EVERYONE who wants to get leaner should read this article. Yes, I know it says "Fat loss for beginners," but sometimes we veterans forget what we once knew or we don't practice what we now know. If you're a beginner, this will be an introduction. If you're experienced, let this be a reminder.
1. JUST GET STARTED - TAKE DECISIVE ACTION!
There are so many opinions about how to lose body fat that many people end up completely confused and they don't do ANYTHING! They've read about 27 ways to diet, 34 ways to do cardio, 101 ways to lift weights and 79 supplements to take. But they still don't have a clue how to start. You stuff your brain with so much information it feels like it's going to explode, but then you never do anything about it. You're like a deer stuck in headlights. Sound familiar? I call this the "paralysis by analysis" syndrome.
The most important thing you can do is take action. Just begin the journey and figure it out as you go. Better still; get a coach or trainer right from the start. Actually, losing fat is not that complicated. You don't need a PhD in exercise physiology to figure out that any exercise is better than no exercise. You don't have to be a genius in nutritional biochemistry to figure out that an apple is better than a pop tart. Getting lean is simple: Exercise. Eat healthier foods. Eat smaller portions. Isn't this stuff just common sense? Didn't your mother tell you this?
So what's stopping you? What makes you freeze up?If you're like most people, FEAR is stopping you. You're so afraid of doing something wrong, you choose to do nothing rather than make a mistake or look foolish. What you must understand is that people who accomplish much and people who accomplish little BOTH have fears. The difference between the two is that the latter feels the fear and lets it immobilize them. The former feels the fear and does it anyway.
Begin the process. You can always fine-tune your program as you go. Naturally, it's better to aim and then fire, but its better to fire and then adjust your aim later than not to fire at all. You can't win a battle by hiding in the trenches.
2. WALKING IS A GREAT WAY TO START A CARDIO PROGRAM
Ok, so you've decided to forge ahead in spite of your fear and start working out. Congratulations. Now what? How do you choose between Stairmaster, Tae Bo, Lifecycle, Yoga, Kickboxing, Elliptical machine, jogging, swimming, etc.? Any exercise is better than no exercise so stop over-analyzing: just pick something and start. Just do it. If you can't make up your mind, then here's the simplest, easiest, most guaranteed way for any beginner to successfully start a fat loss program:
It requires no equipment
It requires no knowledge of exercise technique
It can be done by almost everyone, regardless of experience
It can be done almost anywhere
For all these reasons, walking is the perfect way to begin. However, the better your condition becomes, the more you'll need to advance to higher levels of exercise intensity to reach higher levels of fitness.I'm not saying you should abandon walking, but if you decide to keep walking, a casual stroll will no longer do. For an experienced exerciser, I would consider walking a method of locomotion more than a serious workout. There's a big difference between walking for health vs walking for fat loss. Even a 10 or 15-minute casual walk has health benefits. But if you want to turn walking into an effective, fat-melting workout, you'll need to push yourself for 30 minutes or more several days per week. Walking briskly uphill (or on an inclined treadmill) is an excellent fat-burning workout for anyone.
3. DON'T GET CAUGHT UP IN MINUTIA - FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
Read any book about success and it will tell you "pay attention to detail." Sounds like good advice - unless you haven't mastered the fundamentals yet. In that case, it's the worst advice you could follow. Every day people send me questions like these:
"Should I use a fast acting protein powder like whey or would casein be better? What if I mix both and also add a little bit of Soy? If I use all of them, what ratio of the three would be ideal and when should I take them?"
"I want to do the ephedrine-caffeine stack and it says to take 20 mg of ephedrine with 200 milligrams of caffeine. The ephedrine comes in 25 milligram tablets, so should I chip a little bit off the tablet to get the right ratio?"
Do you see the problem here? These are legitimate questions, but they're completely moot if you're eating doughnuts and sitting on the couch all day long. Fix your diet and get your butt moving first, then worry about the little things.
Emerson said, "The height of the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of the base." The heights you reach will depend entirely on how broad a foundation you build. Great coaches such as Vince Lombardi and John Wooden credited most of their success to drilling their players on fundamentals.
Forget about ALL the minutia until you have the fundamentals down cold!
Forget about supplement dosages
Forget about macronutrient cycling
Forget about tempo manipulation
Forget about glycemic indexes
Forget about the latest Bulgarian or Russian periodization program
Master the fundamentals first!
The fundamentals of fat loss include: (1) Do your cardio, (2) Lift weights, (3) Burn more calories than you consume (4) Eat 5-6 small, frequent meals and never skip meals, (5) Keep your fat intake low, but include small amounts of good fats, (6) Eat natural foods; avoid processed & refined foods, (7) eat more complex carbs, fruits & vegetables, (8) eat lean proteins with each meal, (9) Think positive: visualize yourself as you would like to be.
If you're not doing all these things, and you're looking for the perfect supplement stack or the optimum periodization plan, I'm afraid you're barking up the wrong tree. I don't want you to think that details don't matter - they do. The "Law of Accumulation" states that every success is a matter of hundreds or even thousands of tiny efforts that often go unnoticed or unappreciated. Everything counts. Everything either helps or hurts. Nothing is neutral. The problem is when you get bogged down in minutia before you've even learned the basics. Minor details produce minor results. Major fundamentals produce major results. Don't major in minor things. Lay your foundation first, then move on to the finer points. And remember, as Jim Rohn says, always be suspicious of someone who says they've found a new fundamental.
4. KNOW YOUR CALORIES
The most important dietary factor in fat loss is not how many grams of carbohydrate, protein or fat you eat, the most important factor for fat loss is calories. Eat more than you burn each day and you will store fat. Eat less than you burn each day and you will lose fat.It's just that simple. Where the calories come from is important too, but unless you understand the calorie concept, nothing else matters.
