The pyramid above displays the crucial steps to a successful fat loss journey, each component of fat loss ranks in importance from bottom to top. We will discuss them in more detail in just a second but take a closer look at the pyramid and tell us what you notice or consider as strange about it?
Yes that’s right- Carbohydrates and fats have been presented as inhibitors of weight loss for decades yet this pyramid shows them as being the last step to worry about. We don’t want to discuss the spoilers as of yet but have you also noticed that this pyramid doesn’t include supplements? This is due to the controversial research or limited research on supplements. If you have a balanced diet, you DO NOT need supplements. You need to understand that supplements are only required if you are unable to obtain them from food but unless you are a vegan or a vegetarian you wouldn’t need to use supplements.
Okay okay, without any further ado, let’s get started.
The components of fat loss:
Persistence & Adherence
- The first component of fat loss is persistence and adherence. You could have the best or hardest gym session of all time but unless you come back for more, all that progress made in that gym session will deteriorate. Muscles require continuous strain to grow bigger and stronger. If you are in a process of building your muscles, you will require 48-72 hours rest before you train this muscle group again. This does not mean you can’t train another muscle group. For example, you could train your booty one day and shoulders on the next day. This means your booty will rest for that day whilst you make progress on another part of your body. This will mean that your muscle group will have sufficient amount of rest to allow them to repair and get stronger. If you exercise whilst they are sore, this may hinder your progress. Ensure your resting period is no longer than 3 weeks, after 3 weeks your muscles begin to diminish.
- Why would you want to gain muscle if you are trying to lose body fat? Great question. 1lbs of muscle will burn roughly an extra 60 calories per day at rest. This means, if you are resting (sleeping) you can burn approximately 150-200 calories. If you have a muscular physique you will burn a lot more than that which gives you a better advantage for weight loss and keeping fat off since caloric deficit is what drives fat loss.
- The second component of fat loss is a caloric deficit and this is the best way to reduce your body fat naturally. Caloric deficit refers to consuming less calories than your body requires. You would need to first calculate your maintenance calories and then your deficit, you can find more information on this here.
- A pro tip: 1lbs of fat is 3500 calories. So if you wish to lose 1lbs over 1 week you would need to reduce your calories by 500 (500 x 7 = 3500 calories). Consuming less calories than what your body requires will force your body to tap into your fat resources (body fat) to fuel your daily activities and your exercise whilst depleting those fat resources.
- The next component of fat loss is fitness exercising. Exercising is the best way to change your body composition. Whether your goal is to lose weight, tone up or build muscle, exercise is your golden token. What kind of exercise is the best? Well different types of exercise have a different purpose and a different effect on your body:
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High intensity and explosive exercise that you would perform over a short period of time. HIIT is normally marketed to be best for fat burning because your body has two different energy systems; aerobic and anaerobic. HIIT taps into the anaerobic energy system as this is the one to provide your body with explosive short-term energy without the need for oxygen. HIIT workout is usually very intense hence why it will be short-term, it doesn’t give oxygen a chance to be delivered to your muscles so the lactic acid within your muscles will begin to build up. Then, you’ll start to feel that burning feeling. During HIIT workout, you will burn more sugar stores than fat. However, HIIT workout has an INCREDIBLE effect post-workout. HIIT increases your metabolism which means that you will burn more calories at rest post-workout than you normally would. This makes it a great way to burn fat as it creates a bigger caloric deficit through the day.
Low Intensity Interval Training (LIIT)
Refers to lengthy low intensity exercise that lasts longer than 2-3 minutes, like 30 minute jog. LIIT taps into the aerobic energy system which has the ability to break down more than one energy source; fats, sugars, carbohydrates and protein. Aerobic system requires oxygen for functioning. You would not be able to perform a long-term exercise like HIIT, without the supply of oxygen. Unlike HIIT, LIIT burns fat during exercise and has little effect post-workout. It does increase your metabolism but not as much HIIT.
Exercising with weights and gradual weight overload. Weight training is great for fat loss, toning and building muscle, and maintain lean muscle mass. Why would you want to lift weights if you are trying to lose weight? As you’ve read earlier, 1lbs of muscle burns around an extra 60 calories per day at rest creating a larger caloric deficit thus helping you burn more fat quicker. The fastest way to actually burn fat is to build muscle first and then shed fat, you won’t look pretty during the process of course because you’ll also gain fat but the end outcome is THE BEST!
- This refers to monitoring how your body is reacting to what you are currently doing. If you are eating at a caloric deficit to lose weight, the best way to monitor your weight loss is using scales. It is recommended to weigh yourself every day in the morning after you have been to the ladies / boys room and take an average over the week to determine the most accurate weight loss. Why not weigh yourself at the end of the week every week? Well your body weight fluctuates every single day, this may be due to water retention, and foods consumed the previous day or even your bowel movements.
How does that work?
- If you weighed yourself, for example, every Sunday and the foods you consumed the previous days or you drank more water etc. the scales may show even an increase in the weight. But if you took your weight every morning and take the average over the week, the scales may show a weight loss simply because it has accommodated for the weight fluctuations over the week. But it isn’t just about the weight, progress monitoring also refers to analysing how your body is responding to the exercise. When you decide to go on a diet and you consume at a caloric deficit, your metabolism slows down.
Protein & Fibre
- Protein and Fibre are essential components of a balanced weight loss diet.
