Training and Nutrition for Fat Loss: The [Short Person’s] Ultimate Fat Loss Guide
by Jordan Syatt June 23, 2015
Being short is a pretty sweet gig.
I mean, think about it, when you’re short you never have to worry about leg room on an airplane.
Being too tall for a bed is an impossibility.
And you have a huge advantage when someone breaks out the limbo pole because…well…you know.
See? Being short has a whole lot of benefits.
But, like everything in life, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns; there are downsides, too.
For example, it’s never fun going to the theme park because, no matter what, you’re going to be discriminated against simply because of your height.
Not to mention, if you need to reach something up high and don’t have a tall friend nearby…you’re screwed.
More to the point of this article, arguably the worst part about being short is that it can make fat loss a whole lot harder than it is for taller (and heavier) folk.
Why is Fat Loss Harder for Shorter People?
I should clarify, height doesn’t inherently make fat loss harder.
Rather, your body weight (and composition) is the primary factor responsible for how much you can eat without gaining or losing weight.
And seeing as shorter people tend to weigh less than taller people, especially as they reach lower levels of body fat, fat loss tends to impose much greater difficulties on shorter/lighter people than it does on taller/heavier people.
Clocking in at a whopping 5’4,” I’ve been a proud representative of the shorty brigade since early 1991.
But, even with the leg room and limbo benefits, being a shorty hasn’t always been fun.
Despite being incredibly active and eating very well, for most of my life I was never able to get rid of that final, “sticky” layer of fat. You know, that last bit of fat that, once lost, would finally render my abs visible all the time….not just when I snapped a pic under the perfect lighting while turning my torso just enough to compliment my abs and finally upload to Instagram.
You know. That layer of fat.
Granted, that layer of fat isn’t unique to us shorty’s; tall people have it, too. But a commonly overlooked component is that taller people are able to distribute that final layer of fat throughout a larger frame whereas shorter people don’t have the same luxury.
As a result, shorter people might appear to have a higher body fat percentage simply because we have less space to put it.
The Good News Is…
I finally “got it.”
After years of research, study, and experimentation I figured out how to lose that final layer of fat and, more importantly, how to keep that layer of fat off all year long.
But here’s the thing…
Every single person is different and what works for me might not be the best option for you.
For that reason, I spent a ton of time developing a variety of systems and strategies to use with my clients to see what works best for different people in different situations.
Starting out very lean to begin with, Emily wanted to get even leaner to be more competitive at a lower weight class in powerlifting.
Needless to say, she’s done an extraordinary job and I’m very happy to report she’s been able to maintain her leanness while strategically incorporating her favorite foods into her diet.
My client, Lisa, is another valued member of the shorty brigade standing 5’3″ tall and showcasing a truly remarkable transformation.
My online coaching client for the better part of the past 2 years, Lisa continues to make huge strides in her physique on a regular basis.
The best part is she now understands how to go on vacation, celebrate special occasions, and enjoy herself without worrying about going off track or losing all of her progress. She can do this because she knows exactly what works for her.
Of course, we can’t forget about Mark, my 5’3″ client from Canada who completely transformed his body in 12-weeks.
Mark came to me looking to get stronger but with a major emphasis on fat loss.
He had been having trouble losing and maintaining a lean physique so we spent 12-weeks working together, completely ramped up his training and nutrition, and…well…you can see Mark’s extraordinary results for yourself.
What About You?
Do you want to learn my training and nutrition systems for fat loss?
Are you interested in reading my strategies that make fat loss easier, especially for shorty’s?
If you answered “yes” then this article is for you. Because from this point forward I’m going to outline my personal favorite strategies for fat loss and specifically how they can help you get the body you’ve always wanted.
Training and Nutrition for Fat Loss: The [Short Person’s] Ultimate Fat Loss Guide
1. Create a Sustainable Caloric Deficit
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The only way to lose fat is to consistently maintain a net caloric deficit. Or, in layman’s terms, eat less calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight.
Some people will tell you, “calories don’t matter!” They’ll fight tooth and nail desperately claiming “As long as you eat ABC and don’t eat XYZ that’s all that counts!”
They might say Paleo is the way we were designed to eat. Or maybe they’ll tell you Atkins, Zone, Nutrisystem, or even the Honey and Cayenne Pepper Juice Cleanse is the key to extreme fat burning.
