If you were to flip open a celeb tabloid or a fitness magazine, you’d find ads from dozens of companies hocking miracle products that claim to incinerate body fat. Take them, do nothing else, and you’ll miraculously lose weight. The New York Times has dedicated more than a few column inches to exploring the latest, hottest miracle product, a diet that has users eat half a dozen, 100 calorie "healthy" cookies plus a single low calorie meal every day. And who doesn’t know someone at their office who has been bamboozled into chugging bottles of water mixed with a low concentration of maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper for a week or more?
If you want to have zero energy, to be unable to train and to compromise your health, go ahead and give any of the above diets a shot. If you’re ready to actually do the hard work required to lose weight, then it’s time to wake up to the fact that it’s as simple as eating less calories than you use every day. That’s it
Easier said than done? Of course it is. But ultimately, all weight loss boils down to expending more energy than you consume. If you want to be fit and losing weight is one of your training goals, then the first thing you need to do is accept that it will take time, require sacrifice and hard work and that there are no magic bullets (except the Magic Bullet blender, which could come in handy for mixing protein shakes and smoothies during your quest).
But wait, you say, I know someone who tried the cookie diet or the master cleanse or the grapefruit diet and he/she lost 15 pounds in two weeks! Good for your friend, but starving yourself and causing your body to essentially cannibalize its own tissue is not a recipe for long term, sustainable, healthy weight loss. Radically reduced calorie diets will make you lose weight (in the least healthy way possible). But since they often provide less calories than you need simply to meet your base metabolic requirements and since you can’t stay on them forever and have a physically active life unless you have a death wish, they just don’t work.
That leaves you with two choices: train harder or reduce the number of calories you consume in a healthy, sustainable way. Reframe how you think about the food you eat. Program yourself to think of it as life-sustaining energy, not as a reward to be withheld and dispensed as an emotional Band Aid. You can monitor your exact caloric intake, but a more practical approach is to take a macro look at what you eat. Keep a food diary for several days and then look over the list. Anyone who tries this exercise should be able to identify problem areas. You don’t meet many people lugging around excess adipose tissue who subsist on a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts,and lean meat. If you see calorie bombs pop up on the list that aren’t doing anything to enhance your fitness, make a point of eating them less frequently or not at all.
Also think about how you spend your training time. When you have a hard day, do you really pour on the intensity? When you have easy days, do you spend time on regeneration? Or do you tend to just workout at a medium intensity all the time? If you’re like most people who have made an earnest effort to lose weight but haven’t seen results, chances are your workouts are stuck in the "no man’s land" of medium intensity. Forget what you may have read about the "fat burning zone," an aerobic intensity mild enough that you can still carry on a conversation during exercise. The best way to lose weight is to exercise at very high intensities on hard days. Doing so taxes the body more deeply, burns more total calories, burns more fat calories and will keep your body burning calories for up to 24 hours, post workout.
Simple? Yes. Easy? Definitely not. But if weight loss is your goal, it’s within reach. You just have to do the work.
As the resident TRX Professor, Chris Frankel draws from over 25 years of experience as a strength and conditioning coach. He earned an MS in Exercise Physiology from the University of New Mexico, where he is currently completing his doctorate in Exercise Science. Before taking the position of Director of Programming at TRX, Chris was an instructor in the Department of Health, Exercise and Sport Sciences at the University of New Mexico.