Fat-loss Made Easy
Contrary to what most of my female clients believe, your body does not have fat because it’s trying to ruin your life.
No, your body has fat because it’s trying to keep you alive for as long as possible.
Healthy body fat levels allows your body to function at it’s very best. Fat is an important part of the structure of our cells. It works as a transporter for fat soluble vitamins and it’s helps with the production of essential hormones. Fat also surrounds, cushions and protects your organs and helps regulate your body temperature.
What should my body fat percentage be?
Your body fat percentage is simply the percentage of fat that your body contains. If you are 80 kilos with 10% body fat, it means that your body consists of 8 kilos of fat and 72 kilos of lean body mass (bone, muscle, organs, blood and everything else).
So the answer to that question is…
And more accurately it depends on:
a. What’s your goal?
b. Are you willing to pay the price it takes to achieve it?
But that’s a goal setting article for another time.
So on to fat-loss.
What is fat?
Fat cells are your body’s energy storage tanks and these tanks are filled with itty bitty fat droplets. The more itty bitty fat droplets you have stored the bigger the tank becomes (kind of like a balloon). Every tank can only accommodate so many fat droplets before you’re body has to create a new tank that can be filled. And while you can get rid of the fat drops inside the tanks – your body cannot get rid of a new tank once it’s been created. Your fat-tanks are in a continuous state of turnover, so they are constantly storing and releasing their fat droplets depending on your body’s fat metabolism.
Why do we get fat?
It’s actually very simple. We gain fat whenever our bodies are in a positive energy balance.
Energy is another word for “calories.” Your energy balance is the balance of the calories you consume (energy in) compared to the calories you burn through physical activity (energy out).
Whenever you eat more energy (calories) than your body needs to maintain your energy balance, those extra calories are stored in your fat tanks.
Remember if you eat more calories than your fat tanks can handle – your body will create more fat tanks that can be filled.
Positive energy balance = weight gain.
Negative energy balance is when you consume less calories than you need to maintain your current weight & body composition.
Negative energy balance = weight-loss.
Maintenance is when the calories you consume = the energy you spend.
How do we get fat?
Whenever you eat something, the nutrients are digested and broken down into their smallest forms so that your body can use them.
- Protein breaks down to amino acids.
- Carbohydrates break down to glucose.
- Fats break down to fatty acids.
Once they’ve been digested, your body takes what it needs from the available nutrient pool to take care of business.
If you are in a positive energy balance when business has been taken care off, your body will take all the excess nutrients that haven’t been used and convert them (amino acids, glucose and fatty acids) into fat droplets that can be stored in your fat tanks.
So every surplus calorie gets stored as fat.
The good news is that if we signal our bodies to start releasing our fat stores (and to stop storing any more fat) then our stored fat can be burned as fuel.
The problem is that when it comes to fat-loss – everyone’s an expert.
And if you ask someone what’s the best way to lose fat you’ll probably get one of the following answers.
- Eat less.
- Move more.
- Eat healthy or clean.
- Use diet pills.
- Try the _ _ _ diet. (Banting, Low GI, Slender Wonder, Paleo, The Diet Everyone Talks About)
- Do less cardio.
- Do more cardio.
- Eat less carbs or fat.
- Cut out sugar.
- Eat more protein.
- Eat more vegetables.
- Never eat fruit.
- Eat smaller meals every few hours.
- Do not eat after 7pm.
- Lift weights.
- Build muscle.
- Fast and eat only during a small feeding window.
- And my favourite – “You have to do everything right.” (Whatever that means)
But these are all things that DO NOT cause fat-loss.
It’s no wonder that the average South African is currently losing their battle with obesity.
And while everything on this list could potentially aid the overall fat-loss process (if you have a strategy in place), on their own, not a single thing on this list will actually cause fat-loss.
You see eating less does not automatically put you in a negative calorie balance, neither does exercising more, doing more cardio, fasting, eating primal or cutting out sugar.
If you consistently follow a plan but you are not losing fat, then you need to consider the fact that even though you are on a diet (only allowed specific foods or portions) you are still in a positive energy balance or at a maintenance energy balance.
You see it’s entirely possible to be 100% strictly following a diet and gain weight because of a positive energy balance.
Just like it’s entirely possible for some people to eat whatever they want and still lose weight because they’re in a negative energy balance.
So the key then, is to restrict calories as much as possible yes?
Severe calorie restriction fails when fat-loss is your goal.
If you just want to weigh-less then you can starve yourself to reach your goal. Just like you can cut off a limb. Or dehydrate yourself.
All of those efforts will result in significant weight-loss.
You’ll also feel “not so nice”.
And it won’t help you to improve your body composition (the how you look naked part).
Why doesn’t drastically cutting calories work?
Severe calorie restriction inhibits the production of serotonin, a brain chemical needed to control appetite – making you more likely to binge.
On top of that, when we decrease our caloric intake significantly, our bodies preserve fat stores very efficiently.
Remember I told you that your body is trying to keep you alive for as long as possible.
Low calories = low insulin levels.
And since insulin is low, thyroid hormone production is also decreased.
That means you’ve just successfully lowered your resting metabolism.
Why is that bad? Because if you needed 1200 calories to maintain your energy balance before you started cutting calories and now because of the diet you’ve lowered your metabolism to 1000 calories – it means that if you eat your usual 1200 calories – you’ll gain weight.
So rebound weight gain is inevitable once you abandon your diet.
And unless you are committed to following this diet for the rest of your life – you will abandon it eventually.
It’s probably better not to just cut calories blindly, even though it seems like that’s the consensus for what we should do if we want to lose fat.
This advice could be one of the reasons why so many people spend much of their teenage and adult years struggling with yo-yo weight-gain and weight-loss.
So how DO we burn fat?
“Burning” fat is also known as beta-oxidation. The process of beta-oxidation ultimately produces heat, water, carbon dioxide and adenosine triphosphate (ATP is the energy source for cells).
When we’re not eating our insulin concentrations start to fall, and our other fat-burning hormones increase. This is your body’s way of telling your fat tanks to release their fat-drops so that your body can use them to create energy.
The fat drops go into your cell’s nuclear reactor (mitochondria) and there is a huge energetic reaction (only its on a tiny scale).
Then heat, water, carbon dioxide and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) comes back out.
ATP is continuously recycled, the water exits our bodies as sweat and urine, and we exhale the carbon dioxide.
No more fat.
What’s the best way to burn fat?
The best way to burn fat is to follow an effective fat-loss strategy that addresses all your lifestyle factors.
An effective fat-loss program should yield the following results (in my opinion):
- You lose enough fat to start seeing visible changes in just 4 weeks. (You start getting compliments, your clothes fit better, you don’t feel bloated anymore.)
- You feel more confident, more energetic and you sleep better within 7 days.
- You can follow your program with enjoyment at least 90% of the time after an initial adjustment period of 7 to 14 days.
- You look forward to the “doing” part of the program – not just the results you could get.
- You learn and acquire new skills as your programs progresses so that you understand how your results are connected to your daily behaviours.
The bottom line:
Our body fat level is determined by the rate at which we store energy from the food that we eat, and the rate at which we use that energy.
Any excess fat is the result of eating more energy than the body needed.
So if we want to get rid off excess fat we need to make sure that we use more energy everyday than we consume.
The concept is simple enough.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to stay out of the cookie jar.
I’ll tell you what does make it easy to stay out of the cookie jar though: finding a worthwhile goal and deciding to stay out of the damn jar. But that’s also a post for another time.
What’s you take of fat-loss? Is there anything else you’d like to know? Let me know in the comments below.