Body For Life: I’ve been doing the Body for Life program and I seem to be stuck…

Tom,

I have been doing the “Body for Life” program for 14 weeks & while I’ve made good improvement, my fat loss has been agonizingly slow. I’m at 20 percent body fat with a goal of 10 percent. I’ve followed the plan as closely as I know how to, but I seem to be stuck. Any insight or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated.

Bill Phillip’s program, Body for Life (BFL), covers every aspect of the fat-burning equation: cardiovascular training, weight training, nutrition and motivation. That’s a winning combination in my book.

Assuming that you’re already following every part of the program, then there’s one way you can accelerate your progress and get down to your final body fat goal more quickly:

BFL recommends what Mr. Phillips calls “The 20 minute aerobics solution.” Phillips writes:

“Wouldn’t it be great if there was something that produced maximum results in minimum time? Well guess what? There is. I call it the 20-minute aerobics solution. This program involves performing only 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week – no more, no less.”

It would be great if everyone could lose fat with only 20 minutes of daily aerobic exercise just three times a week, but when things sound too good to be true, they usually are. There are six billion people on this planet and it’s ridiculous to assume that everyone will respond the same to one workout program.

If you’re genetically blessed with a fast metabolism and the ability to burn fat easily, then three days a week for 20 minutes will work for you. In fact, I know a few people with hyperactive metabolisms that stay ripped all year round without doing any cardio at all! (Don’t you just hate those people?)

You should do as much – or as little – cardio as it takes for YOU to reach YOUR goal. You can only determine that amount by through trial and error. If you can lose fat from just three 20 minute workouts a week – that’s GREAT! Don’t do any more than you have to. However, if you’ve been doing 20 minute workouts three times per week and nothing is happening, you need to increase your duration and/or frequency until the fat starts coming off.

If your goal is maximum fat loss, then I’d recommend 30-60 minutes 5-7 days per week. Once you reach your desired percentage of body fat, then you could drop down to just 3 – 4 days a week for 20 minutes for maintenance. Almost every competitive bodybuilder I have ever met does cardio every day before contests (and some even do it twice a day).

In addition to frequency and duration, the intensity of your workouts is also important. In BFL, Phillips recommends short, high intensity cardio sessions – and he’s right – moderate to high intensity cardio, such as interval training, is more effective than low intensity cardio; the higher the intensity, the more calories you burn.

The problem is, you can only burn so many calories in 20 minutes no matter how hard you work out. Losing body fat all boils down to burning more calories; the more calories you burn in a one-week period, the more fat you’ll lose.

For example, If you do a high intensity interval workout for 20 minutes a session on a Stairmaster, treadmill or bike, you might burn about 400 calories. Granted, that’s a lot of calories for a 20 minute workout, but with only three sessions, it only adds up to 1200 total calories a week. If you doubled your time to 40 minutes and you did six days a week at a moderate intensity, you would burn about 600 calories per workout. Do that six times per week and that’s a total of 3600 calories in a week - three times as much as the high intensity interval workout! Combine the cardio with a 500-calorie per day deficit and that’s another 3500 calories for a total deficit of 7100 calories per week. There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, so that’s two pounds of fat you’d lose in one week!

As an interesting side note, I’ve had dozens of people come into our health clubs for body fat measurements for the BFL challenge contest and I chatted with them about how they planned to win. Wanna know something? The ones who got extremely lean did in fact follow the BFL program just as instructed in the book, supplements and everything – everything except the part about just three days of cardio a week. Almost every one of them admitted to me that they took the liberty of doing more cardio than the program suggested.

Try increasing your cardio, while maintaining a fairly high level of intensity. I’ve never seen anyone fail to get lean from doing 5-7 days of cardio for 45 minutes a session. If you’re already doing this much cardio and you’re still not losing body fat, then the problem is definitely your diet, not your workout program.

Be persistent; this process takes time. A good goal for losing body fat is 1/2 a percent each week, so your goal of reaching 10% body fat from your current level of 20% is a 20 week project – and that’s if you stick with it 100% without any set backs. Be patient and never-endingly keep at it. As long as you keep your eye on your goal and you keep working towards it diligently and patiently, you can’t fail.