A simple guide as to how to lose fat
Everybody wants to lose fat.
The majority of clients that Personal Trainers see are absolutely concerned with too much body fat.
However its important to recognise that some body fat is essential to a healthy body and proper hormone function. Therefore it is important to make sure that your diet consists of a good amount of healthy fats and some saturated fat (yes this is important as well). Yes you still need to eat fat to lose fat properly.
Also important is to understand that Carbohydrates are not a bad thing. Carbs do not make you fat. Many people will tell you that cutting carbs out of the diet helps lose weight. This also applies to people who say cutting out Gluten makes you lose weight.
Generally cutting out carbs from a diet does make you lose weight and so does cutting out Gluten. However this is down to a cut in overall calorie intake not from the actual reduction in carbs or gluten (many carbs contain gluten). Its important to recognise this when you are trying to lose fat as demonising a certain food group can be the start towards a eating disorder.
Also unnecessarily eliminating food groups from your diet can lead to enzyme deficiency. Enzymes break down food in your digestive tract and help you absorb nutrients. Food elimination can also lead to vitamin and mineral deficiency. This can lead to your body becoming ‘intolerant’ to foods simply because you don’t eat them very often and then pig out on them every few weeks e.g. a pizza or takeaway after a carb fasted period.
So the important message is not what foods to cut out but how can you regulate your diet to be enjoyable but also lose fat effectively.
A few myths to dispell:
1. Insulin makes you fat
This is not wholly true. It is true that eating too many calories from carbohydrate can make you store fat as insulin carries the carbohydrate in its broken down form (Glucose) to the muscle, liver and fat cells. If the muscle and liver are full of glucose (glycogen) then the only way to deposit the excess is via storing it as fat (lipogenesis). This is because elevated blood sugar for too long can cause serious health issues and the reasons diabetic Type 1 people have to inject insulin.
If you eat enough carbs for your energy requirements then there will be no need to store any excess as it will not be there.
2. Dont eat carbs after 4pm (or whatever random time someone says) and you will burn more fat
There is no evidence to suggest this is true to any biological reason. If you eat more calories than you need in a day you will store some of it as fat. If you under eat calories in a day you may burn more fat. This is the ‘science’ behind this statement. As if you cut out carbs with still around 6-7 waking hours left in the day then its logical that you would have to use fats for energy and also that by eliminating carbs you will in effect be eating less calories. So the weight loss comes from reducing your calories not the elimination of carbs. If you cut out carbs but then pig out on a few slabs of lard and some sausages and bacon pushing your calories up then you will still gain weight.
Balance your calories and meals through the day and you may be able to eat carbs all day long even before bed.
3. Diets are restrictive
A diet does not need to be restrictive in terms of foods. Any food has a calorific value and other factors that determine how full you feel after the meal, how quickly the energy is released and how long after you eat it do you feel hungry again.
The only restrictive nature of a diet is the calories you need in the day to maintain normal body function. Do a bit of exercise and allow the body to be in a relaxed enough state to be happy with losing body fat.
The best diet is one where compliance is high, by this we mean that you can stick to it.
When constructing your diet a personal trainer or nutrition consultant should be checking with you if this is something you can see yourself doing in a years time. Unless you are a competitive athlete looking for a desired competition weight or aesthetic look then severe restriction is not a good option as it leads to cheating, normally on a grand scale, followed by massive guilt which can lead back to another severe restriction and the circle continues.
To ensure that you stick to your diet choose foods that you already eat and amend them to healthy options. For example changing your morning orange juice to sugar free orange squash can eliminate 20-30g of simple sugar carbs from your diet every day. If you are worried about losing Vitamin C then eat an orange which has more fibre and is not processed.
If you have a penchant for nibbling through the day then swap the crisps and sweets for nuts (in moderation) or fruits and berries which you can pick at through the day if needed. Remember that nuts although a ‘healthy’ food have a quite high calorie load and it can be easy to over eat these foods.
If you are not sure about calorie loads of foods then a good site is www.nutritiondata.self.com which can give you a quick guide to the foods you eat.
All the best compliance diets are ones adapted to peoples lives so your diet will not be the same as your friends.
Try to eat all food groups together, eating fats and proteins and carbs together will slow down how the meal is digested and keep you fuller longer.
Be wary of the ‘little and often’ mentality. People will tell you that eating lots of small meals often will ‘spike your metabolism’ and result in more fat loss.
This is untrue and actually proven in research that larger meals (when calories are matched over the day) can have a slightly higher Thermic Effect of Food. Although in reality the TEF has very little effect on fat loss.
In addition to this larger meals have the effect of filling you up and triggering the ‘full’ response from your stomach which offsets hunger for a longer period than a smaller meal which may not even fill you up and leave you hungry and wanting more food after your meal.
Many dieting clients that I see change over to larger meals but with fewer in the day when calories become more restricted and are able to keep to their diet more easily and so the ability to lose fat becomes more achievable.
Also be wary of ‘low fat foods’ as a lot of foods which are low in fat may have had sugar added for taste. Plus some ‘low fat’ foods are actually better in the ‘full fat version’ for example full fat bio yoghurt can actually be beneficial to the body as can the yolks in eggs.
Look for all natural ingredients where possible, if something has had fat removed artificially then it may have had sugar added to it to make it taste nice. This can mean that the calories removed from fat may actually be replaced by sugar. So no reason to actually have it.
Organic Full Fat milk is a good example as some evidence shows the Omega fatty acids profile of Full Fat Organic milk makes it more beneficial than opting for a reduced fat option. But remember its easy to consume a lot of calories in drinks. Milk can be a very highly loaded drink if you have too much.
How to lose fat
The golden question. Well fat loss ultimately comes down to eating less fuel than you burn in the day. By creating a deficit of calories you force the body to go to its energy stores to keep the body running in the day.
Stores can be in Carbohydrate (sugar) form or in Lipid (fat) form.
Generally the body will prefer to burn fat when you are resting or at low intensity exercise.
Carbohydrates will be the preferred source during HIT or weight training.
If you are at rest or a low intensity of energy expenditure – such as sitting down or just sat at your desk at work its highly likely that you’ll be burning the majority of your energy to do those activities from fat. However this is a very small amount of energy.
If you are exercising then you will be burning more carbohydrates as energy. Although this is not ‘fat’ you are burning a lot more calories per hour. So although you aren’t burning fat by going faster you are burning more calories in total during the day.
Remember its about the total you burn in the day, NOT the total fat you burn doing things.
There are certain equations you can use to work out how many calories in the day you need for effective fat loss.
One simple one that I find effective is here CALORIE ESTIMATOR
Then you can use simple free apps like My Fitness Pal to log your intake every day.
Here’s a tip, its unlikely you’ll burn more than 400 calories in an hours weights unless you are really pushing it or you are very big. So don’t fall into the trap of logging 1000 cals for your workout and then wondering why you’re not losing weight,
It’s always a guessing game of course and over time you will need to monitor your activity and intake. This will help to keep your body weight in check and maximise your fat loss efforts.
If you are interested in what type of cardio is best for burning fat you can read my blog post on it
If you need further help I offer a free consultation on the home page and I provide a professional nutrition consultancy to help clients achieve their goals and lose fat.