The 8 big fat-loss questions – answered!

We answer the most common exercise and eating questions to help you get into shape

I’ve tried and failed to lose weight in the past. What went wrong?
If your previous efforts to look and feel better have been in vain you need to know that it’s got nothing to do with your body being resistant to exercise and everything to do with the approach or strategy you used. In other words, you probably didn’t have a realistic, time-motivated goal, a focused and progressive training plan, or eat the right foods at the right time. Every person has the potential to make massive changes to their body by losing fat and adding lean muscle mass to look, feel and perform at their very best, but it doesn’t happen overnight nor without a tried-and-tested exercise and eating plan. We created New Body Plan to give you the complete guide on how to transform your body in the fastest-possible time.

I have no time or energy to exercise. What can I do?
We are all busier and more stressed than ever. But the beauty of exercise is that it gives back more time and energy than it takes! How? Because regular exercise increases your energy levels, boosts productivity and motivation, helps you sleep, and lowers stress levels. It means you get more done in less time and with less effort, freeing up more time to do more of the things you love. And much like time, exercise gives back more energy than you put in. It releases feel-good hormones called endorphins, making you feel more positive, motivated and fosters a “can-do” attitude. And when you feel on top of the world, tiredness is the furthest thing from your mind. You eat better, then sleep better and then exercise better, creating a virtuous circle of looking and feeling fantastic. If you’re really struggling to get-up-and-go, try these 6 tips to power up your energy levels.

Can I turn fat into muscle?
If only! It would make building a bigger, stronger and leaner body much easier. Unfortunately for those of us who want to get into better shape, fat and muscle are two totally different types of tissue and it’s impossible to turn one into the other. But there’s a very good reason why we should all add more muscle while stripping away excess body fat: not only will it make a huge difference to how you look with your top off, it will also help you stay leaner because muscle is “active tissue” that burns calories, even when you’re resting, while fat tissue stores excess energy and pumps out chemical messengers that hamper weight-loss efforts. If you want to build more muscle mass then check out these 7 tips to sculpt serious size fast.

What’s more important when trying to lose body fat: exercise or diet?
You’ll only get the best results and build your best-ever body by embracing new and better ways to both eat and exercise. That’s not to say you can’t lose fat through training a lot without changing your eating habits: you can, but it will feel like a constant uphill slog – and take a long time – to make a meaningful difference to your physique. And can you get leaner by changing your diet but never working out? Sure, but why would you want to try and build a leaner body without the advantage of torching calories in the gym, not to mention never getting that post-workout endorphin high that’s a hard feeling to beat? Remember, doing more exercise makes you more likely to eat healthily – and enjoy it – while eating better means you’ll have more successful workouts, and so the two together create a virtuous cycle of constant progress so you’ll get remarkable results faster.

What’s the secret to a successful transformation?
There is no secret, but there are four key pillars that support the most successful fat-loss challenges. The first is a following a challenging, progress and time-limited training plan, like New Body Plan. The second is having a simple, smart and sustainable approach to eating, so you can eat for a better body without giving up all the foods you love, or feel like you’re constantly hungry. Find out how to do that here. While these first two pillars are quite obvious, the other two barely get a look in when people start a fat-loss challenge. The third pillar is ensuring you get enough quality sleep each night, because it’s during sleep that your body repairs and rebuilds, both mentally and physically, so you can start each day fully energised and raring to go. Here’s how to sleep like a baby. The final pillar is learning how to better deal with stress, because too much of it too often can eviscerate motivation and willpower. By finding ways to cope with stress you’ll stack the odds of transformation success in your favour. Whatever life throws at you, here’s how to overcome any obstacle.

What’s best for fat loss – weights or cardio?
When training to burn fat, lifting weights should take precedent in your exercise schedule because weight training has a far bigger impact on your body composition than cardio because it builds muscle and burns fat more efficiently. If you’re new to weight training then it’s smart to first focus on weights-only workouts, because if you do it right it’s going to take a lot out of you, and you don’t want to do too much too soon. What’s more, at this stage lifting weights is enough on its own to make major improvements to your physique, so holding back on the cardio means it can be deployed down the road when your fat-loss results start to slow. That’s why the first four weeks of New Body Plan contain only weights workouts, and don’t include any cardio.

In a workout should I do cardio or weights first?
You should always lift weights first, and only do cardio at the end of the session. For example, when cardio is introduced in New Body Plan – at the start of the fifth week – it’s a type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio we call “Fat-Loss Finishers”, the name of which gives a big clue that these happen at the end of each workout. The reason is simple: lifting weights requires you to be mentally and physically fresh so you can apply yourself fully to lift safely and get the most out of every set, while cardio can be done when you are already fatigued to get your heart rate high and “empty the tank” of energy to maximise the number of calories burned. If you do cardio first you’ll be trying to lift heavy weight in a fatigued state, and so run a higher risk of injury.

So always do weights first when you’re fresh and raring to go, and finish with HIIT to burn even more calories. Wondering why your cardio should always be HIIT, rather than a long, slow jog? Find out here.

How do I know what weight I should use for each lift?
If you are very new to lifting weights, or coming back to it after a prolonged absence, inevitably there will be a little bit of trial and error because the amount of weight you should be lifting will depend on a number of factors unique to you, such as age and training experience. It’s always best to choose a light weight if you are unsure and stick to the reps at the right tempo. If you can complete the set with ease, you should increase the weight next time. But if you can’t complete your target reps and sets then the weight you’re lifting is too heavy and you need to reduce it. Body-transformation programmes such as New Body Plan aren’t about lifting the heaviest weight possible, but exposing your muscles and cardiovascular system to the perfect amount of work to initiate the desired fat-burning and muscle-building response. If you want to know more here’s a guide on how to pick the perfect weight.

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