That’s basically what I did. I counted calories for a while using good old spreadsheets. That made me realize that foods like pasta and rice where high calories, so I should watch with that. Now I haven’t counted calories and years, and watch out with carbs. That’s how I’ve been able to keep my weight stable and visible abs over the past 10 years or so.
All of this is important to understand because while the basics of changing your body composition are simple –energy balance– each person’s personal psychology and physiology will differ. Someone who’s never exercised before and has a lot of fat to lose will have different physiological and psychological requirements than someone who stopped training for a while and gained some body fat in the interim; conversely, a lean beginner is going to be in a different place than an overweight beginner.
Usually work out for 30 minutes? Exercise for a third of that—but go hard! "An intense 10 minutes jump-starts your metabolic furnace and equals about 20 or 30 minutes at a moderate intensity," says Jordan Metzl, MD, author of Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Workout Prescription. If you can’t spare the full 10 minutes, you can sweat for even less time: According to a 2013 study from Colorado State University, exercising for just 2 ½ minutes at a high intensity (think running or biking sprints) can help you burn 200 more calories over the rest of the day.
Losing fat means something different to everyone. Some are just trying to lose a few pounds, some want to get a six pack, and some want to get absolutely shredded. The goals may be different but the principles that will achieve these results remain the same. Follow this guide and your future will be filled with smaller belts, better abs, and many more excuses to take your shirt off in public.
At its core, burning fat comes down to the process of lipolysis—the breaking down of fat lipids, explains Seedman. This happens in the mitochondria of the muscles, or the powerhouses of the cells, responsible for generating the energy our cells need to do their jobs. Exercise has been shown to improve mitochondria function, which then promotes fat breakdown, Seedman adds. Plus, working out helps regulate pretty much all the hormones that optimize fat loss.