This post was written by guest contributor and trainer Jason Maxwell, NSCA-CPT. The views expressed herein are his and his alone. For more from Jason, visit his website,

“I did what you said this week, and I went from 222lb to 216lb!” My client, Jake was ecstatic. I knew that the five tips I gave him would help him start to lose fat. Although, to be honest, I didn’t expect as much as six pounds.

Photo by Jason Maxwell

Let’s rewind a bit.

Seven days before, Jake emailed me and asked me my five top tips to losing fat. Normally, I don’t like to answer these kinds of questions. If I give too much info, it’s a bit overwhelming. Yet, Jake had a wedding that he needed to get in shape for… and time was of the essence.

I emailed him back the following five lines:

  • Drink water as your only beverage. No juice, no milk, no soda, etc.
  • Take 3 tablespoons of fish oil every day.
  • Only eat starchy carbs (potatoes, sweet potatoes, grains, pasta) the first meal after strength training. Otherwise, eat no starchy carbs at all.
  • Schedule yourself a bedtime.
  • On the day you go grocery shopping, cook/prepare all food so it’s ready to eat for the week.

My exception to possibly overwhelming him led to his success. It was a risk well-taken. Here’s why it worked so well:

Drink Water as Your Only Beverage

If you drink fruit juices, milk, or any other caloric beverages, then this is something you could benefit from. Although a beverage may be marketed as healthy or enriched with vitamins and minerals, it still doesn’t mean that it will help keep your jeans fitting loosely. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Recent studies suggest that by doing so, you are twice as likely to lose 5% of your bodyweight in a given time. Not too shabby if you ask me.

Take Fish Oil Everyday

Everyone who takes fish oil will get their money’s worth. Why? Increased fat burning. In 2007, researchers analyzed a total of 324 men and women between the ages of 20 and 40. When compared to a control group, the groups who supplemented with fish oil (or had an increased diet of fatty fish) lost 1kg more weight in 4 weeks.

Also, the ingestion of fish oil regulates the pathways in the brain that influence our emotions, and most importantly, our motivation. If motivation is optimized, we'll be that much more likely to stick to diet plans (and other goals in life).

Starchy Carbohydrates Are Only Allowed After Strength Training

Want to lean out? Drastically lower starchy carbohydrate intake. Bodybuilders have known this for decades. Now, you may not be a bodybuilder, but the saying still goes, “…if you want to learn about fat loss, talk to a bodybuilder.” And research also supports this claim.

What’s so different about eating carbs after a workout? Normally, when you ingest starchy carbohydrates, your body releases a hormone called insulin. In a nutshell, insulin tells your fat cells to grab onto those carbohydrates and store them as energy for future use. The exception is within the hour or so after lifting weights. During this “hour of power”, your muscles may be more likely to store the carbohydrates (and not your fat cells). This could lead to better recovery — possibly allowing you to work harder in your next gym session.

Schedule a Bedtime

When I was a kid, I dreaded my bedtime. Now, I need it. I can’t think of a more rewarding habit than giving yourself a standard bedtime that allows you to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. When you sleep less, your hormones are far less than optimal. Your body secretes more ghrelin (tells your body to be hungry) and less leptin (tells your body to stop eating). This means that you will not only feel hungrier throughout the day, but you will also end up eating more food at each feeding.

For people who are getting 4-5 hours of sleep per night, 8 hours may seem like an unrealistic goal. What may be unrealistic now, may be achievable in a few months — if you work your way up to it. The first step: planning a time to get to sleep. Make the scheduled time feasible. In a few weeks, move your bedtime to half an hour earlier. Give yourself another couple weeks to adapt. Keep repeating this until you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night.

Prepare Your Food for the Week

Unless we are in prison, our lives are pretty spontaneous. You never know when you’ll get a call from a friend to go out to an event or gathering. If you have most of your food prepared ahead of time, then you’ll be more likely to pick a healthy choice later on in the week. Think of all the times that you’ve been tempted to buy your food at a restaurant or coffee shop because you didn’t feel like cooking. This can all be prevented (or at least minimized) by planning ahead. Cook your meat for the week, pre-chop all your veggies and store them in your refrigerator. Do this as soon as you arrive home from the grocery store. This little tip will not only save you time, but will help you become lean.

7 Days Later…

…The scale will drop. These not-so-common tips are the common missing links for succeeding in a diet or eating program. Make sure that you drastically lower your starchy carbohydrate intake. Likewise, sleeping more, drinking water and supplementing with fish oil leads to more weight loss. The fish oil will also help you to stay motivated during your diet. Logically, this motivation will help you to prepare your food for the week. This way, you’ll be less tempted to eat out. In the end, you’ll have a leaner, sexier, you.

Have a health & fitness goal and want to get on the right track? Check out Greatist Bootcamps to help keep you accountable and motivated!

Works Referenced

Costill DL, Coyle EF, Fink WF, Lesmes GR, Witzmann FA. Adaptations in skeletal muscle following strength training. J Appl Physiol 46 (1979): 96–99.

Foster, G. "A Randomized Trial of a Low-carbohydrate Diet for Obesity." ACC Current Journal Review 12.4 (2003): 29.

Kuperstein, F., E. Yakubov, P. Dinerman, S. Gil, R. Eylam, N. Salem, and E. Yavin. "Overexpression of Dopamine Receptor Genes and Their Products in the Postnatal Rat Brain following Maternal N-3 Fatty Acid Dietary Deficiency." Journal of Neurochemistry 95.6 (2005): 1550-562.

Tate, D.F., G. Turner-McGrievy, E. Lyons, J. Stevens, K. Erickson, K. Polzien, M. Diamond, X. Wang, and B. Popkin. "Replacing Caloric Beverages with Water or Diet Beverages for Weight Loss in Adults: Main Results of the Choose Healthy Options Consciously Everyday (CHOICE) Randomized Clinical Trial." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 3rd ser. 95 (2012): 555-63.

Taheri, Shahrad, Ling Lin, Diane Austin, Terry Young, and Emmanuel Mignot. "Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index." PLoS Medicine 1.3 (2004): E62.

Thorsdottir, I., H. Tomasson, I. Gunnarsdottir, E. Gisladottir, M. Kiely, M. D. Parra, N. M. Bandarra, G. Schaafsma, and J. A. Martinéz. "Randomized Trial of Weight-loss-diets for Young Adults Varying in Fish and Fish Oil Content." International Journal of Obesity 31.10 (2007): 1560-566.