Song: Harder Better Faster Stronger
By Daft Punk
Song: Wiggle ft. Snoop Dogg
By Jason Derulo, Snoop Dogg
Song: Up Down (Do This All Day)
By T-Pain, B.o.B.
Song: Take Me Home Ft. Bebe Rexha
By Cash Cash, Bebe Rexha
By Calvin Harris
Song: Live For The Night
Song: Stay The Night ft. Hayley Williams
By Zedd, Hayley Williams
Song: Dear Boy
By Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea
Song: Talk Dirty ft. 2 Chainz
By Jason Derulo, 2 Chainz
By Pitbull, Kesha
Song: Get Up (Rattle)
By Bingo Players, Far East Movement
Song: Into The Blue
By Kylie Minogue
Song: Right Now
By Rihanna, David Guetta
Song: Play Hard
By David Guetta, Ne-Yo, Akon
Song: Pompeii - Kat Krazy Remix
Song: Eye Of The Tiger
Song: We Will Rock You
Song: Smells Like Teen Spirit
Song: Welcome To The Jungle
By Guns N' Roses
By Jay Z, Linkin' Park
How The Physiology of Fat Loss Works:
Losing fat is much simpler than you’ve been led to believe.
The first, and most fundamental, of these mechanics is energy balance.
This refers to the relationship between the energy you give your body through eating food and the energy it expends through cellular and physical activity. It’s often measured in kilocalories (kcal).
The absolute immutable truth about meaningful weight loss…as demonstrated by thousands of controlled weight loss trials conducted over the last 100 years…is this: you must burn more energy than you consume.
You’ve probably heard this before but if you’re shaking your head in disappointment, allow me to explain.
When you eat food, you provide your body with a relatively large amount of energy in a short period of time. It burns a portion of this energy and stores a portion as body fat for later use.
The scientific term for this period of nutrient absorption and processing is “postprandial. Post means “after” and prandial means “having to do with a meal.” While in this postparandial or “fed” state, no fat burning occurs–the body is in “fat storage mode.”
The reason for this is simple: why should the body burn fat for energy when you’ve just provided it with all it needs plus quite a bit more?
Eventually your body finishes processing and absorbing the food, which can take several hours, and enters what scientists call the “postabsorptive” state.
The energy provided by food is now gone but the show must go on. What can your body do to meet its energy demands?
That’s right–it can burn body fat. Your body must now shift to “fat burning mode” to survive while it waits for its next meal.
Every day your body moves in and out of postprandial and postabsorptive states, storing and burning fat.
Here’s a simple graph that shows this visually:
The light portions show what happens when you eat food: insulin levels rise to help process the nutrients and fat burning shuts down.
The dark portions show what happens when your body runs out of energy from food: insulin levels drop, which tells the body it’s running out of energy and needs to start burning fat.
Now, what happens if these light and dark portions more or less balance out every day? You got it–you body fat levels stay the same. Your body is burning more or less as much fat as it’s storing.
What happens if the light portions outweigh the dark? Yup, you’ve stored more fat than you’ve burned and thus your total fat mass rises.
And what happens if the dark portions are collectively greater than the light? You’ve burned more fat than you’ve stored, which means your total fat mass decreases.
This is why meaningful fat loss requires that you burn more energy than you eat.
It doesn’t matter how many “unclean” foods you eat or when you eat them or anything else. Your metabolism runs on the first law of thermodynamics, which means fat (energy) stores can’t be increased without you providing a surplus of energy and can’t be decreased without you restricting energy intake, creating a deficit.
When talking pure weight loss, a calorie is a calorie. Your body only burns so much energy and if you feed it less than it needs, it has no choice but to continue tapping into fat stores to stay alive.
The goal isn’t to lose weight, though. It’s to lose fat and not muscle. And when that’s the goal, a calorie is not a calorie.
Certain types of calories are more important than others.
I’ve written about this extensively in my books and elsewhere, but here’s the long story short:
When you’re restricting your calories to lose fat, you must ensure you’re eating enough protein.
Research shows that when restricting calories, a high-protein diet is more effective at reducing body fat, helps preserve muscle, and increases satiety.
How much protein should you be eating, exactly?
Well, the government recommends 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, but research shows that double and even triple that amount isn’t enough to preserve lean mass while dieting.
Instead, I prefer to follow the advice of scientists at AUT University, who concluded…
“Protein needs for energy-restricted resistance-trained athletes are likely 2.3-3.1g/kg of FFM [1 – 1.4 grams per pound of fat free mass] scaled upwards with severity of caloric restriction and leanness.”
To keep it simple, my general recommendation is eating 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight when restricting calories for fat loss.
If you have quite a bit of fat to lose (if you’re a man with 20%+ body fat or if you’re a woman with 30%+), you can reduce intake to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight and you’ll be fine.
