The Definitive Weight Loss Guide: How to Get Shredded
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Dr. Stefano Pizzo, MD
It’s 2017 and everyone and their dogs are now making resolutions to do great things.
It goes without saying that for most people that this resolution will be related to weight loss.
There’s one problem though – most people don’t have a weight loss guide to point them in the right direction and have absolutely no clue how to really lose weight.
- Some think you need to “eat clean” which is not true…
- Some say to cut out carbs which is utter bollocks…
- Some think you have to kill yourself with cardio…
- Some say its all in the sugar or dietary fat…
Want to hear the boring truth?
There are really no “secrets”. Weight loss is – and will always be – all about calories. You eat more than your body uses and that’ll make you gain weight. You eat less than what your body uses and that’ll make you lose weight.
That is the basic premise of this guide to losing weight. End of story.
In other words, to lose weight you have to create a state of caloric deficit. To gain weight you need to create a state of caloric surplus. You don’t even have to exercise one bit to do that, though it’s easier to create the deficit with exercise.
Science has proven time-after-time that weight-loss is all about the energy balance, not about the amount of carbs, not the dietary fat, not the glycemic index of foods, not the gluten, not the meal frequency, or any other kind of shenanigans or fad diet (study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study, study).
If you’re interested in a scientifically sound (339 cited studies) e-book about everything that is wrong with the fitness industry nutrition and weight-loss recommendations, consider checking out Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat e-book
With that in mind, here’s a no-BS weight loss guide on how to actually lose weight effectively:
Make Reasonable Goals and Figure Out the Needed Calorie Deficit
To begin this weight loss guide, let’s talk about goals. Before starting any journey, you want to know what it is that you want to achieve. Don’t just go with “I want to lose weight”. Figure out how much you would want to lose in pounds or kilograms or body fat %, write that down.
Now that you have your goal down, you can start estimating the time it takes to get to that goal, and the calorie deficit needed to get you there.
There is an easy way to roughly calculate it since studies have shown that 1 pound of fat equals (roughly) 3,500 kilocalories. With that in mind, if you’d want to lose 10 pounds, you’d have to burn roughly 35,000 kcal.
If you’re on a -500 kcal daily deficit (how to do this will be explained below), it will take you about 70 days to burn the total of 35,000 kilocalories. In a perfect world this would equate to 10 pounds of lost fat, but due to certain uncontrollable variables (thyroid activity, the accuracy of your deficit, the amount of lean mass loss, etc), the formula is not perfect. It will, however, get you close to your goal for sure.
As a rule of thumb, for overall health and keeping your sanity, I would not cut calories by more than -700 kcal/day. The more aggressive the deficit, the harder the journey will be mentally and physically. And if you cut your calorie intake too much, you will create some serious hormonal problems, along with metabolic slowdown, thyroid issues, and increased loss of muscle mass.
I know how tempting it can be to go on a crash diet to lose that weight faster, but it’s not worth it to go on a huge deficit. You’ll just end up feeling like shit, you will start craving foods like a maniac, and you will set yourself up for a failure.
All about how to create that deficit and monitor your progress can be found below.
Track and Weigh Everything
There are a few things that you should be tracking in order to know for sure you’re going to lose weight instead of spinning your wheels.
- You need to know your basal metabolic rate
- You need to know how many calories you have consumed on a daily basis.
- You need to know how many calories your body has burned on a daily basis.
- You need to know how much you weigh in the morning without clothes on a daily basis.
- You should measure your body fat percentage with calipers and measuring tape.
If you don’t know how many calories you have consumed, you’ll never know for sure if you’re on a deficit. Same goes for the amount of (un-tracked)exercise. Studies have shown that we humans tend to always underestimate our calorie intake and overestimate the amount of exercise.
Track both and you can stop guessing.
Having a good scale (affiliate link) is kind of self-explanatory, obviously, you want to know if you’re losing weight or not. Just remember that water retention can sometimes mask the true weight loss, and in some days you might gain weight even though you didn’t eat a caloric surplus, this is just water though and will eventually be flushed out.
Because of the fact that you can’t always 100% trust the numbers on the scale, it’s not a bad idea to take measurements of your body with a tape and body fat calipers (affiliate link). Measuring body fatness is also a good way to be sure that you’re losing fat instead of muscle mass.