They Are Wrong
Miserably, horribly, and offensively wrong.
The only way to lose fat is to consistently maintain a net caloric deficit.
It doesn’t matter if you’re high carb, low carb, green carb, or blue carb…you can follow Paleo, Atkins, Zone, or South Beach…you can do slow cardio, fast cardio, no cardio, or bro-cardio.
None Of It Matters!
As long as you consistently eat less than your body needs to maintain its current weight on a consistent basis you will lose fat.
Now, I understand this might sound too simple. Not “fancy” enough. I mean…there has to be some “secret” to fat loss, right?
There is no secret. It’s honestly very simple.
So simple, that my online client, Chris, recently commented on one of my Facebook posts explaining how the simplicity of my fat loss program completely changed his life.
So How Do You Create a Sustainable Caloric Deficit?
Creating a caloric deficit is easy.
Creating a sustainable caloric deficit is the hard part (and that’s where having a good coach really comes into play).
To help you create the best caloric deficit for your individual needs, I’m going to outline 2 of my most commonly used and highly effective systems.
Option #1: The Hail Mary Deficit
Just in case you’re unfamiliar with American Football, a Hail Mary is a ridiculously long pass intended to score a touchdown with one, single throw.
It’s not the only way to score points but, used appropriately, the Hail Mary is an extremely simple and effective way to make a huge amount of progress with one straightforward plan.
The Hail Mary Deficit works in a similar fashion.
Essentially, using the Hail Mary approach you’d jump right into a net caloric deficit and stay there [for a long time] until you reach your goals.
My Hail Mary guidelines tend to include a mix of high calorie and low calorie days that strategically put you in a net caloric deficit at the end of every week.
See how I included 3 high calorie days and 4 low calorie days?
This strategy allows you to consistently lose fat without eating at a deficit every single day, which not only optimizes your hormonal function but also keeps you sane throughout the entire process.
How Do You Calculate Your High and Low Calorie Days?
This is where finding a reputable coach is your best bet because, as I noted before, every person is different and your calorie needs will vary based on a variety of individual factors.
That being said, I do have some general guidelines for you to follow that work exceptionally well for the vast majority of people.
High Calorie Days
Multiply your body weight by 12 – 13 to find your “high day” caloric intake. Generally speaking, older and less physically active individuals should use the lower end of the range while younger and more physically active individuals should use the higher end.
Low Calorie Days
Multiply your body weight by 10 – 11 to find your “low day” caloric intake. Generally speaking, older and less physically active individuals should use the lower end of the range while younger and more physically active individuals should use the higher end.
Let’s say we have Ryan, a 155lb male.Using the higher end of the spectrum, Ryan would calculate his intake like this:
High Calorie: 155 x 13 = 2,015 calories
Low Calorie: 155 x 11 = 1,705 calories
Using the same schedule I provided earlier, Ryan’s weekly intake would look like this:
With these guidelines, Ryan should steadily lose fat over the course of 12-16 weeks. Generally speaking, an average of anywhere between .5lb to 1.5lbs per week is expected and truly phenomenal progress.
But what if you want faster fat loss?
To increase your rate of fat loss you can increase your weekly net caloric deficit by:
Making your low calorie days slightly lower
Making your high calorie days slightly lower
Replacing 1 of your high calorie days with a low calorie day
Keep in mind, I personally recommend having a minimum of 2 high calorie days each week. It might sound counterintuitive but going too low without any higher calorie days will burn you out faster than you can beg for “more carbs, please!”
Don’t try to be a bad ass and go ultra low calorie every day.
Because that’s not bad ass.
That’s just stupid.
Option #2: The Jab Deficit
In boxing, a jab is a quick, sharp punch.
It isn’t devastating to your opponent and one jab doesn’t require a whole lot of energy from you, but over time these quick, sharp punches add up and can cause some serious damage. Plus, while a single jab won’t knock your opponent out, these small and consistent successes will motivate you to keep moving forward and never give up.
The Jab Deficit works in the exact same way.
Unlike the Hail Mary which follows one set of guidelines for an extended period of time, the Jab approach calls for brief periods of time (2-4 weeks) in a significant deficit followed by brief periods of time (2-4 weeks) in a maintenance phase.
Why is this approach great for shorty’s?