So, now that you understand how the body builds muscle and stores and burns fat, let’s see what it takes to do both at the same time.
First let me give you a quick explanation on the causes of knee and hip pain!
First, What Causes Knee Pain?
Knee pain is widespread and especially common among athletes.
Common causes for knee pain are, as noted above, strains and sprains, cartilage tears, and tendon inflammation, but the complex nature of the knee joint makes it susceptible to other problems.
Second, What Causes Hip Pain?
Like with knee pain, the most common causes of hip pain are arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis. Muscle imbalances are quite common as well.
One of areas of the hip joint that often gives athletes problems is the sacroiliac joint in the pelvis.
The sacroiliac joint is designed to transfer forces to and from the lower spine into the hip and legs and when it gets aggravated or injured, pain is felt in the lower back, hip, and/or legs.
The squat motion puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the sacroiliac joint, which is one of the reasons why many weightlifters in particular struggle with sacroiliac pain.
3 Effective Joint Pain Remedies You Need to Try
Ask the wrong so-called “expert” about what you should do to relieve your joint pain and you’re going to hear drugs or surgery or both. The problems with anti-inflammatory drugs are they just mask the problem and long-term use is a bad idea. The problem with surgery is obvious: it’s a traumatic, risky experience that we would all rather avoid if at all possible.
Well, short-term use of drugs can give some relief and some situations necessitate surgery but if yours doesn’t (and a good sports doc can tell you), there’s a good chance the following 5 pain-relief strategies can help.
“Unsticking” soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, and fascia) and improving movements patterns and range of motion can be very effective in relieving joint pain.
The type of exercises that accomplish this are commonly referred to as “mobility exercises,” and the right ones can work wonders.
Rest, Ice, and Heat - The most important part of recovery is rest.
That doesn’t mean immobility but it does mean you have to not do things that are going to impair healing and recovery.
Violate this simple principle and injuries can become chronic and debilitating.
Once a joint has fully healed and you’re ready to start training again, it’s a good idea to start with lighter weights and see how you feel over the next several days (no pain is a good sign), and gradually work back into your normal routine.
Ice helps you recover by reducing inflammation and swelling as well as internal bleeding from injured capillaries and blood vessels.
As long as there is pain and inflammation, ice will help.
Don’t apply ice for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, but you can rotate on and off all day.
Heat stimulates blood flow, which helps your body bring nutrients to and remove waste products from the area faster.
Heat shouldn’t be introduced immediately following an injury, however.
The general advice is to ice only for the first 3 days to bring down swelling and, once this has been accomplished, introduce heat. Alternate between 15 to 20 minutes of ice and heat.
As you know, abnormalities in soft tissues can cause joint pains, and research shows acupuncture can help treat this.
Specifically, needling can help release “trigger points” in the body, which are tight, painful areas of muscle that refer pain to other areas of the body.
For example, when you press on a trigger point in your neck, you might also feel pain in your shoulder (I’ve personally experienced that one).
The key here is obviously the skill and knowledge of the acupuncturist. Look for someone trained in using acupuncture for myofascial release.
Like acupuncture, research shows that massage is another effective strategy for releasing trigger points.
This can not only relieve pain but can help prevent muscular problems from developing in the first place that can, in time, cause joint pains.
There is nothing more attractive than strong, smart and sexy lifters.
A body that squats, is a body that rocks.
Squatting, especially barbell back squats can be hard on your body though.
If you don't prep and prepare your feet, legs, torso, neck and spine to handle
an axial load of several hundred pounds... you're short changing yourself.
Here are two videos that might help you get ready for heavy squatting and
keep your body free from imbalance and injury.
#1 How To Stretch For Squats (do this FIRST)
#2 How To Squat
Follow both of these routines by some dynamic warm-ups and light squat
work.... then you'll be ready to attack you back squat like a pro.
"Your body is your mind!"
Becoming the strongest version of yourself is a multifaceted process which
Physical Strength (structure, posture, performance)
Physiological Strength (digestion, breathing, hormones)
Energetic Strength (mind, character, soul)
Life Mastery (authenticity, generosity, legacy)
No part of you is more -or- less important than the others.
“There are three motives for which we live; we live for the body, we live for the mind,
we live for the soul.
No one of these is better or holier than the other; all are alike desirable, and no one of
the three—body, mind, or soul—can live fully if either of the others is cut short of full
life and expression.” - Wallace D Wattles
As you’ll see, your primary focus in bodyweight workouts is improving in a few basic areas: pushing, pulling, and squatting.
There are many variations of these movements and ways to make the more difficult, of course, but they are the foundation of all good bodyweight training.
So, let’s review the best of these types of bodyweight exercises and then look at how we can combine them into an effective and challenging workout routine.
