We all want shortcuts, right? We don’t just want something, we want it NOW.
And of course, this is not always possible. Actually, I’d say that ‘quick-fixes’ are almost never the right thing or, at the very least, they are not durable – especially when they involve our health.
So, No. This is not a short-cut, but I’m giving you something way better than that: a healthy, enjoyable and sustainable approach that will change your life for sure (as well as giving you abs).
This way you won’t have to spend much time trying other shortcuts that don’t really work or are temporary or – worse – dangerous for your health.
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I invite you to consider a few things before deciding to embrace this program.
1. DO NOT STRESS OUT
When you’re stressed, you will only tend to store more fat.
2. BE PATIENCE
Wait from 2 weeks to 1 month to see results. Take pictures and measurements before and after the process: sometimes the progress is there and we don’t notice it.
Try to be patient, enjoy the process and trust what you’re doing. When I really started approaching fitness and exercising regularly, I was feeling so good and energized that I even forgot about the abs I wanted in the first place (not that I’m complaining now!)
Keep in mind that you should not only seek for improvement in your body but also in your mind (remember that exercising literally slows down your brain’s aging and strengthens your memory) and in your strength (you will find yourself lifting weights you’ve never lifted before, or doing exercises that you never thought you could be able to do).
3. CONSIDER WEIGHT IS NOT EVERYTHING
I recommend you stop weighing yourself in the very beginning, at least for the first 2 weeks. Do not measure your progress in terms of weight, but rather in terms of how your clothes fit, because fat loss not always equals weight loss (actually, I gained 2 kgs during the whole process!).
Putting on weight can also be a good sign: it means you’re putting on muscle.
Also, here is a video of a girl weighing herself at different times of the day.
It will show you how much your weight fluctuates naturally during the day.
4. PLEASE DO NOT START THIS – OR ANY OTHER WEIGHT-LOSS PROGRAMS IF YOU’RE SUFFERING FROM EATING DISORDERS
Please talk to a specialist and make sure you’re ready to face something like this, first.
We’re all different so I divided this guide into 3 main sections/groups, divided by background story and fitness goals.
THE BASICS OF WEIGHT LOSS
The first, general advice you find whenever you try to lose weight is: eat less and move more or – in other terms – eat fewer calories than you burn. And this is only partly correct (we’re getting there).
The main goal of losing weight is burning body fat, but if we limit ourselves just to cut off as many calories as we can, we would end up burning muscle mass as well.
To prevent this from happening, you need to keep stimulating your muscles with different types resistance training (but you’ll read more on this in a second).
There are however some eating methods that might help you promote more fat loss than others. For example, the keto diet has been shown to be quite effective in burning your fat because it reduces how much carbs you eat.
In fact, although fat has a lot more energy, your body prefers to use carbs first because it’s much quicker to metabolize. But if you take the carbs out of the equation, you’ll go straight to the fat.
Actually, I don’t really recommend cutting off any type of food from your diet – since you should be more oriented on a long-term approach (I mean, you want those abs, but you also want to keep them, right?).
Also, eliminating some type of foods from your diet might cause you to crave them even more and eventually indulge in a big, extremely-guilty binge-eating journey. And there’s no need to go through all that.
Here you can read a blog post on how to find healthier alternatives to your favorite foods: “29 healthier alternatives to your favorite foods” (it’s a guest post I wrote for Xukkhini.com).
But if you still feel like the keto diet is the right fit for you, then go ahead.
As we already said, I divided this post into 3 parts.
Definition: you are happy with how you look in clothes, but you want to change your body composition – or get more lean and toned.
If you’re in this stage, you can go straight to the training part (scroll a little bit to see more indications on this) and you don’t need to cut on your calories or change your diet.
Definition: you’ve been in a sustained restrictive diet (which means you’ve been eating less calories than consuming) for quite some time now and maybe you stopped seeing progress.
This is actually the background I was coming from. I was eating waaay less calories than I was consuming (I was eating something around 1,400 – which is unbelievably low for the amount of exercises I was doing) yet I was seeing no results. Also, I felt constantly drained and couldn’t give 100% during my workouts.
Now you might be asking how this was even possible.
In fact, if we follow the logic less calories = more fat burn, I would have been still burning fat.
But the truth is that at some point your body gets used to eating any amount of calories (it just assumes you don’t have enough food to eat so it’s just trying to keeping you alive).
To sum it up, you belong to this group if:
- you’ve been in a sustained period of restricted calories
- your body has adapted to burning fewer calories
Now, if you belong to this group, you want to make sure to increase your metabolism and work out.
