There are HUNDREDS of ways to achieve fat loss – it’s one of the many pro’s and con’s about the fitness and nutrition coaching industry.
Personally, I’ve tried nearly all of them.
I was desperate to find anything that would help me lose weight and to stop feeling jealous or ashamed of being heavier than clients, family, and friends.
I didn’t believe anyone would trust my coaching unless I looked the part and had the Instagram worthy body.
The problem was that I was too busy rotating through the hundreds of fat loss strategies to find one that actually fit me.
As a coach, I love connecting with clients and discovering exactly how to individualize this process to fit every one of their unique qualities.
One of the best parts of working with a coach is that your program (nutrition, training, and mindset) is designed to fit your lifestyle, goals, training style preference, and diet history.
Since I started working as a coach, I’ve found certain strategies to yield highly effective fat loss results that mesh well with my clients’ lifestyles.
Now before I dive into the summary of these strategies, it’s important to note that I always recommend working with a coach. Even if it’s only for 3 to 6 months, it helps to truly identify the strategy best-suited for you while providing you with the knowledge and education necessary for a lifetime of sustainable results.
Let’s get into some of my most effective strategies.
Tracking Calories + Protein – Lifestyle Clients
When I started looking into an individualized nutrition plan for myself, I thought I needed to track everything all the time, and I loved it, for a while…
Then, I realized how hard it was to eat out or enjoy family dinners.
How could I think about calories and macros as little as possible while still enjoying social events AND results?
Maybe I don’t NEED to track everything all the time?
As a coach, I realized many clients don’t enjoy the chess game that is macro tracking. The majority of clients want to think about macros as little as possible, and that’s perfectly okay! Macros allow us to get very specific within your nutrition, and they work great for clients with very specific results (athletes, physique competitors, etc.) but aren’t always necessary for the individual looking to lose weight, drop body fat, and get fit.
So where’s the middle ground?
If you’re focused on losing weight and body fat while enjoying a healthy lifestyle, we can get great results by simply tracking calories and protein.
In coaching you through this strategy, I assign you a specific calorie and protein goal fit to your unique body type putting you on the path to your body composition goals. We let fats and carbs fall in based on your preference but work together to educate you on how to make high quality, nutrient-dense food choices.
This strategy has helped my clients achieve some incredible results that they’re able to sustain long-term. If you’re looking to dive more into this strategy and find out if a calorie and protein focus is right for you, check out the blog I put together on it – [Guide] Finding Your Ideal Diet for Weight Loss.
5/2 Split – Weekend Warrior
The key to fat loss is finding a plan that not only fits your lifestyle but that you can adhere to long-term.
Do you find yourself CRUSHING your diet Monday through Friday afternoon only to throw it all away in a two-and-a-half-day span?
My diet was PERFECT during the week.
Then, Friday night rolled around, I was exhausted from the week, and I convinced myself I DESERVED a break on my diet.
I woke up on Saturday, sweat it out in a workout, but was in a different routine so meals weren’t as organized or structured as they were during the week.
Before I knew it, I was stepping on the scale Monday morning looking at the SAME number as last week or worse, a bigger number….
If that sounds familiar, then the 5/2 Split might be a good option for you.
There are 2 types of clients who I find best suited for the 5/2 split:
- The client who struggles to find routine and adhere to a plan over the weekend.
- The client who simply desires to have eating out and partying as part of his or her lifestyle.
As a coach, there’s no sense in trying to change the client, but what I can change is the nutrition program.
Why not adjust to their lifestyle?
Why not lower the calorie and macro intake during the week to leave a little more room over the weekend?
Here’s what that would look like:
Day 1 through 5: Caloric Deficit
This will be larger than the standard 250 to 500 calorie deficit someone with a consistent 7-day plan might adhere to. The size of the deficit is determined by a rough estimate of a “typical” weekend for the client and dispersing that across the 5 day stretch.
Day 6 & 7: Calories at Maintenance or a Slight Surplus
The important thing to note is that this DOES NOT mean these two days are a free for all. I recommend these clients track calories at minimum to prevent sabotaging the week’s progress.
I love this diet because it gives clients more freedom to enjoy their lives while still losing body fat and getting lean.
On top of this, research has found a 48+ hour carb increase can prevent some of the metabolic adaptations of dieting and some of the other negative hormonal side effects.
Would you consider yourself to be a snacker?
Quite frankly, do you feel like you can’t stop eating or munching during the day?
I have coached a number of clients who just feel like they cannot pull themselves away from food during their workday or while around the house.
BUT, if you want to lose weight and change your body composition, then we need to better manage grazing and snacking throughout the day.