No bodyweight workout is complete without some form of pushup.
It’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to train your chest, shoulders, and arms, and it doesn’t require any special equipment.
I’m going to recommend that you do several types of pushups in your bodyweight workouts.
The pike pushup is a pushup variation that is great for training the shoulders.
Dive Bomber Pushup
The Dive Bomber Pushup is a good progression from the pike pushup (meaning it’s an exercise you progress to once you’ve built considerable strength on the previous).
It’s a complete upper body exercise because it emphasizes your chest, shoulders, and triceps at different points in the movement.
In terms of bodyweight shoulder exercises, it’s hard to beat the handstand pushup for sheer difficulty (and thus overload).
I want to shy away from exercises that require special equipment, but I need to mention the dip because it’s one of the absolute best upper body exercises you can do, bodyweight or otherwise.
There are two types of dips you can do: triceps (or bench) dips and chest dips.
Chinup & Pullup
These are also exercise that can’t be done without equipment…but a pullup bar is cheap and, in my opinion, vital.
It’s vital because if you want to get the most out of your bodyweight training, you must be doing chinups and pullups.
They train every major muscle in your back and involve the biceps to a significant degree as well, and they do it in a way that just can’t be replicated otherwise (outside of the gym, that is).
There are many pullup variations you can do, of course, but you should build a foundation of strength with these two before progressing to more advanced types.
Just about every popular resistance training program you can find involves some sort of squatting.
It’s the simplest and most effective leg-building exercise you can do.
This exercise is the bodyweight equivalent of the barbell back squat, and if you want to build strong legs, you’re going to do a lot of it.
The squat jump is a progression from the basic bodyweight squat that adds a dynamic “explosive” element to your training.
The Shrimp Squat is a good introduction to one-legged squatting (which is a good progression from two-legged variations).
The pistol squat is a difficult progression from the shrimp squat that requires a considerable amount of strength and balance.
The lunge is primarily a quadriceps exercise but all the major muscle groups of the lower body come into play.
Russian Leg Curl
The Russian leg curl is a fantastic exercise for isolating your hamstrings.
The burpee is a classic full-body exercise that also builds your cardiovascular capacity.
Hanging Leg Raise
The hanging leg raise is one of my favorite exercises for training the core (and the rectus abdominis in particular).
The bicycle crunch is a popular abs/core exercise that is particularly good for training the obliques.
The plank is often hailed as the ultimate core exercise, but research shows that’s a bit of an overstatement.
That said, it definitely valuable enough to include in your bodyweight workouts.
Remember–Progression Is the Key
That’s it for exercise recommendations.
The key isn’t just doing exercises–it’s progressing on them.
We recall that as a natural weightlifter, the most important type of progression is overload.
When you’re weightlifting, the easiest way to do this is to add weight to the bar.
When you’re training with your bodyweight, though, you have two options:
So, push yourself to make progress in your workouts and eat enough food and your muscles will grow.
Weight loss has rules. Legit rules. They’re mathematical in nature and we’re beholden to them whether we like it or not. You can’t just break the rules because you don’t like them or because you hope they don’t apply to you. This is where many dieters fail.
A few of these principles relate to food intake and a few relate to what types of exercise you should do, which is what we’re going to focus on here.
There are many opinions on the subject, of course.
I want to start by making an important distinction.
So far, we’ve been talking “weight loss.”
Instead, we need to focus on fat loss, and here’s why…
Why You Don’t Want to Merely “Lose Weight”
What do millions of people resolve to do every January?
Lose weight, right?
That’s the wrong way of looking at it, though. What they really want to do is lose fat.
I’m not being pedantic, either–there’s a big difference between those two goals.
Strictly speaking, weight loss refers to reducing a number on a scale.
Well, you don’t know what you’re doing, you can lose plenty of weight… and wind up skinny fat.
If you want a simple demonstration of this, just follow one of the many popular weight loss diets and exercise programs that go something like this:
And as you can guess, muscle loss is the major concern here because the more you lose, the worse you look, even with a relatively low body fat percentage.
This is how you ruin your body composition.
How to ruin your body composition by chasing ‘weight loss’:
If you go about it differently, though, and focus on losing fat while preserving muscle, the upshot is very different.
You may lose less weight but you’ll be better for it because you’ll have retained (or even gained) muscle, which means you’ll be much happier with what you see in the mirror.
So, you came into this article wanting to know more about “weight loss.”
I want you to start thinking “fat (and not muscle) loss,” though, because that’s what I want for you.
Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.
What kind of exercises do most people think they should do lose belly fat?
Ab exercises, of course.
What about thigh fat?
Squats are supposed to burn away that blight, aren’t they?
And so the list goes…
Exercises burn calories, which aids in fat loss, and while research shows that training a muscle increases blood flow and lipolysis in the area, the effects are too small to matter.
