The fitness industry has fat loss programs kind of backwards.

Most of us think that in order to lose fat, you need to elicit a caloric deficit, which is true. Lot’s of fitness conspiracy theorists will tell you to eat more to lose weight.

It’s all math and science, calories in must be less than calories out.

This can be accomplished by eating less or exercising more but a combination of both is generally ideal.

As a result, many guys use programs that advocate aggressive dieting—low-carb, gluten-free, grass-fed acai berry shakes sprinkled with sawdust—and even more aggressive, super high-volume training programs.

Those programs work. It’s just that most of the time, they don’t work in the long term. Because you can only torture yourself for so long.

Instead, I prefer a different approach. Rather than referring to a fat-loss program as a fat-loss program, I prefer to think of it as a muscle-retention program.” – says Tony Gentilcore, an elite trainer.

Trying to keep as much muscle as possible will help you be stronger and help you live longer. Increased muscle mass will also help you burn more calories on a day-to-day basis and fend off fat.

And much of that is due to the long-held mantra that fat loss = aggressive dieting + high-volume, metabolic-based exercise routines that leave you crawling out the gym door.

THE SMARTER PROGRAM FOR FAT LOSS

A caloric deficit needs to be in place in order to lose fat.

Diet matters, too. But it’s a mistake when you focus solely on what you eat and miss out of a few key points.

As researcher Brad Dieter, Ph.D., explains on his blog Science Driven Nutrition:

“Exercise induces a whole host of changes that provide both short term and long term benefit, such as: improved cardiac function, improved muscle metabolism, improved metabolic flexibility, increased resting metabolic rate, decreased resting heart rate, improved heart rate variability, lower stress, increased bone density, etc., etc. Dieting doesn’t really give you robust results like that.”

Traditional strength training still needs to be prioritized to maintain muscle, even if fat-loss is the goal.

In doing squats, deadlifts and bench presses with low to moderate rep ranges (3 to 6 reps) your body is nudged to keep muscle, as low(er) rep ranges tend to target more of the actual muscle fibers themselves in addition to providing the neural stimulus needed for the central nervous system to maintain strength levels.

High(er) rep, metabolic-style training, while still important and still very much a crucial component of any fat-loss program, tends to target endurance capacity more.

Both approaches are important. However, low-rep, strength-based protocols, designed to keep muscle, tend to be vastly undervalued as fat-loss strategies.

“Most people would be far better off spending more time being well fed, and using that food to maximize training that improves their strength, power, balance, endurance, and conditioning and then using short, smart, dieting cycles to focus on fat loss.” – Brad Dieter adds.

Strength, endurance, conditioning are hard to improve upon when your calorie deficit is too high for too long. That high-deficit approach tends to backfire long-term because many people neglect to appreciate the importance of fueling their exercise for better performance.

In short:

1.    Less, more purposeful exercise may be the key for fat loss.
2.    Dieting, especially for fat-loss, should be more of a brief, targeted endeavor. Not a year-round war.