As a coach I’ve found intermittent fasting to be a great strategy.
Now, before we go any further, I need to make something very clear:
Intermittent fasting alone DOES NOT lead to weight loss!
That means that if you just condense all of your snacking and eating into an 8-hour window, you’re still not going to see results. You MUST be in a caloric deficit to lose weight when practicing intermittent fasting.
Now that we have that out of the way, I can tell you that the simple act of putting a cap on when one can and cannot eat has yielded some big results for my clients. We’ll typically follow a 3 to 4 meals per day plan, wherein meals take place every 2 to 2.5 hours. Many of my clients claim this still feels as if they are still snacking throughout the day but in a more organized and planned manner.
Now, the different types and application of intermittent fasting cannot be explained in a short section like this, so I have an entire blog designed to educate you on the concept, determine if it is right for you (,[Guide] Intermittent Fasting for Fat Loss), and how to apply it into your lifestyle.
High Protein/High Fat/Low Carb Split
Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty and the very individualized side of nutrition coaching strategies. Macros are very individualized, but that individualization has helped numerous clients see big time body composition results.
Personally, I have found a high fat and low carb split to be beneficial, especially for females in or post-menopause.
Now when you take a look at the research, there are no studies or evidence suggesting a high fat/low carb diet to be more beneficial for female fat loss; therefore, these results are based purely on the experience with my clientele.
Take a look into the evidence behind what we do know in this strategy.
Protein is the building block for lean muscle tissue. If your goal is to build muscle (and yes, even if your goal is to lose weight, your goal should simultaneously be to build muscle), you have to eat enough protein to drive muscle synthesis.
Because protein is in such high demand throughout the body for tissue building and repair, it’s very hard to store protein as body fat. It’s a long and complex process for the body, so it only resorts to it in extreme situations.
One of the other benefits of protein is its high thermic effect of food (TEF). Quite literally this means your body works harder, thus burns more calories, than the other macronutrients. A high protein diet is our effort to take advantage of protein’s high TEF and incur a greater caloric expenditure.
The last benefit of protein that I want to mention is that it’s one of the most satiating nutrients. When dieting, you’re GOING to be hungry, but following a high protein diet can help to better manage hunger. My goal as a coach in every dieting protocol is to educate clients how to best use proteins and other nutrients to best manage satiety and improve adherence, which instead improves results.
“So what’s high protein?”
The standard recommendation for protein is 0.7 to 1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight. When I recommend a high protein diet, clients are set to take in protein at the upper end of this range around the 0.9 to 1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight.
If you’re looking for more information on protein, head over to the blog I put together – ,The Protein Guide for Fat Loss!
Fats are a big macronutrient – literally and figuratively. They are the most calorically dense nutrient in that they pack 9 calories per 1 gram, and they are a major contributor to hormonal production and function. Individuals who chronically starve themselves of adequate fats can temporarily or permanently halt hormone production, which can lead to lowered energy levels, altered mood, poor training, and poor recovery.
The recommendations for fat consumption are quite large at 20 to 60% of one’s dietary intake.
In my experience I have yet to find a client see substantial and long-term fat loss results at that top end range; however, I have seen a number of females thrive with a daily recommended intake of 40 to 45% of fats.
Most of these females fall into the menopausal or early on post-menopausal range and the higher fat intake encourages hormone production while their body adjusts to the natural hormonal changes of life.
I have also seen clients who live a sedentary lifestyle or follow a very low intensity training to benefit from this strategy. These activities call on fats as the primary fuel source; therefore, a high fat intake keeps the optimal fuel source well stocked without adding a high amount of carbs which would likely end up as stored body fat.
Like I said, there is little evidence to suggest there is a statistically significant benefit to females in this age range benefitting from a higher fat intake, so this does come purely from 5 years of coaching experience.
If you’re looking to implement this strategy but need more information on fats, go read through the blog I put together all about fats – ,The Facts About Fats!
Now I’m going to dig further into carbs in the next strategy, but I do want to touch on them here.
Carbs are lowered in this strategy simply to meet the caloric requirements of the individual. When fats are higher, more calories must be dedicated towards them and since we still want to maintain a high protein intake, that leaves fats to be cut out.
I do tell every client following this strategy that it is not to negate the importance of carbs but done so to meet the demands of their body.
High Protein/Low Fat/High Carb Split
“If high fat is so successful, how can LOW fat actually work?”
That’s just another example of just how individualized a nutrition can (and should) be!
I’ve had plenty of clients succeed on a High Fat/Low Carb plan, but I’ve worked with just as many who thrive on a Low Fat/High Carb plan.
