If you guys are like me then you have all struggled – and continue to struggle, at times – with losing body fat and getting as lean as you would like. It’s a never-ending process, and a challenge you need to embrace if you are going to get where you want to be.

It’s especially challenging at this time of year with all of the extra temptation that we don’t always have to deal with. To help, I wanted to share my list of ways you can start losing body fat – today.

There are plenty of other things you can do and I could go into a lot more detail, but these are the 8 most basic, and important ways you can start to lean out fast.

 

#1: START YOUR DAY OFF WITH A WORKOUT

I always start my day out with cardio. But whether it’s cardio or weight training, you don’t want to wait until later in the day, especially if you feel yourself starting to fall off track.  Waiting until the afternoon or evening usually means there’s less of a chance of you getting in your workout – your less likely to feel motivated, there is a greater chance of something unexpected coming up and forcing you to skip the gym or you might just feel too tired after a long weekend and decide to put it off until tomorrow. Don’t wait. Get it done early.

Pressed for time in the morning? Add this tabata treadmill workout to your morning cardio session and get it done in less time.

 
#2: CUT OUT REFINED SUGAR

I’m sure you have all heard this many, many times before – more sugar equals more fat. There are plenty of studies and reasons to back this up, but the bottom line: eating less sugar is directly linked with weight loss, while eating more sugar is directly linked with weight gain.

What you may not have heard is how addictive sugar is – it’s been shown to release similar “pleasure” mechanisms in the brain to nicotine and cocaine and reinforce reward-seeking behaviors that can lead to overeating.

While fruit is a healthy food choice and isn’t associated with these addictive behaviors like the processed sources, it does contain sugar. Although fruit is a healthy food choice and isn’t associated with these addictive behaviors like the processed sources, it does contain sugar and carbohydrates. Overdoing fruits can slow the fat-loss process down, so keep servings to one a day at most during this time.

 

#3: HAVE A SOURCE OF LEAN PROTEIN AT EVERY MEAL

Protein is the building block of muscle. More muscle means a faster metabolism, and a faster metabolism means your body burns more fat at rest. It also takes longer to digest, so including a source of protein with your meal meal will help you feel full longer and help curb cravings.

My go-to lean protein sources are egg whites, protein powder, chicken, 99% extra-lean ground turkey and lean fish like tilapia, cod, ahi tuna and mahi mahi. Shoot for a minimum of 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, and 25-30 grams per meal.

It’s even possible to do it when you’re away from home – here’s a look at one of those days for me during my 2014 Olympia prep.

 

#4: DRINK ONE GALLON OF WATER EVERY DAY

Water will help keep you full, it will help give you energy and it can also help increase your metabolic rate. Not only that, it will help keep your body hydrated and functioning properly.  A trick I like to use when I’m feeling hungry or craving something is to drink a glass or two of water, which can actually “trick” your body into feeling full and help you make it to your next meal.

 
#5: GET 7-8 HOURS OF SLEEP

There might be some people who claim they can get by just fine on 3-4 hours of sleep a night, but that doesn’t mean their bodies are functioning as well as they could be. The bottom line: skipping sleep is going to effect your body and your appearance in a number of negative ways. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day to get your body in a good routine. You’ll have energy for your workout the next day, and the longer you are awake the more tempted you are going to be to snack late at night. Rest equals recovery, and recovery equals growth. 

 

#6: DON’T EAT OUT

Even if you think you are ordering clean, you can’t always be sure if you aren’t the one preparing your food. I can’t tell you how many times I have ordered steamed vegetables with no butter or oil, only to look at them or take a small bite and immediately know my request wasn’t heard or understood.

I’m not saying you can’t eat out at all, there are plenty of ways to eat clean at any number of restaurants. But when you are looking to lose fat fast you simply can’t take any risks. So prepare your meals at home at least one day in advance so you always have food on you. When you’re unprepared you are more likely to go longer between meals. That’s when cravings can kick into overdrive, and when you are hungrier you are far more likely to make poor choices.

Here’s how I like to prepare my meals for the week.

 
#7: AVOID ALCOHOL

When you drink alcohol your body metabolizes it before any other food source. So if you are eating and drinking at the same time, your body will burn the alcohol first – meaning the food will sit in your belly and turn to fat unless you are burning it off …which you very likely won’t be doing.

Alcohol is generally very calorie dense – 7 calories per gram, which is almost as much as fat (9 calories per gram). And finally, we all know what happens to our inhibitions when we drink, which can lead you to make poor decisions in a number of areas, including what foods you eat late at night.

 
#8: MEASURE YOUR FOOD

Whether you are using a food scale or a measuring cup, knowing exactly how much you are eating is one of the single-most important factors to losing body fat, and weight in general. Calories add up very quickly, and you won’t lose any body fat if you are eating more than you’re burning off.

If you’ve never measured your food or used a food scale, check out this video.