Perhaps the most common goal of the "gym goer" is to lose weight and body fat. Generally people want to look better, feel healthier and more confident. However, losing weight/body fat is not the easiest of tasks and there are many "boxes" you need to tick if you are to be successful. These "boxes" will usually come with some sort of sacrifice to your lifestyle because lets be honest the lifestyle you lead now probably does not support fat loss (otherwise you wouldn't be looking to lose it". Below are a few princples that make fat loss possible and successful!
1) Energy Balance: This phrase is thrown around a lot in the fitness industry, but for good reason. Fat loss cannot be achieved if there is not a negative energy balance. What do I mean by this? Basically, you need to eat less energy (calories) than you expend. This can be achieved in a number of different ways from portion control, intermittent fasting, keto, paleo (the list goes on). Finding a method that you can adhere to is key. It is also important to make your caloric deficit realistic and adhereable. More aggressive deficits will allow you to lose fat quicker, but they are harder to adhere to AND training will more than likely be negatively effected. Less aggressive deficits might lead to a slower loss of fat but they are easier to stick to and training won't be so negatively hit. Find a method that allows you to function day to day but is also effective.
Although it is easy to say "you must be in a caloric deficit to lose fat", it certainly is not easy to do. Many factors like lack of sleep, macro-nutrient split, nutrient density, training, time of the month (for women) and social events can make a calorie deficit hard to adhere to. You also have metabolic adaptation to throw into the mix. So eating less is key, but how you optimise this will make or break your diet.
2) Macro-nutrient split: There are 3 macro nutrents - protein, carbohydrate (CHO) and fats. Each of these macro-nutrients play very important roles in the body and so each are important. When it comes to fat loss, as long as you are in the caloric deficit you will lose fat so perfecting how much of each macro-nutrient you intake isnt make or break - but it can help you adhere to your energy deficit.
Increasing your protein intake has been shown to help with immunity, the retention of muscle mass (through building and recovering it) and helping with satiation (it helps you feel fuller for longer). All of these points will allow you remain healthy, train harder and eat less - all of which will help your fat loss goals.
The ratio of carbs and fats largely doesn't hugely matter (as long as the energy deficit is achieved and protein is biased). Carbohydrates are great as a fuel source so will allow you to train harder (which can lead to an energy deficit). Fats are crucial for cell health, digestion, hormonal balance and more. The actual ratio of protein, carbs and fats you should consume will be subjective to you! It is massively worth hiring a coach to help you with this.
3) Nutrient density: Being in an energy deficit is key, but will be made much harder (and with a far higher risk to your health) if the calories you do consume are made up of junk food, sweets, chocolate and so on. Your health will suffer if vital nutrients are not consumed, so if you caloric need is 1000 calories and you then eat 600 calories worth of junk food then you have 400 calories left for nutrient dense foods. This is not a lot of calories, and you will very likely over consume on "good" foods because of the amount of junk foods you consumed. You need to make your calories count, optimising your macro-nutrient split and your nutrient intake is very important within your calorie deficit.
4) Getting enough sleep: Sleep can regulate hormones such as leptin and ghrelin (hormones in charge of appetite). Research has found that reduced sleep had reduced leptin and elevated ghrelin levels (Shahrad Taheri et al). This hormonal imbalance can lead you to feel hungry and lead to you not adhering to an energy deficit. A lack of sleep will also more than likely lead you to want to binge due to a lack of motivation and reduced energy levels.
5) Training & activity: There is no magical workout that will make you lose fat, the type of training you do will be dependent on two things. Your needs (if you are a competing athlete and have certain athletic criteria that you need to fulfill) and what you enjoy. The more you enjoy something the more likely you will stick to it.
There are many benefits of exercise (which I will not go into here) which make it essential for a healthy lifestyle. Of course one of the many benefits of exercise is enery consumption. Some exercise is more "calorie" burning than others but in my opinion adherement is more important that what is 100% optimal. As long as the exercise is safe & effective then just crack on.
General activity is also very important. Non Exercise Activity Thermogensis (NEAT) is a great way to increase your energy expendature without the fatiguing effects of exercise. Simply going for a long walk every day can amount to a lot of calories being used.
6) Managing metabolic adaptation: There will come a point in your fat loss journey where your fat loss will plateu. You havn't increased calories, nor have you stopped exercising - it has just stopped. This can be extremely frustrating, all your hard work is going no where - but why? Metabolic Adaptation (MA). MA is when your metabolic processes have matched your caloric intake, i.e. your body has "slowed down" to match the energy intake. This will mean that you are no longer in an energy deficit.
"What do I do now then?" I hear you ask...well there are a few things things you can do.
1) Decrease calories further: This can be difficult if your calories are already low.
2) Increase activity: Again, this can be difficult if your calorie intake is already very low.
3) Have a diet break: A diet break is when you increase calorie intake for a short period. This will increase your metabolism and give your more energy (which will more than likely increase your energy output). This will in turn re-establish your calorie deficit. After that period you can reduce your calories again and the fat loss will return. How long you break for will be dependent on the individual.
So there you have it, 6 key points to help with your fat loss!
My next blog will be giving you ideas on how to adhere to your diet! So stay tuned!
If you have any questions regarding this topic then please get in touch!