Fat loss is not rocket science and you don’t have to starve or do excessive amounts of cardio in order to get rid of it. All you need is a smart approach and a little bit of discipline. If you are struggling with it, can’t seem to be able to stick to any type of diet and eventually you end up binging and gaining even more weight, don’t panic. Read on and find out the solution to definitive fat loss.
1 Energy Balance
Weight loss and weight gain is pure physics – thermodynamics to be more specific. It’s all down to energy in versus energy out or calories in versus calories out. This is the first step to understanding how fat loss works.
Eating fewer calories than your body needs will create a caloric deficit which will result in weight loss. By restricting the calories, our body will start burning stored energy (fat) once it runs out of food calories. On the other hand, eating more calories than your body needs will create a caloric surplus which will result in weight gain.
Contrarily to what many people think, there are no “forbidden foods” that make you fat. A caloric surplus makes you fat. Yes, you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight as long as you are in a caloric deficit. It’s all you need to do.
The key thing is to find out the right caloric deficit threshold for you and stay there, but more about that later on. Let’s get to step number 2.
Noticed that I used both fat loss and weight loss terms above? These two terms may sound like synonyms but are very different in fact. You want your focus to be on losing fat, not just losing weight. You want to lose fat while preserving muscle mass.
This can be achieved by setting the right macro distribution within your diet. A fat loss, muscle preserving diet should consist of plenty of protein, plenty of carbs and the minimum amount of fats need for our body to run smoothly at hormonal level. Such distribution, in a caloric deficit would look something like this:
- 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight
- 50-60 grams of fat
- the rest of the calories from carbs
Combined with good weight training routine this macro setup will optimize muscle retention in a caloric deficit. Basically, all the weight you will be losing will be pure fat.
Related: Best Muscle Building Supplements
3 Metabolic Adaptation
The third step is a very important one and has to do with metabolism and how it reacts to calorie restriction.
Our bodies are very intelligent machines that have one purpose – to survive. Your body doesn’t care you want to look ripped or get a six pack for the summer. Its only mission is to survive. That’s why in a caloric deficit the metabolism will slow down and become more energy efficient in order to compensate for the deficit.
The tricky part here is to put yourself in a caloric deficit that is not too aggressive (up to 20%-25% below caloric maintenance) and avoid a severe metabolic slowdown. The metabolism will slow down anyway in a deficit – there is scientific evidence behind this, just not by a lot if you cut back on calories correctly.
For example, if your maintenance level is at 2,000 kcal, you want to eat about 1,600 kcal. This will not trigger any severe alarms for the metabolism and you will be able to lose fat while still eating decent amount of food.
Don’t rush things! Under eating won’t make you lose fat faster. It will make you hungry, cranky, you will lose muscle mass and eventually you won’t be able to stick with this type of diet, you will start binging and with a damaged metabolism you will get even fatter than before.
Refeeding is a fancy term for a planned day of over eating during a caloric restriction period and has the purpose of keeping your from binging and allowing your body to benefit from a boost of energy from time to time.
A refeed day is not the same thing as a cheat meal or cheat day. A refeed day is not an all you can eat day, it’s planned and it usually means eating 30% more calories than you would eat in a caloric restriction. This would most likely put you at maintenance level.
It’s important to include refeed day every other week or each week if you are quite lean already. Refeed days have benefits at hormonal level by increasing leptin levels, which is a hormone responsible for regulating hunger and making us feel motivated and good about ourselves.
Don’t abuse refeed days though, or you will sabotage your diet. I have an extensive article on this topic over here which you want to check out before including a refeed day in your diet.
Any type of resistance training combined with cardiovascular training is a good approach to fat loss and muscle preservation, or even muscle building (if you are a beginner) in a caloric deficit.
The common mistake here is that most people are focusing way too much on cardio and not at all, or very little on weight training. Studies have shown that weigh training has benefits when it comes to fat loss and there is no question about the fact that it promotes body re-composition.
On the other hand, cardio is great burning off calories faster and getting into a caloric deficit easier. The down side is that excessive and intense amounts of cardio will interfere with muscle mass – meaning that you will not be able to build more muscle or you can even start burning off muscle mass.
From my personal experience and from what other people that I look up to are saying, a combination of weight training and HIIT cardio is the best routine for fat loss while building or preserving muscle mass.
6 Reverse Dieting
Lastly but not least, after you reached your target body weight you need to maintain it. Losing fat is just half the battle, staying lean is the other half and this is where many people fail.
In order to avoid getting all fat and bulky again, you need to have a smart approach of getting out of the caloric deficit. This is also called reverse dieting and means that instead of starting to eat normally immediately after a rather long period of dieting and caloric restriction, you up you calories slowly.
As you remember, during a caloric deficit the metabolism will adapt and slow down a little bit. The purpose of reverse dieting is to allow your metabolism to get back up to speed with your normal eating. This is done by increasing calories slowly (+100-200 kcal) a day until you hit your maintenance calories. That’s reverse dieting in a nutshell.
Chris lost over 50 pounds by doing intermittent fasting, weight lifting and cardio. You can check out his transformation on www.gainsthetics.com and follow him on Facebook. Head over to his contact page, reach him out with the subject line “Promo Client” and qualify for a free online coaching service. Limited offer!