What does it take to lower body fat
A lot of people that I have spoken to both online and offline seem to be baffled by this decade old question "How do I lose body fat?". They would share with me all of the weird techniques and diets that they have been and the odd products that they have purchased from the internet that might in fact harm their health. All in the aim of a good looking and aesthetically pleasing physique. I even had a close friend of mine that bought a bottle filled with approximately 60 tablets that would allegedly help you drop 20 pounds of fat in a month for, get this, 190 dollars (I am not going to mention the name of the product for legal reasons).
The weight loss market is without doubt one of the largest sectors of the fitness industry that has millions of people stressing over the fact that they cannot seem to lose the wanted pounds they so desperately want to get rid of.
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Ivan Gospodinov, I am a 21 year old blogger and fitness junkie that has been learning and practicing fitness for about 6 years now. I have both gained weight (I was about 240 pounds at one point due to a stupid diet fad that I followed that would have allegedly gain huge amounts of muscle, but ended up making me extremely fat, with over 22% of body fat, and with almost no muscle gain in the process) and I managed to drop my weight down to 190 in about 5 moths. That is approximately 10 pounds of body fat that I lose every month, with, of course, trying to preserve as much muscle mass as I possibly could. In other words I have personally went through the process of weight loss and have learned a thing or two about decreasing body fat percentage.
Weight loss vs Fat loss
Something really important that I really need to come across before I start this article is that what I am about to share with you is not exactly about losing weight. There is a difference between losing fat and losing weight. Losing weight is easy, however losing fat is a hard and time consuming process. Don't let that scare you, though! With the right set of knowledge and tools you can manage and shed those extra unhealthy pounds of stored body fat in no time!
When somebody is talking about losing weight, he or she might quite literally be referring to your overall body weight. Body weight is not just determined by fat storage there are muscles, bones, water, hair, and many other elements that come into play. What we are aiming for is creating an aesthetically pleasing body, meaning that we are aiming to preserve muscle mass as much as we possibly can and lose as much body fat as we possibly could.
That way we can achieve a visually pleasing physique. If you are just focusing your attention at losing weight then all you have to do is be on a calorie deficit and do as much physical activity as you possibly can you will drop down a lot of weight. The problem, of course, is that you will lose muscle weight along the way and this will result in a very skinny and unattractive physique, as well as unhealthy.
And for all of you girls out there who believe that muscles are ugly to have on a female's body, don't forget that your glutes or butt is basically muscle. Or in other words, if you lose muscle mass you will have a flat butt.
What drives fat loss
Fat loss is only driven by an acceleration of your overall metabolic rate. Your metabolic rate is the rate in which macronutrients such as carbohydrates, protein and lipids (fats) are converted into energy. As you can probably assume the average metabolic rate of the organism is controlled by the genetics of the person. There are people with weak rates and then there are those with extremely fast ones.
However, even though genetic plays a huge role in determining what your overall metabolic rate is going to be, it can still be increased or decreased in relation to the body's lifestyle. If you tend to be one of those people who prefer to eat greens, control their caloric intake, manipulate their insulin, and exercise on a daily basis, then obviously you are going to have a heightened metabolic rate.
In other words, when we speak about fat loss our main aim is to elevate and maintain a high metabolic rate for as long as we possibly can without harming the muscles.
How exactly do we prevent muscle loss?
Your body is a very tricky thing. Believe it or not, due to natural survival insticts our body believes that it is beneficial for it to contain as much body fat as possible and this is especially relevant for women. Let's not forge what fat is - it's a secondary source of energy that the body has stored due to it's incapability to use all of it in its primary state. When the body has too much energy that it's not going to use it stores it as fat so that it can use it later on as a source of energy.
It's not only that, body fat is also beneficial for protecting the immune system of the body and working as a cushioning tool for organs and other parts of the body. So there is a healthy level of body fat that we quite literally need in order to live.
As a result to all of this we tend to lose a lot of body fat in the beginning of the fat loss program. This tends to slow down as time passes due to the fact that the body is trying to preserve as much body fat as it possibly could, again due to survival instincts. Imagine the scenario where you are stuck on an uninhabited island and there are no sources of food for another 100 miles. You will need to walk all of that distance and you will need energy in order to do so. Considering the fact that you do not have a primary source of energy, which would be carbohydrates, you will need to use your secondary - body fat. If you have low supplies of body fat then that means that there is less energy that the body can use in a serious and dangerous situation. As a matter a fact your body will at some point start breaking down muscle and then break down fat.
