It’s funny how many people I speak to that initially disagree with the following statement;
“Losing body fat is a pretty damn simple process.”
The response is almost always the same too; “that’s easy for you to say” or “not for me it’s not.”
People are reluctant to believe that anything fitness related can be simple and I’m willing to bet if you have ended up here you may be one of those people too.
Don’t worry though, fat loss really can be a pretty simple process.
Now, it’s important to notice how I said ‘simple’ and not ‘fast’.
I believe this distinction is the reason why so many people, yourself included are unlikely to believe me.
You confuse simple with fast and this mistake holds you back.
It stops you from mastering fat loss and this makes me sad. Therefore, it probably makes you sad too.
To help you get the process down once and for all, I have put together the following step by step guide.
It's time for you to master fat loss, look great and feel awesome.
Step 1 – Calculate your maintenance calories
First you need to work out what your daily calorie intake is.
To do this you will need to calculate what’s called your maintenance calories; this is the approximate number of calories you need on a daily basis to maintain your current body weight.
The reason calories are so important for fat loss is because of the rules of the energy balance equation:
- To lose weight you must burn more calories than you eat or drink
- To gain weight you must burn less calories than you eat or drink
- To maintain weight, you burn the same calories than you eat or drink
You can see why this is your first step.
The energy balance is without a doubt the most important thing for weight loss, and therefore fat loss.
A study conduct by Kansas State University Professor Mark Haub showed the power of the energy balance equation perfectly. Proving to us that when it comes to weight loss a calorie really is a calorie and that regardless of its source the energy balance equation rules supreme.
What Mark did was to eat a diet consisting purely of the following:
- Sugary cereals
- Oreo cookies
- Protein shakes
What you may find surprising but, hopefully not too surprising given what we’ve talked about so far is that in just 2 months Mark lost a staggering 27lbs.
Now, whilst I would never recommend eating the same diet this does go to show that it if you burn more calories than you eat you will lose weight.
There is simply no avoiding this fact.
So how do you work out your maintenance calories?
The easiest and most effective method I have come across to date is take your weight in lbs and multiply it by 14, this will give you an approximation of your daily needs, you can then experiment and adjust as needed.
As an example, let’s use a 70kg guy and see what this would look like.
The easiest way to do this is to take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 14 (you can multiply your weight in kilograms by 2.2 to get this number). For example, if you weighted 70kg you would multiply 70 x 2.2 and get 154.
You would then multiply 154 x 14 to get 2,156.
Now I always round up to the closest 10 to keep things simple
So using the formula above if you are a 70kg individual your maintenance calories will be 2,160 a day
Step 2 – Structure your calories for maximum fat loss
Once you know the number of calories you need each day to maintain your weight, you need to adjust this number for optimal fat loss.
Notice I said “fat loss” and not “weight loss”, this is a very important distinction. When dieting to lose weight the goal should always be too:
- To lose fat and not just body weight
- To lose fat in the most efficient way possible
- To retain as much muscle mass as possible
If you diet to just lose weight with no thought about where the weight comes from then you will end up losing not only the body fat you wanted but also the majority of the muscle you worked so hard to get.
When losing fat, you generally want to shoot for the 1-2lbs of weight loss per week, this is generally agreed as the fastest and safest rate at which to lose weight.
You’ll also still be able to retain the majority of your muscle mass without becoming miserable, fatigued or crash landing ceremoniously into the confectionary aisle at the supermarket, undoing all your hard work.
Stick with this recommendation for optimal fat loss, energy levels, mood, ease and enjoyment.
To get yourself in the range where you are losing the recommend 1-2 lbs a week I recommend setting your calories at 15 – 20% lower than your maintenance and adjusting from there as necessary.
Let’s have a quick look how to do this:
We can use our 70kg guy again as we already know his maintenance calories.
What we need to do is work out what 20% of 2,160 is and then deduct this from that number.
2,160 x 0.20 = 324
2,160 – 324 = 1,836
So the number of calories our 70kg guy would need to eat daily to lose the recommended 1-2lbs per week is 1,836. For ease let’s round this up to 1,840.
Step 3 – Set up your macronutrients for optimal performance and body composition
It’s time to look at macronutrients.
Macronutrients are the three major food groups that you eat and they are responsible for providing the calories (energy) used to fuel the body.
Whilst the energy balance equation is responsible for weight loss or weight gain, macronutrients influence your overall body composition.
Sure eating less calories than you burn will help you lose weight but macronutrients are what will help you preserve your muscle mass and primarily lose fat.
It is this that will give you that lean and muscular look.
What are the three macronutrients and their roles are:
- Protein – used to repair, grow and preserve your muscle
- Carbohydrates – provides energy to your muscles and brain in the form of glucose
- Fat – used in the production of vital hormones and the intake of vitamins
As you can see each macronutrient plays an important role in the body and has an amount of calories (energy) per gram which you will need to know.
- Protein = 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrate = 4 calories per gram
- Fat = 9 calories per gram
To fuel the body efficiently for day to day activity and optimal performance in the gym it is important to set up your macronutrients right.
For the most part protein needs in the fitness industry are widely overstated, so trust me and don’t be too alarmed when I tell you that you only need to set your protein at 0.8 - 1g per lbs of bodyweight.
