If you want to lose body fat, there are several things that need to happen. The first thing is a caloric deficit – you must burn more calories than you eat. This is the only way your body can get the energy it needs from your fat stores. It’s a common mistake to think that exercise itself burns a lot of calories and if we exercise more, we don’t need to reduce our caloric intake. That’s wrong; exercise does burn calories but not nearly as much if you are not also decreasing your food consumption.
If you continue to eat the same amount of calories you’ll never lose fat, no matter how much exercise you do. Exercise increases your metabolism (the number of calories you burn), but it’s still a relatively small amount. You need to eat less or consume a lower caloric diet to lose fat.
Losing body fat is not as simple as eating less and exercising more, but those are the basic principles. There are many details involved in losing body fat, including how much of each macronutrient (protein, fat, or carbohydrate) you should eat. This article will focus on the basics of dieting – caloric intake and macronutrient balance.
Caloric Intake for Body Fat
The first thing to understand is that your body needs energy (calories), just like a car needs gas to keep it running. If you don’t provide enough gas (energy), your body will begin to break down its own fat stores. That is the goal – to use up all of your own fat while providing enough energy for the simple day-to-day functions of your body.
A caloric deficit can be created in many ways, but some are more effective than others. Eating less seems like a logical way to create a deficit – just eat less food and you’ll lose weight. Unfortunately, everyone’s appetite is different; some people are more hungry than others. This is why it’s necessary to keep very strict control of your caloric intake when creating a deficit for fat loss.
It’s important to realize that if you don’t know how many calories you’re eating each day, you won’t lose any weight. If your body uses less calories than you eat, then yes, you will lose weight – but it’s not the kind of weight that people are generally trying to drop. If you don’t know how many calories are in different foods, this article is here to help!
You can use a website or phone app to track your calories. Many people lose weight just by keeping a food log because it forces them to be conscious of what they’re eating and how much. Of course, using the number on the package is only an approximation of how many calories you are actually taking in each day. You can also find calorie counts for most foods at websites like:
Macronutrient Balance, there are some more details on each macronutrient – Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats.
There are more details on protein in the box below. Protein is essential for building muscle, but it cannot be used as a source of energy by your body so it does not have a direct impact on the number of calories you burn each day. It’s still important to eat enough protein while dieting because it has very high satiety and can help you feel full. Protein also helps prevent muscle loss while dieting.
There are details about carbohydrates. Carbs provide us with energy to do things, whether it’s an intense physical endeavor or something as simple as typing this article. Carbs are stored very efficiently by the body, but eating too many while dieting can lead to fat gain. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re eating the right amount of carbs while also creating a caloric deficit.
Carbohydrates are stored in our liver and muscles as glycogen. The amount of glycogen stored in the body (along with water) is what makes you look “full.” The glycogen stores can be depleted, but they can also be filled back up by ingesting carbs. This is why some people will complain of not losing any weight on a low-carb diet; it’s because they are eating too little carbs and their glycogen stores are never depleted, causing them to never use their own body fat for energy.
When carbs are restricted on a diet, our insulin levels become very low (because the pancreas is pumping out more and more insulin trying to get the body to store all of that glucose in the liver and muscles). Once insulin levels are very low, the body can effectively use fat for energy because insulin is no longer locking it away in the fat cells.
Insulin levels typically stay low as long as we’re on a caloric deficit and restricting carbs, but after about three days of carbohydrate restriction, our muscles will become depleted of glycogen stores. Once this occurs, our bodies turn to the liver for glucose and if that depletion continues, then our bodies turn to protein (such as muscle) for energy.
There are details about fats below in their own section. Fats have a high satiety level and can help you feel full, which makes them great at maintaining your caloric deficit (which is what we want). However, just like proteins and carbs, we don’t want to eat too much fat while dieting because it can easily be stored as body fat.
How Much Protein Should I Eat?
Protein is essential in building muscle mass, even when you’re cutting. The leaner you get, the more important protein becomes in maintaining your muscle while cutting. This is why we stress eating enough protein even while restricting calories and carbs; it prevents your muscles from being used as energy so they can be used to build more muscle instead!
Protein also has a very high satiety level, which means you’ll stay fuller for longer so you won’t have cravings or feel the need to snack as much.
Some studies have shown that very high protein diets can have a negative impact on health so it’s important not to go overboard here. Studies have found associations between eating meat and cancer or meat and heart disease, but these findings are far from conclusive. In fact, there are several other factors that need to be considered when looking at these studies because healthy meat-eaters are always found to have a lower risk of cancer. For example, vegetarians are often more health-conscious in general so they can be expected to have a lower risk of heart disease and cancer just based on their eating habits. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat enough protein, especially while cutting.
How Much Fat Should I Eat?
A lot of people will tell you that fats are bad for you when really, they’re just misunderstood. Fats have a high satiety level which can help you feel full throughout the day so you won’t need to snack as often. These are the fats found in oils (olive, canola, sunflower, etc), avocado, meat, and dairy products. These fats are also the preferred energy source for your body so they’re great at promoting fat loss.
Fats have been associated with heart disease but if you look closely at those studies, it’s usually because of the processed trans fats found in any fried foods and baked goods. There are still questions on whether or not saturated and trans fats cause heart disease and it’s pretty clear that unsaturated fats (the healthy kind) can actually prevent heart disease.
Fat also has important roles in the body, such as regulating hormone levels, keeping your hair healthy, producing cell membranes, etc. It’s clear that fat is essential to your body and you should never cut it out completely!