Hi there! I'm Dr. Sara Solomon and I tried every diet and workout strategy under the sun, but could never get lasting results. I was a full blown "yo-yo" dieter.
It wasn't until I implemented these 10 sustainable steps that I finally lost fat and kept it off for good!
1. Train In the Morning
If you find you lack motivation to train after an exhausting day, then try training first thing in the morning. Motivation is a depreciating asset. I like to compare myself to a cell phone. After recharging my batteries with a good night's sleep, I'm fully charged in the morning and ready to perform at my best. But as the day progresses, my battery power starts to decline.
2. Minimum Effective Dose to Get Results
Many fitness enthusiasts assume "more is better". In order to expedite results, many folks drastically drop calories and exercise incessantly.
But beware of the law of diminishing returns. When it comes to lean gains, doing more work can actually yield negative results. This happened to me when I was competing on the PRO stage as a fitness model. I was doing 2 hours of cardio a day (7 days a week), lifting weights (7 days a week) and eating less than 1200 calories a day. I was miserable, bingeing, injured and getting fatter!
When you train in a way that balances your nervous system, you won't burn out mentally and you can avoid overtraining. This will minimize the risk for injury, weak lifts and plateaus. It turns out that more is not always better. Rather, better is better. So ditch the long marathon sessions.
Eating in a daily calorie deficit will cause your leptin levels to plummet, which will signal you to binge eat. No wonder fat loss stalls!
Between the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise always wins. Fat loss and gains in strength happen over months, not days ... with a sustainable approach.
3. Intermittent Fasting
Abs are revealed when you shed the layer of fat hiding them. Fat is shed when you stop eating all the time (i.e. when you fast). When you fast, your body can finally enter into fat oxidation mode.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet. You still eat your normal amount of food, you just eat it in a smaller time frame, referred to as your eating window. It is simply a plan telling you when you can eat and when you cannot eat. Since you spend more time fasting than you do eating, it gives your body a chance to tap into its stored fat for fuel.
I failed miserably following a “6 small meals-a-day every 2-3 hours” meal plan. Not only was I unable to achieve satiety with these tiny meals, but I was also unable to lose fat without drastically dropping my calories to dangerously low levels. I also had a hard time factoring frequent feedings into my busy schedule. That's why my "soulmate diet" is intermittent fasting... because it suits my eating personality, keeps me satiated and suits my schedule.
There are many different IF protocols you can follow. I teach you how to implement numerous IF protocols in my FREE intermittent fasting tutorials. I also teach you the science supporting many IF protocols and I explain why IF is beneficial for your health and lean muscle gains.
4. Excessive Cardio is Not The Answer
I used to spend 1 to 2 hours a day counting calories on the stair mill. The only problem was that I was not losing fat.
A 2011 Review in the Journal of Obesity showed that the “effect of regular aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible”. For me, I’d have to do 90 minutes of cardio just to burn 500 calories. This is not practical… besides, it creates a voracious appetite for me and I eat back the deficit I created anyway.
That being said, we all know that cardio is great for the heart, and it has it's place in your training regimen. I do both aerobic and anaerobic cardio. If you follow me on snapchat (username drsarasolomon), then you often see me posting my times for my running, rowing and biking sessions. I don't make it about burning calories to minimize weight gain; rather, I make it about getting faster and fitter. This is much more empowering and motivating.
I'm a fan of jump rope HiiT Workouts... especially double unders! Jump rope is a FUN way to burn a TON of calories in a short amount of time. I encourage you to "jump" on the bandwagon! Click here to sign up for my free jump rope lessons!
5. Lift Weights
Heavy load weight-training is key. Don't neglect compound exercises (i.e. squats, deadlifts) during your training sessions. Compound exercises illicit a neuroendocrine response. Exercises that induce a neuroendocrine response will increase muscle mass and bone density.
The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you will burn, even when you are sleeping. This means you can eat more!
Heavy load weight-training allows you to continue burning calories even after you are finished exercising because it generates a large EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). EPOC is responsible for the calories burned post-exercise.
Combining heavy load weight-training (compound lifts) with intermittent fasting is a sure fire way to torch fat. But you cannot out-diet a crappy training regimen. In fact, I wrote an entire blog about that. You can read it here.
It wasn't until I shifted my goals towards performance and away from aesthetics that I was actually able to significantly change my physique. Performance goals, in my opinion, are more sustainable.
6. Don’t Skimp on Sleep
So many of us are willing to make exercise, diet and work top priorities in our daily regimes, and yet the majority of us are guilty of skimping on sleep. If you are having issues with fat loss, theft's time to take sleep more seriously.