If you are aiming to lose fat, then shoot for 1g mark otherwise for maintenance or muscle gain you’re ok to hover around the 0.8g point (Remember this is per pounds of bodyweight and not kilogram).
For fat it is wise to keep it at around 30% of total intake to allow for the intake of fat soluble vitamins and production of vital hormones.
The remainder of your calories will all go to carbohydrate which is your primary source of energy.
Let’s go back to our 70kg guy and work out his macronutrient breakdown, remember we are aiming for total calorie intake of 1,840 a day.
We will set our protein at 1g so you can see how this works.
1g per lbs of bodyweight is simple, our person weights 150lbs so protein will be 150g daily.
Now to work out how many calories this is we need to multiply the daily amount by 4.
150g x 4 = 600 calories
Our fat intake needs to be set at 30% of our total calories allowance so what we need to do is work out 30% of 1,840.
We can a simple sum which is 1,840 multiplied by 0.3. This gives us 552.
552 is the daily calories we want from fat but now we need to figured out what this is in grams.
To do this we divide 552 by 9, which gives us 61g of fat daily.
So we said before that the rest of our calories once we have met our protein and fat needs will be made up from carbs.
The first thing we need to do is take away any calories we have used for fat and protein away from our daily total.
Fat calories = 552
Protein calories = 600
Together this is 1,152 calories.
Now we need to deduct this from the total of 1,840.
1,840 – 1,152 = 688
All we need to do now is divide this by 4 to get our daily carbohydrate in grams.
688 divided by 4 = 172 grams daily.
Our 70kg looking to lose the recommend 1-2lbs a week would set up his calories and macronutrients as follows:
- Total daily calories allowance – 1,840 kcal
- Total daily protein grams – 150 g
- Total daily fat grams – 61 g
- Total daily carbohydrate grams – 172 g
There you have it.
That is how you calculate maintenance and fat loss calories for a 70kg guy, trust me it looks a little more complicated than it is. Follow the formulas above and you’ll have no problem.
Now it is important to say that this is a starting point.
If you were to find that after eating these calories for at least 2-3 weeks you were either:
- Losing weight too fast
- Not losing enough weight
Then you would make adjustments until you were losing weight at the correct speed.
The best way to do this is to either add or remove 100 calories from carbohydrates (25g) and wait a week or two and see what effect this has.
It shouldn’t take long until you get it right and you start seeing progress.
Step 4 – Perform strength based resistance workouts
To encourage the body to preserve as much muscle mass as possible and primarily burn fat it is vital you perform strength based resistance workouts to show your body that you still need your hard earned muscle.
A study conducted by McMaster University showed that; "Exercise, particularly lifting weights, provides a signal for muscle to be retained even when you're in a big calorie deficit."
As you will be eating in a calorie deficit you want to keep your overall intensity lower and focus on the key body parts that will make the biggest difference using mainly compound movements.
For fat loss I recommend working out 3 days per week on non-consecutive days using an A, B, C split that is focused on the major muscle groups (think chest, shoulders, back and legs) with a few accessory exercises (think biceps, triceps, abs and calves) to bring your physique up.
Monday – Workout A
Tuesday – Rest
Wednesday – Workout B
Thursday – Rest
Friday – Workout C
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Rest
It’s important you don’t over train, for this reason it wise to keep cardio on the low side (remember fat loss will primarily come from your calorie deficit). I like to do a couple of sports sessions (i.e. football or kickboxing) a week when possible I try and get outside and do incorporate 30 – 60mins of walking into my day.
Step 5 – Track your progress
You must track your progress, this is non-negotiable. Without doing this how can you expect to know if you are losing the right amount of weight per week.
There a couple of great indicators for tracking your progress.
- Weight – weight daily and take a weekly average*
- Photos – take weekly photos to view your progress over larger periods of time
- Diary – keep a log of your workouts, if you are building strength slowly then all is good
- Waist – take weekly measurements and track the change in your stomach
- Clothes – your clothes should feel looser around the waist but maybe tighter on the shoulders and arms if you are building muscle
*Please note that weight loss is generally not linear so you want to look for that weekly low, coupled with the weekly average to know you are on track.
Step 6 – Take time to rest and recover
Giving yourself time to rest and recovery is vital to the process, giving your body time to repair is essential particularly when you are eating in a deficit.
This is why I recommend working out on alternate days and keeping the overall training volume lower than if you were bulking. Remember, you will only build a small amount of muscle if any at all during this time so no need to hammer the volume.
Eat well, give yourself time to rest, get some solid sleep and you’ll be golden.
Step 7 – Trust the process
There will be times along the way that you will be frustrated with how things are going, times when you feel like you haven’t made any progress and your body hasn’t changed.
This is only natural but I ask you to trust me when I say stick with it.
Fat loss is not linear, it can appear unpredictable at times and everything from water weight, sleep, activity levels and the food you ate can play into it.
Trust the process and it will do right by you.
That’s all there is to it, honestly and truly.
If you follow these guidelines and give it some time you’ll be beyond pleased with the results a couple of months down the line.
Then you'll be ready to build muscle and strength the smart way.
Which step do you struggle with? Will you give this a try? Let me know how you get on by leaving a comment below.
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