That is, you can’t do crunches to get a six pack or hip thrusts to shrink your butt.
Ironically, if you want a certain area of your body to be leaner or “slimmer,” training the muscles without also reducing your body fat percentage will create the opposite effect.
It will simply end up looking bigger.
(This, by the way, is why many women mistakenly believe that weightlifting will make them “bulky.”)
The reason for this is fat loss is a whole-body process. You can’t selectively lose (or gain) fat in one region of your body or another.
Yes, all of us tend to store our fat differently, but the basic mechanism is the same–when we gain fat, we gain it everywhere, and when we lose it, we see a reduction in total-body fat mass.
What this means is you can use diet and exercise to get leaner, but some areas will lose inches faster than others.
(And unfortunately, the fat we want to lose the most is also usually the hardest to lose, but that’s another discussion.)
What Are the Best Exercises for Weight Loss, Then?
The best exercises for weight loss meet several criteria:
Now, what most people don’t know is the “secret” to getting ripped isn’t doing a handful of “special” exercises like air squats, planks, butt raises, or anything else.
It’s doing the right type of exercise.
(The truth is there is no “secret,” really, but some approaches certainly work better than others.)
In other words, it’s not so much about the individual exercises that you do as the style of exercise.
Let’s break this down.
Is Cardio the Best Type of Exercise to Lose Weight?
If you ask someone that wants to lose weight what they need to do, what will they say?
“Diet and exercise,” right?
And if you ask them what type of exercise, what will the likely answer be?
You know, walking, jogging, swimming, biking, and so forth.
Unfortunately, this guarantees little in the way of weight loss (even when you do quite a bit).
In fact, research shows that you can just wind up fatter as a result, mainly by negating its already meager weight loss benefits by unconsciously eating too much and/or reducing other forms of physical activity.
Hence the throngs of overweight people in your gym crowding the treadmills, wondering why they’re still not losing weight.
There are two reasons why your traditional cardio workout is a mediocre (at best) weight loss tool.
Cardio doesn’t burn all that much energy.
If you’re like most people, running vigorously for 30 minutes is pretty exhausting.
Guess how much energy it burns, though?
Anywhere from 400 to 600 calories, depending on your speed and body weight.
If that sounds like a lot to you, consider that it’s the amount of energy in…
Cardio workouts don’t burn as much energy as we wish they did, making it very easy to eat back all the calories burned (and more).
The same could be said of many other types of workouts as well, by the way.
This is why people that say you just need to “move more” to lose weight are missing the forest for the trees.
Increased physical activity can help, of course, but if you don’t know what you’re doing with your diet, no amount of exercise is going to be enough to keep the needle moving.
Your body “learns” to burn less energy.
You probably know that an energy deficit is required to lose fat.
And you probably know that in almost all cases, a “weight loss plateau” boils down to eating too much.
What you may not know, though, is when in a calorie deficit, your body works to diminish it through moving less and promoting overeating.
It does this because its goal is to maintain homeostasis. It doesn’t want to be in a calorie deficit.
One of these adaptations is an increase in energy efficiency.
The net effect of this is, over time, your body burns fewer and fewer calories doing the same workouts (it becomes more energy efficient in doing them).
This shrinks your calorie deficit, which slows down your weight loss.
When this happens, many people don’t understand what’s going on and try to fight fire with fire.
They resolve to “move more” (do more cardio) and while this increases energy expenditure (and thus fat loss), it can also accelerate muscle loss and metabolic slowdown.
They often reduce caloric intake to near-starvation levels as well, which only makes matters worse.
All this is why I generally recommend that people keep cardio to a minimum when dieting to lose fat.
Yes, you read that correctly.
If we’re just talking body composition, the less cardio you can do when cutting, the better.
What does all that mean specifically, though?
What qualifies as the “right” amount (and type) of cardio?
The Best Type of Cardio for Weight Loss
There are two types of cardio that I believe are best for losing weight:
1. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
That probably sounds contradictory to you.
How could the hardest and easiest forms of cardio both be the “best” for fat loss?
Well, it’s precisely because of their opposite positions on the “exertion” spectrum.
Let me explain.
Why HIIT is Best for Rapid Fat Loss
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, is a style of exercising where you alternate between periods of (almost) all-out and low effort.
Hence, the name.
The high-intensity intervals push your body toward its metabolic limits (basically as hard as you can go) and the low-intensity intervals allow it to recover (catching your breath).
HIIT is fantastic for weight loss because it burns a large amount of energy in a relatively short period of time (and has semi-significant “afterburn” effects as well).
A study conducted by scientists at The University of Western Ontario shows just how effective it really is.