Studies show that people who don't get enough deep, restful sleep tend to gain weight. With chronic sleep deprivation, you place your body at greater risk for more serious health problems, such as decreased immunity, depression, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, weight gain and obesity.
Sleep helps the body repair and rejuvenate. Adults should be getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.
7. Don’t Eat in Chronic Daily Caloric Deficit & Don't Demonize Carbs
If you eat in daily caloric deficit for extended periods of time, it will cause your leptin levels to drop, which will slow your metabolic rate and signal you to binge.
Leptin is the starvation hormone. It’s released from your fat cells and it regulates your metabolic rate and appetite. If you restrict your calories each day, you leptin will plummet. In fact, your leptin levels can fall 30-50% in a week. This is bad because as your leptin levels fall, your appetite goes through the roof (to prevent you from starving to death), which explains why you blow your diet by bingeing. It’s not lack of willpower: it’s low leptin from dieting like a moron. This is why people who remain in caloric deficits for extended periods of time end up bingeing for days and regaining all their weight (and more!).
Demonizing carbs is not a long-term fat loss solution. If you follow a daily calorie-restricted low carb diet, your metabolic rate will slow down and you’ll end up bingeing.
Carbs are the only macronutrient that can boost leptin levels. So to make a long story short, carbs are crucial for energy, satiety and a robust metabolism and all 3 of these things are crucial for achieving and maintaining a lean physique 365 days a year.
If you absolutely must eat diet calories (which I don't recommend), then I recommend you cycle your calories and carbs.
Oh, and yes, I do eat carbs at night.
I am not a fan of dieting or slashing calories ... because it's not sustainable. It's much more pleasant to deadlift so that you can eat! Fuel your body so you can build muscle and get stronger. Muscle is the answer! Feed your muscles!
Speaking of sustainable, look at the photo below: Today, I'm 140 pounds, and I eat double the amount of calories I did when I weighed 120 pounds. Training and fuelling for performance is sustainable. Dieting and exercising to create a calorie deficit is not sustainable.
8. Carb Refeeds
If you must eat diet calories (which I don't recommend), then I recommend episodic carb refeeds. Why? To prevent crazy, week-long post-dieting bingefests! When you partake in a short-term (one-day) carb overfeed, your leptin levels will rise quickly without causing significant fat gain. This promotes satiety and metabolism and can even help trick the last few stubborn pounds of fat off the body.
9. Flexible Dieting
Flexible Dieting is also referred to as “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM). The IIFYM approach to diet allows for greater flexibility with your food selection because your focus is on the nutrients rather than the food source.
From my own personal experience, I can tell you I failed miserably following other people’s meal plans. The problem with meal plans is that you are forced to demonize all foods that are not on the plan, which can lead to micronutrient deficiencies and an extremely unhealthy relationship with food. Furthermore, with flexible dieting, you can select the daily treats you want (in moderation) and you don’t have to demonize carbs!
Please note that flexible dieting is not an excuse to try to squeeze in copious amounts of nutrient deficient junk food on a daily basis. If you follow this approach, micronutrient deficiencies will likely ensue. You will also run into issues with hunger because junk food is high in calories and low in fibre, so you won’t be able to eat very many Pop-tarts before you reach your calorie limit for the day. That is why I ensure 80% of my calories are nutrient-dense (“clean foods”) before I factor in any discretionary calories.
Do you have to track your calories and macros? Well, I wrote a blog about this. Check it out here!
10. High Protein Diet
I like to follow a high protein diet because it promotes satiety and optimizes muscle gains. Protein intake to optimize muscle gains begins at approximately 1 gram per pound of lean mass.
If you want to make the best choices for yourself, then you must think critically. How many times have you done something without giving it a second thought, merely because someone told you to do it? We are all guilty of this because the reality is that our thoughts are greatly influenced by those around us. Is intermittent fasting the only way to lose fat? No! But in my opinion, it’s definitely the easiest way to lose fat. And more importantly, fasting will change the way we approach the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
To summarize the key points: if you want to lose fat, I recommend you build strength/muscle and follow a sustainable approach to your nutrition... I'm a fan of intermittent fasting and flexible dieting.
So if this sounds good to you and you're serious about change, then you will really enjoy the system I created called the "Fat Loss Fast" System. I will teach you how to lose fat (and keep it off) without feeling hungry and deprived. I also recommend you check out my Strength Academy Home Workout Program, designed to help you move better.