We’ve been covering the topic of weight loss and shifting body composition to melt fat and build muscle in recent newsletters and podcast interviews.
Because this is an area of interest for so many, I was excited to interview my dear friend, Max Lugavere, to break down his viral Fat Loss Cheat Codes that helped him lose 15 pounds of pure fat.
Max’s community has been sharing incredible success stories after implementing his cheat codes. Today, I’m recapping his game-changing tips and special insights into our personal fat-loss journeys.
Let’s jump in!
1. Eat at home more often.
People are eating out more than ever before. Last year, Americans spent a whopping 20 percent more money at restaurants than they did on groceries. Crazy!! Here’s the problem: most restaurants—even the high-end ones—cook their foods in excessive amounts of butter and oil. That means cream sauces, salad dressings, condiments—you name it!
All of these contain large amounts of added sugar and fat that pile on the calories. As we’ve discussed previously, calories do matter when it comes to fat loss, which is why cooking your meals at home can pay massive dividends.
But for the average person who eats most of their meals out, this might seem daunting. When I asked Max how to make cooking at home easier, he suggested having a few go-to meals on rotation to eliminate the stress of deciding what to cook. Meal-prepping protein staples (e.g., grilled chicken, steak, hard-boiled eggs) ahead of time also helps streamline the cooking process.
2. Temporarily audit your portion sizes to get an idea of how much you’re consuming.
People don’t realize how many calories they consume because they’ve never measured their portions. Take it from me: I used to make a big salad for lunch with a heavy (unmeasured) pour of olive oil—completely unaware of the amount I was consuming.
Like I told Max, once I started tracking my calories, I realized that 25 percent of my calories came from the olive oil in my dressing alone! Unbelievable! To be clear, olive oil is a healthy fat with many benefits, but it is also calorically dense, and I was using way more than I needed to.
The takeaway is that it’s very easy to overconsume, especially when it comes to fats, oils, and “healthy” packaged snack foods. You can overconsume calorically dense whole foods as well, like avocados, grass-fed beef, nuts, and whole-fat dairy products. However, it’s harder to do since these foods are also rich in protein and fiber.
A digital food scale is one of the best investments you can make to understand portion sizes for the go-to meals and snacks you consume. As Max pointed out, you only have to use it for a week or two. Plus, being more conscious of your behavior can help you better monitor and adjust how much you’re eating.
3. Prioritize protein at every meal.
We’ve talked about protein at length. Like Max says, hunger is one of the top enemies of weight loss (next to boredom snacking, which we’ll cover next), and eating adequate protein is one of the best interventions to help curb hunger.
Furthermore, eating at least 30 grams of protein at every meal, especially breakfast, is super important for halting muscle-protein breakdown and stimulating muscle-protein synthesis, which is crucial for maintaining lean muscle mass. Max and I are huge fans of Dr. Donald Layman, who recommends eating one gram of protein per pound of ideal body weight daily.
4. No boredom snacking.
We’re living in the work-from-home era, and as we saw with the pandemic, being in such close proximity to your pantry makes mindless snacking more tempting than ever. Max said he was guilty of this—being in and out of his pantry and fridge all day long—and admitted that the pleasure he got from the dopamine hit kept him coming back.
This is one reason so many people struggled with unwanted weight gain during the pandemic. And if your pantry is stocked with ultra-processed, hyper-palatable foods, forget it! These are, by far, the easiest to overeat (more on this next).
When faced with hunger, reach for a protein-rich snack, like Greek yogurt, a meat stick, or grilled chicken, or fiber, like berries or a piece of fruit. It’s much harder to overeat whole foods consumed in their fiber, water, protein, and fat nutrient matrix. If you’ve got the munchies, try sipping on sparkling water, taking a walk, or calling a friend to deescalate the craving.
5. Ditch the ultra-processed foods.
We hinted at this above, but it cannot be said enough: ultra-processed foods are the least satiating and most calorie-dense foods you can eat. That means they are high in calories and don’t fill you up—not a good combo! Minimal protein and fiber combined with high levels of sugar, starch, and oils make them easy to overeat—and quickly. Frequent overconsumption of these foods can contribute to an energy surplus, spike our insulin levels, and lead to weight gain.
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6. Lift heavy and often: the power of resistance training.
When we talk about weight loss, we need to be specific that we want to lose fat while maintaining, or preferably building, lean muscle. Losing some lean muscle while losing fat is unavoidable, but strength training can help us maintain and build up our lean muscle mass even more.
Dr. Don Laymen’s research shows that 75 percent of our muscle mass is related to strength training, and 25 percent is from diet. That makes resistance training essential for any weight-loss program to avoid the muscle wasting that can occur with a calorie deficit. Lifting weights two or three times per week is enough to maintain and build lean muscle.
Note: Just focusing on the number on the scale is one of the worst ways to get a sense of your overall body composition. Muscle weighs more than fat and is a reservoir for glycogen and water, which might reflect a higher number on the scale than anticipated. Getting an InBody scan is a helpful way to get a baseline and monitor your progress.
7. You must be in a calorie deficit to lose weight (primarily fat).
To lose about a pound of fat per week, equal to about 3,500 calories, Max recommends creating a 500-calorie deficit per day. (500 calories per day x 7 days per week = 3,500 calories.)
The easiest way to create a calorie deficit? Reduce your daily energy intake by 250 calories and increase your daily energy expenditure by 250 calories. Read the next two cheat codes for simple tips on how to do this.
8. Reduce your intake of added oils and fats.
Fat is the most calorie-dense macronutrient at nine calories per gram; it’s also the least satiating. Added fat from oil, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate are high in calories but less effective than protein and fiber for curbing hunger. The same goes for fattier cuts of meat. The additional fat does not provide additional value to feelings of fullness.
This is why Max eats mostly leaner cuts of meat (e.g., tenderloin, flank steak, and NY strip steak) and opts for low-fat or fat-free dairy products over full-fat varieties. Plenty of research shows that dairy fat is beneficial for metabolic health, but when the aim is fat loss, we need to reduce calories, and fat is one of the easiest and most effective places to do it.
Dietary fat is still super important, but beyond its minimal effective dose, you’re not getting any performance benefits. You can easily get enough from what’s naturally found in meat, seafood, and eggs. Doubling down on cheat code #1 (eat at home more often) will help greatly reduce your added fat intake as well.
9. Don’t kill yourself on cardio.
Walking is a powerful tool for blood sugar control and weight loss, and the good news is you don’t have to walk 10,000 steps a day to reap its benefits. Max briskly walks 1–2 miles on a treadmill daily (3.2–3.5 mph at a 3.5–4.5 incline) for 30–45 minutes.
This creates a 250-calorie deficit or higher. The best part about walking is that it’s super easy to maintain and doesn’t require much effort, as opposed to running or more aggressive forms of cardio.
In addition to being a fat-burning machine, there are a bunch of other benefits of walking we’ve talked about. You can read more about them here:
- Walking More Will Radically Improve Your Health, Here’s How!
- Try This: Walk Your Way into Optimal Physical and Mental Health
10. Be patient and stay consistent.
This is a good place to end—with knowing that any changes to your diet and exercise regime take time to produce results. Be patient and stay consistent because body recomposition is not always linear, especially if you’re adding in more resistance training.
It’s normal to see your weight fluctuate from day to day, but don’t give up! As long as the number trends downward over time, you know you’re on the right track.
If you found these cheat codes interesting and want to hear more detail on the subject, definitely check out Max’s and my episode together and be sure to sign up for his weekly newsletter, Max’s Must-Haves, here.
Here’s to your health,