Researchers had 10 men and 10 women train 3 times per week, with one group doing 4 to 6 30-second treadmill sprints (with 4 to 6 minutes of rest in between each), and the other group doing 30 to 60 minutes of steady-state cardio (jogging at about 65% of VO2 max).
After 6 weeks of training, the subjects doing the intervals had lost significantly more fat.
Yes, 4 to 6 30-second sprints burn more fat than 60 minutes of jogging.
This isn’t just better for your social life–it’s better for your muscles, too.
You see, research shows that cardio workouts can directly impair strength and muscle hypertrophy gains.
These effects are compounded and magnified when you’re in a calorie deficit, which is why doing too much cardio while cutting can cause a considerable amount of muscle loss.
Well, with HIIT, you can have the best of both worlds: relatively short workouts that burn a considerable amount of fat and minimally impact muscle.
So, if you’re sold on HIIT, you probably have a few questions, such as…
Walking: The Easiest Way to Lose Fat Faster
When viewed in terms of fat burning, walking is no HIIT, but it deserves more attention than it gets.
You see, it’s not nearly as effective for maximizing fat loss, but it’s definitely the easiest way to increase energy expenditure and lose weight faster.
Case in point:
A study conducted by scientists at California State University with college-aged men and women found that subjects that ran a 10-minute mile burned about 190 calories.
Subjects that walked a 19-minute mile burned fewer calories, of course, but it’s not as few as you might think–about 111 calories.
If you walked a few hours per week, then, you could augment your energy expenditure by anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 calories, which could translate to an additional 1 to 2 pounds of fat loss per month.
Not too shabby.
Research shows that this is enough to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality (death from any cause), as well.
Furthermore, studies show that walking can counteract the effects of stress and reduce cortisol levels.
This is significant because managing stress (and thus cortisol) levels is an important part of minimizing
muscle loss while restricting calories to lose fat.
You do this primarily by managing how much you eat and exercise, and this is where many people go astray.
They eat far too little and exercise far too much, and this can cause a whole slew of problems ranging from depression to muscle loss to low energy to food cravings and more.
Well, walking is great in this regard because, unlike more intense forms of exercise, it places very little stress on the body.
That means that you can “safely” add several hours of weekly walking on top an already rigorous exercise schedule without risking overtraining.
Weightlifting: the Unsung Hero of Weight Loss
Most people mistakenly associate weightlifting with “bulking up” and not “slimming down.”
That’s probably because, as we discussed earlier, they’re too focused on weight as opposed to body composition.
You see, weightlifting isn’t a good way to lose weight because it causes muscle gain, which makes you heavier…but research shows that it’s an extremely effective way to speed up fat loss.
For example, let’s review a study conducted by scientists at Duke University.
196 men and women ranging from 18 to 70 years old were separated into three groups:
1. Resistance training (RT)
This group did three 60-minute resistance training workouts per week that consisted of 24 sets of machine exercises.
2. Aerobic training (AT)
This group jogged three days per week for about 45 minutes per workout.
3. Aerobic and resistance training (AT/RT)
This group did both of the workouts above, which summed up to about 5 hours of exercise per week.
Which group do you think lost the most weight?
Well, after eight months, scientists found at the aerobic training group topped the weight loss charts.
They also lost the most muscle.
Guess who lost the most fat (and gained muscle to boot)?
You got it–the aerobic and resistance training group.
These “recomp” effects have been seen in several other studies as well.
The bottom line is this:
If you want to lose fat as quickly as possible while preserving or even building muscle, then you want to do both resistance and aerobic training.
What Type of Weightlifting Is Best for Weight Loss?
The weightlifting best for losing fat would do two things:
1. Burn a significant amount of energy without over-stressing the body.
2. Overload the muscles to stimulate muscle growth.
Well, there happens to be a weightlifting workout that fits that bill perfectly: One that emphasizes heavy compound lifting.
By “heavy,” I mean handling weights that are 70%+ of your one-rep max (and ideally closer to 80 to 85%).
The reason for this is simple: it burns a lot of energy.
A study published by scientists at Democritus University of Thrace (Greece) found that training with weights in the range of 80 to 85% of 1RM significantly increases metabolic rate over the following three days, burning hundreds more calories than training with lighter weights (45 to 65% of 1RM).
Similar effects were seen in a study conducted by researchers at Gama Filho University (Brazil) as well.
By “compound,” I mean focusing on compound exercises, which are those that train multiple major muscle groups (like the squat, deadlift, and bench and overhead press).
To nobody’s surprise, research shows that compound exercises burn more energy during and after training than isolation exercises (which isolate one major muscle group, like the biceps curl).
For example, just four heavy sets of deadlifts can burn over 100 calories, and that’s not taking into account the additional energy expenditure burned due to the “afterburn effect.”
As luck would have it, this style of weightlifting is also best for building muscle and strength, which serves our purposes perfectly.
