Although training, nutrition, and supplementation together form the primary forces behind chiseling and shaping a lean and mean-looking physique, no two people will respond exactly the same way to the same training and nutrition protocols. Not to mention that some folks may have different physique goals or ideals altogether. Still, to determine what works best for you and your goals, it’s helpful to arm yourself with an array of different approaches. So let’s get to them:

#1 FAT LOSS DEPENDS ON CALORIC DEFICIT: It sounds obvious, but creating a caloric deficit, whether it be through diet, training, or both, is the key to shedding fat. While certain factors like high protein and fiber intake can facilitate fat loss, the key to cutting unwanted pounds is creating a calorie deficit. However, you don’t necessarily want to cut 1,000 calories from your diet right off the bat. You’ll have better long-term progress and retain more muscle if you diet gradually. Keep your protein intake high, and even boost it a little higher for the fat-burning phase.

#2 MANIPULATE YOUR MACRONUTRIENT RATIOS: While your overall calorie intake is the primary driver of fat loss, the next important thing to consider is the macronutrient breakdown of your individual intake. It’s important to be in a caloric deficit to burn fat, but not so much that you also burn muscle. Determining your own macronutrient breakdown isn’t always an easy task, but a few simple places to start are 35/45/20 or 40/40/20. These numbers correlate to protein, carbs, and fat. In other words, if you wanted to try 35/45/20, 35 percent of your diet would come from protein, 45 from carbs, and 20 from fats.

#3 EAT WHOLE FOODS: Minimize processed foods and focus on whole foods, experts say. Of course, that’s always easier said than done because whole foods still span a mile-long list of potential things you could eat. Some great examples are:

  • Kale is loaded with beneficial compounds including vitamins A, K, and C, and for only 33 calories per cup, you get 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. Diets higher in fiber and protein have been shown to suppress appetite and keep you fuller for longer periods of time.
  • Avocados are great because they come packed with 7 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and 15 grams of healthy fats per 100-gram serving. They make for a tasty low-carb addition to diet staples like salad, chicken breast, and eggs.
  • Chia seeds are loaded with protein, fiber, and omega-3s, all important nutrients essential for fat loss. Despite their tiny size, they are packed full of powerful antioxidants and bone-strengthening calcium.

#4 SPICE THINGS UP: I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again! In addition to making good foods even better, specific spices can actually support your fat-loss goals. For example,cayenne pepper has been suggested to increase metabolism and may even help you burn fat. Even if spicy food isn’t your favorite, it may be worth including on your plate for these reasons. Green tea extract is also a product I firmly believe in for cutting up. Green tea extract contains active polyphenols that have been shown to have a significant effect on fat loss.

#5 TIME YOU MEALS: Once you have your nutrition and training basics nailed down, you can get into the nitty-gritty of timing your meals around workouts. I like to break my daily caloric intake into 4–6 meals a day to keep from getting hungry and to spur protein synthesis, the pathway your body uses to make new muscle tissue, every 2.5 to 3 hours.

Eating 4–6 times per day is by no means a hard-and-fast rule, of course. If this sort of schedule doesn’t seem to work for you, having 2–3 large meals a day, so long as you hit your target calories and macronutrients, won’t destroy your results. Just be sure to get a solid meal before and after your workouts, or a pre-workout meal and post-workout protein shake, so you don’t train without fuel or compromise your recovery.

#6 HIIT CARDIO IT HARD: Short for high-intensity interval training, HIIT is a great way to tackle your cardio quickly and burn more fat than traditional slow-paced cardio. An example of HIIT cardio on a stationary bike would be:

  1. Pedal 2 minutes at a medium pace at the lowest resistance.
  2. Increase the resistance and pedal as fast as possible for 30 seconds. Be sure to choose a hard enough resistance so that about 15–20 seconds in you’re not able to maintain your pace and begin to slow down (even though you’re giving it your all).
  3. Lower the resistance back to the easiest setting and pedal slower, taking 1–1/2 to 2 minutes to recover and steady your heart rate.
  4. Repeat this cycle 3–5 times for a total of 9–14 minutes.

If you really hate jumping on the treadmill or bike, even for a few minutes of HIIT,then don’t feel bound to those machines. With just a few pieces of equipment and a hankering for adventure, you can make your cardio fun and effective.

#7 TURN UP THE INTENSITY: Supersets, doing two exercises back-to-back without rest, are a great way to rip through calories, because they reduce the rest time in your workout and increase your training density, or the amount of work you do in a given time frame. Or just take shorter rest breaks in between sets, i.e. 30 seconds max, this will keep your heart rate up, and keep those calories burning!