekly caloric expenditure.
Yeah, yeah, cardio is unnecessary, and you can lose weight without it. I don’t disagree with that. However, there comes a certain point where cardio becomes necessary, unless you feel like eating less and less each week. I may be one of the only coaches on here to say that cardio can be necessary, but I stand by it.
As alluded to above, this is one of those, “keep it in your toolbox until needed” sort of things. If you have a lot of weight to lose, don’t do much cardio, maybe one or two short conditioning sessions per week, and that’s it. Just restrict calories.
However, as the diet goes on, you will most likely need to implement it at some point. You can probably get pretty lean without it, but to get to very lean levels – think, magazine-cover fitness models in single digit body fat, you’re going to have a much easier time if you use some cardio.
If you’re like me, and you aren’t blessed with a metabolism of the gods, you’ll reach a point where you just can’t keep cutting calories. Even if you could, you may not want to. Think about it, would you rather be hungry all day, but not do cardio, or throw in a few cardio sessions each week, and eat a little more?
Adding one or two HIIT sessions per week, mixed with some steady-state, low-intensity cardio after your HIIT sessions or workouts can be a good way to expend more calories. Pro-tip: mix it up and have fun. Get outside, run around, hike, bike, play sports – no need to slave away on a treadmill in the dark cardio section of the gym.
Featured image courtesy of Alan English.