That’s why thousands of people have used workout programs like mine to successfully build muscle and lose fat at the same time.
The “Best” Weight Loss Exercise Routine?
If you want to see all this in action, do the following:
"I just ate a handful of jelly beans. Is that a problem?”
That was an actual text I sent to a bodybuilder friend years ago. I was completely serious.
I was cutting for the first time and the handful of jelly beans weren’t on my meal plan. I knew very little about how dieting actually works and so I worried that I had somehow set myself back.
Silly, of course, but it illustrates a point:
The sheer amount of bad information out there on weight loss and meal planning can turn even “smart” people into superstitious paranoids.
Well, I’ve learned a lot since then. And I’ve used what I’ve learned to write books and articles that have helped hundreds of thousands of people, and many are getting into the best shape of their lives.
I can do the same for you, starting right here, right now, with this article.
In the next ten minutes, you’re going to learn my 7 best tips for making weight loss meal plans that not only work but are, dare I say, enjoyable.
These recommendations aren’t speculation or theory, either.
They’re practical, time-proven techniques that I’ve learned through personal experience with my own body, through working one-on-one with thousands of people, and through the 4,000+ custom meal plans my team has made for men and women all over the world.
So, if you’re ready to learn once and for all how to create the best possible meal plans for losing weight, keep reading.
Don’t Severely Restrict Your Calories
If you could lose weight slowly or quickly, which would you prefer?
And that’s why many people starve themselves. It’s the easiest way to see lower numbers on the scale. It’s also the easiest way to misery, muscle loss, and yo-yo dieting.
You see, many starvation diets have you eating anywhere from 25 to 50% of your total daily energy expenditure. Do this and you’re going to lose weight, of course. But there’s more to consider…
Much of the weight you lose initially is water and glycogen.
When you hear of someone losing 4, 5, 8+ pounds in one week, it’s safe to assume that 20 to 30% is water loss and a fair chunk is a reduction in glycogen levels.
This isn’t a problem per se, but that that water and glycogen weight will return once food–and carbohydrate in particular–intake returns to normal.
You can lose muscle easily.
The more you restrict your calories, the more like you are to lose muscle.
This is especially true if you’re not doing any resistance training, or doing too much, and if you’re doing too much cardio as well.
The big problem with this is more you lose muscle, the closer you get to a dreaded “skinny fat” physique.
Now, there are forms of very-low-calorie dieting designed to maximize fat loss while preserving muscle, but they have several requirements:
You think you know hunger, cravings, and mood swings? Try eating (and training on) a diet of 150 to 200 grams of protein per day… and nothing else.
Which brings me to my next point…
You feel progressively worse and worse.
If you’re like most people, you’re going to find very-low-calorie dieting to be miserable.
Common side effects are low energy levels, intense food cravings, mental fog, and depression, and the longer you go, the worse it gets.
How to Calculate Your Calorie Deficit
Now that you know the pitfalls of starvation dieting, you’re probably wondering how to do it correctly.
Well, there’s a lot of debate among “gurus” about how large of a calorie deficit is too large.
It gets especially heated when discussing what’s optimal for athletic types following a high-protein diet, as opposed to untrained, obese individuals eating too little protein.
My go-to research on this matter is a study conducted by scientists at the University of Jyväskylä.
Their subjects were 20 to 35 year-old national and international level track and field jumpers and sprinters with low levels of body fat (at or under 10%), and they split them into two groups.
These findings jive with my experiences both with my body and the thousands of people I’ve worked with.
Mild deficits can work if you’re very overweight, or very patient, but as you get leaner, larger deficits become necessary to maintain appreciable fat loss and don’t automatically cause muscle loss.
This is why I recommend a calorie deficit of 20 to 25% when dieting for fat loss.
Having salmon for dinner doesn’t have to be hard. When you want a gourmet dinner but don’t feel like doing any work, this recipe is exactly what you need.
Toss all the ingredients on a sheet pan, and stick it in the oven to roast. You can even leave the ripe tomatoes on the vine. The only part of this recipe that could require real effort – making your own teriyaki marinade – is optional. If you go for store-bought, just be sure to check the sugar content.
Serves 4 People
Protein: 39 grams
Carbs: 39 grams
Fat: 30 grams
You’ve just crawled into bed, only to find yourself overwhelmed by a hankering for the cold pizza languishing in the fridge (it would be so much happier in your belly!)
Or your meal plan’s archenemy: the midday slump, where your brain refuses to work for anything but carbs and sugar.
Sigh. If only we craved chicken breasts and vegetables… hitting our macros would be so easy…
Well, that may be wishful thinking, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to your food cravings and abandon your quest for the ideal body.
The reality is cravings aren’t nearly as vexing when you know why they occur and how to manage them, which is what this article is going to be all about.