This is the main reason why endurance athletes, such as a marathon runner, are so much skinnier than an explosive athlete such as sprinter. Your body will do it's best to prevent fat loss and would even promote muscle loss!
What we are aiming for in this case - to elevate our overall metabolic rate and keep there as for as long as we possibly can WITHOUT keeping the body in movement. WHAT!? This sounds like made up mumbo jumbo, doesn't it. Again, coming back to the sprinter and marathoner example. The marathoner runs for about 2 hours at a low intensity while the sprinter runs for 10 minutes at a much higher intensity. Here's the funny thing, though. The metabolic rate of the marathoners is ever so slightly elevated during those two hours (about 10-15% of an increase) and once those two hours pass their metabolic rate falls back to normal. For the sprinters, however, their metabolic rate is elevated for hours after they have finished their 10 minutes worth of high intensity running and at a higher rate (anywhere from 20-25%). By keeping their body in movement about 12 times less than the marathon runner the sprinter is able to raise his or her metabolic rate twice of what the marathoner is able and for as twice as longer than the marathoner (4-5 hours).
Nutrition and fat loss
With nutrition you are aiming for the same thing - elevated metabolic rate. You want to increase your metabolism and keep it there for as long as possible. Usually, nutrition is the most effective way to lower body fat and preserve muscle, but there are a couple of things that need to be examined in order to do so.
There are four main things that you need to make sure are covered with your nutrition:
- The amount of overall calories that you consume: the total calories that you consume need to be slightly lower than what your body needs to maintain your current weight. There are a ton of calorie calculators out there that will help you get a rough understanding of what is the quantity that your body requires to maintain its weight. I really like this one and believe that it gives really close numbers. You must not lower your caloric intake drastically and do not lower it with a high amount as this will increase your catabolic rate (muscle breakdown) and would actually in time hinder your fat loss capabilities.
- The way in which you spread your calories: this should be understood by everybody. The total amount of calories that you need to consume should be spread equally throughout your meals. If there is a surplus then your body will be unable to convert the calories in energy and then store it as body fat; and if there is a shortage then your are going to lack on performance during your training and would miss out of important macronutrients. So everything needs to be spread evenly.
- Insulin manipulation: Insulin manipulation sounds like something complicated and serious, but in fact is super straightforward and simple to figure out. It's all about spreading your carbohydrate consumption in a way so that you reap the benefit of having heightened levels of insulin during your training which will improve fat loss and overall performance; and lower levels when your body is at rest - late at night. All you need to do is increase your carbohydrate consumption before your workout and after it so that way all of those carbohydrates go into use and are not stored as body fat, and then late at night you can decrease carb consumption or eliminate it altogether.
- Volume: Quite frankly the more meals that you consume (that are evenly spread) the better it is for you. I would usually recommend 5-6 meals but I know people who go for higher amounts such as 7-8 and then of course there are people who cannot afford to constantly be eating due to work on school that would eat 4-5 times (which is still ideal). Or meals should be 2-3 hours a part at worst 4 hours. The reason why this is so important is because you are constantly providing your body with a steady flow of nutrients that will fill you up and ensure that you have no bad cravings for junk food. You are spreading your calories evenly ensuring that your body will have enough time to fully consume them and not store for body fat and you are keeping your metabolic rate elevated for a longer period of time due to the fact that you are consuming foods rich of macronutrients and micronutrients and your body will actually need energy to break down the fiber of the foods you consume meaning that you are literally burning fat all day long without doing any sort of activity and preventing muscles from being loss.
What you need to understand from this article is that fat loss is completely controlled by one aspect - your metabolism. What you need to aim for is increasing your metabolic rate as high as possible for as long as you can without any long physical activity that would lead to harming your muscle mass.
Training and nutrition are your two best friends, with nutrition taking first place. You need to make sure you follow the 4 key fundamental steps when construction your diet to ensure that you maximize your results.
When training aim for anything that is higher intensity and does not involve long physical movement and activity. Anything that will really get your heart beat up and will keep it there for long - swimming, sprinting, hiking, running up stairs, compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, lunges, jumping jacks) that involves the activation of a lot of muscles, cycling, etc.
Thank you for taking the time and reading this brief but very informative article! I hope that everything is a whole lot more clear now.