First, let’s start with the nutrition part.
Before anything else, you need to know how many calories you should be consuming. I recommend MacroNutrientCalculator.com to calculate them.
So go on there,
- type in your information (age, weight, and height)
- in activity levels put ‘3-5 workouts per week’ (if you’ll be following the training approach included in this post).
- Select ‘stay the same weight’ (don’t worry about this for now)
And to that number that gives you, add 100 calories.
If for example, you’re starting with 1,400 calories or less per day, try to add 100 calories every 2 weeks, until you match the ideal intake you measured on MacroNutritient.com
Your goal is, because this approach is so long-term, to increase your calories over time.
I know it is scary to start increasing calories… but remember that your body does adapt to eat any quantity of food and calories.
As we already said, this approach takes a little time, so if you see you’re gaining weight in 2 days (and this is also why I told you not to weigh yourself), it’s not fat. It might be some water retention.
Our bodies take weeks to adapt to something new.
Have about 20%-30% of your total calories from protein and try different carb/fat splits for the remaining calories to see what works best for you.
In the end, listening to your body is the skill you want to master.
Also, remember to drink 1 or 2 glasses of water whenever you feel hungry: most of the time we misunderstand being thirsty with being hunger. If after that you’re still feeling hungry, then go ahead and eat something.
I personally use Lifesum (you can find it on both ios and android) to keep track of my meals and calories, but you can find tons of other apps on your phone.
And now, finally, the training part.
Resistance training will become your best friend at some point, I promise.
For all the women out there reading this, don’t worry, you won’t turn into the incredible hulk if you don’t want to, but your strength and resistance (of course!) will be tremendously increased.
I recommend you do:
- 3-5 RESISTANCE TRAINING SESSIONS/WEEK mainly HYPERTROPHY TRAINING
and this could be from a variety of different exercises (also based on your fitness level).
EXAMPLE OF HYPERTROPHY (VOLUME) TRAINING WORKOUT:
8-12 reps for 3-5 sets per exercise, each set within 1-2 reps to failure (which means you can no longer maintain your actual proper form – please do not pass out while you’re squatting lol)
10-15 sets per workout
Try to mix up different varieties of hypertrophy training: strength training, calisthenics, plyometrics or functional training.
- (OPTIONAL) 1 CARDIO SESSION/WEEK
I recommend not going above 1 session because cardio it’s not an effective way of burning fat. Muscle building is the most effective way to do so: it allows you to burn more fat during the day just by doing absolutely nothing (isn’t it great?)
Take rest days as you like and eat the same amount of calories you’d eat on your normal days because their intent is to be building muscles.
If you’re a complete beginner and never went to the gym, I recommend you spend the first month getting familiar with different basic moves (squats, deadlifts, compound moves, lunges etc.) so that later on you’ll be able to add weight or do more advanced versions.
Also, try to have a gym instructor to look at your form, to make sure that you’re doing it right – before you start adding extra weights.
Remember that at first, hypertrophy will be the biggest part of your workout, but later on you will be able to mix it up a little bit more.
Definition: you haven’t been in a restrictive diet over a long period of time. You may have done a few diets here and there, and you’d like to drop 2 or more dress sizes from fat loss.
Before getting into the second group, you need to take a step further. Your workouts are the same as the second and first group, but you need to change something about your nutrition first.
Since you have enough fat stored to provide energy for your body, you can be in a caloric deficit and build muscle at the same time.
These are exact steps you want to be taking:
- Figure out how many calories you’re eating every single day (in average)
- Drop by 100 calories or more (based on how fast you want the process to be. I recommend a slower approach, btw) but stay within the 500/day – every 2 weeks.
- Continue doing that until you’re within 1 dress size of your end goal and then you’ll be ready to follow the second group approach and start increasing calories.
If for any reason you can’t go to the gym, this is the only complete at-home workout program I recommend: Body Revolution by Jillian Michaels (but literally any other Jillian Michaels’ program would be perfect).
I’ve done it myself and seen incredible results (actually, I’ll be posting a review with before-after pictures very soon).
FINDING THE MOTIVATION
I’d say the last advice I can give you – for all three groups – is to motivate yourself every day.
For obvious reasons, I can’t include another whole topic in this already-long post, but here you can everything on the subject: “The Real Secret to Motivation”.
Keep me updated on your fitness journey (whatever it is) and don’t be afraid to ask some questions in the comments section below. I promise I won’t bite! (unless you’re made of pizza lol)