Fat Loss Advanced Tricks & Tactics
By Tom Venuto
In this article, you will learn ten more of the most hyper-effective fat burning tactics I’ve discovered from nearly 20 years in the bodybuilding game and 16 years in personal training and coaching.
These are the same techniques I use to hit 3-4% body fat for competition, and stay at 9% or less all year round, year after year without difficulty. If youve already got all the basics covered and you want to incinerate every last vestige of unwanted body fat, then this is the information you’ve been waiting for!
If you progressively increase your cardio, as needed, up to as much as 30-45 minutes a day 6-7 days per week for 8-12 weeks, you’ll get so lean, you’ll kick yourself for not realizing it was that simple.
Now, I would not necessarily recommend starting with this amount, particularly if you’re a beginner. However, if you’re already exercising, but you’re not satisfied with your fat loss, I highly recommend that you slowly and progressively increase your cardio to the point where you’re doing it daily.
Do Cardio Daily
Every time I give this advice, I always hear lots of whining and complaining. But why is everybody so cardio- phobic? Why do people keep fighting the “daily exercise” concept when they’ve tried “everything” else and they still can’t get as lean as they want to be?
“But Tom, Bill Phillips says 20 minutes 3 days a week is the solution!”
“But Tom, doesn’t daily cardio burn up muscle?”
“But Tom, doesn’t weight training boost the metabolism more than aerobics?”
“But Tom, long aerobic cardio is out – anaerobic and HIIT cardio is in.”
People have plenty of buts. The irony is, they spout off all these buts, and at the same time, they’re stuck and can’t figure out why they’re not losing those last few pockets of seriously annoying body fat. If you want to get really lean – get off your “buts” and do what it takes to get the job done, not what the trend of the month dictates.
Let me ask you a question: When you read articles or courses by the world’s best bodybuilders and fitness models, what is the common denominator you see in nearly 100% of their pre contest preparation programs? Yep – daily cardio – generally in the 30 – 45 minute range, and some even do up to an hour a day (or more) during the precontest period.
By the way, daily cardio is NOT something you do all the time. This is a strategy you progressively build up to and use for short periods in order to hit a peak, break plateaus and shed the last of the stubborn fat.
Doing daily cardio year round leads to aerobic adaptation. Cardio must be cycled, just like all other factors related to fat loss. You increase cardio during periods when fat loss is desired, and reduce cardio during periods when maintenance is desired.
By the way, ‘no time’ is not a valid excuse. I know many people who get up at 5 in the morning to work out because it’s the only way they can fit it in their schedule. It’s never an issue of time; it’s always an issue of willingness and priorities. Are you willing to do what it takes for you to get the results you want? Are you willing to make it a priority in your life? That’s only real question you have to answer.
Do Cardio in the Morning Before Eating
Fasted early morning cardio is still controversial in academic circles, and some people are concerned that it might be too catabolic and you may break down muscle along with the fat. However, my experience and research has shown that while there are risks, fasted early morning does work and the potential benefits outweight those risks when maximum fat loss is your goal.
But don’t take my word for it – examine the facts, test it while carefully monitoring body composition and lean body mass, and decide for yourself
The argument in favor of fasted early morning cardio goes something like this:
1. After an overnight 8-12 hour fast, your body’s stores of glycogen are depleted and you burn more fat when glycogen is low.
2. Eating causes a release of insulin. Insulin interferes with the mobilization of body fat. Less insulin is present in the morning; so more body fat is burned when cardio is done in the morning.
3. There is less carbohydrate (glucose) in the bloodstream when you wake up after an overnight fast. With less glucose available, you burn more fat.
4. If you eat immediately before a workout, you have to burn off what you just ate first before tapping into stored body fat (and insulin is elevated after a meal.)
5. When you do cardio in the morning, your metabolism stays elevated for a period of time after the workout is over. If you do cardio in the evening, you burn calories during the session, but you fail to take advantage of the “afterburn” effect because your metabolic rate drops dramatically as soon as you go to sleep.
You can get more details about cardio training for fat loss, including the surprising truth about the “fat-burning zone” in chapter 16 of my ebook, Burn The Fat, Feed the Muscle. Visit www.burnthefat.com for information.
Reduce Carbs, Cycle Re-Feed Stages
I’m not a big fan of very low carb diets (VLCD) or “ketogenic” diets. Although they have worked for many people, most people report that they make you feel like crap, you get “brain fog,” you lose muscle along with the fat, and your training intensity suffers from lack of muscle glycogen (even on a “cyclical” ketogenic diet). Low carbs and high activity don’t go well together.
The worst side effect of the VLCD is one that few people think of because it requires a long-term perspective and most people are caught up in short term results:
For the average non-competitor, it’s very difficult to permanently keep the fat off if it’s lost through VLCD’s. VLCD’s set you up for a big rebound.
Bodybuilders often use VLCD’s successfully before contests, but bodybuilders are extreme athletes with incredible discipline and willpower. I know bodybuilders who are so “hard core” that they can eat nothing but tuna fish out of the can for 12 weeks, then go back to a normal, balanced diet – no problem – no bingeing. That’s a rare feat.
