The ultimate question and probably the most common question I get asked all the time: How to lose fat?
The Short Answer
It’s all about calories… Less calories going in than calories going out (expending/”burnt off”). This balance will result in fat loss regardless.
But, wait, what are calories? How can I measure them? What foods have what calories? What’s good for me?
Hold on… That’s coming now.
So sit back, get comfortable, grab a piece of fruit and a green tea and read the long answer below to get the full details on how to lose fat.
The Long Answer
This is could go on forever and ever answering this but I’m going to break down “how to lose fat” in a nice simple way.OK
So, now let me introduce you to what’s called the “Fat Loss Hierarchy” below.
Side note: this lovely image was created by Eric Helms, so massive thanks to him for creating this image!
This lovely image shows you basically how components of fat loss rank in terms of importance (from the most important at the bottom).
I’ll break it down for you now in the different sections, starting with the most important to least important (so from the bottom of the pyramid to the top).
Calories – Energy Balance
Like I said in the short answer to the question “How To Lose Fat”, it’s all about calories; or the energy you put in you versus the energy you put out. And before I continue on this, for those who don’t already know: calories are simply just a measurement of energy found in food, don’t over-complicate it.
Now each different types of food do have different balances of calories in, for example vegetables are very low in calories versus something like a olive oil (random example I know). But the most important thing you have to do is to make sure you’re on a lower amount of calories than you’re using up to lose the excess fat on you.
To count calories takes a little getting used to and requires using a weighing scale and either something like specific apps that can help or using google and an excel sheet. For most of my clients I recommend using MyFitnessPal as it’s simple and free to help them count calories. You will also need to workout how many calories that you need to have in one day, use this website to do that and where it says “Daily Calories” click “Help Me Find My Calorie Needs”.
So following the equation of less calories in versus calories out alone will get you to lose fat, regardless of what you eat.
You need protein during for fat loss for a couple of main reasons:
- Muscle retention – during a calorie deficit (less calories in versus out), you run the risk of losing muscle tissue as your body may break down to use as energy as it’s easier to break down than fat. This is especially important for those looking to lose fat without weight training.
- Satiety – Protein helps keep you feeling fuller when eating and after your meals due to its higher thermogenic effect, suppressing your appetite.
- Balance – Helps keep your body functioning properly as protein is used by the body for multiple things such as: skin, nails, hair, hormones, enzymes and other body chemicals.
The right amount of protein that you need is a highly debated subject in the last few years, but for me: I’d say as long as you’re getting around 1x – 1.5x your body weight in kilograms of protein (per day), then you’re solid. E.g. 70kg x 1.2 = 84g protein, 70kg x 1.5 = 105g protein, so on and so forth…
Now get both the Calories & Protein right and you’re about 80% complete and you’ll get very far following just these two steps of the hierarchy.
Micro-nutrients are things such as vitamins and minerals that you need to help keep your body functioning properly over a long term. So whilst they are lower in terms of importance of fat loss, don’t neglect these as your body may struggle with certain things depending on what you’re deficient on.
The healthier/fresh your food, the more of the micro-nutrients you will cover without having to worry too much about it. Also, try and keep your food varied to get different micro-nutrients.
Forget the “don’t eat before bed”, “no carbs after 6pm” or whatever drivel people spit out of their uneducated mouths. Your nutrient timing is not that important unless you’re some kind of athlete, bodybuilder or physique competitor, it doesn’t matter.
The most you should think of in terms of meal timing when it comes to the later stages of your fat loss or if you want to “optimize” it, then you may want to consider keeping carbs closer in timing to your workouts; that’s it.
Supplements are the last part of the puzzle you should consider, and generally you won’t need them at all if you’re food is in great shape. The most you may consider is multi-vitamin, omega 3 or protein powder. In fact that’s the most I’ll ever recommend usually.
Unfortunately, most supplements have a questionable effect due to most studies being done on them coming from the supplement companies (biased results). But most importantly, look at the definition of the word supplement:
“a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it…”
So when you consider this in terms of fat loss, the supplements will only help if your food is not already in a good condition then the effects of the supplements will be severely limited.
Fat loss can be feel like you’re tip toeing around a minefield at times, but if you stick to the key basics then you can’t go too far wrong. But the only thing you need to focus on mainly are:
- Count your calories and make sure you’re not eating too much.
- Exercise to help with the calorie deficit.