I'm appalled at how many people claim to sincerely want to lose body fat who admit they haven't a clue how many calories they eat. Get serious! If you don't have the faintest idea how much you're eating, how can you expect to make any progress? Did it ever occur to you that your ONLY problem might be overeating! Do you realize that too much of anything gets stored as fat?
That's right - even if you're eating nothing but "natural and healthy" foods, if you eat too many of them, you're still going to get fat. Portion control, my friend, portion control! On the other hand, maybe you're under-eating and slowing down your metabolism. There's a fine line. For all the details on your daily calorie needs, refer to my article Calorie Calculators
5. NEVER, EVER QUIT! MAKE FITNESS A LIFESTYLE!
Do you know what is the biggest mistake made by beginners? They quit!
Remember in the January issue, where I mentioned how attendance in our gym shoots up for about 6-8 weeks around New Year's? Well, it's back to normal now because all the quitters dropped out already. What's especially sad is that most people quit right when they're on the verge of making substantial progress. Remember: You're never a failure as long as you're working on the progressive realization of a worthy goal. But the second you quit, then it's official - you're a failure. Quitting should not even be an option because...
FITNESS IS A LIFESTYLE!
Don't let these four words slip by you just because it's an oft-repeated cliché. This is an important mindset! You have to stop thinking of getting in shape for a New Year's resolution, vacation or wedding (or a contest, you bodybuilders). You must start thinking about getting healthy and in shape FOR LIFE. When you're just starting out, firmly resolve that quitting is not even an option. Don't approach this endeavor with an "I'll try" attitude. If you accept quitting as a possibility, you might as well not even start; just grab that remote control, a bag of chips and get back on the couch where you were before. Also, understand that results may come slowly in the beginning if you're not the genetically-gifted type. This process requires great patience and persistence for most people.
Most beginners never allow themselves the time it takes to get any momentum going. They expect too much too soon, get discouraged and quit. It takes a big push to get started. It's like getting a rocket off the ground - it uses most of its fuel just launching off the pad, but once it's in the air and the inertia has been overcome, it can keep going with very little energy expenditure. Don't quit just because it's difficult to "launch!"
6. GET A PERSONAL TRAINER, COACH, OR MENTOR
Life is too just too short to learn everything there is to know on your own. Don't waste time climbing the ladder only to find it's leaning against the wrong wall! Learn from the experts. Get a trainer, personal coach, or mentor to help you start right - right from the start. Don't know what to look for in a trainer? Read my new article about personal trainers.
7. JOIN A GYM IF YOU CAN, BUT A SET OF DUMBBELLS ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH TO GET YOU STARTED
I admit I'm showing my bias by saying everyone should join a gym (I'm in the health club business), but I sincerely believe nothing beats working out in a high quality health club. In a well-equipped gym, the possibilities are endless, the atmosphere is motivational and people are there to help you. More often than not, however, beginners start at home. That being the case, I admit that you don't need a gym to get started. You also don't need any of that garbage advertised on late night TV. The only piece of equipment you need has existed for over 100 years - that's right, the humble DUMBBELL!
Remember - don't overcomplicate this - think basics, basics, basics (and dumbbells are as basic as it gets.) Dumbbells are the single most versatile piece of equipment in existence. You can perform hundreds, even thousands of exercises with dumbbells. Ladies, a set of 3 to 20 pounds will be more than sufficient. Guys, a set from 10 to 40 pounds should do the trick (for now). I've also heard wonderful things about Powerblock dumbbells for space-saving, although I don't have first hand experience to cite.
If you also get yourself a bench and clear out a little corner in your favorite room, then you're ready to roll! Here it is - The beginner's all-dumbbell routine:
1. Dumbbell bench press (chest)
2. Dumbbell side lateral raise (shoulders)
3. One arm dumbbell row (upper back)
4. Dumbbell extension behind head (triceps)
5. Dumbbell Bicep curl (biceps)
6. Dumbbell Lunges (thighs)
7. Dumbbell One leg calf raise (calves)
8. Dumbbell leg curl (hamstrings)
9. Crunches (abs)
There you have it. Simple and effective. At home or in a gym. If you're just starting, do this routine for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps per exercise, except calves and abs which you can go up to 20 reps. Rest 1 minute between sets. You'll train your whole body in each workout, 2 -3 three days per week, non-consecutive days. After 3 - 6 months, you'll probably need to add exercises and move up to a split routine. (So I guess I have to do another article, called 8 tips for intermediates: How to keep going).
8. WEIGHT TRAINING IS NOT OPTIONAL - IT'S MANDATORY!
It's is a common misconception that you should start with aerobic workouts and lose the fat first before adding weight training. Unfortunately, the best you can hope for from diet and aerobics alone is to become a "skinny fat person." You may lose weight, but you'll have a poor muscle to fat ratio and a "soft" appearance. Obviously, weight training is the key to developing strength and muscle. What few people realize is that weight training also increases fat loss, although it occurs indirectly.
Weight training is anaerobic and burns carbohydrates (sugar).Cardio is aerobic and therefore burns fat. So it seems logical to focus on aerobic training for fat loss. However, something interesting happens "beneath the surface" when you lift weights. Weight training increases your lean body mass - aerobic training does not. Low calorie dieting and aerobic training without weight lifting can make you lose lean body mass. If you lose lean body mass, your metabolism slows down, and this makes it harder to lose fat.
If you increase your lean body mass, you increase your metabolic rate and this makes it easier to lose fat. With a faster metabolism, you'll burn more fat all day long - even while you're sleeping! If you have limited time, and your main priority is fat loss, then do a very brief weight training program and spend the majority of your time concentrating on cardio. But never neglect the weights completely - always do both, and if possible, devote equal attention to each.