Lots of people lose weight on very low carb diets. Few keep it off. I’ve seen people go on massive, uncontrollable binges of doughnuts, pizza and Ben & Jerry’s (Chunky Monkey!), gaining 30 pounds in less than seven days after coming off a very low carb diet.
My friend, very low carb diets ain’t the long term solution to fat loss. To use one successfully without gaining everything back, you have to know what you’re doing and you must be extremely disciplined. Even then, you should consider low carb diets as “last chance” diets or short term “peaking” diets that are fraught with side effects and disadvantages.
The “balanced” diet, which contains a wide variety of foods including about 40-50% of the calories from vegetables, fruit, natural starches and 100% whole grains, is almost always the best way to permanently lose fat and it’s the way almost everyone should start. This is sometimes referred to as a “baseline diet.” All you have to do is exercise, pick the right types of foods and eat less than you burn each day and you’ll lose fat.
Once you’ve mastered the basics and you’ve reached the advanced stage, THEN I have to admit, despite the potential pitfalls, low carb, high protein diets can help accelerate fat loss even more.
Almost every competitive bodybuilder I’ve ever met uses some variation of the reduced carb diet. Why? Because reducing carbs provides metabolic and hormonal advantages that high carb diets do not. They also eliminate water retention and give the muscles a hard, dry look.
However, there’s a right and a wrong way to do the low carb diet. Here are the 4 “Advanced Bodybuilder’s Secrets” to using a low carb diet successfully:
1. Don’t cut out all your carbs, just reduce them to a moderate level so carbs and protein are balanced and carbs are not the predominant macronutrient. You don’t have to cut carbs to next to nothing to get low carb diet benefits.
2. Don’t eat a lot of carbs at night, but DO eat natural starches and grains early in the day and after your workouts
3. Don’t stay on a reduced carb diet more than 12 to 16 weeks. Always go back to a more balanced diet because it’s healthier and more maintainable. Cycle diets like everything else.
4. Take periodic “carb up” days, or “re-feed” days. This will prevent your metabolism from slowing down, keep your thryroid functioning optimally and maintain your energy levels.
Raise Your Lean Protein and Healthy Fats
Conventional bodybuilding and fat reducing wisdom says you should eat one gram of protein per pound of body weight. This is good advice for someone just starting to establish good habits and a baseline nutrition plan. For a 172 pound man, that’ s 172 grams a day, or approximately 30 grams per meal spread over five to six meals.
However, reducing carbohydrates can give some metabolic and hormonal advantages for fat loss when it’s done properly and not taken to an extreme. When you start to bring your carbs down, something has to go up or your calories would drop too low and you would be losing a primary energy source. That something is lean protein and healthy fats.
Although many mainstream low carb diets (such as Atkins) are actually high fat/very low carb diets, competitive bodybuilders usually keep the fats moderate (20-30% of total calories), while eating extremely large amounts of protein – sometimes as much as 40% or even 50%+ of their total calories.
This appears to be an “obscene” amount of protein. However, high protein diets are one of the secr ets that bodybuilders use to get so ripped. Eating very high protein speeds up your metabolism due to the thermic effect of protein foods.
Achieve Total Clarity of Purpose
To get super-lean, you have to decide exactly what you want and zero in on it the way a guided missile locks onto its target.
The Great Napoleon Hill called it “definiteness of purpose.” Achievement expert Brian Tracy calls it “clarity.” Most of us simply know it as having goals, but I like the terms “clarity” and “definiteness of purpose” better than goals. Vague goals can be your downfall.
“I want to gain muscle and lose fat.”
That’s certainly a goal, but it’s a poor goal because it lacks clarity.
One of the biggest reasons people fail to move up to the advanced level is because they can’t decide what they want. They become victims of “flip flop syndrome.”
Imagine a captain giving no commands and just allowing his ship to just float around rudderless, drifting wherever the currents take it. Or imagine the captain giving instructions to his crew like this: “go east; no, go west; no, go east; no, go west again.”
Ridiculous right? But this is exactly what you’re doing when you have no specific written goals at all, or when you want to gain muscle one day and lose fat the next (or do both at the same time).
You have to make up your mind! “A made up mind attunes itself to tremendous extra power,” wrote Napoleon Hill.
You must choose a definite course, make a clear-cut, definite decision and follow through with action in one specific direction. There must be no doubt. If on one hand you want to get ripped, but on the other hand you’re worried about losing all your muscle, you will unconsciously sabotage yourself every time.
Several Small Meals Daily
Most fitness conscious people already understand the importance of meal frequency, but they figure they can “get by” with three “square” meals.
Comparing three “squares” to six meals a day is like comparing a Porsche 911 Turbo to a Yugo. Yes, you can get some results with three well constructed meals, but you’ll never get anywhere near your maximum potential (and it will take a lot longer).
The benefits of frequent eating include:
a. Faster metabolic rate
b. Higher energy levels
c. Less storage of body fat due to smaller portions
d. Reduced hunger and cravings
e. Steadier blood sugar and insulin levels
f. More calories usable for muscle growth
g. Better absorption and utilization of nutrients
If you want to move up to the advanced level and get super-lean, you have to take advantage of every weapon in your fat burning arsenal. That means five or six small meals a day, or else, as Al Pacino would say, just fuggetaboutit!