The benefits of High Protein in this plan remain the same, yet this strategy plays to the benefits of carbs.
While fats serve as the primary fuel source at rest and for very low intensity activities, carbs remain as the body’s preferred fuel source.
Since most of us don’t sit around ALL day, we need carbs to provide glucose for the body’s cells to utilize as fuel.
Because carbs are so readily utilized as fuel within the body, they become more difficult to store as body fat. Now it is important to note that if you go too high and consume TOO MANY carbs, you WILL gain fat, but that applies to any of the macronutrients.
Outside of its ability to fuel the body, carbs are loaded with a variety of nutrients that are best transported and absorbed when tied to macronutrient like carbs. Examples of these nutrients include sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber.
Carbs are also a large contributor to muscle growth because they are a protein-sparing nutrient. This means that in a shortage of protein, your body can call on carbs to help preserve muscle tissue. Carbs also contribute on a cellular level to the muscle building process because of its contribution as a fuel source during anaerobic training, the primary method for building muscular strength.
The last, and maybe most hidden fact about carbs, is that they are contribute to stress reduction and improved sleep. Now, I won’t go into too much detail because I’ve already put together a blog all about (,CLICK HERE TO READ), but it is important to note that while as a society we stress about the consumption of carbs, they may actually be a source to alleviate some of that stress.
There are two populations of people who I have found really benefit from a Low Fat/High Carb diet.
The first is individuals who predominantly train anaerobically or live an active lifestyle. It becomes nearly impossible to lose weight if you’re not fueled for your everyday activities because your body will begin to feel so trashed and worn down that you won’t want to stick to it. That’s also going to take away from the quality of your workouts, which also won’t do anything for your adherence or weight loss.
The second group of people are those who simply desire carbs and consider them a big part of their lifestyle. Remember, the key to changing your body composition is consistent adherence, and the best way to help you achieve that is to educate you on how to feed your body and mind with what it desires in moderation.
You might look at this strategy and think that this is not the strategy for you because your goal is to lose weight and lose it as fast as possible.
Most people come to me for training under the impression that the harder and more intense the exercise, the better the fat loss results.
Intensity does not guarantee fat loss.
Because of the societal and social media pressure to do more bada** styles of training, this is one of the hardest beliefs to reframe with clients.
The truth is that high intensity training is NOT for everyone, so if it’s not something you can commit to long-term or it doesn’t fit your desires for how to stay active, know that there are other ways to lose weight.
It is important to note that while a low-intensity cardio training program can yield weight loss results, adherence to a nutrition program becomes much more important.
The decreased intensity produces much less wear and tear on the body with each session and has actually been shown to promote the recovery process.
You see when in a fat loss phase, you place a stress on the body when you shift into a caloric deficit. This also means you’re decreasing the amount of resources to promote the recovery process.
Low-intensity training sparks activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), which is also known as the “Rest & Digest” state. When the PSNS is activated, the body is able to recover faster and better combat the stress placed on the system whether that be through a caloric deficit or other daily stressors.
For many clients I recommend pairing low-intensity cardio with a strength program. Clients following this strategy experience faster recovery from lifting sessions, feel better in day-to-day activities, and see better fat loss and lean muscle building results. Aside from recovery and body composition results, clients often see more significant improvements in the gym because their improved aerobic fitness decreases fatigue both during and between sets.
Typically, I recommend low-intensity cardio to clients who are just starting out on their fitness journey as our goal here is to just move the body on a more consistent basis and build a strong aerobic base before jumping into more intense training strategies.
Clients in a metric-based lifting program and who are heavily focused on getting stronger in the gym are also prime candidates for this strategy due to its recovery benefits. Other candidates include those who approach me already showing signs of body fatigue or those who just have no desire to push the intensity during training sessions.
High-Intensity Interval + Strength
Talk about a fitness trend that blew up seemingly overnight!
Once a few people started seeing results in this strategy, cardio bunnies were hopping right out of their long runs on the treadmill and into some intervals.
It has become the basis for SO MANY group fitness gyms, and it has done incredible work for creating a community feel in these spaces with a common goal of getting healthy and changing body composition.
But now that this has settled in as the hot new style of training, there have been some adamant rebuttals to this style of training. Individuals are now claiming that it doesn’t work, that it’s not really that good for you, and that it just leads to injuries and pain.
There is absolutely merit to their statements.
However, it only holds true when it’s done incorrectly or too frequently.
But that’s not unlike anything else in the fitness and nutrition world (or life really?).
I am a gym owner who runs HIIT classes, but I have specifically set up classes and programming in a way that decreases one’s chance to do more harm than good.
