If you do the following ten points diligently and with great patience, you will reap the benefits of a leaner body.

1. Eat less calories than you burn

If you eat 2900 calories a day and your body requires 2900 calories to maintain its current weight, you will stay the same. If you eat 3100 calories a day, over time you will put on weight. And, if you eat 2700 calories a day, over time you will lose weight.

This is science and there’s no way around it.

Yes, over time you’ll probably have to adjust your calories to match your changing body. But the main underlying principle doesn’t change: eat less than you burn.

You can read more about calories in versus calories out in here.

2. Don’t try to out-train a poor diet

If your diet involves an abundance of soft drinks and pizza on most days it is extremely unlikely that you will “eliminate” the extra calories by training more. And even in a rare case that this would work, it is not sustainable for most people over longer periods of time.

Excessive training schedule, or excessive training intensity requires enormous recovery commitments. Most of us simply don’t have the luxury to do that. But even more importantly, excessive training is extremely taxing for the body. In other words, you are more likely to take forced time away from training due to an injury when adhering to excessive training for extended periods of time.

3. Prioritize protein to maintain lean muscle mass while dropping fat

Setting protein to at least 1.6 grams per kilogram of bodyweight will allow the body to maintain, and even build muscle on a calorie deficit.

Gaining muscle while dropping fat is more likely to happen with a novice trainee. This is much more challenging to do if you are an intermediate or an advanced lifter as you are closer to your genetical ceiling for muscle building. In those cases you can still try to maintain the muscle mass you have while torching fat.

You can read more about muscle gaining and protein requirements in here.

Great sources of protein

  • Animal meats and seafood

  • Eggs

  • Beans and legumes

  • Tofu and tempeh

  • Protein supplements

4. Focus on wholefoods

When you are on a fat loss plan one thing is certain: you will feel hungry. That’s where the magic of filling wholefoods comes in.

You can feel fuller when eating a wholefood diet over a convenient snacks. The volume of food is higher in a head of broccoli compared to a muesli bar loaded with sugar. You can eat quite a few heads of broccoli (not that you need to) before getting the equal amount of calories to a typical muesli bar. So high volume food with low calorie, but high nutrient density becomes your friend.

Wholefoods are also high in fibre. Fibre gets transported straight through the gut without digestion so there are no calories absorbed. Fresh fibrous vegetables such as broccoli work well, as do slowly digested whole grains or root vegetables. So you’ll get the feeling of fullness without the calories.

One last benefit of wholefoods is that they provide you with the most possible nutrients. If you diet on twinkies and chocolate bars it is challenging to get in the nutrients that a healthy, well-functioning, fat burning body requires.

5. Don’t be afraid of eating fat

Before anything else: low carbohydrate, high fats work better for some. High carbohydrate, low fat diets work better for others.[1] Unfortunately there is not a one universal rule for everyone.

But despite which diet you find easier to maintain over long-term, don’t cut your fats too low as they have an important part in making the body work. I am talking about fats in healthy wholefoods sources, not the ones you get in margarine or in candy bars.

Eating healthy fats helps metabolism, immune system, hormone production, brain function, and absorption of nutrient, just to name few. So whatever you do don’t cut out fats completely, even if you prefer a high carbohydrate, low fat diet. It’s still a low fat diet, not a zero fat diet.

Aim for at least 20-35 percent of your total calories from fat. With ⅓ of it being saturated fat, ⅓ being monounsaturated fat, and ⅓ being polyunsaturated fats.

Further, when looking at polyunsaturated fats aim for more omega-3 fatty acids versus omega-6’s. High consumption of omega-6 fat compared omega-3’s has been linked to a whole lot of health issues, including increased risk of coronary heart disease.[2] As well as a increased risk of obesity.[3] When possible, try to favor omega-3 sources over omega-6.

Sources for healthy fats

  • Saturated fat sources: coconut oil and mostly animal fats, such as the fat on your steak or the natural butter that softens in room temperature.

  • Monounsaturated fat sources: mostly from virgin olive oil, nuts, avocado.

  • Omega-3 fat sources: seafood, algae. They are also in chia seeds, but you need to supplement with DHEA to absorb the omega-3’s from chia seeds.

  • Polyunsaturated fat sources: mostly from what hasn’t been mentioned yet. Most of these are high in omega-6 fatty acids.

 6. Manage your stress

But chronic stress from work and our modern lifestyle is far from good. Although the chronic stress is not immediately life threatening the body doesn’t know that. For the body it’s a life or death situation so it downregulates a bunch of important functions to conserve energy and keep you alert. Immune system, digestion, and yes, even fat burning are all “switched off” to a certain degree.

