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.
Step 1 revolves around simple math: You must eat fewer calories than your body is accustomed to in order to drop bodyfat. When a calorie shortfall is created, the body responds by digging into body-fat reserves to make up the difference. And presto, you grow leaner. All other laws aside, this one heads the list every time, no matter what dietary approach you take.
You will find that you lose up to 8 lbs quickly, which is your glycogen (and water) going down. Then you will plateau for a few days. I recommend you weigh-in only once per week, which will stop the emotional ups and downs. The mirror is your scale the rest of the time. The weight will come off in chunks after that. Nothing for a couple days, then sometimes 3-5 lbs in one day. It just keeps happening. But the mirror never lies.
This could be because the body increases insulin secretion in anticipation that sugar will appear in the blood. When this doesn’t happen, blood sugar drops and hunger increases. Whether this chain of events regularly takes place is somewhat unclear. Something odd happened when I tested Pepsi Max though, and there are well-designed studies showing increased insulin when using artificial sweeteners.
It’s a little counterintuitive, but consuming calories after you’ve just burned them appears to be vital to fat-burning. Your muscles need a combo of protein and carbs to replenish energy stores and build new muscle. In one study, people who downed a 270-calorie shake with 24 grams of protein and 36 grams of carbs after their workout lost about four more pounds of fat and built more lean muscle than those who didn’t refuel post-exercise. Eating protein after a workout may help with lean muscle gains and could also help to prevent overeating later in the day, says Lesli Bonci, RD, a nutritionist and owner of Active Eating Advice. Find out what fitness instructors eat post-workout.
Set up a box behind you and then lower your body until your glutes touch it. Touching the box requires you to “sit back” as you squat, as if you were lowering yourself into a chair, and this action gets the glutes and hamstrings maximally involved in the lift. It also helps you to perfect your squat form. You can start with a higher box and gradually move to smaller boxes as you improve, ultimately training your body to squat below parallel with no box at all. Better still, the box squat places no strain on the knees, so even people with knee problems can attempt it safely.
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