The 4 Essential Pieces of a Fat Loss Program, by Devin Gray, CSCS

August marks my 1-year anniversary of being a personal trainer. Over the course of the past year, I’ve spoken with plenty of our fantastic members about their goals. The overwhelming response is that most people simply want to lose body fat and look better.

With that in mind, I’ve written this article to talk about the 4 essential parts of any fat loss program. Many people have one or two of these components in place. However, many times people are using misinformed methods or they’re not doing enough. This article will help you to maximize results.

Essential #1 – Rock Solid Nutrition

Nutrition will always be the #1 component of any fat loss program. Weight loss comes down to one thing: calories in VS calories out. You could train with me 4x/week and not lose a single, solitary pound if your calories are out of control. Bear in mind that the improvements in your blood pressure, heart rate, and lung capacity can be life-saving though. I’m a fan of simplicity in nutrition, so here are the rules that I live by to keep lean: Avoid bread (gluten), sugar, and processed foods (boxes) 80% of the time. 20% of the time I’ll enjoy myself, unless I’m competing in a sport. Honestly, I eat clean 90% of the time.

Essential #2 – Weight or Resistance Training

I will always hammer on the need for resistance training. Grinding away on the elliptical without weight training is quite honestly a waste of time for fat loss. 5 hours a week of steady cardio is not as effective as 3 hours a week of weights with 2 hours of conditioning in terms of reshaping your body! As highlighted in my last article (Fat Loss Debunked: Why Crash Diets Make You Fatter), adding lean mass to your body will change your physique and greatly increase your metabolism.

Weight training should be challenging. It needs to progressively increase in difficulty and variety. I prefer to rotate workouts every month, but I do program variations in sets and reps for every day. This special technique that I use with all of my clients is called undulating periodization. It is incredibly effective for challenging the body to get great results. A later article will teach you how to gradually raise the difficulty of your workouts. Some of the methods for this may surprise you in how simple they are!

Essential #3 – Intense Conditioning or Cardiovascular Training

Intense is always a relative term. The intensity that I need to improve is different from the intensity that is prescribed for an Olympic athlete. Regardless, challenging cardio is important for fat loss programs. I prefer conditioning, as many of you learned during my Fat Loss seminar in June. Metabolic conditioning will always be my go-to method because it builds muscle, elevates your metabolism for up to 48 hours, and can often times burn MORE calories than traditional cardio. It can also be more effective for your fitness levels than traditional cardio.

I’ve provided a sample weekly schedule that shows two ways of combining weight training with conditioning. My clients all mix conditioning into their weight routines. We also offer several conditioning classes that are sure to burn hundreds of calories while improving your cardio.

Essential #4: Rest & Recovery

This oft-overlooked aspect of fat loss cannot be left out. Simply put, if you’re not getting enough sleep or rest you will not reach your goals. Sleep heals your muscles but also regulates your fat loss hormones. The hormone leptin promotes feeling of satiety (fullness) and regulates appetite. Ghrelin promotes hunger and appetite. When you sleep, leptin production increases. Researchers at Stanford found that people with less than 8 hours of sleep a night have low leptin, high ghrelin, and higher levels of body fat than those that slept 8 hours each night! This is the easiest change to make for fat loss. If you’re not taking advantage, you could literally sabotage all of your hard work! Add in foam rolling and stretching to truly optimize recovery.

These 4 methods are critical for any fat loss program. If you work hard on all 4, you should see steady results. If you have any questions, please e-mail me or ask me at the gym for help. If you’re unsure of how to set up a program, ask me about personal training or creating a custom program for you through our affordable Program Design service. Next week I’ll post an article about the right way to vary your workouts for best results.

By Devin Gray, CSCS. Devin graduated Cum Laude from Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Kinesiology (Exercise Science). As a certified strength & conditioning specialist, he has helped dozens of people reach their fitness goals. For more information, he may be reached at [email protected]

Sample Fat Loss Training Schedule – 4 Gym Days a Week

Monday – Weights & 15-20 minutes of post-workout Interval Training.
Tuesday – Metabolic Conditioning
Wednesday – Rest/Recovery/Easy Cardio/Sports
Thursday – Weights & 15-20 minutes of post-workout Interval Training.
Friday – Metabolic Conditioning
Saturday – Rest/Recovery/Easy Cardio/Sports
Sunday – Rest & Recovery

Sample Advanced Fat Loss Training Schedule – 5 Gym Days a Week

Monday – Weights and Conditioning (Metabolic Weight Training)
Tuesday – Metabolic Conditioning or Interval Training
Wednesday – Weights and Conditioning (Metabolic Weight Training)
Thursday – Rest & Recovery
Friday – Weights and Conditioning (Metabolic Weight Training)
Saturday – Metabolic Conditioning or Interval Training
Sunday – Rest & Recovery/Sports