I’ve talked quite a bit about fat loss and dieting recently, but today I’m going to help you prioritise your effort for an honest look at fat loss and body composition.
Most people focus on the wrong things for fat loss, or things that don’t really matter. It isn’t our fault either. We are bombarded with awful diet advice by people trying to sell us stuff.
New diet trends, health products, fat burners, exercise plans, miracle pills!
They sell, we buy. But why?
Because we love short cuts, new shiny promises and things that make it easy.
We don’t like to be told we have to improve, we like quick fixes.
We don’t want it to be our fault, we want to blame something, refined foods, carbs, fats, sugar, insulin, metabolism, time, work, food timing etc
We then buy into the things that support this, keto, IF, paleo etc
Whilst all this is going on, we start to forget the basics. The stuff that really matters. So, today I want to take a step back and go back to basics.
What people think they need for fat loss and improved body composition
What they actually need
Let’s break down each of these
Eat fewer calories than you burn. Everything else is interesting and can help you towards your goal, but nothing breaks this rule.
See above in regards to calories. Eat bread within your calories and lose weight. Eat bread and exceed your calories and you will not. (Garlic bread dipped in mayo will certainly make achieving a deficit more challenging though.)
If you do a cardio workout you will burn slightly more calories than you burn when doing no cardio.
If your BMR is 2000 calories (BMR = calories your body needs to function function whilst resting) then you burn on average 166 calories an hour throughout the day. You will actually be burning slightly more than this because you burn more when you are awake than when asleep, sleeping you burn around 15% less.
If you go for a 30 min run and burn 400 calories you burned approximately 200 calories more than you would have burned at rest.
Which is the equivalent to
- Mixed Nuts – 33 grams (a small handful of nuts is 30-50g)
- Avocado – 125 grams (average avocado is 170g)
- Snickers Chocolate Bar – 41 grams (snickers is 48g)
“Hang on, but my fitness tracker tells me I burn 1000 calories in an hour…”
Fitness tracker apps and gadgets are notoriously unreliable, and commonly overestimate the number of calories burned considerably, often by around 50%.
This will hopefully illustrate that trying to out-burn your intake isn’t easy.
I always encourage my clients to train for things like – improved health, strength, fitness, muscle gain or maintenance, better movement, enjoyment and then manage calorie intake for fat loss.
If you only gauge the effectiveness of your weight training sessions by the number of calories you burn during a session, you’ll miss out on all the other benefits that weight training brings.
“When I can burn more calories with cardio than weights then why not do cardio?”
If you do 30min of cardio instead of weights you may well burn 400 instead of 300 (numbers for example only) but as shown earlier this is only 200 or 100 more than you would at rest.
This is just 100 cals difference between the two, which is –
- Mixed Nuts – 16.5 grams (a small handful of nuts is 30-50g)
- Avocado – 62.5 grams (average avocado is 170g)
- Snickers Chocolate Bar – 20.5 grams (snickers is 48g)
Which you would likely agree can be managed easily enough with your nutrition .
Adding weights will benefit you in many more ways than from calorie expenditure alone.
- You will maintain more muscle and improve body composition.
- You will burn extra calories during recovery
- You will have a Marginally Higher metabolic rate due to having more muscle
For the best results do some weights, do some cardio and get your calorie right.
Dieting with no grasp on energy balance leaves your progress completely to chance, no matter how strict you are or how much you sweat.
- If they don’t focus on energy balance they are missing the point.
- If they help you manage your calories and keep them under control they halfway there
- If they ensure you eat what you need for fat loss they will help
- If you don’t enjoy the way you eat, can sustain the way you eat, don’t get results from the way you eat then it’s time to rethink things.
You don’t need any special tricks and you can still see results with food you enjoy if you keep your calorie on track.
Healthy foods are not fat loss foods
To be healthy, you should primarily eat healthy foods. However, healthy foods are not fat loss foods. There really is no such thing as fat loss foods. Healthy foods are not healthy if they are causing you to at an unhealthy weight.
It is easiest to hit your calories with low calorie healthy foods such as green vegetables, berries and low fat meats and white fish, as you can fill up on these foods without consuming many calories.
Some of the most healthy foods you can eat are actually quite high in calories, such as nuts, seeds, fruit, eggs and oily fish.
This does not mean you should avoid these foods, as they contain many essential vitamins and minerals your body requires to stay healthy.
However, such foods (like any other) should be eaten within your calorie needs for fat loss.
The single easiest thing you can do to push yourself into a calorie deficit is to reduce the number of calories you consume. You can do this by eating less food (which can be really hard) or eating healthier, less calorie dense, less processed food (which I think is easier, but it really depends on you).
The second easiest thing you can do is move around more. I’m not talking about all-out exercise. I’m talking about taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking to the shops instead of driving, taking a 5 minute break from your work every hour for a little leg stretch, or using your lunch break to have a quick lunch followed by a walk, rather than spending it sitting in the canteen.
The third easiest thing you can do is to exercise more. Adding a bit of low or high intensity exercise to your weekly routine will help encourage your body to burn off some of its fat reserves, but only if you don’t eat more to compensate for the exercise. If you start eating cake because you’re ‘earned it’ you will not lose fat.
The best thing you can do is a little bit of all three.