It is important that I stress the importance of the word ‘legitimate’ in the title. Anyone that suggests you drink fit tea or wear a waist trainer deserves the fate of Ned Stark. It is also important to use these tools strategically. Here you have eight options to ensure you never hit a plateau. If you use all of these tools at once, you will basically sabotage your progress in the long run. Don’t pull a Mike Ditka and trade all those draft picks for the quick fix.
- Cut Calories
Let’s just get the obvious ones out of the way first. Calories matter, no matter what guru will tell you. They matter in every single diet, even the ketogenic diet where you are completely changing your body’s main fuel source. If you cut calories you will lose weight, but you have to know where to cut from. Choosing an arbitrary number as you new caloric total is akin to throwing darts blindfolded. It pays in the long run to calculate your maintenance calorie total (the amount you need to maintain the weight you are right now) and work from there.
2. Add Cardio
Sometimes we forget that energy balance works in two ways. We here the phrase “I need to go on a diet” far more often than “I need to increase my energy output.” But it’s true; adding more cardiovascular exercise is just as effective as decreasing calories. More on specific types of cardio later.
3. Cycle Your Carbohydrates
There is a drawback to steadily lowering calories, and it is has to do with the relationship between calorie intake and metabolism. Metabolism has a direct relationship to calorie intake; if you eat less eventually your metabolic rate will also decrease. Carb cycling negates this. In a nutshell, carb cycling is manipulating you carb intake over time (i.e. 2 low carb days, followed by 1 high day). The periodic high carbohydrate days are basically a ‘reset’ for your metabolism. Things become problematic when high carb days get out of control and become massive cheat days. Be responsible with your carb refeeds, it’s not a free for all.
4. Change Your Cardio
No no, I don’t mean start doing fasted cardio. Okay I suckered myself into this one. For anyone wondering, fasted cardio is no better or worse than fed cardio for fat loss if all other variables are equal. If you like it, do it, but it’s not necessary. What I mean by changing cardio is taking more of a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) approach. LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) cardio will eventually fail you because it is… low intensity. Your body is quick to adapt to low intensity cardio. High intensity cardio will have you approaching your max heart rate during every session, which means you never truly adapt to it. It is also way more convenient and efficient. You can complete a high intensity cardio session in as little as 15 minutes.
5. Change Macronutrient Ratios Within Same Caloric Total
Protein will likely remain a constant on any diet, but carbohydrate and fat ratios can certainly be adjusted. Certain people can tolerate carbs better than fats and vice versa. This strategy is particularly useful when one’s calories are already low and the person may be hesitant to drop them further for fear of jeopardizing their health.
6. Change Carbohydrate Timing
We can argue all day about the role meal timing plays, but I think most would agree that our bodies are more insulin sensitive and thus can process carbohydrates more efficiently after a workout. As a result, shifting a greater portion of your carbs to your post workout meal may be a better strategy than cutting carbs.
7. Change Your Food Choices
Perhaps you can’t do IIFYM the way others do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying tracking macros doesn’t work (see #1, I’m all about the numbers). This is more about compliance. We all have trigger foods. Trigger foods are the things that send us off the deep end. Triggers foods are foods that we can’t eat just one of. In the end, the best diets are the ones that we can follow. If you keep foods around that test your willpower, it’s a recipe for disaster. There’s a reason you won’t find peanut butter in my pantry.
Hear me out, there’s some decent research behind some supplement ingredients with regard to fat loss. Caffeine, Yohimbine, Synephrine, and Carnitine are all things I look for when shopping for a thermogenic supplement. Other ingredients like CLA and Raspberry Ketones are popular in the fat loss category, but I feel lack the research to be considered effective. I’m not avoiding them by any means, but won’t go out of my way to purchase them.