Limit Supplements, Focus on Real Food
My clients just hate me when I take away their cookies n cream protein bars and chocolate shakes, but when they’re eating only one or two food meals per day and using four or five meal replacements and wondering why they aren’t getting leaner, I have to give them my lecture on the thermogenic effects of whole foods versus liquid calories and protein (candy) bars.
If you want to get lean, don’t drink too many of your calories and lay off those bars! Due to the thermic effect, whole food gets you leaner. Use supplements for convenience, not as the primary source of your calories. Chapter 15 in my e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle, explains in much greater detail what the supplement companies hope you never find out:
HIIT the Fat!
High intensity interval training, known as HIIT for short, is the technique of alternating short (usually 30-60 second) periods of very high intensity cardio with short periods of low to moderate intensity. HIIT Workouts generally last only 15-25 minutes, total.
HIIT has received a lot of press lately as being superior to steady state exercise. In some ways, it IS superior: HIIT burns a lot of calories during the workout, but where it really shines is after the workout. Your metabolic rate stays elevated longer after the workout is over than steady state, low intensity cardio.
Here’s an example of an ascending 21 minute HIIT workout on the Lifecycle stationary bike:
Level 3: 5 minutes (warmup)
Level 5: 1 minute (work interval)
Level 4: 1 minute (recovery interval)
Level 6: 1 minute (work interval)
Level 4: 1 minute (recovery interval)
Level 7: 1 minute (work interval)
Level 4: 1 minute (recovery interval)
Level 8: 1 minute (work interval)
Level 4: 1 minute (recovery interval)
Level 9: 1 minute (work interval)
Level 4: 1 minute (recovery interval)
Level 10: 1 minute (work interval – maxed out)
Level 3: 5 minutes (cool down)
This is just an example of course; you’ll need to adjust the workout based on your fitness level. You can adjust the duration of the intervals, the number of intervals performed and the difficulty level. You can perform similar workouts on almost any piece of cardio equipment.
HIIT is often touted as a superior fat burning method, but it really depends what you’re comparing it to. When compared to low intensity, long duration cardio (as it frequently is), HIIT wins hands down. Low intensity cardio like casual walking is never the best way to lose fat, except for beginners who are not physically prepared for high intensity yet.
If your intensity is moderate to moderately high and held steady for a long duration (30-45 min), then you’re likely to burn more fat with this approach than you would in a 15-20 minute HIIT workout. (Post workout calorie expenditure is relative to exercise intensity AND duration). However, if the intensity is high enough, you can get a very time efficient workout in a relatively short period of time using HIIT.
HIIT works, but it’s not a panacea. What’s most important for fat loss is that you burn a lot of calories with moderate to high intensity cardio. My best advice is to use BOTH forms of cardio training, leaning towards HIIT when you’re short on time or when you’ve plateau’d on moderate, long duration cardio for a long period. Remember, your body adapts to everything.
Go Hard on Cardio
Here’s an idea that might shatter every paradigm you ever had about cardio training. HIIT is very trendy these days, so if you’re trying to lose fat, and you’re wondering whether you should do short duration high intensity or long duration, low intensity, the answer might be neither!
The most effective workout is long duration, high intensity!
Provided that you are healthy, you have received your doctor’s approval to do high intensity exercise, and you have already buit a substantial base level of aerobic fitness, then gradually push up your intensity to the highest level you can hold steady for the entire duration of your cardio workout, whether that is 20 minutes, 30 minutes or even 45 minutes.
In other words, no coasting! Put the cell phone and magazine away and do a real, killer cardio workout. Your body will get leaner… by the DAY!
Of course, intensity and duration are inversely related so technically you can’t do long duration and high intensity, but what we’re talking about is to do as high as an intensity as you can for a longer period. A proper name for this type of cardio would be “moderately high intensity” (MHI) cardio.
Use the Advanced Three Day Split Routine
As a beginner, you started on a full body routine. When you graduated to intermediate status, you moved to a two day split routine. Now you’re ready for the advanced three day split. This split is excellent for genetically gifted trainees with good recuperation abilities:
Day 1: Chest, Back, Abs
Day 2: Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps
Day 3: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves
The 2 on 1 Off Weekly Schedule:
Mon: Chest, Back, Abs
Tue: Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps
Wed: Off (cardio only)
Thu: Quads, Hamstrings calves
Fri: Chest, Back, Abs
Sat: Off (cardio only)
Sun: Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps
Pick up with Quads & Hams Monday and repeat the cycle. A more conservative version of this split is: 2 on 1 off, 1 on 1 off, 1 on 1 off, and for maximal recuperation, this split can be done every other day.
I have a lot more fat burning tricks in my Burn the Fat arsenal, but that’s all for now. With this information you’ve learned from this entire series, you have enough tools that – if you apply them diligently – you can get as lean as you want to be, whether that’s just tightening up those “mushy spots”, or getting as lean as a bodybuilder or fitness model.