There is one constant with those of us who make training and nutrition a priority regardless of the day of the week – the management of the state of our body. In particular, there are those of us who put a premium on remaining lean and muscular, and therefore must either be in a building phase, a maintenance phase, or a fat loss phase. With today being devoted to fat loss, I think you know what we are going to be discussing.
There are so many diets that are followed and endorsed by so many people. Some are hugely successful and have a devoted fan base to whatever system that they bought into and ultimately got them the results they were hoping for. I have been known to have my own opinions about which method of fat loss and muscle retention is superior – for the record mine is the right way (I’m kidding-sort of), but that’s not what this article is about.
This article is going to give you the basics regarding fat loss to remove the mystery. By the end of these articles you too will be able to design your own diet and be successful with it. In truth, understanding the basic principles will help to ensure your success regardless of the approach you take. You know by now that I believe education is the most important component of our success in training and nutrition. Otherwise we are just following what someone else does and not making our own decisions. I think that choosing our own path with all of the information is always the right way to get to our desired destination. Let’s see what we can learn here today. Are you ready?
The first component that needs to occur before fat loss can begin to take place is that a caloric deficit must be created. This doesn’t matter what kind of diet you’re on, it’s just simple math. There of course are variables within this formula, but we’ll get to those later. Regardless of how you intend to manipulate your macros, which will have an effect of what you end up using as far as energy stores to make up the deficit, the main thing is that you must take in less energy than you use. To put in plain and simple terms, you have to create a fuel imbalance between the fuel that is consumed, and the fuel that is used.
There are many ways to achieve this goal of using more fuel than is taken in. The most well used of all of the options is to simply eat less. This will absolutely create a shortfall of energy that will need to be made up through the utilization of the body’s stores of energy. That is the method used in most diets that you read about. There are several ways to achieve this method of consuming fewer calories though, than simply eating less of what you are currently consuming. In reality, this is a recipe for failure, as no real changes other than the volume that is consumed have taken place.
This is the time when I’m going to revisit the issue of macro nutrients. Or more specifically, the manipulation of them. One method that is very popular in the attempt to lower overall caloric intake in order to create a deficit is to lower the fat content that one is consuming. The advantages of this approach are that carbohydrates are considerably less dense calorically, than fats are. A gram of fat has nine calories, and a gram of carbohydrate has only four. Carbohydrate also has the edge as far as its thermic effect, or the heat it produces in the digestion of them that is essentially wasted and results in fewer calories absorbed. This difference is minor at only three percent, but is still worthy of mention in the interests of being complete. The aim of this series is to give you the best information from which to draw your own conclusions.
Another approach that I guarantee gets you extremely fast results, but I would only recommend using it for a short period of time, is following a protein only diet. If you want to get ripped fast, this is the quickest way. I said the quickest way, not the way that is the best for retaining your muscle at the same time as dropping body fat. Due to the fact that you are going to have a hard time getting very many calories from chicken breasts and leafy green vegetables, you are certainly going to create a caloric deficit. Likely a fairly large one at that. I have done this method for several short periods of time and the results are dramatic, especially if you are fairly low in body fat anyway. This will get the last bit off of you. It will work if you have a lot to lose also of course, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing this for a prolonged period of time. There is of course the option of applying my Lose and Cruise Method with this protocol to ensure lasting results and good health as well.
The reason this type of approach is very effective apart from the fact that you will have created a caloric deficit, is that protein is very thermic compared to the other two macro nutrients. This helps to further deepen the caloric deficit outside of the equation typically used, because the taking on of the protein calories actually causes the burning of more calories. Protein is unique in that regard. Another advantage is that protein serves to blunt hunger. You will feel full on a relatively small serving of just protein. This makes this type of diet easy to adhere to as there isn’t much of a hunger issue, unlike the low-fat diet which will have you feeling starved 24 hours a day.
The disadvantages of this type of high protein only diet are that you are going to lose muscle. Not a lot, but you will lose a few hard-earned pounds. I personally would rather have my body fat at a couple of points higher, but retain that five pounds of muscle, than the alternative. If the situation calls for it though, this is a great way to get super lean.
Another method used to create a caloric deficit is to remove the carbohydrate from the diet. This means we get to keep both the protein and fats. This as you all know is my preferred method. By keeping the fats relatively moderate, your hormone levels remain optimal and muscle is retained. The advantage of high protein encourages protein synthesis and muscle growth, as well as the caloric expenditure due to the thermic effect. If you are knowledgable, you can do this while consuming a very well-rounded diet made up of mostly low carb super foods. This diet from my point of view has the best of all of the available options.
Following this protocol does not necessarily mean that you have to embrace a full on ketogenic diet. You can modify the amount of carbohydrate you consume through fruits and vegetables to dictate your carbohydrate levels, and therefore dictate the amount of ketones that the body will produce. Most people enter a mild state of ketosis during sleep simply due to the fact that no carbohydrate is easily available. This type of diet will only enhance that natural process. You will know what level of carbohydrate you are comfortable at, because you will feel like you can function optimally.
There is a sweet spot I’ve discovered that has the advantage of more energy as well as higher ketone production. This is something that I have discovered through trial and error, as I’m constantly experimenting. Besides, the goal of this article is to give you the information to make your own decision, not to give you my method. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to share with you my opinions. I can’t help but have them, as you of course have your own as well.
I would love to hear yours too, whether they are similar or contrary. I’m the type of person that welcomes differences of opinion and respects those that have them, provided they are well though out and articulated in such a manner that remains civilized. We all don’t have to agree to get along, but we do have to treat each other with respect regardless of whether someone thinks differently than we do. End rant.
There is of course the issue of exercise. Exercise as we all know uses a tremendous amount of energy. If in addition to employing some of the above tactics to create a deficit, exercise can be used to enhance that deficit further. Or you can figure out what your maintenance caloric requirements are and use exercise as the method of creating the deficit. Personally, I consume maintenance calories plus calories to be used during training, minus a couple of hundred. If you have read Fat Loss: The Lose And Cruise Method, then you know that I only like to create a very small deficit for a short period of time, then resume at maintenance levels. If you do this year round then you are permanently near your best shape.
Okay, so essentially I have spent this entire article discussing the value of creating a caloric deficit in order to illicit fat loss for the goal of changing our body composition. This is only one element in setting up a diet, the creating of the caloric deficit. Next week I’m going to go further with this discussion and get into what is a good caloric intake starting point for someone wanting to lose body fat. As well I’m going to discuss protein intake and fat intake in the overall diet plan. From that point, you will be much closer in your ability to set your own fat loss plan in motion. When you can do that, you will never need to follow anyone’s advice again, as you will be your own diet guru!