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It's Simple to Start!

Getting started on a fat loss program doesn't need to be very complicated.  If you are looking to lose a few of those unwanted inches from your waist, you’ll just need to combine a few basic tried and true elements to get you started on the right path.  There are many fitness programs out there, but there are three basic elements that make any fat loss program work:
  1. Building Muscle
  2. Increasing Metabolism
  3. Eating Quality Food
In this article you will get guidelines on how to get started with each of these elements.  

Building Muscle - Resistance Training

In order to make your program successful over the long term you are going to need to develop and train all of the major muscle groups in the body.  Resistance training adds muscle to your body and will have the effect of increasing your resting energy expenditure, along with the added benefit of creating an aesthetically pleasing shape to your physique.  
It's recommended that you resistance train 1-3 times per week.  Your program should focus on compound movements that work multiple muscles at the same time.
To get started, focus on these exercises:
  • Barbell Squats or Leg Press for legs
  • Barbell or Dumbbell Shoulder Press for shoulders
  • Barbell or Dumbbell Bench Press for chest
  • Dumbbell or Machine Row for upper back and arms
  • Pull-ups or Pulldowns for upper back
  • Deadlifts for lower back and hamstrings 
Use these exercises with weights you are confident you can handle safely for at least 3 sets of 5-12 reps each.  Stop the set if you feel like you can't complete the next rep or if you can't lift the weight without breaking from good form.  If you have never lifted weights before I suggest you take the time to learn the proper form or get a personal trainer to teach you.  
P90X2 DVD Workout - Base Kit
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(price as of Jan 9, 2014)
P90X is great example of combining resistance training, interval training, and nutrition into a powerful fat loss combination.
Credit: WikiCommons

Increasing Metabolism - Interval Aerobic Training

Intense activity is the key to boosting your metabolic rate and burning fat.  Interval training is the best method for getting this intensity boost.  Most commonly, interval training consists of high intensity efforts at 80-100% of your maximum effort, for anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute followed by a rest period before you repeat the next effort.  
While interval training sessions can be completed in as little as 5 minutes, the intensity of the effort will kick start your metabolism to burn fat for hours after your workout.  Standard "cardio" training, such as going for a 30 minute run, may burn calories during the activity, but the fat burning stops as soon as the session is over and may even cause your body to burn muscle, which would be counterproductive to your fat loss goals.  Interval training stimulates the metabolism and has the added benefit of maintaining muscle mass.
To get started, here is a sample interval workout:
  • Run, Bike or Row for 30 seconds at 80-100% of your maximum effort
  • Rest for 90 seconds
  • Repeat this cycle 5-8 times
  • Repeat the workout 2-3 times a week on non-consecutive days 
If you haven't been doing this type of training consistently in the last few weeks, take it easy your first few sessions to prevent injury, and be sure warm-up for at least 10 minutes before beginning.
INSANITY DVD Workout - Base Kit
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(price as of Jan 9, 2014)
Insanity is a high intensity interval training program. Great for burning fat!

Eating Quality Food - Nutrition

Eating well is probably the most important element of a fat loss program, but can also be the most difficult to stick to.  There are a wide variety of diets and approaches out there to choose from.  I generally don't like diets because they encourage temporary behavior instead emphasizing a lifestyle of eating habits you can stick to.
Here are some basic recommendations on eating habits that are consistent with most effective fat loss diets:
  1. Focus on eating a variety of vegetables, especially leafy greens, and a portion of protein at every meal.
  2. Stay hydrated during the day and before workouts.  You should try to drink a tall glass of water at every meal and between meals.
  3. Sweetened beverages, including diet sodas should be avoided.
  4. Sweets and Alcohol are your biggest enemies, avoid them whenever possible.
  5. Take a multivitamin
  6. Don't buy the items you should be avoiding at the grocery store.  If they're in the house, you'll likely eat them.
The focus here is on food quality, instead of calories.  If you’re eating plenty of the right foods, you'll find that calorie counting isn't necessary.  It's also important that you don't starve yourself to try to lose weight, as it can be a self-defeating activity.  The body naturally lowers its energy expenditure, and retains fat, if it thinks its starving, but keeps it energy expenditure high if it’s consistently satiated.  
Just focus on eating lots of good foods to start.  It's OK to allow yourself to have one or two meals a week where you don't restrict yourself.  It'll help you feel like you don't have to permanently say goodbye to your favorite foods, just cut back on them, so that you can stay on a healthy eating track the majority of the time.

Putting It All Together

Here's quick summary of the basics of a fat loss program to get you started:
  1. Resistance Train 1-3 times per week with compound movements
  2. Use Interval Training 2-3 times per week
  3. Focus on food quality and don't starve yourself
These basic elements should be able to get you started.  Your ultimate success will depend on being able to consistently implement these guidelines every week.  The methods and workouts may vary but these basic principles should always be there.  Good luck!