Rules for Fat Loss
Approximately 6 Minutes Reading Time
Brief Article Overview
- Understanding energy balance is key for understanding the fundamental mechanism behind fat loss.
- Fat loss will only occur in an energy deficit.
- There are many factors that contribute to the energy balance equation.
- Identifying “controllable factors” allows us to modify our actions and choices in order to attain an energy deficit.
In this article, we would like to outline what we consider to be the most important principles of fat loss from an experiential and scientific perspective.
Understanding the theory behind the mechanisms of fat loss is one thing, but actually doing them is another thing entirely. Therefore, we will also aim to show you how to apply these rules in a practical manner. That way, you will be best equipped to achieve your goals with no stone left unturned!
The First Law of Thermodynamics
We’re going to start off with the Laws of Thermodynamics. No, this isn’t ‘An Introduction to Physics’, but just bear with us. The laws of thermodynamics are pretty fundamental when it comes to our understanding of the known universe, and the mechanism which determines fat loss is no exception.
It’s the first law of thermodynamics which is particularly pertinent because it’s all about the conservation of energy and is stated:
“The total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but can be neither created nor destroyed.”
The human body is an isolated system, it cannot create or destroy energy where none is available. In terms of weight loss/gain, it can be displayed as a simple formula:
Energy In (kCal) +/- Energy Out (kCal) = Weight Gain / Loss
Rule #1 – Understand Energy Balance
On the surface, the formula is very simple. But the ability to gain control over your energy balance in the midst of an obesogenic environment, long work hours, lack of sleep, busy social lives and emotional instability is more difficult than people let on.
There are many factors influencing weight gain; hormone imbalance, diet composition, Obesogens, genetic predispositions, but in the end it always…..always comes down to Calories in vs Calories out (CICO).
The diagram below describes just some of the variables which influence CICO. From this, we can determine those factors we have control over and those we don’t. If we have control over them, they can be modified. One of our mantras, when we coach people through their fat loss journey, is “control the controllables”.
Rule #2 – Keep a Food Diary and Track Weight
You don’t need to change anything for this one, just spend 1-2 weeks completing an honest food diary. Take notes of your eating habits, preferences, emotions, cravings, hunger and satisfaction levels. This is all about awareness and accountability, once you have these things you can’t lose them.
At the same time, it may be a good idea to track your weight daily and calculate your weekly weight average (to level out the peaks and troughs). The difference between these averages will help you identify whether you’re in an energy surplus (weight gain), deficit (weight loss) or maintenance (no weight change). From this, you can adjust your intake or output accordingly.
Rule #3 – Understand Food Types and Portion Control
Losing fat and maintaining muscle mass, otherwise known as ‘becoming leaner’, or ‘toning’, in a sustainable manner requires the majority (about 85%) of your nutritional intake consists of;
- Whole, minimally processed foods
- Adequate protein intake
- Adequate fruit and vegetables (Micronutrients and Fibre)
- Complex Carbohydrates
- Healthy Fats
These are good examples of how you should portion out your main meals using your hands as measurements (2-3 meals a day);
Rule #4 – Regular Activity and Exercise
Nutrition is very important, and with the addition of regular activity and exercise, you can definitely increase the rate of fat loss, with the added benefits of improved strength, fitness, muscle mass, confidence… the list goes on!
The premise is simple, move more often. How much time do you spend seated? Could you possibly set a reminder to get up and move around every hour? Set up walking meetings? Standing desks? Are you hitting 10,000 steps a day? All of these seemingly insignificant “activity snacks” can really add up! These are low hanging fruit that you can easily achieve, without the need for an extensive exercise or nutrition plan.
In terms of purposeful exercise, consistency beats intensity every time. Those expended calories really accumulate over weeks, months, or even years! There are definitely performance and physiological benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and certainly require more calories to perform. But the level of motivation and exertion they require often deter people from being consistent with them for extended periods of time.
The general consensus is that a mixture of cardio and resistance/strength training is best for fat loss. Traditional cardio training will bump up your weekly calorie expenditure and resistance training will help in maintaining your metabolic rate when in a calorific deficit, by hanging on to that all-important lean body mass (including muscle)…win, win!
Rule #5 – Be Patient and React Positively to Set Backs
Have you ever started a really strict diet and exercise routine and kept it up for a few weeks? You felt great right?! You’re highly motivated and you have an air of confidence which your family and friends are in awe of.
Then you get invited to work drinks…you go out…the two or three you were going to restrict yourself to turn into 5 or 6…the disinhibition kicks in, you end up eating a whole pizza and dessert. Sound familiar? Congratulations, you’re a human being!
This is the typical binge episode (often alcohol-induced), a temporary lack of control leading to overconsumption, sometimes in response to a period of restriction and often followed by feelings of guilt and shame.
We understand that these things happen. The easy thing to do here is just to give up, you’ve ruined everything right? Wrong. This is the exact point that can make or break your pursuit of fat loss. You may have slowed down the process, but realise that it’s normal, even inevitable, that you will fail along the way. There is even a strong argument that sometimes doing so can teach you important lessons, which increase your chances of success further down the line. So get back on the wagon and keep on keeping on! You’ve got this, we believe in you!
If you’re interested in starting your health and fitness journey with us…
Disclosure: This article is not to be used as medical advice. If you are currently experiencing physical or mental health issues, please seek professional advice from a fully qualified Nutritionist, GP or Physiotherapist.