What Are Food Cravings?
According to the good people over at Merriam-Webster, a craving is “a very strong desire for something.”
That doesn’t quite capture the real flavor of the food craving, though. This does, though: “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing.”
“Urgent” and “abnormal” are the keys to understanding the difference between a craving and genuine hunger.
While hunger is “a very great need for food” of any kind, a craving is the desire for a specific food.
It’s a classic case of needs versus wants.
Fortunately, you don’t beat food cravings by ignoring hunger and starving yourself.
In fact, you’ll want to go in the opposite direction (but more on that later).
So, to recap, if you’re wondering whether last night’s cheesecake binge was a result of hunger or just a craving, here’s what you need to consider:
When you have a craving, though, it’s usually for one specific food (or type or taste, like carbs or sweet or salty fare).
Internal eating, on the other hand, is a response to your body’s natural feelings of hunger.
What Causes Food Cravings? Cravings are complex and intertwined with a number of internal and external cues.
Fortunately, a high-level overview of some of the more common causes can help us overcome our desire to eat away all our gains.
Let’s review the ones that give most people the most trouble.
How Alcohol Can Cause Food Cravings. If you’ve ever come back from the bar and polished off a bag (or two…or few) of chips, you already know about the link between alcohol and food cravings.
This relationship goes deeper than many people think, though.
Research shows that people who tend to experience strong food cravings also have an increased risk of alcohol abuse.
And as drinking is known to increase the likelihood of overeating (and enhance fat storage), a slippery slope comes into view:
Food cravings lead to overeating and drinking, which leads to more overeating and drinking, which can result in rapid fat gain.
We also know that people with a family history of alcohol dependence show a preference for sweeter foods, suggesting a genetic basis for the connection between alcohol abuse and food cravings.
The bottom line is this:
If you tend to overdo it on alcohol, you’re likely prone to cravings and overeating as well (and vice versa).
Keep that in the back of your mind next time you’re out for drinks.
How Restrictive Eating Can Cause Food Cravings
Have you ever become fixated on a food as soon as some “guru” labeled it “bad”?
Or maybe you wake up on the first day of a new diet and suddenly you just have to scarf down some donuts for breakfast.
Well, us quirky humans love to obsess over whatever is forbidden, and this is probably why restrictive eating is a known cause of food cravings.
There’s nothing like the temptation of a “taboo” food to trigger an obsession with it.
This is why so many mainstream diets lead to flame-out bingeing: they focus far too much on what you “should” and “shouldn’t” eat, and far too little on the scientific underpinnings like energy and macronutrient balance.
This is why you need to embrace flexible dieting and never look back.
How Emotional Triggers Can Cause Food CravingsQuick: what does popular culture say women love to do when they feel down?
Eat their way through a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, of course.
And although that stereotype is a bit overplayed, it highlights a legitimate cause of food cravings.
Emotions can make you want to eat, and negative ones more so than positive.
Anger, sadness, and boredom have all been identified as reliable triggers for food cravings, possibly as a way of self-medicating to increase brain serotonin levels.
There are other ways to deal with negative feelings, though.
Exercising is always a good solution — I guarantee you won’t be thinking about cookies if you’re trying to hit a PR — but even something as simple as a stimulating game or walk outside can be enough to unfix your mind.
How Stress Can Cause Food Cravings. This one doesn’t come as a surprise to most of us.
Who hasn’t turned to sweet, succulent foods to take the edge off a rough day?
Well, while acute stress can suppress the appetite, the chronic variety has been linked to food cravings.
You see, in times of stress, your body copes in various ways.
One mechanism is activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA) axis, which is a complex set of interactions between three glands: the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands.
When this system is activated, cortisol levels increase, and this, in turn, increases the desire to eat.
This is why stress management is essential for taming cravings and achieving steady, predictable weight loss.
How Hormones Can Cause Food CravingsCortisol isn’t the only hormone that can trigger cravings.
For women, both pregnancy and the menstrual cycle have been identified as reliable stimuli.
As a whole, young women tend to experience the strongest food cravings, which suggests that cravings decline with the effects of ovarian hormones.
What Types of Food Do People Crave and Why?
Now that you understand a bit more about what causes cravings, let’s take a look at what people crave and why.
In general, the strongest cravings are for low-satiety (unfilling) foods.
That is, foods that are high in calories but low in protein and fiber. They’re also usually higher in fat and carbohydrates than average foods.
Basically, it’s the typical types of junk food that everyone knows and loves:
Well, research suggests it relates to what they call the food reward, which can be defined as “the momentary value of a food to the individual at the time of ingestion.”
In other words, these high-calorie, rather unfilling foods evoke powerful positive feelings for several reasons:
Before we move on, let’s take a quick detour to discuss the most commonly craved food of all: chocolate.
