In high school, I was what you would call “skinny fat.” It seemed like no matter what I did, my arms would not grow bigger and I was never lean enough to have visible abs. Looking back on this, I realize that I was doing everything wrong. I thought all I needed was crunches and biceps curls.
Wow, was I ever mistaken. It took me six years to actually get it. Over the course of those six years, I discovered four fitness gems that helped me to both lose fat and gain muscle. These are my top tips for having your own Fast Fat Revolution.
1. Let’s Stop Eating Crap
Every minute it becomes more evident to me that “you are what you eat.” If you eat crap, then you’re going to look like crap. There’s no getting around it (unless you are on some major drugs or hormones). In my first year of university, I cut out all processed foods. This means that if it didn’t grow, swim, fly, or run, then I wouldn’t eat it (occasional epic cheat meals being the exception). This resulted in me gaining 20lbs in three months, and I could actually see my abs for the first time.
This is where things get awkward. It’s simple logic. People know that they shouldn’t be eating crap, but their real dilemma is that they don’t know what crap is. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, allow me to introduce you to Jason Maxwell’s List of Crap:
- Chips (that includes corn chips)
- Junk food
- Any condiments that have more than five ingredients
- Most types of commercial bread
- Anything that has ingredients that you’ve never heard of
- Ice cream
- Fruit juice
- Leftover takeout food
- Granola bars
- Microwave Popcorn
- Salad dressings
- Most sauces
- Yogurt with sugar
- Energy drinks
- Anything that makes you feel bloated, tired, or sick afterwards
PLAN OF ACTION: Rid your house of everything on this list and replace it with meat, vegetables, spices, and cold water.
2. I’ll Order a Side of Fasting, Hold the Toast
It’s not called the fast fat revolution for nothing. Skipping breakfast (intermittent fasting) is a great way to keep insulin levels low and increase growth hormone (a potent combination for becoming and staying lean). When it comes to keeping insulin low, nothing is more effective than reducing carb intake.
When carb intake is low (or non-existent via skipping breakfast), the body will convert fat to usable energy. As soon as you ingest carbs, your body will release insulin, and the carbs will be converted into energy. Any excess glucose in the blood will then be stored as fat. Skipping breakfast is a sneaky way to keep insulin levels low, and to tell your body to use stored fat as fuel. Think about it this way – when you’re not eating anything at all, your body isn’t ingesting carbs, and your insulin levels aren’t being unnecessarily spiked.
Research shows that fasting (skipping breakfast) will also increase growth hormone output. Think of growth hormone as a lean hormone. It promotes muscle, bone, and organ growth, frees fat from fat cells for the muscle and heart to use, and helps muscle cells use ingested protein. Having more growth hormone is good news when more muscle and less fat is your goal.
PLAN OF ACTION: Skip breakfast daily and decrease starchy carb intake. If you have a history of battling eating disorders, then it’s not a good idea to skip breakfast (as you will risk triggering your old behaviors). In that case, just reduce starchy carb intake.
3. Fat Loss Before Muscle Gain
Should you bulk then cut, or should you cut then bulk? The answer is the latter (but both can be done at the same time if you prioritize fat loss). Research shows that there is a direct correlation between low body fat levels and increased insulin sensitivity. If insulin sensitivity is high, then the levels of insulin will be kept low in your blood stream. When you ingest carbs, an optimal amount of insulin will be used to store those carbs as muscle glycogen. The end result is more muscle and less fat gained. This is why you should always get lean before putting on muscle.
PLAN OF ACTION: Prioritize fat loss in initial phases of training and transition into phases of muscle gain. Generally, if your body fat percentage is under 12% (in males), and 19% (in females), then you are a good candidate for gaining muscle.
4. Don’t Stress Out
One of the symptoms of being skinny fat is having high levels of stress. When you are stressed out, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. Excess levels of cortisol causes you to store belly fat, lose sleep at night, and a host of other problems.
What can we do to decrease the stress in our lives (and effectively lower cortisol levels)? Start out by taking a deep belly breath during times of high stress. Now, I know that everyone recommends this, but there’s a catch. You have to tell yourself, “Soon, it will all be over.” Seriously, if something bad happens, it will all be over soon, and afterwards you will be happy and stress free. Your mind has the ability to rid you of most stress. Never underestimate the powers of the mind.
If you are looking for a supplement to help with stress, then you cannot go wrong with magnesium. Studies show the body uses magnesium to help detoxify cortisol. People who take magnesium also report levels of increased relaxation.
PLAN OF ACTION: In times of stress, tell yourself, “Soon, it will all be over.” Also, try supplementing with magnesium daily.
Lose Fat, Gain Muscle
In our modern day society, it seems like this is the ultimate goal. Yet, there are a few steps that need to be taken that usually get skipped. If you want to lose the body fat, get lean, and build some muscle, you should try to eat less crap, workout for a priority in fat loss and transition into gaining muscle (once you are lean enough), skip breakfast, reduce carb intake, and lose the stress in your life. This, my friends, is your fast fat revolution.
1. Foster, G. “A Randomized Trial of a Low-carbohydrate Diet for Obesity.” ACC Current Journal Review 12.4 (2003): 29.
2. Ho, K. Y., J. D. Veldhuis, M. L. Johnson, R. Furlanetto, W. S. Evans, K. G. Alberti, and M. O. Thorner. “Fasting Enhances Growth Hormone Secretion and Amplifies the Complex Rhythms of Growth Hormone Secretion in Man.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 81.4 (1988): 968-75.
3. “Hypoglycemia: A Potent Stimulus to Secretion of Growth Hormone.” Science. Web. 02 May 2012. <http://www.sciencemag.org/content/140/3570/987.short>.
4. Rattarasarn, C. “Relationships of Body Fat Distribution, Insulin Sensitivity and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Lean, Healthy Non-diabetic Thai Men and Women.” Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice 60.2 (2003): 87-94.
5. Rayssiguier, R., Libako, P., Nowacki, W., Rock, E. Magnesium Deficiency and Metabolic Syndrome: Stress and Inflammation May Reflect Calcium Activation. Magnesium Research. 2010. 23(2), 73-80.
6. Talbott, Shawn M. The Cortisol Connection: Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health – and What You Can Do about It. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, 2002.
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