Remember earlier when I spoke about how being shorter/lighter means you need to eat less than taller/heavier folks in order to lose fat?
Well, let’s use Ryan again, a 5’7″ 155lb male. Using the calorie guidelines provided in the previous section, Ryan’s low calorie days would be just over 1,700 calories.
155 x 11 = 1,705kcal
Now let’s say we have a 5’2″ 110lb female named Jessica.
Using the same equation, Jessica’s low calorie days would be around 1,200 calories.
110 x 11 = 1,210kcal
See the issue?
Ryan might be able to use the Hail Mary approach and hit 1,700kcal/day without a hitch because that’s still a relatively significant amount food.
Jessica, however, might go completely bonkers limiting herself to 1,200kcal on a regular basis because that’s a minuscule amount of food.
To that end, using the Jab approach would be a great option for Jessica as it would allow her to make a significant amount of progress without spending too much time in a severe deficit.
In the short-term, the Jab Deficit might take Jessica longer to achieve her goals but in the long-term she’ll be far more likely to maintain her progress for the rest of her life.
Set Caloric Ranges. Not Definitive Numbers.
For a long time I used to give my clients a definitive number of calories to hit on any given day. Using Jessica from above, I would have told her to hit 1,200kcal on her low days and 1,450kcal on her high days.
While that method worked very well and my clients saw great results, I eventually switched to using caloric ranges rather than definitive numbers.
For example, instead of using the numbers above, I’d now tell Jessica to hit anywhere between 1,150kcal – 1,250kcal on her low days and 1,400kcal – 1,500kcal on her high days.
Why Ranges and Not Definitive Numbers?
If there’s one thing you take from this article let it be this: success breeds success. And the more often you succeed the more confident you will become in your ability to succeed in the future.
This is an exceptionally important concept that most coaches don’t even understand and is one of the major reasons why my clients not only achieve great physiques but maintain them all year long.
How does this relate to calorie guidelines?
Let me explain….
If you’re anything like me and I told you to eat 1,800 calories today you would do everything in your power to hit 1,800 on the dot.
Not 1,801. Not 1,799.
Even if I told you there’s some wiggle room and you don’t have to hit precisely 1,800…as long as you see that number on your daily goals sheet that’s the number you’re going to hit or die trying.
Not the Most Flexible Mindset, Is It?
Not to mention, if you go slightly over 1,800 to, let’s say, 1,830 which logically holds zero negative consequence…emotionally you might view your day as a failure because you went over your allotted number.
That mindset will destroy you both mentally and emotionally which is one of the reasons why I switched to calorie ranges opposed to definitive numbers.
By having a decent sized range to fall within you not only create more leeway within an acceptable range but you also promote the notion that there isn’t one “magic” number.
So even if you fall slightly outside of your given range it’s not a big deal because you know that “magic number” doesn’t exist – it’s just a guideline.
Should You Choose the Hail Mary or the Jab Approach?
They both work and they both work exceptionally well.
The reality is one isn’t better or worse than the other and the only way to find out which one works best for you is to give them both a fair shot for a minimum of 8-weeks each.
That being said, the smaller and leaner you are the more I would recommend starting with the Jab Approach. It just makes the process of losing fat over time so much more feasible with a lot less discomfort and mental stress.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to lose fat as quickly as possible then you should go with the Hail Mary Approach. It’s definitely not as comfortable (relatively speaking) but it almost certainly will give you faster results.
But Don’t Forget!
The speed at which you lose fat is overrated!
Instead of focusing on how quickly you want to lose fat, focus on how long you want to maintain your fat loss once you get the body you want.
Because, when all is said and done, if you can’t maintain it…what’s the point?
2. Set Your Protein Intake
The benefits of eating sufficient protein while dieting are sweeping, to say the least, and have been written about ad infinitum across the internet machine.
So, for the sake of brevity, I’m going to keep this “why is protein so important” section very brief.
Why Is Protein Important During Fat Loss?
1. Per calorie, protein tends to be the most satiating (filling) macronutrient compared to carbs and fats. And considering hunger is obviously one of the most challenging aspects of dieting, finding ways to get more full from less calories is essential for long-term success.
2. Protein is the only macronutrient that can build and maintain muscle. And seeing as more muscle mass allows you to burn more calories, your goal while dieting should be to maintain as much muscle as possible. To that end, if conserving muscle mass is one of your main goals…you better be ready to eat a lot of protein.
