Losing fat and keeping it off is no easy feat. If it was, consumers wouldn’t spend a staggering 2.1B dollars per year on fat burning supplements (https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/WeightLoss-HealthProfessional/)
However, those supplements offer little help in the quest for a leaner physique if you do not have at least a tenuous grasp on nutrition and how fat loss actually works…
Due to the overwhelming ignorance surrounding the topic of losing bodyfat, we have put together a helpful little cheat sheet pertaining to the bare bone basics.
1. Plus or Minus
In order to lose weight, you MUST be in a caloric deficit. Period. No if, ands or buts. Think of it like this – you have a tub full of 1,000 tennis balls. Every day you add 100 balls to the tub, but every day you also remove 100 balls. Naturally, the tub stays at the exact same capacity. Now, what if you didn’t take the 100 balls out every day, but you ONLY added 10 tennis ball each day instead of 100? Not a big deal, right? Well, after 10 days you have still added new tennis balls to the tub…but since you did not remove any there is a SURPLUS of 100 tennis balls. Now consider this scenario – you are still adding 100 tennis balls per day, but you are also subtracting 110 tennis balls. In 10 days, you have a DEFICIT of 100 tennis balls.
While our bodies are obviously much more complex than a bathtub full of tennis balls (most of us anyway…), the same core principal applies – units in vs units out. More specifically, calories in vs calories out. Yes, yes…there is a myriad of variables that can slightly affect this process such as hormones, faster/slower metabolisms, supplements/drugs, etc…the fact is that to gain weight you must be in a caloric surplus, and to lose weight you must be in a caloric deficit. Period.
2. Understanding Macronutrients
At the end of the day, a calorie is a calorie is a calorie…kind of (we will dive deeper into that rabbit hole on another day). However, macronutrients, more commonly referred to as “macros” in the health and fitness world, each have their own caloric value.
Protein – 4 calories
Carbohydrate – 4 calories
Fat – 9 calories
So, while protein and carbs certainly play vastly different roles in our bodies, they are calorically equal on a gram to gram basis. Fat though…that little guy is packs over 2x as many calories per gram as its friends protein and carbohydrates.
Keeping this in mind, it is crucial to plan your fat loss nutrition program according to these values. Low fat (shut up keto people), moderate carb and high protein is generally the way to go.
3. King of the Kitchen
While lifting weights and performing cardio does burn calories, you simply cannot outwork a poor diet. This is probably the most common mistake people make when trying to lose weight – they focus on exercise but neglect nutrition. You can do all the squats and sprints you want, but if your diet is not up to snuff you will always be fighting an uphill battle. Remember, calories in and calories out (more or less).
4. Get Off Your A$$
The more you move, the more calories you burn.
Some helpful numbers:
The average person (180lb male) burns the following amounts of calories during 60 minutes of the corresponding exercises at a moderate intensity (https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities):
- Weightlifting – 266
- Aerobics – 488
- Calisthenics – 400
- Stationary Bike – 622
- Walking – 400
5. Forever, Not Fad
One of the most common questions regarding weight loss is “What is the best diet?” The simple answer is…whichever one you will actually stick to. Keto, paleo, Atkins, intermittent fasting (IF) etc. can all lead to weight loss, but for the vast majority of people they are simply not sustainable long-term solutions. Are you really going to never eat a carb again (pizza, fries, ice cream, fruit…)? Never again will you touch a single processed food? For the foreseeable future you will only eat in a two-hour window each day? Probably not…
The most effective and least problematic approach to permanent weight loss is identifying healthy foods that you like (and don’t like) and determining the appropriate portions to meet your fat loss goals.