So, how do this tracking and weighing stuff happen then?
First off, you want to get yourself a food scale (affiliate link) so you can weigh your foods and/or the ingredients if you’re making a meal. Measure everything raw, and then get yourself a fitness app (like MyFitnessPal or FatSecret) where you can input the amounts and select the foods/ingredients that you ate during the day. The fitness apps also have a way of identifying your basal metabolic rate from weight, age, gender, and height.
NOTE: Skipping this step would mean that you wouldn’t have a clue of your caloric intake or basal metabolic rate, and you would eventually fail. Which is exactly why you don’t want to miss this step.
The second step is knowing how many calories you have burned during the day. For this the fitness apps above are great, just log-in your average daily activity values first and then whatever exercise you do you’ll also add in there, both apps should automatically calculate the average calories burned accordingly to your size. If you want to be extra-sure, you can also get an activity tracker (affiliate link).
When you know your caloric intake and the caloric output, you can then easily eat and/or exercise in a way that you end up on reasonable calorie deficit every day. As a result you will lose weight (provided that you’re not cheating yourself with the numbers)…
…And to know that you are in fact losing weight and mostly the body fat instead of muscle mass. You want to have a good scale, in where you step each morning without any clothes to get a good daily measurement of your overall weight in the same “scenario” every time. You then log this number into your fitness app.
To know your body fat percentage, you can use a measuring tape and calipers, and learn how to use them from YouTube. You can also get your body fat % measured by a DEXA scan or some other fancy method if you have them available in your city. I do not recommend those “bioelectric impedance analysis” scales though, they are highly inaccurate, especially if you have high amounts of muscle mass.
That’s all you need to know about creating a calorie deficit and tracking stuff to make sure you’re on the right path. Quite a boring part of this fat loss guide, but the truth is that there are no secret or magic-pills, it’s all in the deficit.
Many believe that exercise is needed to lose weight.
That’s false. As long as you are on a deficit, you’ll lose weight, even if you wouldn’t work out.
However, exercise is still a very important part of this guide to losing weight because of the many benefits to exercising when your goal is to cut down body fat.
For one, it makes creating a deficit much easier and allows you to eat some more. Also doing some form of resistance/strength training during a calorie deficit will ensure that you don’t end up losing that much muscle mass (an unfortunate side effect of cutting calories).
There’s a flip-side though. If you exercise too much during a calorie deficit, you’ll end up skyrocketing your cortisol levels, which leads to increased catabolism, which leads to poor sleep, muscle loss, fucked up testosterone, increased appetite & cravings, and downright shitty mood.
The most damaging type of exercise you can do on a calorie deficit is chronic and prolonged steady state cardio. For example, running on a treadmill for 1 hour every day is – in my opinion – not that good of an idea when your body is already in a state of stress from not getting enough energy in.
The only type of “cardio” I would recommend as a part of this weight loss guide is simply walking. If you’re on a treadmill put it into a small incline and just walk 60 minutes with a low-pace, you will end up burning 300-400 kcal/day just by doing that on a daily basis. This kind of daily low-intensity physical activity is very good at maintaining testosterone levels, while also ensuring that your cortisol levels stay in check.
To prevent lean mass loss, lifting weights 3-4 times a week is plenty enough. Keep your workouts short and explosive, with heavy weights and low volume. This ensures that you’re not going to end up overtraining your body, and also prevents muscle loss. IMHO reverse pyramid training is perfect when cutting weight.
If you walk 60 minutes every day and do short lifting sessions 3-4 times a week, you’ll end up burning the needed calories for a deficit mostly by exercise. Which is good because it allows you to eat more.
Weight Loss Guide Note: There’s really no reason to do those long grueling “bodybuilding” and “pump” workouts on a calorie deficit. You won’t build any noticeable amounts of muscle mass on a deficit anyway so you might as well just maintain the lean mass that you now have with short bouts of low-volume high-intensity training. We designed the THOR Testosterone Training Program around principles like these to maximize testosterone production and the effectiveness for both weight loss and muscle growth.
