In the last few years, I’ve seen a pattern when it comes to talking to people about fat loss. It seems to be a topic that people learn backwards. They worry about nutrient ratios, specific types of carbohydrates, meal timing, special supplements, and anything else besides the most basic and important question; how much do they eat? This is the most important thing about body composition and this is what we will look at in this article.
First we need to establish a few things. This article is not telling you how to diet, it is simply establishing a base from which we can have a conversation later. If you don’t understand these very simple facts about energy use and metabolism you won’t be able to understand any type of diet. This article will put metabolism very simply. Of course, metabolism is not constant and, of course, Calories can be treated differently in the body in certain conditions but by worrying about these things and not the basic aspect of energy in versus energy out people are getting confused about fat loss. So with the simple math in this article we are looking at things as a constant at first so it is as easy as possible to understand. Again, I find many people caught up in the details and they miss the big picture.
A Calorie is a unit of energy. It is a simple measurement like a watt or BTU. A Calorie wrote with a “C” or as “kcal” is the amount of energy it takes to raise a kilogram of water 1°C. It is not something evil that is in food. It is simply the amount of energy that is contained in that food. If you burned the food in a controlled environment, you could measure its Calories based on the thermal energy it puts out. The capital C represents 1000 calories (small c). We don’t use Calories (small c) to measure energy in food, we use Calories (capital C).
1 pound of fat contains 3500 Calories.
Because of this, if you want to lose 1 pound of fat you must burn 3500 Calories. There is no way around this. It is very simple. Do not let people confuse you. Let’s pretend that…
You eat 2300 Calories per day.
You burn 2200 Calories per day.
So at the end of the day, you have 100 Calories left over. If everything stayed exactly the same in 35 days, you would gain 1 pound of fat. (Remember there is 3500 Calories in 1 pound of fat. So 100 Calories x35days=3500)
Let’s look at it another way
You eat 1500 Calories per day.
You burn 2500 Calories per day.
So at the end of the day, you have burned 1000 Calories more than you have taken in. If everything stayed exactly the same, you would burn 1 pound of fat every 3.5 days.
Simple, isn’t it?
A 1000 Calories deficit per day is a lot. You would be pretty hungry. That is why it is generally considered that 2 pounds or 1 kg per week of fat loss are the safety limit. Of course, the bigger you are when starting a diet, the more water weight you will lose so your initial weight loss may be more than 2 pounds a week usually this is the most people are burning when it comes to fat. So if you are 40 pounds overweight you have some work to do. There is no way around this. You need to get to work and accept that it will take a long time. The good part is that the same laws of thermodynamics that make this process seem slow are the same ones that allow you to keep making progress if you put the work in.
Metabolism is not constant. It changes day-to-day based on many different factors. When you eat less, it slows down to compensate but it can’t slow down enough to stop you if you stay active and if your caloric deficit is enough. There are many resources you can look at to figure out about how many Calories you burn per day. Using that number, you can figure out about how many Calories you can eat. This is your starting point. Understanding and controlling this will solve most people’s body composition problems. It is this easy, but people keep looking for other solutions because this takes work and time.
Again this article isn’t telling you how to diet or giving you a nutrition program but here are a few things NOT to do if you want to lose weight.
- Don’t drink anything was sugar in it ever. This includes fruit juice.
- Eat often enough so that you aren’t starving at night and make bad decisions.
- Don’t drink or at least very much limit your consumption of alcohol until you have lost the weight.(alcohol loves to make you fat).
- Be accountable and plan your eating.
- Get all snacks, cookies, chips, etc. out of your house. You cannot give yourself the option.
- Accept that your lifestyle will change at least temporarily.
- Accept that it will be difficult.
Dieting is hard because you are fighting an instinct. Eating is something that you need to do in your body does not understand that you have food constantly available so it is telling you all the time to eat more. This is the instinct that you have to fight against. The first few weeks will be very tough then you will build the habits and routine you need to lose the weight. You will need to change your lifestyle and yes, you may not “enjoy life” as much, but it is a temporary sacrifice so you can enjoy a much longer life. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t make excuses. Just get to work.