-Proteins helps build muscle as well as maintain lean muscle mass. How? Well protein is made up of 20 amino acids; 8 of which are essential amino acids. Essential amino acids mean that our body cannot make them and therefore, needs to attain them from our diet. Each amino acid has a specific role within our body, Leucine is the one responsible for signaling for muscle protein synthesis (MPS) after consumption of protein. MPS means the repair, growth and strengthening of muscles. It is important to consume a source of protein within 45 of completing your workout. This is important because that’s when your body is within its anabolic state. Anabolic state means that any protein your body will consume within this window will be signaled to support MPS. If you consume protein thereafter, you will simply be consuming protein, some may support your muscle recovery and growth but some may support other bodily functions.
-Fibre is amazing for weight loss, when you ingest fibre it turns into a gel-like mass that cleans your digestive tract as it slowly moves through it. This helps with cleaning of any food residue, but most importantly, it also slows down your digestion. This is very beneficial during a diet as it will keep you fuller for longer. As you feel fuller for longer you won’t eat as much in the day therefore, staying within your caloric deficit.
Carbs & Fats
Just like protein and fats, these are essential components of a balanced diet. Before we get into Carbs & Fats we would like to simplify a couple of terms: Lipolysis is when your body taps into your body fat, releases fatty acids from your body fat areas and uses it as energy for a workout or normal functioning. Whereas fat oxidation refers to breathing out those previously released fatty acids. Okay, now that’s covered, let’s continue!
When you consume high carbohydrate and low fat, insulin will inhibit lipolysis and fat oxidation (fat burning stages) and increase carbohydrate oxidation (burn simple sugars instead). On the other side, if you consume high fat and low carbohydrates, your insulin levels will be low in which case lipolysis and oxidation will be increased to spare glucose (simple sugars). Whereas, if you consume moderate amount of carbohydrates and fats then you will burn roughly equal amounts of fat and carbohydrates (Norton and Baker, 2019). Carbohydrates act to spare fat oxidation so most of the fat you consume will be stored as body fat.
Time for a little study..
So this is what carbs do within our body, but do they actually hinder our weight loss? That’s a little more debatable. There was a meta-analysis (study of studies) conducted by Kevin D and Juen Guo (2017) who looked at Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diets vs High Carb Low Fat (HCLF) diets. The results have shown that HCLF diets provided participants with a little more advantage in energy expenditure (calories out), enabling them to burn an extra of 26 calories per day compared high LCHF. Furthermore, the results showed an increase in fat loss, approximately 16 grams of more fat loss per day compared to LCHF. Furthermore, opposing evidence against CIM emerged. The experiment involved drugs which inhibited lipolysis, this drug was called Liraglutide which increases insulin levels. The study results showed neither fat gain nor increase in hunger occurred. Therefore, if insulin was the main driver of fat gain then this drug should have caused weight gain in participants and instead it caused weight loss. This is why carbs are not in the first two stages of your successful weight loss journey.
Appetite and our ability to store fat are all controlled by hormones, like insulin, and changes in the levels of these hormones. Eating fats will not actually cause fat to accumulate in the body, fat storage is regulated by a number of hormones like insulin. Insulin is released in response to rising blood sugar levels which results from carbohydrates and protein not fat. Reducing fats in your diet will create a caloric deficit since fats are higher in calories, providing you with 9 calories per 1 gram of fat.
Also, as there are different types of fats; saturated and unsaturated, gram per gram the calories are the same. Remember low fat foods have higher levels of sugar in them. It will be the excess calories that lead to weight gain. Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats will simply provide you with cardio protective properties but exchanging the saturated fats for unsaturated like monounsaturated or polyunsaturated will have no impact on weight loss since they are equal caloric value and there is no evidence that one fat may be more thermogenic than another. The thermogenic process refers to creating heat within the body which can assist in weight loss. The only benefit of replacing saturated with unsaturated is the fact that the fat will be easier to be used for energy. Saying that, we conclude that calories in and calories out are what determines weight loss or weight gain.
What about the supplements?
We mentioned at the start of this article that we haven’t included supplements in the pyramid. The reasoning behind it is because a lot of supplements are unnecessary. Fat burners are big on promises but often not only fail to deliver on these promises but can be quite harmful to our health. A lot of fat burners have not been sufficiently researched but yet they are still marketed to be superior to ordinary dieting. Having a balanced diet is really all you need.
When it comes to fat loss, caloric deficit and exercise is what is really going to drive your success! Therefore, you can use apps like MyFitnessPal or you can purchase a so called Calorie Bible. this book contains every possible food, meal and takeaway you can think of including even fast foods like Mcdonalds and KFC. This book is great because it not only provides calories per food but also macronutrients (fats, protein, carbs). You can purchase it here.
In conclusion, Persistence & adherence, caloric deficit and Fitness Training, Progress monitoring, Protein & Fibre and Carbs & Fats are the most crucial steps to your weight loss success. You will not make progress without these, you need to keep working harder and be persistent with what you are doing! Dieting is also difficult, and we get it. One philosopher once said “When the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change, that’s when we change”. So, is it time to change?
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Kevin, h. and Juen, G. (2019). Obesity Energetics: Body Weight Regulation and the Effects of Diet Composition. [online] pubmed. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5568065/ [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].
Norton, L. and Baker, P. (2019). Fat loss forever. 1st ed