When it comes to losing weight, being in a deficit is enough, and it doesn’t matter what ratios of carbohydrates, fat, or protein you’re consuming. You could literally eat pure sugar and still lose weight, as long as you’re on a deficit.
This is also why “clean eating” doesn’t work for weight loss.
To prove that, professor Mark Haub ate Twinkies, Little Debbie snacks, Oreos, sugary cereals, and Doritos chips for 2 months. He lost 27 pounds of weight and his fat percentage fell from 33.4% to 24.9%. What was his secret? Nothing more than a calorie deficit. He ate less than 1,800 kcal on a daily basis, which on a man of that size is easy enough to create a good negative energy balance.
Does that mean you shouldn’t give a rats ass about macronutrient ratios? Well, not exactly.
I want this weight loss guide for men to not only talk about weight loss but also how to maintain optimal health while in a deficit. That is why I recommend you don’t go too “low” on any macronutrient, especially carbs or fat. Also, to prevent the loss of lean mass, you definitely don’t want to go too low on protein either.
What I’ve always followed during a calorie deficit is pretty close to a macronutrient split of 25% protein, 55% carbs, and 30% fat. That’s a pretty balanced ratio and it should keep you somewhat sane during a time of lower caloric intake. It’s also a good ratio for hormonal health and muscle preservation.
Protein is by far the most satiating of the macronutrients, and due to its thermal effect, it’s the most “diet-friendly” too. However, if you go too high on protein and lower your intake of carbs and fat, you will end up wrecking up your hormones and thyroid function, which then starts messing up with your overall life quality, sleep, and metabolic rate.
Bottom line: Macronutrient ratios don’t really matter for weight loss (as long as you’re in a deficit), however, to prevent lean mass loss and keep up hormonal health, you might want to make sure that you’re getting a balanced intake of all the three main macros. And remember; carbs don’t make you fat, fat doesn’t make you fat, but overeating on anything makes you fat.
In this guide to losing weight, I highly recommend you try Intermittent Fasting (IF). Basically, it is a way of eating where you fast, aka. don’t consume any calories for a period of time (usually 16-20 hours) and then break that fast by a feast, aka. eating your daily calories in a feeding window (usually 4-8 hours).
During the fasting window, you can (and should) still drink water, coffee, or anything with no (or very little) calories in it.
For example Today I fasted for 18 hours and I ate all my daily calories in 2 meals that were inside a 6-hour feeding window. Tomorrow I will repeat that. Might sound crazy but I’ve done intermittent fasting for a few years now, and I’ll never revert back to “normal” eating habits.
You may think this type of eating pattern slows down your metabolic rate, but don’t worry it has been studied that the metabolic slow down starts to occur at around ~60 hours of not consuming any calories whatsoever, and there’s a ton of research to prove that short-term fasting WILL NOT slow down your metabolism or put you into any bogus “starvation mode”.
You may also think that this type of eating pattern would interfere with muscle growth, fortunately, that ain’t true either. As long as you consume adequate amounts of calories in your feeding window, your muscle mass will be preserved just as well as it would with multiple smaller meals. Also if you do IF on a caloric surplus, you will gain muscle mass just as well as you would by eating 3 meals a day, or 6, or even 14. There’s plenty of peer-reviewed research to prove that, and two IF experts in particular who’s bodies will easily prove that; Greg O’Gallagher and Martin Berkhan (both long-term IF’ers, strong, and ripped to shreds).
It benefits the fitness industry to claim that 6 small meals a day would “stoke the metabolic fire” and be optimal for muscle building, because with those claims they can sell you more protein powders and meal-bars, etc. In reality there’s no research to prove that more small frequent meals would be any better than fewer bigger meals with longer intervals…
The reason why I do intermittent fasting is simply that I’m a guy with a massive appetite. I simply cannot bare myself to eat “six small meals a day” of rabbit size portions. I will rather fast for a short while and then eat like a king in the evening while still being on a caloric deficit.
Bottom line: IF is probably one of the most powerful tricks in this guide to losing weight. However, IF is not mandatory if you want to lose weight, it’s simple enough that you’re on a caloric deficit. However, intermittent fasting is something that – for me and hundreds of thousands of other people – makes it downright ridiculously easy to be on a deficit.
