Fat Loss Guide
Follow these five easy steps for an effective fat loss journey.
1. Understanding how fat loss works
2. Calculating your required calories
3. Maintaining a proper macronutrient ratio
4. Tracking your calories
5. Refeed weekly
This e-learning guide will teach you how to maximise your fat loss results, through appropriate nutrition. Knowledge is essential, discipline will be required - but you can succeed!
We are all different, there is no magical formula that works for everybody. Ask someone with a great physique “what do you eat”, repeat the exact same diet, and I guarantee you will not end up looking like that individual. It is critical to understand your individuality, to track exactly what you eat, and to know you are eating the right number of calories.
If you consume more calories than your body burns, you will not be able to burn fat (Newsholme and Dimitriadis, 2001).
If your goal is to burn the most amount of fat possible whilst maintaining, or even building, muscle, consuming below your maintenance level is not optimal. Other factors come into play, the most important one being macronutrient ratios.
I am going to go into some of the science of fat loss in this guide. Each step is equally important. Read through them carefully to prepare yourself for optimal fat burning.
Let’s dive in.
UNDERSTANDING HOW FAT LOSS WORKS
Being in a calorie deficit (negative energy balance) is the only way we can burn fat. When you are in a negative energy balance, you are burning more energy than you are consuming.
You don’t lose fat because you did an extra hour of cardio, or because you gave up pizza and pasta. You burn fat because you consume fewer calories than your body requires.
This information may seem repetitive, but for you to achieve results, it is crucial to understand. Some individuals choose to cut out bread or to stop eating after 6pm, assuming that that is something they must do to lose weight, however this will only establish a poor relationship with food and will not guarantee long-term results. A calorie deficit is the only way to achieve results.
The scientific law of thermodynamics shows that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed from one state to another (Morris, 2017). This means that whilst you are in a calorie deficit, your body will tap into its fat reserves and utilise these for energy - this is how fat loss occurs.
CALCULATING YOUR REQUIRED CALORIES
Now that we have established that a calorie deficit is required to burn fat, we need to know how many calories your body burns in a day. Varying factors such as age, weight, height, genetics, and activity levels all play a role in your caloric demands. Working out how many calories your body requires every day, however, can be a little tricky.
Calorie calculators such as www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html are based on the “Mifflin – St. Jeor Equation” and this has been proven to be the most accurate (Frankenfield et al., 2005).
Eating below the number of calories you burn is the only way to burn fat, however discretion is needed. Consuming far too few calories is likely to result in muscle loss and severe cravings. Whereas taking in just a small percentage less calories than your body burns will not yield tangible results.
Several studies have found that a calorie deficit of 20-25% is the sweet spot. This number will allow you to burn fat at an optimal rate (Huovinen et al., 2015). Whilst it may seem like an aggressive approach, the study suggests that a hard-hitting regime is most effective for fat loss, whilst still allowing you to maintain muscle mass. If you were to aim for less of a calorie deficit, choosing to prolong the dieting phase instead, it may result in metabolic damage.
We are therefore going to aim for a 25% deficit to lean down relatively fast. Once you have established your maintenance level multiply it by 0.75. The resulting number is your calorie intake target six days a week. The seventh day of the week will be a refeed (covered later in step 5).
Please note that weight training is not covered in this document. Here, we are only going to go over nutrition/your macros. Weight training is however a key component to muscle retention during any fat loss diet (Frimel et al., 2008).
Side note; for more in-depth info and coaching on your nutrition and/or training approach, check out my e-books!
MAINTAINING A PROPER MACRONUTRIENT RATIO
You’ve heard it all. Low carb diets vs high fat diets. The debates are ongoing and who am I to say who is right and who is wrong. Extensive research concludes that low carb diets are more effective than low fat diets (Foster et al., 2003), especially if fat loss is your overriding objective (Samaha et al., 2003). These studies are often based on low to moderate protein diets.
High protein intake is crucial during a fat loss period (Phillips and Van Loon, 2011). It will allow you to preserve more muscle and enable you to burn fat more efficiently (Paddon-Jones et al., 2008). Interestingly, there are studies that conclude when the protein content is high, it doesn’t matter whether carbs are correspondingly low, moderate or high – as they all deliver the same results (Sacks et al., 2009).
To conclude all arguments, the best macronutrient ratio is the one that’s most enjoyable for you. Just make sure to keep your protein intake high – aim to consume 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight for optimal results (Mettler et al., 2010). Depending on the amount of calories you consume, that will be around 20-40% of your total caloric intake. The remainder of your calories should come equally from carbs and fats.
TRACKING YOUR CALORIES
If you are not tracking, then you are guessing. It really is that simple. It’s a little-known fact that humans aren’t very good at estimating how much food we need to eat. One study (Cook et al., 2000) found that eating when are hungry results in us overeating. Instead of eating until we are satisfied, we end up eating until we are overly full. Long term this results in us becoming overweight.
You will never be 100% accurate when tracking calories as the FDA allows a 20% variance on all nutritional values (Bender et al., 1998). So, a meal that is listed as 600 calories could well be 720 or 480 calories. This means that we can’t precisely count calories because there are no precise nutritional values available. However, the closer your overall calorie total is to your target, the better, as this means a smaller margin for error.
Track what you eat!
It is easy and takes no more than a few minutes per day. The return you get from those additional five minutes is huge. Tools such as MyFitnessPal (which I personally use) make counting macros and tracking calories so much easier. If you do decide to use MyFitnessPal, I would not follow their fat loss advice. The reason for this is because their theories may well contradict with my advice, as they do not account for aspects such as muscle retention (very important as far as overall body composition goes).
If you are in a negative energy balance for a long period of time, your leptin levels will drop (Jequier, 2002). Leptin is a crucial part of the fat burning process. It is the hormone that sends signals to your brain to use fat for fuel (Klok, Jakobsdottir and Drent, 2007). A reefed meal will boost your leptin levels (Dirlewanger et al., 2000).
Because of this reefed meal, you will end up eating around your maintenance level (calculated in step 2) with a higher amount of carbs than usual (40-50% of your total calories). Overeating on carbs has been proven as the most effective way of boosting leptin levels (Dirlewanger et al., 2000).
In summary, to ensure your leptin levels don’t tank, you need to overeat on carbs once per week. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Use this reefed as a small break from dieting and enjoy yourself. Maybe plan your reefed meal at the same time as a family day out or something? An enjoyable diet is more likely to last.