Fitness is a multi-faceted approach to life.
It’s not only about going to the gym and hitting the weights. Fitness includes strength training, conditioning, nutrition, sleep, and a whole slew of other habits.
Putting in the work to craft your best physique ever isn’t a job for the weak-hearted.
If you want to perform at your highest level possible, then taking the time to understand your blueprint is fundamental to unleashing your best physique ever.
Yet, how frustrating is it when you’re going to the gym day after day, training hours on end, and your body fat is sticking like gorilla glue?
When you put in the time to train hard, sleep well, eat good, and even think the right way, it’s pretty damn annoying to see your results NOT reflecting the work that you’re putting into your physique.
It’s enough to make you want to just stop this whole fitness thing and go back to your strawberry vegan ice cream which has been patiently waiting for you ever since you bought it.
I used to go to the gym and train for hours on end.
Dripping sweat and coming home exhausted every day were signs that my fat was finally being burnt. I’d rip the weights off the rack every time I trained and give it my all, working harder than a direwolf running back to the Starks to warn them about the WhiteWalkers.
Drop sets, supersets, tri-sets, circuits, HIIT, you name it, I tried it all.
When I got home? I’d open my frig, look a the leftovers I had left, and eat everything in sight.
Plate loads of rice, leftover pizza, fries. (pre-vegan days)
The cycle continued for months on end. I would train for hours on end, working hard on lifting heavier and heavier, yet my body fat percentage still stayed the same.
In fact, my stubborn belly fat increased and my workouts grew longer. What was this cursed sorcery that was controlling my fitness?
The truth is there’s only one way to drop fat consistently without attempting to make the gym your second home.
Maintaining a consistent caloric deficit is the key to leaning out your body and toning your muscles while working hand-in-hand with a progressive strength training program.
But what exactly is a caloric deficit?
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition in this study, diets that work the most effectively are described as: “Diets primarily focused on fat loss are driven by a sustained caloric deficit. The higher the baseline body fat level, the more aggressively the caloric deficit may be imposed. Slower rates of weight loss can better preserve lean mass (LM) in leaner subjects.”1
What does that mean?
Essentially if you’re looking out to carve out a physique that turns heads, then maintaining a slight caloric deficit, working together with your strength training program, can help you see consistent fat loss while retaining as much lean muscle as possible.
As you may have also noticed, the more aggressive the caloric deficit the more lean muscle mass you’ll tend to lose.
It always comes down to your goal. If you’re at a high body fat percentage, then it may be best to work more aggressively with your deficit and then slowly cut back the deficit as the fat slides off.
That being said, the more fat that you lose, the greater chance you have of losing your lean muscle gains and potential drops in your strength as well. There’s also the hormonal disadvantages that you’re faced with as you drop more fat and get leaner, with leptin levels dropping drastically.
Eventually, this will slowly bring your fat loss journey to a grinding halt.
The path of moderation can lead you to consistent success compared to extreme methods in all aspects of life.
Instead of going all out and trying to drop fat in the fastest (and unhealthy) way possible, a better method would be to drop fat in a more intelligent and effective manner in order to sustain long-term sustainability and efficacy.
Using a slight caloric deficit combined with an effective strength training program is your best chance of making this work without giving up your favorite foods or your lifestyle.
How To Calculate Your Deficit
This answer emerges from a multitude of various factors. Activity level, age, weight, gender, and even sleep patterns all play critical roles in determining what the right caloric deficit is for your goals.
That being said, there are a few handy formulas that you can use now to start getting a better hold of your physique and stop living in the gym.
1. First, calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate). This is the amount of how many calories your body burns on average each day maintaining bodily functions before you start adding in training or movement.
Here’s a simple tool you can use.
2. The next step in your fat shred journey is to calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). Now, this part of the formula adds in your BMR from above and your daily movements like training and daily activity levels.
Again you can use the same tool above here.
Now you have accurate look at your body’s base needs and how much you’re burning.
You’re 95% more accurate than most people in the world who train and eat well.
Now it’s time to take it to the next level.
3. The last step is to calculate your deficit. Based on the discussion above, choosing the right deficit comes down to your training goal. Remember the more aggressive the deficit, the higher chance you have of losing your LM (lean muscle) and strength gains.
Slow and steady wins the race.
After working with hundreds of clients in-person and online, the one thing I’ve noticed the most is the short-term gratification seems to drive most human beings.
Yes, you may drop off more fat in the short-term by being extremely aggressive, but at what cost?
A good recommendation?
Start with a 200-300 caloric deficit and then slowly add more exercise to improve your conditioning and strip off more fat.
Keep your deficit at -200-300 each day and add in conditioning work like HIIT (high-intensity interval training), LISS (low-intensity interval training), and most importantly strength training.
Remember strength training alone can help you burn off fat and retain muscle gains. The conditioning work helps you create a well-rounded athletic physique but it’s NOT the main component. Don’t mix up the order.
If you only have time for one of the two options, always go for strength training.
There’s an interesting study done by Precision Nutrition explaining a concept called the G-flux effect which shows that by eating more and moving more, you can increase your fat-burning, improve lean muscle gains, and get leaner while eating more.
Needless to say, it goes against everything that we’ve been taught about restrictive dieting and it’s another blow to the face against aggressive caloric deficits.
Here’s your calculator to optimize your deficit.
Take the time to calculate your caloric deficits using the formulas above. Make sure to keep your training and physique goals constantly in mind.
Take the time to master the fundamentals of your physique and you’ll find that dropping fat and getting lean isn’t as far away as you thought.
Interested in more science-based articles that help you finally MASTER your fitness? Head over here.
Comments or questions? Drop them below.
References and Further Reading
1. International Society of Sports Nutrition: International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28630601
2. Precision Nutrition Article: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-g-flux