Supplements and Other Trickery
The market of fat burner supplements is MASSIVE. Unfortunately, the reality of the fact is that you do not need any supplements whatsoever to lose weight. Also, no legally obtainable supplement in the world will ever allow you to bend the laws of thermodynamics. You simply have to be on a calorie deficit to drop the pounds.
With that being said, there are few supplements and weight loss tricks you can use to increase the rate at which your body burns calories, which allows you to manipulate the deficit and thus help you in your weight loss efforts.
Caffeine, the principal alkaloid of coffee, is one of the substances that is clinically proven to speed up metabolic rate. Few cups a day won’t make up to anything significant, but even a small boost in metabolism through a span of months will add up to something big.
Drinking ice cold water will also increase your metabolic rate, simply because your body has to use energy (calories) to heat the water. You can get a similar effect by cranking down the heat of your house since your body will then use some extra energy to keep you warm.
If you substitute 15-30 grams of any of your dietary fat/oil to coconut oil, you will burn an extra of ~120 calories a day due to the fact that the metabolization of MCTs, aka. medium-chain triglycerides cost some energy, and of its pro-thyroid effects which can slightly increase metabolic rate. If you add the coconut oil on top of the amount of dietary fat that you’re already eating, it won’t do much since 15-30 grams of coconut oil contains 130-260 kcal. However, if you SUBSTITUTE 15-30 grams some other type of fat that’s already in your diet with the same amount of coconut oil (or MCT oil) you’re going to get a scientifically proven metabolic boost of ~120 kcal, which definitely adds up over long-term.
During a calorie deficit, it’s also wise to supplement with a high-quality multivitamin supplement, since in many cases a low-calorie diet means that you’re getting less of the micronutrients through diet. It’s debatable if or if not this can affect your metabolic rate at all. However, it’s definitely not a bad idea to keep your vitamin and mineral game on point for optimal thyroid activity, energy, sleep, and hormone production.
Few compounds that can have a slight stimulatory effect on the basal metabolic rate and that go well in “stack” with caffeine include; synephrine, naringenin, hesperidin, and forskolin. Just don’t expect any miracles out of them.
There are few supplements and tricks that can offer a very marginal benefit for weight loss in terms of increasing your basal metabolic rate, which in turn increases the “calories out” equation. I wouldn’t really count them in your calorie calculations, but if you use any or all of those, you can view them as your “blind” support.
Mastering The Appetite Control
The last part of this weight loss guide is all about how to overcome appetite issues while being in a caloric deficit.
Whether you do or do not practice intermittent fasting (which ultimately is the best way to learn appetite control), there will likely be a time (in fact many times) when your appetite is soaring on a low-calorie diet. This is natural, and it’s one of your body’s many mechanisms in which it tries to keep you holding on to the pounds…
…You see, from an evolutionary point of view, losing weight is not a good thing at all. And we’re still operating with largely the same DNA as the cavemen did.
So, how do you suppress that appetite when you’re suddenly in the mood of eating everything that comes your way?
The best option is to drink coffee. It’s great for suppressing appetite and there’s even research to prove it. This effect is believed to be caused by the chlorogenic acids in coffee beans.
Another good one is to drink sparkling water, which fills up your stomach and greatly blunts appetite.
Despite the fact that almost any type of demanding exercise during a calorie deficit will result in increased appetite, low-pace walking can, in fact, blunt your hunger by restoring the sensitivity of the brain neurons involved in triggering satiety. There’s even a study where 15-minutes of walking cut workplace snacking by 50%.
However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to your willpower. If you can’t control what goes into your mouth, what the heck can you control?
That’s it. I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on how to actually lose weight. If you still can’t figure out how to lose weight after reading this, I can’t help you any further 😉
Additional resources & recommendations:
- The THOR Testosterone Training Program (the best program for boosting testosterone and getting in shape).
- Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon (an intermittent fasting pattern with 24 hours fast, also contains a lot of research about fasting).
- Bigger Leaner Stronger by Mike Matthews (evidence-based approach for burning fat and building muscle, excellent for beginners).
- Examine.com (everything you need to know about supplements and/or fat burners).