3. Of all the macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat), protein has the highest thermic effect which, in lieu of the nerd speak, basically means your body works harder and burns more calories digesting protein than it does processing carbs or fats. If you aren’t sure what I mean…suffice to say it’s a good thing for fat loss.
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
Anyone who claims there is a single, “optimal” protein intake for fat loss is either ignorant, lying, trying to sell you something, or a combination of all three.
The reality is, there’s a wide range of acceptable protein intakes during fat loss and, past a certain point, it all comes down to personal preference.
That being said, I do have minimum and maximum protein intake guidelines that I’ll outline below.
What’s My Bare Minimum Recommended Protein Intake?
My lowest protein recommendation for healthy individuals is around 0.7g per pound of your current body weight.
To illustrate using Ryan, the 155lb guy mentioned earlier, he would eat a minimum of 108g of protein per day.
0.7 x 155 = 108.5
Would Ryan definitively fail if he ate less than 108g of protein every day?
No, of course not.
But, he would probably be hungrier and significantly increase his risk of muscle loss.
What’s My Maximum Recommended Protein Intake?
My maximum recommendation for healthy individuals is around 1.5g per pound of your current body weight.
Using Ryan again, he would eat a maximum of 232g of protein per day.
1.5 x 155 = 232g
Could Ryan go higher than 1.5g per day and be totally fine?
In fact, I’ve had clients (myself included) go all the way up to 2g per pound of body weight and see tremendous results.
However, such a high protein intake severely limits carbohydrate and fat intake which will not only make your meals less tasty (we all need some carbs and fats!), but it can also inhibit your performance, negatively impact key hunger hormones, and make long-term diet adherence drastically more difficult.
What’s the Best Recommended Protein Intake?
Whatever constitutes the “best” protein intake is almost entirely up to you and your personal preference.
Of course, to cover your bases in both satiety and muscle sparing, the “best” amount of protein will fall in between the two extremes listed above: 0.7g/lb – 2g/lb of your current body weight.
Personally, I tend to eat about 1g per pound of my current body weight (140g) on a daily basis. Not because I think it’s better or worse but simply because that’s where I feel most full, energetic, and comfortable with my nutrition.
3. Plan Ahead
Are you having trouble eating enough protein?
Do you avoid social events and parties because you think you’ll go overboard with your calories?
Is extreme hunger a regular problem you face on a day-to-day basis?
The key to fat loss (and, specifically, long-term dieting success) is understanding when and how to plan.
If eating enough protein is an issue, then you need to sit down for 20-30 minutes, come up with a list of high protein foods, and plan a way to fit them into your daily meals.
If you ever stroll into the gym, look around at all the equipment, and then realize you have no clue what to do and wish you had a personal trainer…please watch my FREE 45-minute Beginners Guide to Strength Training.
It’s the only free and instantly downloadable resource that will tell you exactly what to do in the gym to burn fat, build muscle, and get stronger.
Now, as discussed above, during fat loss your main goal (aside from fat loss) is to maintain as much muscle as possible.
In order to do that, you need to be doing at least some heavy weight training 2-4 times per week.
And, no, I’m not talking about this type of weight training.
I’m talking about this type of weight training.
Big, compound movements (like squats, deadlifts, and presses) that recruit a metric shit ton of muscle, burn the most calories, and give you the most bang for your buck.
No Worries, Ladies, It Won’t Make You Bulky
Heavy weight training isn’t going to make you big and bulky.
To the contrary, heavy weight training can actually help you create that lean and “toned” look most women want through building and maintaining muscle mass while simultaneously burning fat.
Not Buyin’ It?
Think about it like this…
You know that token guy friend (or friends) who has trouble gaining weight?
That guy who spends hundreds of dollars on weight gain supplements and spends inordinate amounts of time lifting in the gym but, no matter what he does, he just can’t seem to put on muscle (and he always complains about it)?
Well, consider the fact that he’s loaded with testosterone (about 7-8x as much as you have), the primary hormone responsible for muscle growth, and he still has trouble stacking on muscle.
Contrast that with you, primarily filled with estrogen, and you can begin to understand why men tend to be naturally bigger and stronger than women.
