If you ask anyone which is THE number one topic in the fitness industry, without a doubt, the answer is FAT LOSS. There are fat loss workouts, diets, pills… you name it, yet nobody seems to really know how things work. So, let’s take closer look at it.
The technical part first: how does fat loss actually occur?
We all have fat cells – sad face here. They contain three fatty acids and one glycerol molecule. If you are in a caloric deficit, there is a release of adrenaline or noradrenaline and the body releases the fatty acids into the blood stream to be used as fuel (oxidation process). The fat cell is left empty: fat loss has occurred. Note that fat cells don’t die; they just shrink. Imagine them as little raisins waiting to become grapes again as soon as there is a caloric surplus. This means that someone who has lost a lot a of weight needs to be more conscious of his eating than someone who has always been lean.
The conclusion is simple: in order to lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit.
But how do you set it?
Start with 15 times the body weight to get your daily caloric baseline. For instance, a 200 lbs athlete can eat 15 x 200 = 3,000 calories per day in order to maintain the same weight. From here on you can set a deficit which can span anywhere from 300 to 1,000 calories per day, depending on the size of the athlete. Larger athletes can obviously have bigger deficits, but I do not recommend going over 1,000 calories per day, otherwise you are risking metabolic shutdown.
This approach will put you on a path to lose one to two lbs of fat a week. One pound of fat is 3,500 calories, so a 500 daily caloric deficit comes pretty close to one lbs lost.
What about very heavy individuals? Should they not lose more weight?
People have a misconception that heavier individuals can lose more weight than smaller people. That is not true; two pounds per week is still the threshold (aside from the first week where a large water loss can occur). The reason is simple math: two pounds of lost fat require a deficit of 7,000 calories for the week, which comes to about 1,000 per day. If we assume a daily workout and food reduction, it is manageable.
But how do those people lose not two, but 15 pounds per week on popular weight loss shows?
Two reasons: dehydration before the weigh in (similar to what boxers do) and muscle loss. Muscle only has about 400 calories per pound, so you can lose a pound a day if the diet is strict enough and you are not doing any type of weight training to protect the muscle.
This leads to the next point: weigh training is a must when trying to lose weight, as it protects your muscle thereby keeping your metabolic rate high.
As an add on to weight training, there is cardio, which is a good way to burn some additional calories.
A short word on fat burners: the good stuff is illegal. The end.
Last piece of advice: strive for good not perfect. If you get most meals and workouts in you are golden. If you slip up, it’s ok, just get back on the horse the next day!