Why Do So Many People Crave Chocolate?Chocolate is the most commonly craved food and it certainly meets all of the above criteria.
What makes chocolate so irresistible, though? Why do some people consider themselves “chocoholics”?
Well, while there may or may not be such a thing as “chocolate addition,” there’s no doubt that it can positively influence mood.
There’s nothing particularly special in play here.
Chocolate is just another way to get an energy and mood boost when you’re angry, bored, depressed, or tired.
The Skinny on Food Cravings and Weight. We all joke about our occasional overwhelming desire to eat like it’s our last day on Earth, but for many, food cravings are no laughing matter.
They’re more than just a mental distraction — they can make weight maintenance a truly daunting task and lead to long-term health problems.
You see, because people tend to crave foods that are high in fat, carbs, and calories, food cravings are naturally associated with weight gain.
This, then, often leads to a pattern of yo-yo dieting, which is itself a source of recurring stress and discomfort that increases the desire to overeat, creating a vicious cycle that can be incredibly hard to escape.
The relationship between food cravings and weight loss (or dieting for weight loss), however, isn’t as clear cut.
Food cravings are frequently cited as the most common reason to stray from a diet, but research shows that restricting calories for weight loss can cause a reduction of food cravings.
If you’re a well-traveled fitness junkie, you’ve probably already experienced this (and especially if you know how to cut fat the right way).
You start your cut and it’s touch-and-go for the first week or so, but after that, the game of Hungry Hungry Hippo going on in your brain finally winds down and it’s more or less smooth sailing from there on out.
How to Beat Food Cravings
As you can see, food cravings are a ticklish subject.
There are a lot of mental and physiological mechanisms in play and it’s quite hard to tease everything out for easy inspection and manipulation.
Fortunately, we don’t need to have the whole bit taped to know how to prevent cravings from keeping you fat and unhappy.
Here’s how it breaks down…
How to Use Your Diet to Help Beat Food Cravings. Generally speaking, the more rigid your diet is, the more you’re going to battle with food cravings.
For example, research shows that strict dieting strategies (that revolve around limiting the foods that you can eat), are associated with eating disorder symptoms and higher BMI's, whereas flexible dieting strategies are not.
They’re also known to be major triggers for food cravings.
So if you’re prone to cravings, the worst thing you can do is follow a diet that makes forbids certain foods.
Instead, use the principles of flexible dieting to create meal plans that you actually enjoy, and learn how to incorporate “cheat meals” without undoing all your hard work in the gym.
This way you can eat more or less all the foods you like (just in moderation) while still reaching your body composition goals.
The restrictive eating problem extends beyond food choices, too. It also includes eating too few calories.
If you eat too little, you can rest assured you’re going to be plagued by hunger and cravings.
How to Use Your Mindset to Help Beat Cravings. If you can use your mind to get stronger and better at sports, then you should be able use it to blunt cravings, right?
If you level up your mental game, you can help keep your food cravings under control.
Mental Imagery and Cravings. Many food cravings begin with sensory exposure to a particular food.
You know, you’re driving along, minding your business, and suddenly your car smells like a giant french fry. And then you see it: the golden arches and poster of the golden, deep-fried goodies.
Juices begin to pool in your mouth as you imagine digging into an overflowing carton of nibbles…an image that you now can’t get out of your mind. (And the more vivid this imagery is, the stronger the craving is likely to feel, by the way).
Well, you can turn that same mental machinery against cravings to turn them off (or down, at least), and it’s very simple:
When a craving strikes, find something else to visualize vividly instead of that one food.
Really experience it with your mind’s eye — the colors, smells, sounds, emotion, tactile feedback. If you can hold this creation in mind for several minutes, you should find the craving far less compelling.
Another simple option is picking up your phone and playing a visually stimulating game for a few minutes.
Yup, even Tetris can block cravings.
Mindfulness and Cravings, Mindfulness, as defined by Kabat-Zinn, is “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Research shows that it can help your dieting experience in several ways:
Some people find meditation helpful (it was never my thing), and there are plenty of websites and smartphone apps that will guide you there.
“Mindful eating” techniques can help, too, and they’re quite simple.
For example, when you eat, slow down and be more aware of the physical sensations and your own thoughts and feelings about what you’re eating or just food in general. The idea is to focus on the whole experience of eating.
It’s also important that you discredit any bits of guilt or self-judgment that pop up. Simply be aware of and acknowledge what you’re thinking and feeling and “keep calm and carry on.”
I know this sounds kind of woo-woo, but make a habit of it and, in time, you should find yourself in more and more in tune with and in control of your cravings.
The Bottom Line on Food Cravings. If you’re going to get the body you really want — and keep it that way for the rest of your life — then you’re going to need to get a handle on food cravings.
And the best way to do that is…