Here’s how I structure HIIT classes for the week:
Each day has a different target and focus to allow for body parts to recover and repair between training sessions.
Is it perfect? Nope.
Do my clients feel trashed every day they come in? Nope.
Does it get clients results? Yep.
One of the biggest knocks on consistently training in HIIT style classes or programs is that it’s high volume and filled heavily with plyometric and high impact exercises without allowing for adequate recovery.
In my programs, clients are following a templated program wherein I control these variables.
Volume is taken into consideration on a daily, weekly, and mesocycle (the entire training program) basis.
Plyometric and high impact exercises are monitored not only for quantity in programming but quality, and when clients are unable to produce quality reps, suitable modifications are offered.
Finally, rest periods. This one takes a bit more buy in because clients feel that when they show up for their 1-hour training session that they need to be moving every single second. This becomes a matter of communication in that taking rest periods actually allows them to put out a higher quality workout and get better results.
But there’s a different side of rest periods that I have uniquely added to our HIIT programs. The rotation through upper, lower, and full body sessions allows 2 to 3 days of recovery for that section of the body. In addition, altering between cardiovascular and strength formats allows for recovery of the body systems.
The truth is, like with everything else, HIIT works if a few standards are met:
- Proper form
- Appropriate Progression into more advanced exercises
- Intelligent volume programming
- Specially programmed recovery
There are so many people out there who have fallen in love with HIIT style training, and if that’s their desired way to train and stay active, I’m here to help, guide, and program in a manner that allows this strategy to fit their goals, desires, and lifestyle.
Many HIIT clients believe they need to be in the gym every day so not to miss out on strength or cardio for any split portion of their body. Now, I may not have made this point clear in the previous section, but that’s not true, nor realistic.
So if that’s not true, why do so many people believe that more time spent in the gym leads to better fat loss results?
It’s time to separate your beliefs in this from what is necessary to achieve your goals while being realistic for your lifestyle.
Many people DON’T have or want to commit the time to training in the gym more than 3 days per week, and that’s perfectly okay because pairing that with an individualized nutrition plan is more than enough to achieve fat loss.
There are 2 formats I commonly use for a 3 day per week training program.
The first is a 3-day full body program. In this type of program, you’re going to see a balance of upper body and lower body exercises across the 3 days to achieve the optimal amount of volume. Typically, each day has one metric-based movement as the primary exercise to assess improvements in strength, while the remaining exercises are built around strength, hypertrophy, stabilization, and some muscular endurance. Take a look at the outline for a 3-day full body split.
Not everyone loves full body workouts. For some, it can be challenging to constantly be adjusting your focus to a new muscle group, thus taking away from the mind-muscle connection.
That’s where a Lower/Upper/Full Body split comes in to play.
The lower and upper body days can allow you to really narrow in your focus on a specific section of the body, which can keep you focused on technique and improvement of the mind-muscle connection.
The full body day is typically filled with a combination of upper and lower body pulling exercises; however, if a client has a specific section of the body they’d like to target, I use this as an opportunity to add some additional sets for that muscle group.
Here’s a look into a Lower/Upper/Full Body Split
One last thing.
With both of these splits I like to close the workout with some type of finisher or burnout set. These include things like EMOMs, AMRAPs, Drop Sets, To Failure Sets, or Isometric Hold for accessory exercises. In my experience I have found clients to not only see better results but to walk away feeling challenged and having really emptied the tank to finish their workout.
4x/Week – Upper/Lower Split
There are clients who just don’t feel like 3 days is enough for them.
I have clients who are at or near their goal weight and are looking to primarily focus on building lean muscle and their dream physique.
This is where a 4-day per week training plan comes in to play.
The Upper/Lower Split is a classic for a 4-day per week scheme. This allows my clients to hit appropriate amounts of volume and home on building lean muscle.
Here is an outline for a 4-day per week training program.
5x/Week – Competitors, Athletes, Gym Rats
There are people who just love going to the gym. It’s their safe space, breakaway from the day, and their time to connect and check in with themselves.
If you are willing to make the time commitment and maintain balance with the other areas of your life, then it’s important you follow a well-organized training program to prevent overuse, overtraining, and boredom. Oh, and results of course.
While this is a 5-day split, I don’t typically program this as a 5 consecutive day plan. In my personal and professional experience, I have found this to yield best results when a rest day is taken in the middle of the training week, specifically between the Lower Body and Push days.
However, I do understand that lifestyle is still a factor and that some may only have the time, accessibility, and desire to go to the gym Monday through Friday. When that’s the case, then I strongly encourage clients to make Saturday and Sunday rest or active recovery days (light walks, stretching, mobility, or day-to-day house/family activities).