But That’s Not All…
Testosterone aside, in order to build muscle and get bigger you need to be in a caloric surplus (i.e. eat more than your body needs to maintain its current weight).
In other words, regardless of whether you’re a guy or girl, if you aren’t consistently in a caloric surplus it’s physiologically impossible for you to get bigger.
To that end, if you’re maintaining a net caloric deficit there’s no way in hell you’re going to get big or bulky from strength training. To the contrary, you’ll probably end up leaner, stronger, and feeling a whole better than if you only stuck to cardio.
Want me to design your own individualized strength training program?
Some internet assholes “experts” claim cardio will make you fat.
Other internet jerk off’s “experts” use scaremongering tactics like this to claim high intensity interval training (HIIT – like sprinting) is inherently better than low intensity steady state (LISS- like jogging) for fat loss.
Meanwhile, you’re left wondering who the hell is right, who is a dirt bag, and, most importantly, who can you trust?
I’ve got ya covered.
Do You Need Cardio for Fat Loss?
Remember, the only essential component of fat loss is a caloric deficit. And considering a caloric deficit can be achieved solely through manipulating your food intake, cardio is not essential.
So is Cardio A Waste of Time for Fat Loss?
In fact, cardio can be exceptionally beneficial for fat loss, especially for shorty’s.
See, since shorty’s aren’t able to eat all that much during a fat loss phase, you can do cardio to burn a few extra calories which will increase your net caloric deficit and give you leeway to eat more food.
Let Me Show You What I Mean…
Remember Jessica from above?
On her rest days she was allotted roughly 1,200 calories, right?
Well, if she’s getting way too hungry and would feel significantly better eating 1,400 calories, Jessica could simply add in some cardio to burn those 200 extra calories and still maintain the same net caloric deficit.
Remember, as long as you maintain a net caloric deficit you will lose fat.
Which Type of Cardio is Best for Fat Loss?
There is no “best” cardio for fat loss.
They’re all equally effective and the main determining factor as to which type of cardio is “best” for you is almost entirely based on personal preference.
Do you hate jogging and longer, slower forms of cardio?
Then you might be better off doing sprints and other forms of HIIT.
Do you train your legs very heavy and frequently?
Odds are you don’t want to tax yourself anymore than necessary and, considering sprinting takes a huge toll on your body, you might be better off sticking with walking, swimming, and other forms of LISS.
The One Law of Cardio?
The fact of the matter is no form cardio is better or worse than another. They all burn calories, they’re all effective, and they can all help you burn fat.
However, the one law of cardio – the one law that unites all forms together – is that cardio can never replace your nutrition.
It can help as a bonus strategy or supplement, if you will, but cardio should never and can never replace your nutritional strategy.
Being a successful dieter involves much more than just maintaining a low body fat.
Being a successful dieter means you can comfortably maintain a body composition that allows you to feel great while living a healthy and happy life.
Pay special attention to the “happy life” part.
If your life revolves around nutrition…if you regularly avoid social gatherings so you aren’t tempted by the food…if your happiness and mood is dictated by whether or not you eat precisely the right amount of calories…if you constantly feel the need to deprive yourself in order to see results…you are setting yourself up for failure.
And, trust me, I’m not telling you not to work hard because I know hammering down your nutrition takes a ton of work, time, and an inordinate amount of effort.
But the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t comes down to mindset.
The ability and perspective to understand life is gonna throw you a curve ball every once in a while and, instead of isolating yourself from everything and everyone in your life…it’s important to learn when and how to relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the present moment.
Sometimes that means you’ll go way over your calories for the day.
Other times that means you’ll need to skip a workout.
And almost every time that means you’re going to be pushed way outside of your comfort zone.
But you know what?
That’s a good thing.
Because pushing yourself outside your comfort zone means you’re adapting, making progress, and becoming a better version of yourself.
Granted, that won’t always be “optimal” for your body composition but living a happy and healthy life isn’t all about your body fat percentage.
It’s about giving yourself the opportunity to work hard and achieve your goals while continuing to enjoy every moment to the fullest.
It’s about understanding hard work and discipline are necessary to achieve extraordinary results…but extraordinary results and living a happy and healthy life are not mutually exclusive.
Work hard, be diligent, and always strive to improve…but don’t let life pass you by because, before you know it, you’re going be old, wrinkly, and wishing you spent more time laughing and less time being so damn serious.
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