During acute stress brain elevates body’s cortisol levels. This in turn elevates body’s blood sugar levels so that muscles and organs can get through the stressful situation. This is a great mechanism when trying to survive a challenging, possibly life and death situation. But when the stress is chronic it keeps insulin levels high which works against fat loss efforts .

The body won’t change when in a constant state of stress. So you might be doing all the right things but nothing changes.

Ideas for managing stress

  • Meditate, especially if you find it challenging. It’s a sign that it could potentially help.

  • Find a hobby, do non-competitive sports, play with your cat/dog/kids. Choose a physical activity that allows you to “turn off”.

  • Strive for at least seven hours of good quality sleep each night. Which brings us to the next “secret”:

7. Get a better quality sleep

When struggling with fat loss most people resort to either increasing the exercise volume and intensity, or further cutting down calories. Often sleep is not given a second though and rather treated as the necessary evil that keeps us from striving for bigger things. But in fat loss sleep should be given the same respect and importance as diet and training.

You are probably familiar with the feeling of constant hunger when you haven’t slept enough. And since you are likely to eat more when hungry, it is common to blow over your reduced daily calories required for fat loss.

Although not 100% conclusive there are studies showing that the lack of sleep is correlated with increased fat mass. There is also research showing that cutting down sleep from 8.5 hours a night to 5.5. hours affects the body’s nutritioning partitioning ability. There is also evidence that people who are sleep deprived in calorie deficit (trying to lose fat) are more likely to lose more of their weight in muscle, not fat.[4]

So a fat loss plan combined with poor sleep could almost be called a “muscle loss plan”.

Ideas for better sleep
  • Go to bed at the same time each night, get up the same time each morning (even on weekends).

  • No electronic devices or television for at least an hour before getting to bed.

  • No caffeine, alcohol or other stimulant too close to bedtime. Some people can drink coffee two hours before going to bed and not be affected by it. Others can’t have any after 10am. Find what your limits are. Alcohol affect your ability to get into the deep REM sleep.

  • No intense training close to bedtime.

  • If possible, try to keep the bedroom between 15-20 degrees of celsius.

8. Prioritize resistance training over cardio

As we’ve already established you need to be on calorie deficit to burn fat. When doing so your body will take the energy it needs from somewhere. If you don’t provide enough stimulus for your muscles the body will also eat into your muscle mass to get the calories it needs to keep going.

When you lift weight you are telling the body that the muscle has a purpose and should be kept. This allows your body to shift to burn more of the calories from fat.

Depending on how much you have to lose, you might even notice that your weight is staying the same while you are getting leaner.

This doesn’t mean that conditioning is bad. Quite the opposite, it’s a crucial part of overall health. But when the goal is to lose fat while maximising muscle retention, strength training is your best option.

9. Ignore celebrity diets

We live in a world where everything endorsed by a celebrity is held to a gold standard. And this is especially true when a reality star or someone else of “high” status creates a diet plan.

But we ignore two massive faults with these celebrity created diets:
1. The celebrity who lives in a mansion, has a butler, a chef, and a host of other people working for them around the clock isn’t bound with the same strict financial or time constraints that an average person with a job is. Most celebrities don’t live in the same world as you do, so to speak.

2. The celebrity who looks good is not a qualified expert in human body and nutrition. Christian Bale said it the best when talking about people asking him for diet and training advice to remodel his transformation for different roles, “Unfortunately I didn’t do it under any kind of a doctor’s monitoring and so I`d loathe to give advice because what if it goes wrong…”

Seems like a reasonable thing to say.

10. Stay consistent with your fat loss efforts

Not an extremely sexy fat loss secret to finish with. But it’s the truth. Most people don’t need fancy supplements or the latest celebrity diet-protocol to lose fat. 99% of the time people fail to see any results because they don’t stick to their plan long enough. Instead they keep seeking the next miracle promise for fat loss while jumping from one plan to the next.

Results come down to following a sensible advice for long enough to see results. Fat loss requires consistency.

There is no shortage of “fat burning secrets” posts on the Internet. So why write another one? Most people still click a fat burning secrets article expecting the quick-fix solution to help with their weight loss problem. There are no real secrets to burning fat. If you read something that sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

[1] http://sciencedrivennutrition.com/truth-high-fat-diets/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808858/

[4] https://examine.com/nutrition/how-important-is-sleep/