Fat loss is the most straightforward and most complex topic in the world of fitness.
Well, it’s straightforward because it’s quite simple (which isn’t to say that it’s inherently easy). But it’s also complicated because we live in a world of information overload and everyone seems to have their opinion on how fat loss is achieved best.
This leads to a lot of frustration, confusion, and wasted time and effort. Of course, this confusion has also opened the doors for con artists to flood the scene and take advantage of the chaos.
To that end, we’ve put together this ultimate, science-backed fat loss guide for you. In it, you’ll learn just how straightforward fat loss is, and how to go about it most effectively.
The Numero Uno Requirement For Fat Loss
When most people hear the term ‘fat loss,’ they immediately think of diets, supplements, specialized training programs, or, worse, weight loss teas.
But, what matters most for fat loss is to be in a caloric deficit. In other words, for fat loss to occur, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn. That’s it. That’s number one. So long as you achieve that, you will see yourself become leaner.
Diets, for example, ‘work’ while they last not because they are unique, but because they elicit a caloric deficit. It’s not a particular combination of foods, the endless restrictions, or some ‘magical’ meal frequency that does it - it’s the deficit of energy that forces your body to tap into its fat stores and get the remaining energy it needs to function correctly.
And while the number of calories you consume is the primary determinant of weight change (or lack thereof), the composition of your diet also matters - this is where macronutrients come in: protein, carbs, and fats.
Each of the three macronutrients plays vital roles within the body, and all of them are important for good health, longevity, and optimal body composition (source, source, source). So, it’s essential to eat a balanced diet and avoid cutting out any of the three macronutrients.
Calculating Your Caloric Needs For Fat Loss: Step-By-Step Tutorial
Say that you want to start losing fat. Where do you begin? Well, the first step is to calculate your caloric needs and ensure the caloric deficit we mentioned above. Here’s how:
Step 1: Calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) - the number of calories your body burns at rest. This calculator will do the job.
Step 2: Based upon your unique BMR value, use this multiplier (and be honest here, please) to get a rough estimate of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). In other words, how many total calories you burn every day.
Step 3: Based upon your TDEE value, apply a moderate deficit of 250-400 calories. For example, if your TDEE came out to be about 2,750 calories, begin dieting on 2,500 calories per day.
Setting Up Your Macros Based On Your Caloric Needs
Since the composition of your diet matters for fat loss, we’ll be taking your starting calories and splitting them up between the three macronutrients. Here are the basic rules you should follow:
1) Get 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
2) Get 0.3 to 0.6 grams of fats per pound of body weight.
3) Get the remainder of your calories from carbohydrates.
So, in our example from above, if your starting calories for fat loss are 2,500 and your starting weight is 175 pounds, it would look like this:
1) Between 140 and 175 grams of protein (0.8 to 1 gram).
2) Between 52 and 104 grams of fats (0.3 to 0.6 grams).
3) Between 216 and 368 grams of carbs, depending on your intake of fats and protein for each day.
To simplify it, make sure to get your recommended fats and protein while keeping calories in check - carbs will sort themselves out naturally.
The Vital Role Of Resistance Training In Fat Loss
Resistance training can be complicated:
You have to think about all sorts of things, including exercise selection, how often to train, how many sets to do for each muscle group, how to periodize your training, how to organize your weekly program, and more.
And because of that complexity, many people choose to avoid resistance training and instead go for the more alluring and seemingly more practical option - cardio.
But, here’s the thing:
Cardio training can be useful during fat loss, sure, but it shouldn’t be your primary exercise modality when you’re in a caloric deficit. The reason is simple:
When dieting for fat loss, your body inevitably breaks down fat and muscle tissue to get the calories it needs to sustain itself. So, you must give your body a reason to keep your muscle tissue around. The two vital things you need to do are to:
So long as you do these two things, you will primarily lose fat and better preserve your muscle tissue. Plus, it doesn’t have to be anything crazy. As little as three or four resistance training sessions per week will be more than enough to help you retain your muscle.
Put the effort in, do your best to maintain your strength, focus on the big compound exercises (squat, bench press, deadlift, row, pull-up, and overhead press), and you will do great.
If you only do cardio in combination with a caloric deficit, you won’t stimulate your muscles as much, and you will inevitably lose a lot more lean tissue throughout your diet.
How (and When) to Make Adjustments to Your Diet
Say that you’ve begun dieting, and you’ve been making steady progress. You’ve been consistent with your diet, your gym performance has stayed the same (or even improved), and you’ve gotten leaner.
The question is, when should you make adjustments to your diet?
The answer? Don’t make any changes so long as you’re making steady progress.
For effective long-term fat loss, you need to pace yourself. Meaning, you need to do as little as possible while making good progress, and you need to give yourself room for adjustment when progress stalls.
We all know that fat loss inevitably brings a level of metabolic adaptation. In other words, as you get leaner, your body begins burning fewer calories. Part of that stems from the fact that weighing less makes you burn fewer calories to move around. Another factor here is leptin - the master hormone responsible for hunger and metabolic rate (among other things). As you lean down, levels of the hormone drop, which lowers your metabolic rate and increases your appetite.
So, making adjustments to your diet is an inevitable part of fat loss, but you shouldn’t rush them. Try to get away with as much food as you can for as long as you can. Then, once your progress stalls, you will have room to lower your calories.
For example, if you’ve been losing weight at a steady rate of one pound per week, keep doing what you’ve been doing. Then, if you find that your progress has stalled for more than three weeks, lower your calories by 100 per day and see how things go.
But keep in mind that you should also track other things like visual changes, circumferences (waist, butt, chest, thighs, arms, etc.), and gym performance.
Your other alternative besides lower calories is to increase your level of physical activity. For example, if you’re currently doing 30 minutes of low-intensity cardio per week and have found yourself stalling, rather than lower your calories, add twenty to thirty minutes of weekly cardio. Or, if you currently average 7,500 steps per day, bump your average by 1,500.
How Quickly Should You Lose Fat?
This is a bit of a controversial topic, and there are quite a few opinions on the matter. On the one hand, we’ve got folks who spread the idea of slow and steady and how a small to moderate calorie deficit leads to more sustainable results. On the other hand, we’ve got a camp of people who recommend aggressive fat loss.
Both approaches have their positives and negatives, so here’s what you need to know:
The more fat you have on your frame, the more you can expect to lose initially. Conversely, the leaner you are, the less fat you can lose without also risking muscle loss.
So, your best course of action is to aim for 0.5 to 1 percent of weight loss per week. If you have more fat to lose, you can lose about one percent of your body weight per week. For example, if you weigh 250 pounds and are at a high body fat percentage, you can lose up to 2.5 pounds per week.
If you’re on the leaner side, aim to lose about 0.5 percent per week. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, that would come out to be a bit under one pound per week.
Research suggests that this rate of fat loss is ideal for preserving muscle mass. Any faster than that and you risk losing muscle. Any slower, and you’re unnecessarily prolonging your dieting period.
And if you’re interested in ways to accelerate your fat loss efforts, check out our Keto Boost – Fat Loss And Energy product, designed to help increase your energy levels and allow you to burn fat more easily.