The point – this is a 5-day training split with 2 rest/active recovery days.
Let’s take a look at what this program might look like.
Move Beyond the Scale
“It’s just a number.”
Just writing that makes me cringe.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – that number on the scale isn’t just a number.
If it gets you worked up,
If it stresses you out,
If it worries you,
There’s an emotional attachment to it that makes this more than just a number.
That’s why I coach my clients not to just forget about the scale, but to move beyond the scale.
My clients are taught how to assess and evaluate other aspects in their lives, things like:
- Metric-Based Lifts
- Endurance or Perceived Exertion
- Progress Pictures
- The Fit of Their Clothes
- Energy Levels
- Appetite & Cravings
- Proficiency in Daily Activities
- Sleep Quality
The purpose of tracking other metrics is to demonstrate that there are other, more important, things to evaluate when losing fat.
The goal is to reframe your thoughts and lessen the value placed on the scale.
I’ve been in your shoes – heck, I still live in them – so I understand that the number you see on the scale will always matter to some degree, but if you identify other areas where you’re seeing change, growth, and improvement, that number becomes another part of the process.
I am a nerd. I love this stuff, so I’m always digging into more research and information.
So, when I started coaching and my clients wanted to “just be told what to do,” I was so excited to lay on the YEARS of education I’ve put into this work.
But then there was that glossy-eyed stare…
Okay, so they don’t want to geek out like I do and just want to be told what to do – I can do that!
Unfortunately, results started to tank.
That’s because I made my clients dependent on me and my every word.
I needed a middle ground, so I made it my mission to educate in a way that empowered my clients to take the information and apply it to their lifestyle. My goal was to not just see you lose weight and build muscle, but to develop confidence, mental strength, and recognition of the fact that you are in complete control of your body.
The cool part is that it gave me more of an opportunity to share my research and findings with you AND to make a long-term positive impact on your life.
You see, the more you understand yourself and the training and nutrition practices you’re implementing into your life, the more likely you are to adhere to your program, build confidence in your abilities, and create lifelong change.
“I just want to be told what to do.”
You want someone to tell you what exercises to do, the number of sets and reps, the weight used, and how hard to push.
You want someone to tell you what to eat and when to eat it.
I understand you’re juggling A LOT of other things in your life, but the clients that choose to just be told what to do are FAR LESS successful than those who make this a collaborative process.
In my experience, I’ve learned that the clients who want to be told what to do actually want to be taught how to regain control.
Asking clients what works best or giving them the ability to choose the easiest approach in a few options allows us to work together.
It’s another form of education for me and an opportunity for you to 1) make this fit for your lifestyle and 2) recognize what you can and cannot control.
Using this approach not only are you more likely to see results, but you’re going to feel empowered and happier with the results you achieve.
As humans, we have a tendency to be our own worst enemy. We criticize and nitpick at every little belief, action, and thought.
But I’ve noticed something – as a coach and client myself – that self-criticism has a tendency to go away when we look at our actions when it relates to fitness and nutrition.
The idea that something has better than nothing has been hammered into us, so we glorify our actions.
The fact that we’re doing SOMETHING means we SHOULD be seeing results, right?
Doing SOMETHING gives us the right to justify a little extra snack here and there or cutting it short on a few sets, right?
That’s where I come in as a coach.
There are times we need a little tough love or a little snap back to reality.
Now, there’s enough self-shame and guilt already in this process, so my goal in providing tough love is not to kick you when you’re down.
The goal is to offer an outside and completely objective perspective to help you see where you’re shorting yourself and sabotaging your own efforts.
This is true accountability.
My goal is NOT to just check in and make sure you stay on track with your nutrition and training.
My goal is to check in and show you how to look at your efforts through an outsiders and honest view so that you don’t just achieve results but maintain them long after you and I no longer work together.
Present + Future Coaching
Speaking of maintaining results long-term, that’s the final strategy I employ with my clients.
It’s a crazy business model to actually WANT your clients to leave you, but it’s true.
I don’t want to coach just you in the present, but I want to coach you long into the future.
But not in the way that you think…
I have made it my goal to teach and equip my clients with the tools to coach themselves for years to come.
We work together to understand how to adjust meal plans and diets to sustain the weight loss despite social events, vacations, and anything life throws at you!
We work through a variety of training programs and exercises so you know how to move your body, progress in the gym, and maintain your lean body composition.
You’re welcome to stay as long as you want, but I’d much rather see you succeed and THRIVE long-term.
About The Author
Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit to your unique lifestyle. Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan.